Thursday, March 24, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 24: Still Up in the Air: Sustainable Revenue, Funding Formula, BEF Distribution, $2.5B for Plancon, Interest Reimbursement, PSERS, Structural Deficit. Have a Nice Day!

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3900 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 24, 2016:
Still Up in the Air: Sustainable Revenue, Funding Formula, BEF Distribution, $2.5B for Plancon, Interest Reimbursement, PSERS, Structural Deficit. Have a Nice Day!

PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill APR 4, 2016 • 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the third annual Advocacy Forum on April 4, 2016, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. 

Campaign for Fair Education Funding - Rally for Public Education
Save the date: May 2nd at the Capitol

The #voterregistration deadline for the #PaPrimary is 3/28
Online PA Voter Registration here:

Blogger commentary: Make no mistake, this budget DOES include tax increases (PSERS increase alone is $565M)  – they’ll just be made by local volunteer school board members instead of by our well paid legislative officials in Harrisburg.  Déjà vu.

“Because the fiscal code acts as a roadmap for how education money is divided, Republicans say that if Wolf follows through on that veto, he will effectively keep new spending in limbo.  "You can't spend that $150 million without a fiscal code," said Jenn Kocher, spokeswoman for Senate Republicans.  The Wolf administration disputes that, saying that it will unilaterally distribute funding "in the most appropriate manner possible."
“…Inside the fiscal code, lawmakers had also included a plan to take on a $2.5 billion bond to reimburse some districts for nearly $300 million in (Plancon) capital upgrades this year.”
Without fiscal code, will budget deal be lifeline or loss for Pennsylvania schools?
Major questions remain about the details of Gov. Tom Wolf's decision Wednesday to end the state's historically protracted budget impasse — particularly when it comes to funding for public schools.  Almost nine months beyond last year's budget deadline, Wolf has agreed to allow a $6 billion supplemental spending plan passed by the Republican-held General Assembly to go into effect at the stroke of midnight Monday.  The plan includes $150 million in new basic education spending — far less than the governor had wished.  At a press conference in the Capitol Wednesday, with many districts set to soon run out of cash, Wolf reversed a pledge he made last week to veto the latest budget bill approved by the House and Senate.  "This means that schools will stay open through the end of the year, but unless Harrisburg changes its ways, they won't have adequate funds for next year," he said.

“But if Wolf is right and nothing has changed, we've essentially waited nine months for a budget that gave us no new sustainable revenues. We've waited nine months to learn that Wolf's proposed tax on natural gas drillers is not forthcoming. We've waited nine months to find out that Pennsylvania taxpayers will have to repay millions in interest on the loans that kept school districts afloat while state money was held up by petty politics. We have, in essence, waited nine months to find out that we could be in a bigger mess than we were in when we started.”
Wolf allows GOP budget to become law, but the damage is already done
While school districts across the Commonwealth were forced to borrow about $1 billion to survive the longest budget impasse in 60 years, Gov. Tom Wolf told Pennsylvania taxpayers that he was holding out for a balanced budget.  He couldn't hold out any longer.  After a 266-day standoff with Republicans who hold the majority in both the state House and state Senate, Wolf will allow a $30 billion Republican-backed budget package to become law without his signature. It's a budget that Wolf warned would be a "train wreck" just eight days ago. And he says nothing has changed.

“One other complication that arises out of Wolf's actions on Wednesday is the chance for the school districts to have their borrowing costs for loans issued earlier in the school year is lost. The budget includes no extra funding for that. State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale estimated that combined tab to be about $45 million.”
Schools to stay open under Wolf's budget decision but other problems arise
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 23, 2016 at 7:37 PM, updated March 23, 2016 at 10:09 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf's decision to allow the $30 billion GOP-crafted budget bill to become law without his signature keeps schools open for the remainder of the school year.  Schools will begin to see some of the $3 billion included in that budget for basic education arriving in their accounts within two weeks after it takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, administration officials said.  "We are not geared up as we were in December to press the button to literally get the money out the door almost the moment the governor signed" a $23 billion partial state budget that included $2.6 billion for basic education, said state Budget Secretary Randy Albright. "But we'll work as expeditiously as possible to get the money out."

Wolf to Allow Republican Budget to Become Law, Warns of Looming Crisis
Governor Wolf’s Website/Press Release March 23, 2016
Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf announced that he would let the Republican 2015-2016 budget become law. Although the budget cuts expenditures by another $238 million, and remains $290 million out of balance, in order to move forward and address a looming 2016-2017 deficit of $2 billion, Governor Wolf is allowing the budget to become law without his signature.  “I am going to allow the 2015-2016 budget to become law without my signature,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “This will allow for funding to go out to schools and other services in the short term, but we still face enormous problems that this budget does not even pretend to address.  “Let’s be clear: the math in this budget does not work. Next fiscal year – that already has a $2 billion deficit – will now begin with an extra $300 million deficit. Ratings agencies and the Independent Fiscal Office have all agreed that we face a massive structural deficit. Left unaddressed, the deficit will force cuts to schools and human services, devastating credit downgrades that will cost taxpayers millions, and increase property taxes for our senior citizens. We must face this reality this year and balance our budget with real, sustainable revenues.”

VIDEO: Republican leaders give remarks on status of 2015-16 budget
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Wednesday, March 23, 2016 Video Runtime: 5:03
After Gov. Wolf announced that he will allow the 2015-16 budget to become law without his signature, House Majority Leader Dave Reed and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman give their remarks. 

VIDEO: Turzai: "This is a very balanced, responsible budget"
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Wednesday, March 23, 2016 Video Runtime: 3:00
House Speaker Mike Turzai gives his remarks after Gov. Wolf announces that he will allow the 2015-16 budget to become law without this signature. 

Republicans mostly get their way in Pa. budget resolution; Gov. Tom Wolf and Democrats get to fight another day
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 23, 2016 at 10:02 PM
Relief spread through the state Capitol and beyond Wednesday with Gov. Tom Wolf's decision to bring an abrupt and bloodless end to Pennsylvania's nine-month state budget stand-off.  There were some wins for all sides in this truce. And - as with many temporary cessations of hostility - there were plenty of unlit fuses left waiting for the next spark.  By digging their heels in and balking at a negotiated budget compromise in December, conservative Republicans managed - if mostly by running out the clock after potential pension and liquor reform bills collapsed in December - to help all Pennsylvanians avoid a tax increase this year.

“The spending plan to be enacted boosts education funding by $200 million - about half the increase Wolf wanted. It included none of the new or increased taxes he sought to permanently plug what he says is a recurring structural budget deficit of more than $1 billion. Also missing is any action on Republicans' policy priorities: changes to the state's pension and wine and liquor sales systems.  Wolf also added a twist to his decision. He said he does plan to veto the proposed Fiscal Code, the element of the budget that dictates exactly how state revenue is to be spent.  …Hughes said it was difficult to ignore the advocacy from school districts, who rattled Republican and Democratic cages in the Capitol after Wolf threatened his veto.  "They were much more publicly engaged than they have ever been," Hughes said. "I think that activated more Republican and Democratic legislators than I think the entire previous 81/2 months had."
Ending budget impasse, Wolf says: 'We need to move on'
Inquirer by Maria Panaritis & Kathy Boccella, STAFF WRITERS  MARCH 24, 2016 1:08 AM EDT
In an unexpected and possibly unprecedented move, Gov. Wolf on Wednesday said he would let the latest $30 billion Republican spending plan become law, ending Pennsylvania's historic 266-day budget impasse.  At a news conference in Harrisburg, Wolf reversed course on a promised veto by saying he would neither sign nor reject the proposal sent to him by legislators. Without either, it automatically becomes law Monday morning.  Wolf said the Republican budget math "doesn't work" and he was loath "to put my name on something that I don't believe is exactly what we ought to have."  But he acknowledged the mounting financial pressure on schools and agencies waiting for the rest of this year's state aid, and said he would carry his priorities - including calls for tax increases - into the looming debate over next year's budget.

“That seems to be of no concern to the legislature's least reasonable Republicans, who can return to a never-ending campaign trail to gleefully proclaim that this budget raises no taxes. But the problem is that it does raise taxes. Local property taxes throughout the state are bound to rise because the state is failing to properly fund schools, leaving districts to make up the difference.”
Pa. budget impasse ends with a whimper
Inquirer Opinion Updated: MARCH 24, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
With no resolution to Pennsylvania's record nine-month budget impasse in sight and with public schools contemplating closure, Gov. Wolf has succumbed to Republican obstruction and agreed to a plan that keeps the state in the fast lane toward fiscal instability and educational decline. In the end, he was abandoned by fellow Democrats in the legislature who pleaded with him to accept a fiscally indefensible budget rather than keep trudging toward the end of the fiscal year with no budget at all.  Of the many disappointments of this budget, the greatest is its failure to address the state's structural deficit, the stark difference between the state's spending and receipts. This deepening hole, expected to approach $2 billion next year, is sapping the state's ability to function.

The threshold for a successful school funding system should not be whether there is enough money for schools to keep their doors open and the lights on. It is about whether there are sufficient resources so that all students – no matter where they live – can succeed in school and meet the state’s academic standards. 
Press Release: Campaign for Fair Education Funding statement on Gov. Wolf’s 2015-16 budget announcement
 March 23, 2016
HARRISBURG – The Campaign for Fair Education Funding released the following statement in response to Gov. Wolf’s 2015-16 budget announcement today:
“The 2015-16 budget that the governor is allowing to become law will permit schools that have been pushed to the brink by the budget impasse to remain open and their students to complete this academic year.  “But make no mistake: this budget does not solve the state’s long-term school funding crisis. The threshold for a successful school funding system should not be whether there is enough money for schools to keep their doors open and the lights on. It is about whether there are sufficient resources so that all students – no matter where they live – can succeed in school and meet the state’s academic standards.  “The Governor and legislature must immediately turn their attention to the 2016-17 budget. They must work together to enact the fair school funding formula recommended by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission and pass an on-time budget for 2016-17 that makes a significant investment in our public schools next year of at least $400 million and provides adequate revenues to support that investment.
“Every school year counts for a student. We cannot allow Pennsylvania’s children to endure another school year without solving the state’s education funding crisis.”

Pennsylvania governor relents after 9-month budget impasse
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's epic budget stalemate ended Wednesday as the Democratic governor backed off his latest veto threat, leaving slivers of his once-ambitious agenda intact after nine months of partisan gridlock that threatened to close schools, forced social-service agencies to lay off employees and resulted in millions in borrowing costs for county governments.  First-term Gov. Tom Wolf's drive for a multibillion-dollar tax increase from a Republican-controlled Legislature to fund a record increase in public school aid ultimately failed- he got half the aid he wanted - and precipitated a budget fight unlike any seen in modern Pennsylvania history.  A Republican-penned $6.6 billion no-new-taxes spending package will become law Monday, leaving Illinois as the only state still without a budget in place for the current fiscal year.

Gov. Wolf to allow supplemental budget to become law without his signature
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf announced his decision Wednesday about what he will do with the $6 billion-plus budget supplemental the General Assembly put on his desk last week, saying at an afternoon press conference that he will allow the bill to become law without his signature.  He said he will also be allowing the non-preferred appropriations to become law.  Article 4, section 15 of Pennsylvania's constitution allows legislation to become law within ten days of the governor being presented with it if he neither signs nor vetoes.  The legislation will become effective starting 12:01 a.m. Monday.   “I cannot in good conscience sign this bill,” he said. “I cannot in good conscience attach my name to a budget that simply does not add up.” After a promised veto of the supplemental spending plan last week, Gov. Wolf said he changed his mind because it was “the right thing to do to move on” and “to allow us to face the budget challenges of 2016-2017.”

For school districts, state budget breakthrough brings relief, but uncertainty
Sarah M. Wojcik , Jacqueline Palochko and Andrew WagamanContact Reporters Of The Morning Call March 23, 2016
For school districts, state budget breakthrough brings relief, but uncertainty
The Allentown School District was literally in the process of seeking approval in Lehigh County Court for a $45 million loan on Wednesday when word came from Harrisburg that the nine-month budget impasse was over.  Gov. Tom Wolf announced he was allowing the 2015-16 budget to become law without his signature, freeing up money the state had been withholding from districts like Allentown that were staring at an increasingly scary financial reality.  While school officials breathed a sigh of relief that the stalemate was over, there were still more questions than answers from school districts. That's due in large part to the fact that Wolf said he will veto the fiscal code bill —— which enacts the budget and for the state's 500 school districts details how the extra $200 million they will receive in 15-16 will be doled out.  "The crisis has been averted for the moment, but there's still a lot of issues and questions on the table that need worked through," said Steve Robinson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Board Association.

Pennsylvania's budget impasse comes to an end: 'We need to move on'
Wolf says the final budget is not balanced, but he will allow the measure to become law
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau March 24, 2016 12:25 AM
HARRISBURG — After nearly nine months, Pennsylvania’s state budget impasse ground to an end Wednesday, with Gov. Tom Wolf saying he would allow a Republican-crafted appropriations bill to become law without his signature.  Mr. Wolf, a Democrat, said he would not sign the bill because he believes the budget is not balanced, but that by releasing the approximately $6 billion in state funding without his signature, schools will be able to stay open through the end of the year. And he looked ahead, saying: ”We need to move on (from 2015-16). We need to confront the real challenge we have in the (2016-17) budget.”  The appropriations bill will become law at 12:01 a.m. Monday, after Mr. Wolf refrains from acting on it through Sunday, his office said, completing a budget of about $30 billion. The governor and legislative leaders said work on the next state budget, for the year that begins July 1, will start next week.  But for all the relief that will be felt by school districts — some of which sent representatives to the Capitol earlier Wednesday to advocate for completion of the budget — there was little evidence that the governor and legislators are closer to resolving the differences that dragged this year’s state budget nearly three-quarters of a year past its June 30 deadline.

State's budget battle ends, but verbal sparring continues
Local lawmakers react to Gov. Wolf's no-veto decision
TIM STUHLDREHER | Staff Writer Lancaster Online March 24, 2016
As one might expect, Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement that he would allow the remaining portion of the Republican-controlled legislature’s 2015-16 budget to become law without his signature prompted reactions by local legislators that split along party lines.  State Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Landisville, said Wolf’s decision “avoids any further funding disruptions to schools, human service providors, agriculture programs” and so on.  “Allowing these important monies to flow is not a loss for Gov. Wolf, it is a win for the people of Lancaster County and Pennsylvania,” Aument said in a statement.  State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-West Lampeter Twp., said the no-tax-increase budget “will force the government to live within its means.”  However, he’s concerned  about Wolf’s promise to veto the fiscal code, an accompanying bill that gives detailed direction on state spending. 

Local educators say budget deal does nothing to solve long-term problems
Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL AND KATHLEEN BOLUS Published: March 24, 2016
In the last nine months, school districts borrowed millions, delayed buying textbooks and warned that schools may be forced to close.  The spending plan that became law Wednesday alleviates those short-term emergencies but does nothing to solve long-term problems, area superintendents said.  “They are going to give us the money we should have had in the first place, but we’re not getting anywhere for the future of our students in the district and across the Commonwealth,” Carbondale Area Superintendent Joseph Gorham said.  Under the budget which Gov. Tom Wolf let become law without his signature, districts will receive a half-year’s worth of the basic education funding under the same distribution formula used in the previous fiscal year. Districts received the first half in January and February after the state released emergency funds.  This bill provides an additional $200 million in state aid to school districts — about half of what the governor originally sought. Districts do not yet know the total amount they will receive.

Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf relents after 9-month budget impasse
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 1:24 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Ending an almost nine month budget impasse, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday he is letting a supplemental budget bill become law without his signature.  It was an about-face for Wolf, who said last week he would again veto the $6 billion in funding that completes a $30 billion budget for 2015-16 approved by lawmakers in December. It was due, by law, July 1.  The first-term governor faced a potential veto override if he again vetoed funding that including basic education money.

Education officials relieved over end to budget crisis
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 24, 2016 12:10 AM
Education advocates and school officials expressed relief Wednesday that Gov. Tom Wolf’s pledge not to block a Republican-crafted appropriations bill will ensure Pennsylvania schools remain open.  But they also acknowledged the challenges ahead for education in the 2016-17 state spending plan and the urgent need for a new basic education funding formula.
“Gov. Wolf did what was necessary to keep schools from closing, but it is only a temporary reprieve from the disaster awaiting Pennsylvania’s public schools if lawmakers continue to underfund public education,” the Pennsylvania School Boards Association said in a statement. “The Legislature is going to have to pass new and sustainable revenues for 2016-2017 to provide Pennsylvanians with the public services they need and children with the education they deserve.”

“It remains to be seen how the money will be pushed out to districts in the absence of a fiscal code bill and other important legislative components. Unfortunately, the bill that will become law does nothing for PlanCon construction reimbursements, pension reform or put into place the much needed bipartisan Basic Education Funding formula. As the governor decides to distribute the available funding, it’s important to ensure that all school entities have enough funding and resources to remain open through the end of the school year. PSBA will continue to work with its members and policymakers to make all of these a reality.”
STATEMENT: PSBA encouraged that budget will become law; concerned with future challenges
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) is pleased that Gov. Tom Wolf has stated he will not veto House Bill 1801 and will instead allow the bill to become law on March 27 providing an education budget for fiscal year 2015-16. This announcement and the $200 million increase for education in House Bill 1801 come at a critical time as more schools are nearing the end of their financial rope.  “We applaud PSBA members and school district communities in all of their outreach to the legislature and governor advocating for a budget to be enacted for this fiscal year. On behalf of school entities across the state, we thank the General Assembly and governor for bringing the current crisis to an end,” said PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains. “While we appreciate the governor’s persistence with pushing for much-needed education funding increases, the $200 million in HB 1801 will keep doors open and allow schools to focus on educating children. There are still challenges ahead on the 2016-17 budget, which must be passed by June 30 to ensure that schools can enter into the next academic year with confidence.”

Education Voters of PA’s reaction to Governor Wolf’s decision to allow HB 1801 to become law without his signature
Posted on March 23, 2016 by EDVOPA
Education Voters of PA’s reaction to Governor Wolf’s decision to allow HB 1801 to become law without his signature
 Susan Spicka, Director of  Education Voters of PA, issued the following statement regarding Governor Wolf’s decision to allow HB 1801 to become law without his signature :
Today Governor Wolf announced that he will allow HB 1801, the most recent budget passed by the legislature, to become law without his signature. He stressed that the math does not add up in the budget; it is not balanced and the money it claims to have simply doesn’t exist. Nevertheless, Governor Wolf stated that the right thing to do now is to move on and to focus on a responsible, balanced budget for 2016-2017.  We recognize the fierce opposition that Governor Wolf and many lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, have faced as they have tirelessly fought to get school funding back on track through a significant new investment of state dollars into Basic Education Funding.  Budgets are about priorities and it is an unfortunate reality that providing adequate state funding to schools and ensuring that all children in the Commonwealth receive a quality education is simply not a priority for some lawmakers, including many who are in leadership positions in the Republican Party.

Public Interest Law Center Statement on Governor Wolf’s Budget Decision
Public Interest Law Center Website March 23, 2016
The Governor today decided to allow a Republican-backed budget for 2015-2016 become law.  This means the doors of our schools will stay open and the lights will stay on. But as the Campaign for Fair Education Funding noted, today’s action does nothing to ensure that our children have sufficient resources so that all students – no matter where they live – can succeed in school and meet the state’s academic standards.  The Commonwealth’s continued failure to provide children with the resources necessary for a quality  education shows why  Pennsylvania courts must step in.  The important legal issue is  whether the Legislature is violating Pennsylvania’s constitutional mandate that it support an effective system of public education.  Whether the courts can even weigh in  is the issue presently before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in William Penn School District  v. Pennsylvania Department of Education,  a lawsuit filed by the Public Interest Law Center, along with the Education Law Center.  

Education Law Center-PA issues statement regarding today’s state budget announcement
The Education Law Center Website Mar. 23, 2016
The Education Law Center’s Executive Director Deborah Gordon Klehr issued the following statement regarding today’s state budget announcement:
“We are disappointed that the Commonwealth is proceeding with a budget that appropriates a woefully inadequate level of funding for education. This budget does not provide our children with the resources they need to succeed. The General Assembly has once again failed to meet its constitutional responsibility to maintain a system of thorough and efficient education that serves our children. This is further evidence of the need for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to step in to protect the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Pennsylvania’s school children.  The statewide system of funding our schools continues to be broken and the underlying problems remain unaddressed.  As the General Assembly turns to the 2016-2017 budget, we urge our lawmakers to undertake their legal duty to invest in education to ensure that all children have the resources to learn regardless of their ZIP code.”

Report: Philadelphia among most fiscally disadvantaged school districts
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa March 23, 2016 — 3:08pm
On the day when Gov. Wolf said he would allow to become law a Republican spending plan that significantly pares back what he wants to invest in education around the state, a recent report confirmed that Philadelphia and several other Pennsylvania districts are among the most fiscally distressed in the country.  The report, by the Education Law Center at Rutgers University, compares education investment and relative poverty rates in a given labor market to come up with an index of fiscal distress for school districts.  Using this method, Philadelphia and Chicago come out as most continuously disadvantaged among the 10 biggest districts. Philadelphia has more than twice the average poverty rate, but just 80 percent of the average for per-pupil spending for its area.  Two other Pennsylvania districts, Allentown and Reading, show up as the most disadvantaged in the country. Each has more than two-and-a-half times the average poverty rate and less than 80 percent of the average revenue per student.

At 18, he's on Pottstown school board - and just getting started
Emanuel Wilkerson, 18, is the youngest school board member in Pa.
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer Updated: MARCH 23, 2016 — 5:54 AM EDT
With all the angst over the 2016 presidential race, perhaps it is not too soon to look to future elections and the prospects of Emanuel Wilkerson.  The Pottstown school board member is sitting in a booth at Ice House Steak & Pizza, where he conducts interviews and important meetings. It's the same joint where he gobbles down cheese fries with his Pottstown High School classmates.  "I love serving the people," says Wilkerson, who won't get his high school diploma until June, but already has a master's in the political sound bite. "I love my school. I love my family and my friends, and I'm ready to get to work to serve my country."  Elected to a four-year term in November at age 18, he is believed to be the youngest school board member presently serving in the state, said Steve Robinson, a Pennsylvania School Boards Association spokesman.

Could you pass Pennsylvania's standardized tests? Try these sample questions
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer March 23, 2016
No Child Left Behind is no longer the law of the land, but standardized tests continue to dominate schools and be a hot topic for parents, teachers and students.  PSSAs — Pennsylvania's standardized tests for grades 3 to 8 — are coming up in April. On Thursday night, LNP will host a live chat about the exams. Local educators will answer your questions about the tests, as well as the growing trend of parents opting their children out.  How would you fare on PSSAs? Find out with these sample questions from the state Department of Education.

America’s Bankrupt Schools
Pension plans could be the culprit behind broke big-city schools
US News By Lauren Camera March 18, 2016
Last week, in Flint, Michigan, Democratic presidential candidates were asked what they'd do to turn around financially flailing and academically failing school systems, like that of nearby Detroit.  Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders blamed congressional inaction and front-runner Hillary Clinton said she would create a "SWAT team" at the Department of Education and reinstate a federal program to assist states and districts with funding to repair and modernize schools.  The list of big-city school districts around the country that are broke or well on their way to being in the red is growing. But the real reasons behind their dire financial straits weren't mentioned by either candidate.  Detroit's school system, already $515 million in debt, can't afford to pay its staff past April 8. In Chicago, the city school district – the third-largest in the country – is a whopping $1.1 billion in debt. Already laying off staff and imposing unpaid furlough days, it most recently told principals to stop spending money altogether.  In Philadelphia, despite the school system there ending the year with an $88 million surplus, the city has backed a lawsuit against the state by other school districts over inadequate funding, citing its own inability to maintain buildings and struggles to employ teachers and school nurses. More than 2,000 public school students in Boston also walked out of their classrooms earlier this month in opposition to proposed budget cuts.  While the financial woes are a result of a confluence of circumstances, analysts say one culprit stands above the rest.  "Pensions are one of the most untold stories of why this is happening," says Chad Aldeman, an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, an education policy organization in Washington. "These are big dollar amounts at play that people haven't conceptualized."

Report predicts $46B gap in funding for school buildings
Inquirer by CAROLYN THOMPSON, The Associated Press MARCH 23, 2016 3:41 PM EDT
The nation is spending about $46 billion less than what it needs to keep up its school buildings, according to a report Wednesday that pointed out disparities in state support for infrastructure.  The report by a trio of school facilities groups said the country needs to keep better track of the state of its schools and find new funding sources for their upkeep so that local districts that now bear the heaviest funding burdens don't have to divert money from instruction.  "U.S. public school infrastructure is funded through a system that is inequitably affecting our nation's students and this has to change," said Rick Fedrizzi, chief executive officer of the U.S. Green Buildings Council, which released the report along with the 21st Century School Fund and National Council on School Facilities.

College grads no longer so eager to Teach for America
Marketplace By Amy Scott March 22, 2016 | 2:09 PM
Teach for America announced this week it’s cutting about 15 percent of its national staff. The nonprofit teacher-training program will also beef up its regional offices and change the way it recruits.  For 25 years, Teach for America has recruited new college graduates to teach for two years, mostly in disadvantaged urban schools.  And there has been no shortage of critics, who say the model leaves the country’s neediest kids in the hands of unprepared teachers who don't stick around. For the past two years applications have declined, and the group has closed two of its summer training sites.    The layoffs aren’t about money, said CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard. “We are very fortunate to be in a strong financial position,” she said.  Rather, trimming the central office will allow regional branches to hire more staff and be more flexible, Beard said. While the organization is eliminating around 250 positions, including its chief diversity officer, the group plans to create about 100 new posts.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: March 16 - 22, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on March 22, 2016 - 10:42am 
With the spring standardized exam season getting underway and the grassroots assessment reform movement ramping up pressure through opt-out campaigns and other strategies, FairTest has begun compiling a database of testing resistance activities around the nation.  Check out the state-by-state list and supporting materials at:
To add your activities, send a message with date, location and a brief summary to

PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill April 4th
APR 4, 2016 • 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the third annual Advocacy Forum on April 4, 2016, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. This year’s event will have a spotlight on public education highlighting school districts’ exemplary student programs. Hear from legislators on how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. Government Affairs will take a deeper dive into the legislative priorities and will provide tips on how to be an effective public education advocate. There will be dedicated time for you and your fellow advocates to hit the halls to meet with your legislators on public education. This is your chance to share the importance of policy supporting public education and make your voice heard on the Hill. Online advanced registration will close on April 1, 4 p.m. On-site registrants are welcome.

Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) 2016 Education Congress April 6-7, 2016
professional development program for school administrators
Focus: "The Myths of Creativity: The Truth about How Innovative Companies Generate Great Ideas"  Featured Presenter: Dr. David Burkus
April 6-7, 2016 Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill
The program will focus on how school leaders can develop and utilize creativity in education management, operations, curriculum and leadership goals. The second day will allow participants to select from multiple discussion/work sessions focusing on concepts presented by Dr. Burkus and facilitated by school leaders who have demonstrated success in creative thinking and leadership in schools across the commonwealth.
Deadline for hotel accommodations: March 15
See the PASA website for more information at:

PenSPRA's Annual Symposium, Friday April 8th in Shippensburg, PA
PenSPRA, or the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association, has developed a powerhouse line-up of speakers and topics for a captivating day of professional development in Shippensburg on April 8th. Learn to master data to defeat your critics, use stories to clarify your district's brand and take your social media efforts to the next level with a better understanding of metrics and the newest trends.  Join us the evening before the Symposium for a “Conversation with Colleagues” from 5 – 6 pm followed by a Networking Social Cocktail Hour from 6 – 8 pm.  Both the Symposium Friday and the social events on Thursday evening will be held at the Shippensburg University Conference Center. Snacks at the social hour, and Friday’s breakfast and lunch is included in your registration cost. $125 for PenSPRA members and $150 for non-members. Learn more about our speakers and topics and register today at this link:

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
Join attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a briefing on:
  • the current budget impasse
  • the basics of education funding
  • the school funding lawsuit
  • the 2016-2017 proposed budget
 1.5 CLE credits available to PA licensed attorneys.  Light breakfast provided.
WHEN: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 from 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT)
WHERE: United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey - 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway 1st Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103

The Network for Public Education 3rd Annual National Conference April 16-17, 2016 Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Network for Public Education is thrilled to announce the location for our 3rd Annual National Conference. On April 16 and 17, 2016 public education advocates from across the country will gather in Raleigh, North Carolina.  We chose Raleigh to highlight the tremendous activist movement that is flourishing in North Carolina. No one exemplifies that movement better than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who will be the conference keynote speaker. Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.

Join the Pennsylvania Principals Association at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at The Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, for its second annual Principals' Lobby Day.
Pennsylvania Principals Association Monday, March 21, 2016 9:31 AM
 To register, contact Dr. Joseph Clapper at by Tuesday, June 14, 2016. If you need assistance, we will provide information about how to contact your legislators to schedule meetings.
Click here for the informational flyer, which includes important issues to discuss with your legislators.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

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

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