Wednesday, May 25, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 25: Senator Killion: Time is now for fair funding

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 25, 2016:
Senator Killion: Time is now for fair funding

Make the new funding formula permanent; pass a budget for 2016-17 that increases funding for public schools by at least $400 million
Pennsylvania has the widest funding gap between wealthy & poor schools in the country.
Contributing only 36%, PA is ranked 46th in the US for its share of education funding.
Campaign for Fair Education Funding Website

UPDATE: Last week the state Senate passed HB 1552, which would make the Basic Education Funding Formula permanent, by a vote of 49-1.  The formula would remove politics from state school funding decisions, directing money to school districts based on objective factors, such as student enrollment, the needs of the student population, school district wealth and capacity to raise local revenue. 

The House is expected to consider and possibly vote on HB 1552 as early as Monday, May 23.  Ask your state Representative to vote 'yes' for House Bill 1552, which would make the BEFC's school funding formula permanent.

Killion: Time is now for fair funding
Delco Times Opinion by Tom Killion POSTED: 05/25/16, 12:01 AM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Tom Killion, R-9, represents the 9th District in the Pennsylvania Senate.
To The Times:  Last week, I offered an amendment to HB1552 that will bring greater fairness to school funding throughout Pennsylvania – ensuring all our schools and students have access to a quality education. I was proud to help advance the work of policy makers and education advocates by offering legislation that included the Basic Education Funding (BEF) Commission fair funding formula.  The state Senate overwhelmingly approved House Bill 1552, with my amendment, to make permanent a fair funding formula established by a bipartisan commission. The bill is now awaiting action in the House of Representatives.  The formula was created by a 15-member bipartisan BEF Commission. The commission held 15 hearings over 11 months and heard from more than 110 individuals including superintendents, school board presidents, business leaders, nonprofit organizations and parents before making their recommendations.

“The Campaign is calling for increasing the state’s investment in public schools annually over time, driven out through the fair formula, starting with an increase of $400 million in the 2016-17 budget.”
Guest Column: Time to make funding formula permanent
Delco Times Opinion By Lawrence Feinberg, Times Guest Columnist 05/25/16, 12:01 AM EDT
Lawrence A. Feinberg is serving in his 17th year as a school director in Haverford Township and works with the Campaign for Fair Education Funding as a Circuit Rider for Pa. Schools. He is the founder and a co-chairman of the Keystone State Education Coalition and also serves on the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Pennsylvania has the largest school spending gap between wealthy & poor school districts of any state in the country. Per-pupil spending in our poorest districts is 33 percent less than in the wealthiest; $12,529 vs $9,387 per student. For a class of 25 students, the wealthiest districts spend $78,000 more per classroom.
In 1974, Pennsylvania funded 54 percent of public education. For the 2012-13 school year, only 36.1 percent of public education in Pennsylvania was funded by the state — almost 10 percent lower than the national average of 45.6 percent. For this particular school year, Pennsylvania ranked 46th in the nation for state funding, trailing only Illinois, Nebraska, New Hampshire and South Dakota.  Our state simply does not provide enough resources to educate all students to meet our state academic standards. In addition, Pennsylvania also has the dubious distinction of being one of only three states that creates education budgets without using a statewide funding formula.

Pa. seeks financial, contract info from Agora Cyber Charter
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER 215-854-2789 @marwooda Updated: MAY 24, 2016 — 6:39 PM EDT
The state Department of Education has expanded the scope of information that the Agora Cyber Charter School must provide by a deadline Friday.  A May 20 letter obtained by the Inquirer shows the department has directed the virtual charter based in King of Prussia to turn over detailed information about its finances, contracts and consultants.  Spokeswomen for the department and Agora confirmed the letter Tuesday.  The communication follows a May 16 letter in which the department told the charter with 8,500 students to submit accurate data on testing and attendance by the  deadline or the department "will take appropriate actions against the school."  The letters express the department's growing impatience with Agora. Officials have been pressing the cyber for information about its operations since it laid off scores of employees in February without informing the state.

Editorial: Teacher quality bill deserved veto, but its goal is valid
Reading Eagle Editorial Wednesday May 25, 2016 12:01 AM
The Issue: Gov. Tom Wolf has shot down a bill seeking to end seniority as a factor in teacher firings.
Our Opinion: The idea of quality over longevity is a good goal, but the evaluation system should be fixed first.
The questions of teacher tenure and how public school teachers should be evaluated are in the spotlight and appear likely to remain an unproductive point of contention through this election year in Pennsylvania.  Gov. Tom Wolf last week vetoed a House bill that sought to take teacher tenure all but out of the discussion when a public school district reduces its teaching staff.
It would have required that teachers' most recent, end-of-year performance evaluations, not length of service, be the top priority in making decisions about which teachers are let go when budgets are tight.  Supporters of the Republican-sponsored measure insist that quality should matter more than seniority, and that union contracts should not be permitted to protect teachers with seniority regardless of their performance.  In his veto message, Wolf expressed a pair of concerns with the bill: that teacher evaluations are too weighted toward scores on standardized tests; and that it would undermine a teacher evaluation process developed in 2012 that identifies teacher weaknesses and gives them a chance to improve before putting their jobs in jeopardy.
As a matter of principle, the bill's sponsors are correct: Protecting teachers based solely on seniority is not good policy.  But the governor makes valid points as well. Much of the weight of Pennsylvania's measures of success in education - of teachers and schools - relies heavily on standardized test scores.

Letters: Playing politics with teachers' seniority
Inquirer Letter by Gerald D. Klein, Elkins Park Updated: MAY 24, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
The campaign by Republican legislators in Pennsylvania to have teacher effectiveness replace seniority in determining layoffs is eerily similar to their campaign to require voter identification ("GOP ties teacher bill to budget," Wednesday). Both efforts seemed aimed at groups that tend to vote Democratic.  It is also ironic that Republicans, who decry the size and reach of government, are, through this legislation, inserting themselves into the affairs and collective-bargaining relationships of hundreds of local school districts. The central problem for schools is that the state does not cover its share of school costs, either for kindergarten through 12th grade or state universities.  Gov. Wolf was elected based on his campaign pledge to fund education adequately and recognition of the need for additional taxes to make this and other long-overdue state improvements possible. The legislature has shown itself to be immune to the influence of Democratic lawmakers, protesting citizens, and others. The option remaining is for concerned citizens to vote these obstructionist lawmakers out of office.

 “The bills would have devoted slightly more than $300 million to public school employee pension obligations, although there's no guarantee that its provisions would actually deliver that amount of money.”
Bills to expand gambling to internet, bars and airports fail
AP State Wire By MARC LEVY May 24, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Legislation that would expand casino-style gambling to airports, bars, off-track betting parlors and casino-run websites is stalling in Pennsylvania's House of Representatives.  The House soundly defeated two separate proposals Tuesday, as lawmakers look to resolve a yawning state government budget deficit without raising taxes.  The bills would have devoted slightly more than $300 million to public school employee pension obligations, although there's no guarantee that its provisions would actually deliver that amount of money.  
Both bills would have made Pennsylvania the fourth state to allow online casino-style gambling, while allowing Pennsylvania's licensed casinos to station slot machines at six international airports and off-track betting parlors.  One of the bills would have allowed video gambling at bars, taverns and truck stops. The bills' prospects in the Senate are cloudy.

Wyomissing School Board hears presentation on school funding formula
By David A. Kostival - Reading Eagle correspondent  Tuesday May 24, 2016 12:01 AM
The Wyomissing School Board heard a presentation on a recommended school funding formula proposed by the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission.  Sandra Miller, a school board member from the Saucon Valley School District in Lehigh County, spoke to the board Monday night about the need for fair funding.  Miller explained that the proposal is meant to fix the problem of Pennsylvania having no formula for how to fairly distribute dollars to school districts.  Pennsylvania is one of three states that do not have a funding formula, Miller said.  Under the current system, Miller said school districts are not able to budget effectively because state funding is unpredictable from year to year.  Miller said the formula starts with the number of students in a school district and applies extra funding weights based on students living in poverty and the number of limited English proficient students.  The formula would also take into account three factors that reflect community differences: sparsity-size adjustment (unique costs facing small rural school districts); median household income index (based on the district's median household income compared with the statewide median income); and local effort capacity index (a calculation of the district's ability to generate local revenue compared with the statewide median.)  Miller said the proposal will benefit all school districts and urged the school board members to contact local legislators to support the fair funding formula.

New group pushes for change in state education funding formula
WILKES-BARRE — An education advocacy group contends Wilkes-Barre Area School District wouldn’t have to layoff a single teacher — much less the several dozen facing furloughs after the school board voted to suspend four programs Monday — if the state doled out education money based on a formula devised by a bipartisan commission last year.  “We need citizens getting mad about the situation in Wilkes-Barre,” Citizens for Fair School Funding founder Kelly Lewis told a small gathering at Donahue’s Irish Pub Tuesday afternoon.  Lewis, a former state representative, is helping spearhead an effort to get Harrisburg to change how state money is allotted to each district. The movement cites a 2015 report from the state’s bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission that determined 170 districts statewide are underfunded.

York lawmakers say they can save the state $3B
York Dispatch by Greg Gross, 505-5433/@ggrossyd11:55 p.m. EDT May 24, 2016
A group of Republican lawmakers said they've found ways to shave $3 billion from the state budget, alleviating the need for a tax hike proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf.  The members of the Taxpayers Caucus said the savings would be done by pinching pennies and by generating nontax revenue, such as selling off the state-run liquor system.  "We're turning over rocks. This is done in the private sector every day," said Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township. "What that means is turning a rock over and finding pennies, nickels and quarters."  Wagner co-chairs the caucus with Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township. The pair of York County lawmakers were flanked by fellow legislators and taxpayers Tuesday as they unveiled the report detailing the savings plan.

East Penn allows Seven Generations Charter School to close middle school
Andrew Wagaman Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call May 24, 2016
EMMAUS — Hannah Ketner has attended Seven Generations Charter School in Emmaus since it opened in 2009.  Now a seventh-grader, Ketner said she's grateful for the environmentally focused curriculum and has appreciated the leadership teachers have provided.  But rapid staff turnover has undermined the charter school's mission, particularly at the middle school level, she said.  "Our middle school teachers and students have not been adequately supported," she said.  Ketner spoke Monday before the East Penn School Board and asked it to reject a charter amendment that would allow the Seven Generations board of trustees to close the middle school.  Closing the school, she said, would especially harm the most vulnerable students, including a disproportionately high percentage with special needs.

Leaders fear more cuts must be made in area schools
Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL Published: May 25, 2016
Starting next year, students can no longer take technology, family/consumer science and art classes in the Wilkes-Barre Area School District. The cuts, which include the elimination of 50 teaching jobs, serve as a warning of the tough decisions facing districts in the region, officials say.  Some superintendents worry their Lackawanna County districts soon could be forced to make similar decisions.  “It’s just impossible to continue at this pace,” said Corey Castellani, Valley View’s acting superintendent. “Something has to give.”  Across the region, as state funding dwindled and pension costs skyrocketed the last five years, school districts eliminated teaching jobs, increased class sizes and borrowed money to keep the doors open. The Wilkes-Barre school board voted 8-1 Monday to eliminate those programs, seeking a way to trim $4 million from the budget. During the last year, the district’s fund balance went from $6 million to close to nothing. Wilkes-Barre’s proposed budget is $116.9 million for next year. The district will lay off 37 teachers, not replace 12 retiring teachers and also suspend library services.  Meanwhile, districts in Lackawanna County face similar, if not worse, situations. The Scranton School District borrowed millions, delaying debt payments and using money set aside to pay large health care claims, to balance its 2016 budget. The district, unlike others in the region, is on a calendar-year budget cycle. The $146.5 million spending plan did not address the district’s general fund deficit, which was a negative $18.9 million at the end of 2014.

 “A $3.1 million increase in district payments to the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) will increase PSERS spending to $19.9 million in the new budget, said Anne Rohricht, the district chief financial officer.
Special education expenses are projected to increase from $24.3 million to $26.9 million, a $2.6 million increase.  “Rising PSERS and special education costs are really the two largest challenges we are facing. Both are underfunded mandates.”
Norristown school board adopts budget with 4.49 percent tax hike
By Carl Rotenberg, The Times Herald POSTED: 05/23/16, 9:11 PM EDT 
WEST NORRITON >> The Norristown Area School Board adopted the proposed fiscal 2016 budget Monday with a 4.49 percent property tax increase.  The $148,800,595 budget had a $6,430,245 (4.3 percent) spending increase over the fiscal 2015 budget of $142,370,350.
The fiscal 2016 budget will increase real estate taxes by $199 for the owner of a home assessed at the district average of $130,556. The average taxpayer will pay $4,526 in school real estate taxes.  The real estate millage rate will increase by 1.491 mills to 34.6702 mills.

Upper Darby School Board OK’s no tax hike prelim budget
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin,,@KevinTustin on Twitter POSTED: 05/24/16, 11:55 PM EDT | UPDATED: 40 SECS AGO
Upper Darby >> The Upper Darby School Board Tuesday night approved a proposed final $189 million budget that will hold the line on taxes for 2016-17 while adding over 30 staff positions districtwide despite a large deficit.  A unanimous vote from the board during a special voting session pushes the district one step closer to potentially approving a final budget next month that will rely solely on its fund balance instead of tax hikes to ease a $6.5 million budget. The millage rate in this budget is set to stay at 35.216 mills, equating to a $3,521 tax bill for a house assessed at $100,000.  The board was happy at the prospect of a zero-percent tax increase when presented with the proposed final budget last week by Chief Financial Officer Patrick Grant, who called this a “one-time opportunity” to provide relief to taxpayers.

Preliminary budget adopted in William Penn
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin,,@KevinTustin on Twitter
POSTED: 05/25/16, 12:02 AM EDT | UPDATED: 41 SECS AGO
Lansdowne>> The William Penn School Board was just able to keep quorum at the start of their Monday night meeting to pass a proposed final budget of $94 million.  In a 6-0 vote, the board approved the budget that has a deficit of $4.5 million and a yet-to-be-determined tax increase, if any.  The use of approximately $2.5 million in fund balance will help bring the overall deficit to over $2 million, though district business director Jeff Cuff said the entire shortfall may be covered by fund balance.  Costs related to personnel (salaries, retirement and healthcare) were noted as being the biggest cost drivers.  Unknown figures from PlanCon and use of the basic education funding formula have yet to determine its effects on a final budget.

Wilkinsburg school board approves proposed preliminary budget
Post Gazette By Deana Carpenter May 24, 2016 11:16 PM
A proposed $28.5 million preliminary budget for the 2016-17 school year was approved by the Wilkinsburg School Board Tuesday. The millage rate will remain the same at 32.63. Homeowners with property valued at $33,100, the median value in Wilkinsburg will continue to pay $1,080 in school taxes per year.  Not factored into the budget is an estimated $3 million in state funds for the transition cost associated with sending 270 middle and high school students to Pittsburgh Westinghouse on a tuition basis this coming fall. Wilkinsburg High School is set to close at the end of the school year.  Richard Liberto, business manager for the district, said it will cost $9,600 for each student to go to Westinghouse.  The State House of Representatives is expected to vote in June to allocate those funds.

Daniel Boone School Board votes to outsource support staff
Reading Eagle By Samantha Tighe  Tuesday May 24, 2016 12:01 AM
The Daniel Boone School Board voted Monday night to outsource its custodial, building maintenance and groundskeeping services to a private company, effectively cutting 35 staff members.  Cries of "shame" and boos rang out from members of the affected support staff's union and their supporters who sat in the audience after the board unanimously voted in favor of a contract with Cleveland-based GCA Educational Services Inc.  According to board President Michael Wolf, because the contract had not been approved, board members had been unable to discuss any possible salary changes or hours for any staff members who might be hired by GCA.  Thirty-five support staff work and live in the district, according to Barbara Goodman, communications director of the American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania. The AFT is the parent union of Daniel Boone Federation of Support Staff, Local 4954.  Benefits, salary and hours will all be subject to cuts, she added.  "Thirty-five people are affected by this," Goodman said, reiterating the number of people affected.  A good portion of them are graduates of Daniel Boone and have worked for the district for decades, she added.

Phila. school principals, administrators reach tentative labor pact
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: MAY 25, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
The union that represents Philadelphia School District principals and other administrators has reached a tentative labor agreement with the district.  The nearly 490 members of Local 502 of the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators (CASA) are scheduled to vote on the proposed pact next Wednesday at Samuel Fels High School in the Northeast. The meeting begins at 6 p.m.  CASA president Robert McGrogan confirmed Tuesday that a tentative agreement had been reached to replace the two-year contract that expires Aug. 31.  He said no details would be made public until after his members vote.  District spokesman Fernando Gallard also confirmed the agreement.  "The district will not at this time comment on the details of the tentative agreement," he said, adding that CASA would present the proposed terms to its members next week.

Soda tax up for first test in Council on Wednesday
The notebook by Fabiola Cineas May 24, 2016 — 3:52pm
Mayor Kenney’s 3-cents-an-ounce soda tax will be up for an initial vote in City Council on Wednesday.  The controversial tax, first proposed by the mayor in early March, would help the city pay for programs that would include universal pre-kindergarten.  In his budget address, Kenney proposed a $256 million investment to help create 25,000 high-quality pre-K seats over the next five years. He also wants to create 25 community schools in his first term, and $39 million from the soda tax revenue would go toward that project.  The mayor also proposes to allocate funds to improve libraries, parks, and recreation centers across the city. Overall, he projected that the tax could fund $400 million in new projects over five years.  For the proposed tax to pass, the mayor must get nine votes from the 17-seat Council.

DN editorial: Council needs to be brave and OK sugary-drink tax
Philly Daily News Updated: MAY 25, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
CITY COUNCIL is scheduled to vote Wednesday on Mayor Kenney's sugary-drink tax.
We urge Council members to summon their courage and pass it.  As Kenney has proposed it, the 3-cents-an-ounce tax on sodas and other sugar-laden drinks would raise $95 million to fully fund pre-kindergarten and create a special fund to accelerate repairs and renovations on rec centers, libraries and police and fire facilities.  No other alternative offered so far comes close to raising the total needed for those initiatives.  Every member of Council favors the mayor's plan on how to spend the money. They just don't want to enact the taxes needed to fund it.

At '11th hour' Harrisburg teachers, district agree on tentative contract agreement
Penn Live By Julianne Mattera |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on May 24, 2016 at 7:38 PM, updated May 24, 2016 at 9:23 PM
After three days of negotiations, the bargaining committees for Harrisburg School District and its teachers union have reached a tentative agreement for a new contract.  The Harrisburg Education Association and district announced the significant step in a joint news release Tuesday evening. The new contract, if approved, would run through the 2017-18 school year.  The teachers union and district expect to submit the tentative agreement for ratification sometime next week, the release said.  "Terms of the agreement will not be disclosed pending ratification by the Education Association," according to the release.

Plum school official: Board poised to force superintendent out on involuntary leave
By Adam Smeltz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 25, 2016 5:55 AM
The Plum school board appears ready to place superintendent Timothy Glasspool on involuntary paid leave if he doesn't choose to sideline himself, board president Kevin Dowdell said early this morning.  "It looks like he'll be on leave either way," Mr. Dowdell said after a confrontational board meeting that ran more than five hours Tuesday night. It was board's first public gathering since a grand jury report last week alleged institutional failures in a sexual abuse scandal at Plum High School.  In an executive session halfway through the meeting, Mr. Glasspool "was given an opportunity to decide whether he would be agreeable with administrative leave," Plum solicitor Lee Price said. He said Mr. Glasspool has up to 48 hours to make a decision.  A majority of board members would likely vote to force Mr. Glasspool into paid leave if he doesn't go that route voluntarily, Mr. Dowdell said. He declined to say which board members support that approach. More than a dozen local residents called for new leadership during the Tuesday meeting.

“I'm deeply troubled by the transformation of teaching from a complex profession requiring nuanced judgment to the performance of certain behaviors that can be ticked off on a checklist. In fact, I (and many others in the academic and policy communities) believe it's time for a major rethinking of how we structure teacher evaluation to ensure that teachers, as professionals, can benefit from numerous opportunities to continually refine their craft.  Simultaneously, it's essential to acknowledge the fundamental policy imperative: Schools must be able to ensure good teaching. Public schools are, after all, public institutions, operating with public funds. The public has a right to expect good teaching. Every superintendent, or state commissioner, must be able to say, with confidence: "Everyone who teaches here is good. Here's how we know: We have a system."
Charlotte Danielson on Rethinking Teacher Evaluation
By Charlotte Danielson Education Week April 18, 2016
The idea of tracking teacher accountability started with the best of intentions and a well-accepted understanding about the critical role teachers play in promoting student learning. The focus on teacher accountability has been rooted in the belief that every child deserves no less than good teaching to realize his or her potential.  But as clear, compelling, and noncontroversial as these fundamental ideas were, the assurance of great teaching for every student has proved exceedingly difficult to capture in either policy or practice.  The immediate challenge is that those with the responsibility to ensure good teaching in schools—primarily building administrators—don't always have the skill to differentiate great teaching from that which is merely good, or perhaps even mediocre. This idea was highlighted in "The Widget Effect," a 2009 report from the organization TNTP that had enormous influence on the design of Race to the Top, the federal initiative that required states to implement rigorous systems of teacher evaluation to qualify for billions of dollars in federal grant money.

“In the letter, Desmond-Hellman wrote: “Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement the standards. We missed an early opportunity to sufficiently engage educators—particularly teachers—but also parents and communities so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning.”  She called this a “challenging lesson for us to absorb.”
Gates Foundation CEO Admits Underestimating Common-Core Challenges
EdWeek Marketplace K-12 Michele Molnar Associate Editor  By Guest Blogger Liana Heitin May 24, 2016
Cross-posted from Curriculum Matters
In a letter posted today on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s website, chief executive officer Sue Desmond-Hellman acknowledged that the group had made some miscalculations regarding implementation of the Common Core State Standards.  The Gates Foundation has backed the standards, which more than 40 states are now implementing, since their conception. Over the last seven years, the math and reading standards have faced political backlash as well as objections from educators who disagreed with their content. Teachers around the country also complained that they lacked the instructional materials and professional development necessary to use the standards effectively in their classrooms.   The uproar was most fervent in places where student scores on the common-core tests were being linked to teachers’ evaluations.

AAP Recommends at Least One Full-Time Nurse in Every School
Children's health needs are increasingly complex, requiring more time and expert care
MONDAY, May 23, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Every school should have at least one full-time registered nurse, according to a new American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement published online May 23 in Pediatrics.  "School nursing is one of the most effective ways to keep children healthy and in school and to prevent chronic absenteeism," Breena Welch Holmes, M.D., a lead author of the policy statement and chair of the AAP Council on School Health, said in an AAP news release. But school district policies about nurses may lack uniformity. And such policies often need updating, the AAP noted.  In the past, the AAP supported having one school nurse for every 750 healthy students and one nurse for every 225 students who needed professional nursing assistance. But these ratios aren't enough to meet the health needs of today's students, the new policy says. "As student health needs became more complex, the school nursing role has expanded to include additional responsibilities," coauthor Anne Sheetz, M.P.H., R.N., said in the news release. Sheetz explained that school nurses now work with pediatricians. They help manage chronic conditions and develop individualized health care plans for each student.  In addition, more children need help with medical management or have special needs. Some of the conditions that require help from the school nurse include asthma, diabetes, life-threatening allergies, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and seizures. Other duties a nurse might have include emergency preparedness and health education, the AAP said.

“The foundation, which Bush started in 2008 after serving two terms as Florida's governor, tries to build state-level support for expanded school choice programs, accountability systems that rely heavily on student performance on test scores, and early literacy initiatives. The foundation also had an affiliate, Chiefs for Change, a group of state superintendents who also pushed for these policies and other, although that group has since ended its affiliation with the foundation and made other changes. The foundation's also been criticized for its influence on state chiefs and its links to private K-12 companies
Jeb Bush Will Once Again Lead the Education Advocacy Group He Founded
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa on May 24, 2016 3:20 PM
Have you been wondering what former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush might do after he got out of the 2016 Republican presidential primary? Wonder no more—he's going back to his roots.  On Tuesday, the Foundation for Excellence in Education announced in an email that Bush, who dropped out of the presidential race last February after a poor showing in the early state races, is returning to the foundation as its chairman. He's taking over for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who you might recall took over for Bush early in 2015.  At the start of that year, Bush announced he was seriously exploring a presidential bid and was therefore ending his leadership of the foundation. Despite his background in education, Bush (as well as other candidates) didn't raise K-12 education much during the campaign.   Rice will stick around as a member of the foundation's board of directors.  "Too many children right now are failed by a deeply flawed bureaucratic system, but I'm optimistic about the future because I've seen the great results produced by states across the country," Bush said in a statement released by the foundation. "It is an honor to rejoin ExcelinEd as we continue to support states in bringing choice, innovation and accountability to the classroom. I am thankful to Dr. Rice and this exceptional board for their leadership over the past year."

“Harmony operates 46 charter schools across Texas, using public funds to manage a school system without the strings attached to traditional public schools.  Critics long have needled the school district, alleging the school network has ties to a controversial Turkish scholar, Fethullah Gülen. “
Turkey-backed group urges TEA to investigate Harmony Schools
Andrea Zelinski Updated 2:11 pm, Tuesday, May 24, 2016
AUSTIN -- A group hired by the Republic of Turkey to probe operations of Texas' largest charter school network is urging the state to investigate its claims of employment discrimination, self-dealing and misuse of public funds at Harmony Public Schools.  Among the allegations in the 32-page complaint filed Tuesday morning are accusations the 30,000-student Houston-based network employs an illegal visa scheme to place unqualified Turkish teachers into key positions at the schools and make deals with preferred vendors instead of opening the bidding to competition as part of a larger plan to overthrow the Turkish government.  The complaint was penned by Amsterdam & Partners LLP, a firm with offices in London and Washington, D.C., hired by the Republic of Turkey to the tune of $50,000 a month to investigate Harmony Public Schools.
The law firm is urging the Texas Education Agency to investigate Harmony's practices in light of previous investigations into the network and a coming expansion that includes adding 15 new campuses over the next two years.  A spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency had no immediate comment on the complaint.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: May 18 - 24, 2016
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on May 24, 2016 - 1:54pm 
The grassroots assessment reform movement continues to score victories as more legislatures and policy-makers agree to roll back standardized exam overkill. To track progress over this spring's testing season, check out our news clip archives at -- you can find out how to get involved at:

Nominations now open for PSBA Allwein Awards (deadline July 16)
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 2016 Allwein Award nominations will be accepted starting today and all applications are due by July 16, 2016. The nomination form can be downloaded from the website.

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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