Public Source Project: Failing the Future
Is the way Pennsylvania funds public education the reason some students are left behind?
"I wish my school had..."
About this project: In Pennsylvania, a state with 500 school districts, the funding crisis of public education is not a breaking news story. It's been the reality for years. Students study in decaying buildings, can only dream about art classes and fight the stigma of being from "that school." The crisis of funding public education is imminent as the court is set to look into how Pennsylvania funds public education and if it violates the State Constitution. In this series, we explore deepening inequities across school districts and ask: Will the school funding crisis in Pa. ever be solved?
Special ed funding slips
Butler, Mars maintain same levels of instruction
Cranberry Eagle Written by: Tanner Cole Published: November 28, 2018
Trevor Relue, 14, a ninth-grader at Mars High School, helps run his school's coffee shop as part of the Life Skills class. School districts are increasingly relying on local tax dollars to fund special education programs, according to a report by Pennsylvania's Education Law Center. Schools in Butler County are increasingly relying on local tax dollars to fund special education programs as state funding has stagnated for several years, a recent report found. The county isn't alone: Special education funding across Pennsylvania mirrors the situation in Butler County schools. The report's researchers at Pennsylvania's Education Law Center — along with those involved in educating children with disabilities in Butler County — see a growing local dependency on state legislators to blame for the lack of funding. As Reynelle Brown Staley, the policy attorney who led the report, explained it, “the amount of money coming from the state just isn't increasing a lot.”
“Costs are rising at a rate that is far higher than the level of state funding,” Staley said. “State funding isn't even rising fast enough to meet inflation.” Staley and other researchers found that special education costs in Pennsylvania increase by about $200 million per year. Between 2008 and 2016, state funding increased by a total of just $72 million. Special education costs grew by $1.5 billion in that time, researchers found. Budget setting sessions at school boards can become tense affairs, Staley said, and often parents and taxpaying spectators walk away feeling frustrated. She argued that there's a simple reason school districts are always debating which cuts to make in a given year, rather than which programs to expand. “Some just don't have the local wealth to be able to generate thousands or millions of dollars to meet funding needs,” Staley said. “Instead, they're figuring out ways to cut costs. It may be that they're raising class sizes or cutting programs. They're doing things that are not allowing them to maintain the same quality of programming.”
Gov. Wolf forms commission to examine redistricting
Penn Live By The Associated Press Updated Nov 29, 1:02 PM; Posted Nov 29, 1:02 PM
Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor is setting up a 15-member commission to look for ways to improve the state’s redistricting process. Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday signed an order to create the Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission, naming as chairman David Thornburgh, who also heads the good-government watchdog Committee of Seventy. Former congressman Charlie Dent, a Lehigh County Republican, is also on the commission. Wolf's executive order says the commission will look into what other states have done, gather public comment and recommend ways to make the process fairer. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the state's Republican-drawn congressional map, replacing it in February with district lines that in this month's election produced an evenly divided congressional delegation. Pennsylvania will redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts following the 2020 census.
Pa. Republican leaders slam Gov. Wolf’s redistricting panel
Penn Live By Ron Southwick | email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Updated Nov 29, 5:51 PM; Posted Nov 29, 3:24 PM
Top Republican leaders are bashing Gov. Tom Wolf over his new order to create a redistricting commission. Republican legislative leaders said Thursday the Democratic governor is acting without input from the General Assembly and in defiance of the state Constitution. They contend the commission isn’t representing large parts of Pennsylvania, including rural communities. Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, House Speaker Mike Turzai, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman and House House Majority Leader-elect Brian Cutler issued a blistering statement Thursday afternoon. The GOP response came a few hours after the governor announced an order forming the panel.
Pa. superintendent salaries: 2017-18
PA Post by Ed Mahon NOVEMBER 19, 2018 | 10:44 PM
In the database below, you can see the salaries for school district superintendents. Salaries are based on a snapshot date for the 2017-18 school year. You can search for a superintendent based on his or her name, by district and by county. And for some comparison, we’ve included additional details, such as what the average classroom teacher in the district earns and how many students are in the district. Information is based on what districts reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
“Statewide, about 73 percent of classroom teachers in public schools last year were women. But only about 28 percent of school district superintendent were, according to a PA Post analysis of state data.”
Women are more likely to work in Pa. public schools — but a lot less likely to lead school districts
'You are, as a female, really having to stand up, and maybe sometimes stand up a little taller and be noticed,' said one superintendent.
PA Post by Ed Mahon NOVEMBER 20, 2018 | 05:00 AM
The handshake might seem like a small thing. But Janet Serino notices it. Serino has worked in education for more than 40 years. She’s now a superintendent at a school district in Luzerne County, an area without any other women in similar positions. Serino think she is sometimes treated differently than her male colleagues. The handshake is one small way. “Men sometimes hesitate to shake the hand of a woman,” Serino said. “But they’ll go right up and shake the hand of that gentleman.”
No tax increase in Pittsburgh Public Schools proposed budget
ELIZABETH BEHRMAN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Lbehrman@post-gazette.com NOV 29, 2018 11:20 AM
Pittsburgh Public Schools is finalizing its 2019 general fund budget, which does not include a tax increase. The $643.7 million spending plan includes a 3 percent increase over last year and will use about $28.3 million from the district's fund balance. Slightly more than half the preliminary budget — 52 percent — is earmarked for salary and benefits payments. About 13 percent of the budget will go to charter school tuition payments, 13 percent to the district’s special education programs and about 5 percent for transportation costs.
Teacher Wade Owlett Recognized
Owlett honored as both State and National Rural Teacher of the Year!
Wellsboro Home Page by John Vogt and Kimberly Johns – November 8, 2018
On today’s broadcast feature Mr. Wade Owlett is honored as both State and National Rural Teacher of the year. Wade Owlett is a 5th-grade teacher at Clark Wood Elementary School in Elkland. Earlier this year he received the Pennsylvania Rural Teacher of the Year Award. This made him a candidate for the National Rural Teacher of the Year Award. And, he won! He received the award on October 12, 2018, in Denver, Colorado. In honor of Wade’s accomplishments as an outstanding teacher, leaders from the State of Pennsylvania and our community came together to thank Wade and present him with citations highlighting his service. The event took place Wednesday, November 7th at Clark Wood Elementary School. Principal Jess Millard welcomed Superintendent Dr. Diana Barnes, Tioga County Commissioners Roger Bunn, Erick Coolidge, and Mark Hamilton, PA State Representative Clint Owlett, who is Wade’s brother and PA State Senator Joseph Scarnati.
Superintendents' Forum: Building our future workforce
Event shows possibilities in connecting students with local employers.
Reading Eagle WRITTEN BY JILL M. HACKMAN WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 28, 2018 07:48 PM
On Oct. 30, more than 200 representatives from Berks County business and community organizations, elected officials, educators and students came together for the second annual Career Ready Berks School to Work Symposium. The event was a celebration of the accomplishments of the past year as well as a call to action for the future. The Career Ready Berks Alliance is a coalition of the 18 Berks school districts, Career and Technology Centers, business and industry and the Berks County Intermediate Unit, with the support of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, the Northeast Chamber of Commerce, and the Berks County Workforce Development Board. This alliance is working to provide equity and access to career awareness and exploration opportunities for the more than 70,000 students in Berks County. Bringing business and industry together with K-12 education will help students to explore career opportunities and make more informed decisions about their future. The experiences will also help to keep our talented youth here and fill the need for a skilled workforce in the county. The initiative is centered on the following philosophy: career development equals workforce development, which equals economic development for Berks.
Pennsylvania politicians head to New York City to network and seek spotlight
Post-Gazette by ANGELA COULOUMBIS Harrisburg Bureau NOV 29, 2018 7:26 PM
With midterm elections over, and a crop of fresh new faces on Pennsylvania's political scene, this year's annual weekend of schmoozing and networking in New York City — ironically called the Pennsylvania Society — will be all about jostling for the spotlight. The mad dash to Manhattan this week is ostensibly to attend some government-like forums, but it's mostly to fundraise, party and — for the ambitious — draw attention. The itinerary features an exhaustive list of dinners, receptions and cocktail parties (most invitation-only) hosted by law firms, lobbyists, and others with a financial stake in Keystone State government and politics. The burning topic of conversation tends to be less about policy and more about who is showing up where — and why.
Columbia approves 3.15 percent pay raise for teachers in new collective bargaining agreement
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer November 30, 2018
The financially-strapped Columbia Borough School District dug deep enough to give its teachers a 3.15 percent salary increase per year under a new, five-year collective bargaining agreement with the Columbia Education Association. To offset the increased costs, the district trimmed its health care benefits and consolidated its pay scale to offer a more competitive salary for new teachers. District Superintendent Tom Strickler said the contract, which is retroactive to July 1, 2018, is “very positive” for everyone involved. “The students win with members of an education team that are long term,” he said. “This agreement provides compensation and benefits that are equitable and competitive.” Arlene Gibble, CEA president and a first-grade teacher at Park Elementary School, described the contract as “a mutual agreement with both parties willing to compromise.” Under the new contract, which was approved by the school board at its Nov. 19 meeting, the annual pay scale for teachers in the 2018-19 school year ranges from $44,712 to $84,607, depending on years of experience and level of education.
Tax impact ranked last in Perk Valley facility survey
Pottstown Mercury by Evan Brandt email@example.com @PottstownNews on Twitter November 30, 2018
PERKIOMEN — When a group of more than 100 residents of the Perkiomen Valley School District was asked to rank priorities regarding school facilities, minimizing tax impact came in dead last. Instead, maintaining small class size and equity of instructional opportunity were the two top priorities identified among 10 by the more than 100 people who attended a special Perkiomen Valley School District meeting about facilities — with a particular focus on South Elementary School. Driving public interest in the issue is the possibility of South Elementary School being closed; or renovated; or replaced and all the ripples of district-wide impact that decision will send out into the greater school community.
Are Civics Lessons a Constitutional Right? This Student Is Suing for Them
Many see the lack of civics in schools as a national crisis. A federal lawsuit says it also violates the law.
New York Times By Dana Goldstein Nov. 28, 2018
Aleita Cook, 17, has never taken a class in government, civics or economics. In the two social studies classes she took in her four years at a technical high school in Providence, R.I. — one in American history, the other in world history — she learned mostly about wars, she said. Left unanswered were many practical questions she had about modern citizenship, from how to vote to “what the point of taxes are.” As for politics, she said, “What is a Democrat, a Republican, an independent? Those things I had to figure out myself.” Now she and other Rhode Island public school students and parents are filing a federal lawsuit against the state on Thursday, arguing that failing to prepare children for citizenship violates their rights under the United States Constitution. They say the state has not equipped all of its students with the skills to “function productively as civic participants” capable of voting, serving on a jury and understanding the nation’s political and economic life.
Annual PenSPRA Symposium set for March 28-29, 2019
Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association Website
Once again, PenSPRA will hold its annual symposium with nationally-recognized speakers on hot topics for school communicators. The symposium, held at the Conference Center at Shippensburg University, promises to provide time for collegial sharing and networking opportunities. Mark you calendars now!
We hope you can join us. Plans are underway, so check back for more information.
Build on finance, policy, board culture skills at PSBA’s Applied School Director Training
Four convenient locations in December and January
Take the next step in your professional development with Applied School Director Training. Building upon topics broadly covered in New School Director Training, this new, interactive evening event asks district leaders to dive deeper into three areas of school governance: school finance, board policy and working collaboratively as a governance team. Prepare for future leadership positions and committee work in this workshop-style training led by experts and practitioners. Learn how to:
Dec.11, 2018 — Seneca Valley SD
Dec. 12, 2018 — Selinsgrove, Selinsgrove Area Middle School
Jan. 10, 2019 — Bethlehem, Nitschmann Middle School
Jan. 17, 2019 — State College
Cost: This event is complimentary for All-Access members or $75 per person with standard membership and $150 per person for nonmembers. Register online by logging in to myPSBA.
PASBO is looking for leaders! The deadline for board seats is Dec 31st, 2018.
PASBO members who desire to seek election as Director or Vice President should send a letter of intent with a current resume and picture to the Immediate Past President Edward G. Poprik, PCSBO, who is chair of the PASBO Nominations and Elections Committee.
More info: https://www.pasbo.org/election
NSBA 2019 Advocacy Institute January 27-29 Washington Hilton, Washington D.C.
The upcoming midterm elections will usher in the 116th Congress at a critical time in public education. Join us at the 2019 NSBA Advocacy Institute for insight into what the new Congress will mean for your school district. And, of course, learn about techniques and tools to sharpen your advocacy skills, and prepare for effective meetings with your representatives. Save the date to join school board members from across the country on Capitol Hill to influence the new legislative agenda and shape the decisions made inside the Beltway that directly impact our students. For more information contact .
PSBA Board Presidents’ Panel
Nine locations around the state running Jan 29, 30 and 31st.
Share your leadership experience and learn from others in your area at this event designed for board presidents, superintendents and board members with interest in pursuing leadership roles. Workshop real solutions to the specific challenges you face with a PSBA-moderated panel of school leaders. Discussion will address the most pressing challenges facing PA public schools.
2019 NSBA Annual Conference Philadelphia March 30 - April 1, 2019
Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19107
Registration Questions or Assistance: 1-800-950-6722
The NSBA Annual Conference & Exposition is the one national event that brings together education leaders at a time when domestic policies and global trends are combining to shape the future of the students. Join us in Philadelphia for a robust offering of over 250 educational programs, including three inspirational general sessions that will give you new ideas and tools to help drive your district forward.
Save the Date: PARSS Annual Conference May 1-3, 2019
Wyndham Garden Hotel, Mountainview Country Club
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools