Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 5, 2015: Gov. Wolf and Sen. Scarnati discuss budget on Wednesday's Smart Talk

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 5, 2015:
Gov. Wolf and Sen. Scarnati discuss budget on Wednesday's Smart Talk

Note: PA Ed Policy Roundup may be late, intermittent or abbreviated this week depending upon the beach weather.

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

Gov. Wolf and Sen. Scarnati discuss budget on Wednesday's Smart Talk
WITF Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Aug 4, 2015 2:03 PM
Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program) 
What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, August 5, 2015:
Wednesday marks the 36th day of Pennsylvania's 2015-16 fiscal year without a budget in place.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republicans in the State House and Senate appear to be far apart in budget negotiations.  A $30.1 billion spending plan was passed in the Republican-controlled legislature in late June.  It included no new taxes but also didn't have the increase in education spending the governor called for, property tax relief, or a severance tax on natural gas drillers.  Wolf said that budget was "simply not balanced." Wolf promptly vetoed the proposal along with Republican plans to privatize liquor stores and make changes to public pensions.  
Gov. Wolf and Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati appear separately on Wednesday's Smart Talk to explain why the two sides haven't been able to come up with an agreement and what it will take to reach one.

Wolf, GOP still talking about budget - and not agreeing
BEN FINLEY, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, August 5, 2015, 1:06 AM POSTED: Tuesday, August 4, 2015, 5:12 PM
For the second time in a week, Gov. Wolf has met with Republican legislative leaders, but once again they failed to find common ground on a new budget, now more than a month overdue.  After a 30-minute meeting late Monday afternoon in Harrisburg, their differences remained canyonesque, the sticking points the same - a new levy on natural gas drillers, increased sales taxes, education funding, overhauls to the state employee pension system, and government-controlled liquor stores.  The Democratic governor met with House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson). He also met with Republican leaders last week with similar results.

While Wolf holds the line, Scarnati ups the budget ante: Tuesday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on August 04, 2015 at 8:30 AM, updated August 04, 2015 at 8:46 AM
THE MORNING COFFEE  Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Well no sooner than we had groused that lawmakers and the Gov. Tom Wolf were doing little more than trading rhetorical shots over the state budget -- instead of actually negotiating -- they went and proved us right.   Sort of ...  Emerging from a whole 35 minutes of budget talks with Republican leaders on Monday, Democrat Wolf told reporters that he "could just roll over, but I'm not going to do that,"Wolf said of the prospect of reaching a deal. "I don't think the people of Pennsylvania want us not to invest in education."

Working through budget impasse created by Wolf
The Bradford Era Opinion By Sen. JOE SCARNATI Posted: Saturday, August 1, 2015 10:00 am
Throughout his campaign and during the first few months of his Administration, Governor Wolf consistently voiced that he was going to be a different type of Governor. He said he wanted to work with the Legislature. I was encouraged and looked forward to a good, bipartisan relationship to help strengthen our Commonwealth.  Fast forward six months — Governor Wolf has certainly proven that he is different. Once he realized that a massive $4.7 billion tax increase in this year’s budget lacked support, he resorted to using both his Administration and Campaign to attack members of the Legislature, instead of working with us.  On June 30, the General Assembly passed a state budget with no tax increases and the highest level of state education funding in the history of Pennsylvania. Governor Wolf agreed with nearly 70 percent of what was in the budget presented to him, but decided to fully veto the plan because it didn’t increase taxes. He certainly could have vetoed only portions of the budget and kept funds available for vital services that so many Pennsylvanian’s rely on. But instead, he fully vetoed the plan — placing partisan ideology and his wish for massive taxes above the needs of our citizens.

Progress continues to elude budget negotiators
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, August 3, 2015
Substantial progress toward an agreed-to budget continued to elude top budget negotiators after a 35 minute closed door meeting between Gov. Tom Wolf, House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) on Monday.  Tuesday marks the beginning of the fifth week of the Commonwealth’s ongoing budget stalemate.  Following Monday’s meeting, the Republican lawmakers said in order for real budget progress to take place, the governor needs to “roll up his sleeves” and negotiate with the full Republican leadership team.  “From a process perspective, Sen. Scarnati and myself made it clear to the governor that to be able to effectively negotiate he really needs to roll his sleeves up,” Rep. Turzai told a small group of reporters following the meeting.  “It cannot be staff level meetings, he has to roll his sleeves up, he has to have meetings with all Republican leaders at the table and be able to work diligently and you start it off with budgetary numbers.”  For his part, Gov. Wolf said he is willing to negotiate with anyone and everyone from the Republican side.  “I’ve been here, I’ve taken one day off since I was inaugurated and I remain here and if someone calls and wants to have a meeting I make the time,” he said. “We’ve been meeting with them in groups and separately. I’m willing to do it however they want to do it.”  Monday’s meeting was said to concern trying to find a total budget spend number, but Sen. Scarnati said little progress was made toward that goal.

VIDEO: Costa gives latest on budget stalemate
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Monday, August 3, 2015 Video runtime: 7:49
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa gives background and insight into the latest budget negotiations. 

OP-ED: Gov. Wolf wants a balanced budget
Pottstown Mercury Opinion by John Hanger POSTED: 08/03/15, 3:13 PM EDT 
John Hanger is Gov. Tom Wolf’s Secretary of Policy and Planning.
On June 30, Republican lawmakers failed to pass a balanced budget. The Republican budget would lead to a $3 billion deficit by 2016-2017.  As we’ve seen over the past four years, this only leads to more credit downgrades and fiscal crises that get kicked down the road to hard-working taxpayers.  Despite suggestions by Gene Barr in a recent op-ed published in The Mercury (“Republicans in Harrisburg get it right on Pa.’s budget,” July 25), Gov. Wolf is committed to fixing Pennsylvania’s economy. He continues to fight for the key goals on which he was elected: to fund schools through a commonsense severance tax, to reduce property taxes, and to eliminate the deficit.  Cuts to education over the last four years resulted in ballooning class sizes, fewer teachers and the elimination of vital programs. We can get Pennsylvania’s struggling schools back on track by passing a commonsense severance tax to help fund them — an idea with bipartisan support.  The governor has proposed a commonsense severance tax based on West Virginia’s model, and it is expected to generate over a billion dollars in 2017. Gov. Wolf’s plan calls for the vast majority of this revenue to go toward education.  The severance tax will help increase the state’s share of education funding from 35 to 50 percent, shifting the burden off the backs of homeowners.

Democratic Pa. lawmaker: Postpone Keystone Exams
WITF Written by Tim Lambert and Radio Pennsylvania | Aug 3, 2015 4:27 AM
The measure, sonspored by Republican Senator Lloyd Smucker of Lancaster County, passed the Senate unanimously earlier this year and is now before the House Education Committee.  The exam is currently scheduled for the 2016-2017 school year, but this bill would postpone that requirement for two years.   Senator Andy Dinniman, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, says it doesn't matter if it's called a delay or a moratorium.  "What is of consequence is that we will relieve what has proven to be a tremendous burden and trauma for students, teachers and all involved," he says.  Dinniman says the Keystone Exams academically fail, structurally are impossible and are a financial burden on school districts.

Central Dauphin school director: 'Somebody just drove off a cliff with our kids'
By Marijon Shearer | Special to PennLive on August 03, 2015 at 10:59 PM, updated August 04, 2015 at 12:21 PM
Astonishingly high failure rates on standardized tests taken in Central Dauphin School District classrooms last spring drew strong reactions from the school board when Superintendent Carol Johnson previewed the scores Monday night.  The board's anger was aimed at the Pennsylvania Department of Education rather than teachers, students, school administrators or a new curriculum launched district-wide in 2013.  In a Power Point program for the board, Johnson charted reading and math scores for Central Dauphin students who took Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests in Central Dauphin schools in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years.

“To practice law in Pennsylvania, you have to pass the bar exam and it’s a three-day test. We’re asking eighth graders to take 14 days of tests just to get out of the eighth grade.” 
OJR School Board member critical of state testing
By Laura Catalano, The Mercury POSTED: 08/03/15, 2:00 AM EDT
SOUTH COVENTRY >> When the subject of Pennsylvania’s standardized tests arises, Owen J. Roberts School Board President William LaCoff has a quote he likes to use.
“To practice law in Pennsylvania, you have to pass the bar exam and it’s a three-day test. We’re asking eighth graders to take 14 days of tests just to get out of the eighth grade.”  The quote isn’t original. LaCoff pulled it off the Internet and he isn’t sure of its actual source. But he agrees with it, which is why he used it when he testified before the Pennsylvania House Education Committee at a public hearing on state assessments on July 29.  LaCoff, who also serves as the president of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, was one of 14 educators and school district representatives from across the state who were asked to speak at the hearing about the state’s Pennsylvania System of Standardized Assessments (PSSAs) and Keystone Exams.  Advertisement  His brief testimony (about five minutes) focused specifically on the cost of standardized tests, in both time and money, to the Owen J. Roberts School District.

It's time to restore fairness to education funding: David Parker
PennLive Op-Ed by State Representative David Parker on August 04, 2015 at 2:00 PM
For the first time in a generation, Pennsylvania has an historic chance to fix the education funding formula that distributes over $5.5 billion dollars to our 500 school districts.   In June, the bipartisan Education Funding Commission unanimously established a new formula to distribute basic education dollars.   Unlike the old funding formula that was passed with no public input, transparency or equitable considerations, the Basic Education Funding Commission recommended the new formula based on a year of gathering data from a variety of constituencies.  These constituencies included advocacy groups, school superintendents, citizens, lobbyists, legislators and the Wolf administration.

Secretary Rivera Continues "Schools That Teach" Tour in Mifflin County School DistrictStresses need for increased education funding in the 2015-16 state budget
LEWISTOWN, Pa., Aug. 3, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera continued his "Schools That Teach" tour today in Mifflin County, where he sat down for a discussion with educators in the Mifflin County School District to discuss the need for the increased school funding generated through Governor Tom Wolf's proposed severance tax on gas drilling.  "Like many of the districts that I have had the opportunity to visit over the past seven months, Mifflin County School District has felt the devastating effects of reductions in state support going directly to the classroom," Rivera said. "The struggles facing Pennsylvania schools is the reason why Governor Wolf continues to advocate for additional funding for education in the 2015-16 budget and convey the message that funding for education is not a cost; it is an investment in Pennsylvania's future."   During the roundtable discussion, Secretary Rivera heard from administrators and staff about how the district plans to invest in professional development opportunities for staff, institute personalized learning supports for struggling students and restore programs that had been cut due to budget constraints, through Governor Wolf's proposed funding increases.

“Before serving as the executive director of charter evaluation and policy, she was the New York district's senior director of strategy and policy and a resident at the Broad Institute for Educational Leadership.”
Philly District's Charter Schools Office gets a permanent head
The notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Aug 4, 2015 09:51 AM
After more than two years without a permanent leader, the School District's Charter Schools Office has a new executive director -- DawnLynne Kacer, who most recently had a similar job in New York City.  Kacer, who will start her job on Aug. 14, has a background in education and health policy. Before serving as the executive director of charter evaluation and policy, she was the New York district's senior director of strategy and policy and a resident at the Broad Institute for Educational Leadership.  Despite not having a permanent director, the charter office made lots of changes in the last two-plus years, implementing a new authorization policy for charter evaluation and renewal. It also coped when the state ordered Philadelphia to reopen the charter school pipeline, which had been shut down by the School Reform Commission in 2007 for financial reasons.

How Pa. can get severance tax right Letter by BARRY G. RABE POSTED: Sunday, August 2, 2015, 1:08 AM
Barry G. Rabe is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington and a professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan.
Perhaps Gov. Wolf and the Pennsylvania legislature should take a break from their budget and tax battles and spend some time in Norway. Or keep the costs down by visiting North Dakota instead.  Both Norway and North Dakota are model petro-powers. Both sit atop massive oil resources and yet they have devised ways to avoid the common "resource curse" that so often afflicts major producers of nonrenewable energy like oil, gas, and coal.
Indeed, North Dakota, which boasts the largest Norwegian American population of any state, formally borrowed and put to use a bunch of Nordic ideas. All were aimed at securing reasonable amounts of revenue from extraction for the public good but not becoming so dependent on those sources that they would succumb to the inevitable boom-and-bust cycle.

Red Flags on the Road to ESEA Rewrite
Education Week By Lauren Camera Published Online: August 3, 2015
"The pundits told us it would never happen—that Republicans and Democrats will never agree on a way to replace No Child Left Behind."  So said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., just hours before the U.S. Senate did just that—passing its own version of an Elementary and Secondary Education Act rewrite with overwhelming bipartisan support July 16.
But sending a final bill to President Barack Obama's desk—at least one that he's willing to sign—will be an entirely different challenge.  Across the Capitol, the House of Representatives narrowly passed its own, Republican-backed version of an NCLB reauthorization a week earlier, without the support of a single Democrat.  The dueling bills, which contain some stark policy differences, now move to a conference process, in which the authors of both measures and other lawmakers from both chambers and parties will try to cobble together a proposal that appeals to everyone.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: July 29 - August 4, 2015
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on August 4, 2015 - 2:09pm 
Members of Congress are heading home from Washington DC for their mid-summer recess. Now is the perfect time to contact your U.S. Senators and Representative to push for a new education bill that eliminates federal testing sanctions, stops mandating the evaluation of teachers based on their students' test scores, allows states to adopt opt-out policies, and encourages better forms of assessment.  Meanwhile, public school classrooms in a number of states are getting ready to open by mid-August -- with the change of educational "seasons," stories about testing overkill and assessment reform campaigns are again increasing.

Save the Date: School Funding Forum in Pittsburgh August 6th
School Funding Forum in Pittsburgh, PA Thursday August 6th 2-4pm
With Hear Me and our western PA partners in the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, the Education Law Center is convening a school funding forum with a focus on the most at-risk students. Join us to hear stories of students directly impacted by a lack of education resources and to discuss the latest updates from Harrisburg. While fighting for fair and adequate school funding impacts all children, we’re excited to use this forum to highlight the importance of school funding for the most at-risk students whom ELC serves, including students experiencing homelessness or in foster care, English language learners, and students with disabilities.
Location: Gates Hillman Center at Carnegie Mellon University. Room 8102. Suggested parking is in the East Campus Garage. Here’s a map of walking directions from the garage to the room.
To join us, please email Staff Attorney Cheryl Kleiman at

Nominations for PSBA's Allwein Advocacy Award now open
PSBA July 7, 2015
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  The 2015 Allwein Award nomination process will close on Aug. 28, 2015. The 2015 Allwein Award Nomination Form is available online. More details on the award and nominations process can be found online

Slate of candidates for PSBA offices now available online
PSBA website July 31, 2015
The slate of candidates for 2016 PSBA officer and at-large representatives is now available online, including bios, photos and videos. According to recent PSBA Bylaws changes, each member school entity casts one vote per office. Voting will again take place online through a secure, third-party website -- Simply Voting. Voting will openAug. 17 and closes Sept. 28. One person from the school entity (usually the board secretary) is authorized to register the vote on behalf of the member school entity and each board will need to put on its agenda discussion and voting at one of its meetings in August or September. Each person authorized to register the school entity's votes has received an email on July 16 to verify the email address and confirm they are the person to register the vote on behalf of their school entity. 

Save the Date for PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 14-16, 2015 Hershey Lodge & Convention Center
Save the date for the professional development event of the year. Be inspired at more than four exciting venues and invest in professional development for top administrators and school board members. Online registration will be live soon!

Register Now – PAESSP State Conference – Oct. 18-20 – State College, PA
Registration is now open for PAESSP's State Conference to be held October 18-20 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA! This year's theme is @EVERYLEADER and features three nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. James Stronge, Justin Baeder and Dr. Mike Schmoker), professional breakout sessions, a legal update, exhibits, Tech Learning Labs and many opportunities to network with your colleagues (Monday evening event with Jay Paterno).  Once again, in conjunction with its conference, PAESSP will offer two 30-hour Act 45 PIL-approved programs, Linking Student Learning to Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (pre-conference offering on 10/17/15); and Improving Student Learning Through Research-Based Practices: The Power of an Effective Principal (held during the conference, 10/18/15 -10/20/15). Register for either or both PIL programs when you register for the Full Conference!
REGISTER TODAY for the Conference and Act 45 PIL program/s at:

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, charter school leaders, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.

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