Wednesday, July 23, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 23: New PA Basic Ed Funding Commission to start work on Thursday

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3250 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, 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 and Twitter

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg
The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public Education.  Are you a member?


Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 23, 2014:
New PA Basic Ed Funding Commission to start work on Thursday


BASIC EDUCATION FUNDING COMMISSION ORGANIZATIONAL MEETING
Thursday July 24, 2014 1:30 PM Room 8E-B East Wing

Corbett's counterproductive pension proposal
Inquirer Opinion By Dwight Evans POSTED: Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 1:08 AM
State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) represents the 203d District and served more than two decades as Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee
Gov. Corbett is blaming pension costs for increased school taxes.  House Republican leaders Sam Smith and Mike Turzai boast that Republican pension legislation would provide budgetary relief to school districts.  Both claims are false.
Pennsylvania has a pension reform plan - Act 120 of 2010 - and it is doing just fine as long as it is not mutated by desperate election-year smokescreens.  As the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee in 2010, I oversaw the drafting of Act 120 in a bipartisan spirit that remains unrivaled in my 34 years in the state legislature. Republicans Glen Grell in the House and Dominic Pileggi and Pat Browne in the Senate joined me in working collaboratively, on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers, to craft a pension reform that was signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell 44 months ago.

Once Upon a Time: An Analysis of the 2014-15 General Assembly Approved Budget
Posted by PA Budget and Policy Center on July 22, 2014
The $29.0 billion 2014-15 state General Fund budget enacted earlier this month fails to confront Pennsylvania’s serious revenue problems. Lawmakers pretended that the half billion dollar revenue shortfall in 2013-14 did not exist and “balanced” the 2014-15 budget with one-time transfers, accounting tricks, and phantom revenues.  The budget relies on a myriad of dubious revenue sources including an increase in collections well above what the Independent Fiscal Office projected, revenue from a proposed casino that does not yet have a gaming license, and federal approval of the governor’s “Healthy Pennsylvania” alternative to Medicaid expansion. If these revenues fail to materialize, it is quite likely that Pennsylvania will face a mid-year budget crisis.  Already, there are signs that revenue collections will head off course. On July 18, in response to a lawsuit challenging the governor's plan to expand gas drilling in state forests and parks, the Corbett administration agreed not to lease any more state land for drilling until the court makes a ruling. The budget assumes that $95 million will be raised from these leases, however this revenue will be delayed if it arrives at all.

Court opens door to charter school expansion in Bethlehem and rest of Pennsylvania
Dual Language Charter School challenged rulings that disallowed opening a second site.
By Steve Esack, Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau 9:32 p.m. EDT, July 22, 2014
HARRISBURG — The Dual Language Charter School in Bethlehem — and all other charter schools in Pennsylvania — could be one step closer to opening up multiple facilities under a court ruling filed Tuesday.  In a 2-1 decision, Commonwealth Court ruled that charter schools can open more than one school by amending the charters they hold with a local school board. The decision overturned rulings by the Bethlehem Area School Board and the state Department of Education's Charter Appeal Board.  Bethlehem Superintendent Joseph Roy said the administration and board have not determined whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Senate GOP leadership to Corbett: Re-appoint Office of Open Records director Terry Mutchler
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com on July 22, 2014 at 8:29 PM
Two powerful Republican senators are now among a throng standing in Office of Open Records director Terry Mutchler's corner, saying she deserves a second six-year term in her position.
In a letter (below) sent on Tuesday to Gov. Tom Corbett, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, said they share the governor's goal of promoting openness and transparency at all government levels.  And they "believe that allowing Terry to serve a second term is a critical step in reaching that goal," the letter states.

Here's a related prior posting:
"They don't feel they should be subject to this law, or, candidly, subject to you," Mutchler told senators on the state government committee, which is considering legislation to amend the five-year-old law. "They are a cancer on the otherwise healthy right-to- know-law."
Pa. official: Charter schools flout public-records law
Philly.com By Amy Worden, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau POSTED: May 15, 2013
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's 180 charter schools routinely ignore the state's Right-To-Know Law even though as publicly funded institutions they are bound to comply with it, the chief of the state's Office of Open Records told a Senate committee on Monday.
Executive director Terry Mutchler said her office had received 239 appeals in cases in which charter schools either rejected or failed to answer requests from the public for information such as budgets, payrolls, or student rosters. She said her office ruled in favor of the schools on just six of those appeals.

Pa. schools' reserve funds now top $4 billion
JOHN BAER, DAILY NEWS POLITICAL COLUMNIST Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 3:01 AM
THIS IS NOT a plea for more school funding.  Not even as Philly kids, teachers and parents await word on whether schools are shuttered in September for lack of funding.
This is a reminder that the money's already there.
It's a reminder of how Pennsylvania's vast, expensive public-education system hoards tax dollars in multiple and movable accounts.

Philly-Area School Districts' Reserves
Philly.com July 22, 2017

What is the recommended level of a fund balance? This differs depending on the circumstances of a school district, however, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association recommends using the one of the following guidelines: One relies on a formula where a predetermined number of months (usually one to three months) of operating expenditures are used;  The other is used by the three major bond rating agencies - Moody's, Standard & Poor's, and Fitch. The rating agencies recommend between 5% and 10% of current period operating expenditures (budget);  Section 688 of the school code says that when the fund balance exceeds between 8 and 12% of expenditures, depending on the size of the budget, the district must consume any fund balance in excess of 8% prior to increasing taxes.
PSBA: Frequently Asked Questions: School District Fund Balances

How to dismantle a school system
Racked by budget cuts, Pennsylvania’s schools are coming apart at the seams
Aljazeera America by  @danieldenvir July 22, 2014 6:00AM ET
Graduating seniors last month celebrated the end of a difficult year at Philadelphia’s Bartram High School, one prominent example of Pennsylvania’s deepening public education crisis.
Michael Miller, the father of one college-bound graduate, complained that the state keeps “taking money and taking money, and it’s a scary thought where we’ll be in five years.” He returned from military service in Afghanistan just as Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s education budget cuts began to hit the state’s poorest districts.  For years Pennsylvania has served as a testing ground for the conservative theory of small government — more specifically, since 2010, when Corbett signed a no-new-taxes pledge crafted by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and rode a Tea Party wave into office. The effects have proved deleterious. Corbett’s cuts to public education have been particularly painful, with poor districts like Philadelphia bearing the brunt.
The city’s school district now faces its third consecutive budget crisis under Corbett, who cannot visit his state’s largest city without facing massive protests. According to data provided by the School District of Philadelphia, it has 6,321 fewer staffers this year than in 2011 — a reduction of nearly 27 percent. That includes 2,723 fewer teachers, 58 nurses, 406 counselors, 286 secretaries and 411 noontime aides. There is no fat left to trim, but more layoffs are still on the table.

Educating the city's children with the resources at hand
the notebook By James H. Lytle on Jul 22, 2014 12:51 PM
Those of us concerned about public education in Philadelphia have been so caught up with the School District’s financial crisis that we have given little thought to how District and charter schools, and publicly funded schooling for the city’s kids, might be reimagined. Our priority has been filling the gaps, dealing with deficits and not possibilities.
The underlying assumption of advocates, District leadership, and elected officials is that if funding were restored for nurses and counselors, art and music teachers, smaller class sizes, preschool programs, books and supplies, and facilities improvements, then all would be well. And if additional funds were available to provide programs and services beyond the basics, then prosperity would be at hand.  But the public seems disinclined to provide the levels of support that the best suburban and private schools enjoy. And equally important is that the District’s performance record for the last several decades provides little evidence that additional funding will, by itself, lead to broad, substantive improvement.

District inviting educators, others to redesign schools
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Jul 22, 2014 06:11 PM
The Philadelphia School District is launching a school redesign initiative, inviting applications from teams of educators, parents and outside organizations, including community groups and universities, to overhaul existing District schools.
"We're doing this now because we see a tremendous opportunity within the school system in the city to provide space for really talented and passionate people to help us with transformation efforts in specific schools," said Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn in an interview.
He said the so-called School Redesign Initiative is an opportunity to act on ideas to create community schools, among other transformative models. The District is seeking a letter of intent from interested teams by Aug. 19 and will choose 10 teams by Oct. 10.

Phila. district asks for proposals for overhauling education
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 7:17 PM
If you have an idea for overhauling a city public school, the Philadelphia School District is listening.  Officials on Tuesday announced the "School Redesign Initiative," inviting teachers, principals, universities, and community organizations to propose turnarounds of their own design.
That's a shift for a system that has relied heavily on charter conversions to reform struggling schools. Schools slated for redesign would remain part of the district and would continue to employ union-represented teachers.  As many as 10 schools could be transformed beginning in September 2015.

Philly schools open up overhaul proposals to community
SOLOMON LEACH, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER LEACHS@PHILLYNEWS.COM, 215-854-5903 POSTED: Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 3:01 AM
EDUCATORS, PARENTS, community groups and universities that have bold ideas to improve a Philadelphia public school now have a vehicle to pitch their plans.
The school district yesterday announced the start of the School Redesign Initiative, its latest effort to allow stakeholders to identify, develop and implement their innovative plans at existing schools.
The district said the goal is to increase the number of high-quality schools, but many question the rationale behind the plan at a time when schools lack basic resources, such as counselors, full-time nurses and librarians, and the district faces an estimated $93 million deficit, which could require hundreds of layoffs.

The School District Won’t Say It, but Camden NJ Schools Are Closing
Stephen Danley's Blog Posted July 22, 2014, by Stephen Danley
Assistant Professor Public Policy and Administration, Rutgers University
With news that 10 Uncommon and Mastery Schools have been approved for Camden, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the Camden School District is being dishonest with the Camden residents. The district has repeatedly assured parents and students that traditional schools were not closing or at risk. That’s simply not possible with close to 7,000 students being moved to Uncommon and Mastery Schools.* So why mislead about school closures? Because, as we’ve seen in Newark, communities will rally around their schools once they are threatened. It’s easier just to open new schools, claim it is about providing additional quality options, than enact closures based on projected deficits. The strategy was just successful for firing over 200 teachers. 

New state rankings on how America’s children are faring
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss July 22 at 1:11 PM  
A new report on how America’s children are faring, just released by the  nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation, found that Massachusetts is doing the best job and Mississippi the worst in four areas: economic well-being, education, health and family/community indicators.  The KidsCount 2014 Data Book finds that in 2012,  23 percent of U.S. children were living below the official poverty line and many others live just above it, a jump from 2005 when 19 percent were living below the poverty line.  It is the 25th such annual report released by the foundation, which collects and analyzes a mountain of data about the well-being of America’s children and issues a report with state rankings and a great deal of other information, which you can see in full here. Using the latest available data, it looks at the four areas to reach conclusions about how well children are doing in the United States.

The EDifier by Jim Hull July 22, 2014
A new study from the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas claims that charter schools are 40 percent more productive than traditional public schools. They found that for every $1000 invested, charter schools obtain approximately a year and half more in student learning than traditional public schools — meaning, in essence, charter schools can be just as effective as traditional public schools at nearly half the cost.
These are incredibly strong findings for charter schools. If charter schools can do everything traditional public schools do at nearly half the cost why shouldn’t policymakers invest more in their expansion? The problem is this study doesn’t even attempt to determine if charter schools can provide the same services with fewer funds than traditional public schools

Valarie Wilson won the runoff election to be the Democratic candidate for Georgia’s State Superintendent of Education.  The Republican primary was too close to call.
Valarie Wilson was endorsed by the Network for Public Education as a true friend of public schools. Her opponent, Alisha Thomas Morgan, was supported by the hedge fund group Democrats for Education Reform, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, and the pro-voucher American Federation for Children.

I am happy to report that the Network for Public Education is growing and thriving. This is due in no small part to the excellent work of Rob Perry, who organized our website and wrote our newsletter. Rob did a superb job in building our Facebook presence, and after two years of dedicated service, has decided to move on to another opportunity. We found Rob by putting out an appeal on this blog and are hoping to be lucky again.  We are now looking for a new communications director.  Here is the official job description:

This Week's Testing Resistance and Reform News:
Fairtest.org

University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education Research to Practice
The National Writing Project's resources for teachers\Inspiring Students to Write
The Philadelphia Writing project (PhilWP), a renowned local site of the National Writing Project, teaches writing and literacy as critical tools for learning. Penn GSE professor Dianne Waff works with teachers to move them and their students toward writing-intensive lives that connect learning, high student achievement, and personal growth.  The following tips come from experienced PhilWP Teacher Consultants (TCs), who offer ideas to encourage students to write and develop a love for words and creative expression.

BATS DC Rally July 28 10 am
BATS PRESS RELEASE Sunday, July 20, 2014
The Badass Teachers Association (BATs), an activist organization of over 50,000 teachers will be holding a rally in Washington D.C. to protest the devastating educational policies of the United States Department of Education and Arne Duncan.   The Rally will be held on July 28, 2014 at the USDOE Plaza beginning at 10 a.m. and will draw thousands of teachers, parents, students, and educational activists from around the country.  BATs will demand such things as ending federal incentives to close and privatize schools, promote equity and adequate funding for all public schools, and ban all data sharing of children’s private information.

Bucks Lehigh EduSummit Monday Aug 11th and Tuesday Aug 12th
Location: Southern Lehigh High School 5800 Main Street, Center Valley, PA 18034
Time: 8 AM - 3 PM Each Day(Registration starts at 7:30 AM. Keynote starts at 8:00 AM.)
The Bucks Lehigh EduSummit is a collaboratively organized and facilitated two day professional learning experience coordinated by educators in the Quakertown Community School District , Palisades School DistrictSalisbury Township School DistrictSouthern Lehigh School DistrictBucks County IU, and Carbon Lehigh IU, which are all located in northern Bucks county and southern Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Teachers in other neighboring districts are welcome to attend as well! The purpose of the EduSummit is to collaborate, connect, share, and learn together for the benefit of our kids. Focus areas include: Educational Technology, PA Core, Social Media, Best Practices, etc.
http://buckslehighedusummit2014.wikispaces.com/Home

Educational Collaborators Pennsylvania Summit Aug. 13-14
The Educational Collaborators, in partnership with the Wilson School District, is pleased to announce a unique event,  the Pennsylvania Summit featuring Google for Education on August 13th and 14th, 2014!  This summit is an open event primarily focused on Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks, Google Earth, YouTube, and many other effective and efficient technology integration solutions to help digitally convert a school district.  These events are organized by members of the Google Apps for Education community.

Pre-K for PA has supporters all over the greater Philadelphia region who want to help ensure all three and four year-old children can access quality pre-K.
We need your help -- join an upcoming phone bank. Join a fun gathering of like minds in Philadelphia and Conshohocken on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. We are calling fellow Pre-K for PA supporters to build local volunteer teams.
Call a Pre-K Friend in Philly:
United Way Building, 6th Floor 1709 Ben Franklin Parkway 19107 
Wed July 30, 5-7 PM
Call a Pre-K Friend in Mont Co:
Anne's House 242 Barren Hill Road Conshohocken PA 19428
Wed July 30, 5-7pm

EPLC Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters - Harrisburg July 31
Register Now!  EPLC will again be hosting an Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters. This nonpartisan, one-day program will take place on Thursday, July 31 in Harrisburg. Space is limited. Click here to learn more about workshop and to register. 

Education Policy and Leadership Center
Click here to read more about EPLC’s Education Policy Fellowship Program, including: 2014-15 Schedule 2014-15 Application Past Speakers Program Alumni And More Information

2014 PA Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Below is an alphabetical list of the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates and links to information about their plans, if elected, for education and arts/culture in Pennsylvania. This list will be updated, as more information becomes available.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 22, 2014: Pa. needs to fix the way it pays for its public schools

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3250 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, 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 and Twitter

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg
The Keystone State Education Coalition is pleased to be listed among the friends and allies of The Network for Public Education.  Are you a member?


Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 22, 2014:
Pa. needs to fix the way it pays for its public schools


"It's time to adequately support Pennsylvania's schools and end the annual guesswork regarding the distribution of the state's basic education funds."
Pa. needs to fix the way it pays for its public schools: As I See It
By PennLive Op-Ed  By Jim Buckheit, Nathan Mains, Jay Himes, Joseph Bard and J. Hugh Dwyer  n July 21, 2014 at 2:00 PM, updated July 21, 2014 at 2:11 PM
Jim Buckheit is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators; Nathan Mains is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association; Jay Himes is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials;  Joseph Bard is Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, and  J. Hugh Dwyer is Chair of the Central Pennsylvania Public School Coalition.
The Legislature passed, and the Gov. Tom Corbett recently signed, a 2014-14 state budget that invests about $10.5 billion in state funding for prekindergarten to 12th grade education.
The budget includes $100 million in additional state funding in the newly established Ready-to-Learn Block Grant program.  The additional investment in targeted initiatives such as STEM programs (science, technology, math and engineering) will prepare our students for in-demand jobs and to be the innovators our economy needs.
Lawmakers also invested an additional $20 million to support for students with special needs, increased school construction funding by $10 million and lifted the moratorium on reimbursements during this legislative session.
However, the state's primary support for education is still distributed according to the whim of the Legislature, leaving each school district wondering annually if it will receive more, less or the same amount of state support as the previous year. 

Nation Apparently Believed in Science at Some Point
The New Yorker BY ANDY BOROWITZ JULY 21, 2014
MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report)—Historians studying archival photographs from four decades ago have come to the conclusion that the U.S. must have believed in science at some point.  According to the historian Davis Logsdon, who has been sifting through mounds of photographic evidence at the University of Minnesota, the nation apparently once held the view that investing in science and even math could yield accomplishments that would be a source of national pride.

Moody's downgrades Pa. rating; Corbett ponders pension reform session
Trib Live By Debra Erdley Monday, July 21, 2014, 4:39 p.m.
Relaxed and confident despite sagging poll numbers and a bruising budget battle with the General Assembly, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said Monday he is weighing whether to call lawmakers back to Harrisburg for a special session on pension reform.
Corbett made his comments in a meeting with editors and reporters at the Tribune-Review, an hour before Moody's Investors Service downgraded the rating on $11.1 billion in state general obligation bonds from Aa2 to Aa3, citing Pennsylvania's “large and growing public pension liabilities” and the state's use of one-time revenue to balance its budget.
Rating Action: Moody's downgrades Pennsylvania's general obligation rating to Aa3 from Aa2; outlook stable
Moody's Global Credit Research - 21 Jul 2014
Approximately $13.1 billion in general obligation and related debt affected
New York, July 21, 2014 -- Moody's Investors Service has downgraded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's outstanding $11.1 billion general obligation bonds to Aa3 from Aa2. We have also downgraded the ratings assigned to $2 billion of appropriation-backed bonds by one notch, as well as the programmatic ratings assigned to the state's intercept programs. The outlook is stable
SUMMARY RATING RATIONALE
The downgrade of the general obligation rating to Aa3 reflects the commonwealth's growing structural imbalance, exacerbated by the fiscal 2015 enacted budget that depends on non-recurring resources; a weak GAAP balance position that will further deteriorate based on the budget's one-time measures; and the expectation that large and growing pension liabilities coupled with modest economic growth will limit Pennsylvania's ability to regain structural balance in the near term.  The stable outlook reflects the commonwealth's diverse economy but below average growth, its recent history of improved governance reflected in timely budget adoption, and strong executive powers to control spending midyear..

Pennsylvania sees third rating downgrade in 2 years
Post-Gazette by Associated Press July 21, 2014 5:05 PM
HARRISBURG — New York-based credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service is slapping a lower rating on Pennsylvania’s debt for the second time in two years, as state government grapples annually with built-in budget deficits.  Today’s downgrade of $11.1 billion general obligation bonds from Aa2 to Aa3 means Pennsylvania is ranked among the six worst states in Moody’s ratings for the 47 states with general obligation debt.

Moody's downgrades Pennsylvania on pensions, budget
Lancaster Online By KAREN SHUEY | Staff Writer Posted: Monday, July 21, 2014 3:59 pm | Updated: 9:13 pm, Mon Jul 21, 2014.
Moody’s Investors Service lowered Pennsylvania's credit rating on $11.1 billion worth of bonds in part due to the recently passed state budget that it said relied too heavily on one-time money transfers and failed to address the pension crisis.
The rating for Pennsylvania's general-obligation bonds was lowered to Aa3 from Aa2 in a move announced Monday that also included a downgrade by one notch on $2 billion in other bonds.
The ratings service called out the government officials for avoiding a "growing structural imbalance" that includes the $29.1 billion budget and what it said was a deteriorating fiscal condition due to gimmicks in the budget.
"The expectation that large and growing pension liabilities coupled with modest economic growth will limit Pennsylvania's ability to regain structural balance in the near term," Moody's said.

Moody's downgrades Pennsylvania’s general obligation rating to Aa3 from Aa2.
Roxbury News By James Roxbury Monday July 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm
As released by the Office of the Governor.
Harrisburg – Today, Moody's Investors Service cited the commonwealth’s current pension crisis as a key reason for downgrading Pennsylvania’s general obligation rating to Aa3 from Aa2. While the commonwealth benefits from a strong economy and low unemployment, Moody’s stated that unfunded pension liabilities, projected to grow to $65 billion from the current $41 billion, will continue to be a major cost driver on the commonwealth.  “It’s clear that this pension crisis has put severe strain on Pennsylvania’s finances,” said Governor Tom Corbett. “As families struggle with skyrocketing property taxes, pension costs are consuming more than 60 cents of every new dollar of state general fund revenues. Doing nothing is not an option and doing nothing fails our families.”  In the rating, Moody’s noted that the state’s pension obligations present a key challenge, stating that “high combined debt position driven by moderate bonded debt levels but growing unfunded pension liabilities as Pennsylvania continues to underfund pension contributions.”

Dermody says credit downgrade is sign of Corbett failure
PA House Democratic Caucus website July 21, 2014
HARRISBURG, July 21 – House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody issued this statement in reaction to the reduction of Pennsylvania’s bond rating by Moody’s Investors Service:
“The poor leadership we’ve been getting from the state’s CEO is reflected on the balance sheet. The downgrade of Pennsylvania’s bond rating is a direct result of Governor Tom Corbett’s misguided philosophy and discredited budget methods.  “He had four years to try to do things right, but all he did was put our state in a more precarious financial position. The governor’s near-total reliance on one-time, non-recurring revenue to ‘balance’ this year’s budget was transparently political, and Moody’s called him out on it.

Moody's: Pa. has third-worst budget in U.S.
Inquirer Philly Deals Blog by Joseph N. DiStefano POSTED: MONDAY, JULY 21, 2014, 3:50 PM
Moody's Investors Service says it has cut Pennsylvania's bond rating to Aa3, down a notch from Aa2. Only New Jersey (A1) and Illinois (A3) now have lower ratings, among U.S. states. The cut is Moody's response to Pennsylvania's "imbalanced" 2015 state budget and fiscal problems which "will further deteriorate" due to the General Assembly's one-time gimmicks and "non-recurring revenues," along with Pennsylvania's slow economic growth, which has lagged other states despite Gov. Corbett's attempts to attract industry by avoiding new taxes and easing business regulation.

An annotated read of today’s news about pensions and politics
Philly Clout Blog Philly Daily News by Chris Brennan POSTED: MONDAY JULY 21 2014 4:10 PM
Gov. Corbett, still pushing for the state General Assembly to return from recess to take up legislation to change the state pension plans, today issued a new release about Moody’s Investors Service downgrading of Pennsylvania’s bond rating.
Corbett’s news release said: Today, Moody's Investors Service cited the commonwealth’s current pension crisis as a key reason for downgrading Pennsylvania’s general obligation rating to Aa3 from Aa2. While the commonwealth benefits from a strong economy and low unemployment, Moody’s stated that unfunded pension liabilities, projected to grow to $65 billion from the current $41 billion, will continue to be a major cost driver on the commonwealth.
What it didn’t say: Actually Moody’s was much more pessimistic about the state’s “strong economy,” citing the new budget signed into law by Corbett and “modest economic growth” in Pennsylvania as some of the reasons for the downgrade.

Op/ED: SE GOP leaders back Corbett on pension fight
Times of Chester County Op-Ed July 21, 2014
Editors Note: This op-ed was submitted by Patricia Poprik, Chair of the Bucks County Republican Committee; Valentino DiGiorgio, Chair of the Republican Committee of Chester County; Andrew Reilly, Chair of the Delaware County Republican Committee; Mike Vereb, Chair of the Montgomery County Republican Committee; and John Taylor, Chair of the Philadelphia Republican City Committee; Michael Meehan, Chair of the Republican Southeastern Pennsylvania Caucus; and Bob Asher, Republican National Committeeman.
We applaud Governor Corbett for tackling Pennsylvania’s pension crisis which is increasing our residents’ property taxes and diverting dollars away from the classroom to pay for large pension obligations.  We thank the Governor for standing up for Pennsylvania taxpayers and Pennsylvania children.  As Governor Tom Corbett travels across the state making his case for pension reform, much of the news coverage has focused on the so-called “rift” in the Republican Party between the Governor and the legislature on the issue of pension reform.
In speaking with our local Republican legislators, it is evident that all of them understand the need for pension reform; some just differ on the best approach. 

OP-ED: Education funding is top priority under Gov. Corbett
Pottstown Mercury By STATE REP. WILLIAM F. ADOLPH JR., Guest columnist POSTED: 07/11/14, 4:07 PM EDT
State Rep. Adolph is Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee
Facts matter in making public policy. Anyone who spends more than a day working on public policy unfortunately knows that facts are regularly distorted to advance certain policy positions. Regrettably, in the editorial “Taxpayers are losers in latest state budget” on July 7, 2014, the editorial writers for Digital First Media have either blindly taken talking points from one of the most free-spending education industry advocacy group and accepted them as fact, or recklessly gambled with the actual facts to advance a premise not supported by reality.
First and foremost, the simple fact is the recently passed state budget contains $10.5 billion for K-12 education in Pennsylvania. This is the largest amount of state funds ever for education and represents a $539 million or 5.2 percent increase in year-over-year funding.

Republicans must overcome schism among Harrisburg power brokers
ANGELA COULOUMBIS, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Monday, July 21, 2014, 1:07 AM POSTED: Sunday, July 20, 2014, 9:43 PM
HARRISBURG - Just minutes before Gov. Corbett stepped out to announce he was using his line item veto power to strike millions of dollars from the legislature's budget two weeks ago, one of his top aides called over to the state Senate.  Drew Crompton, counsel and chief of staff to the Senate's president pro tempore, took the call. The administration, he was told, was going to whack not just $65 million in legislative operational spending, but $7.2 million in legislative-controlled special projects, or earmarks.
"You can't do that," Crompton said he told Corbett's budget secretary, Charles Zogby, questioning the constitutionality of vetoing some of the money.  "Our lawyers tell us we can," Crompton said Zogby replied tersely.  Crompton and his boss, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, are Republicans. So are Corbett and Zogby.
That may be one of the few things they have in common these days.

Corbett struggles to energize the base
For now, conservatives not happy, and actions aren't winning over moderates.
THOMAS FITZGERALD, INQUIRER POLITICS WRITER LAST UPDATED: Sunday, July 20, 2014, 1:09 AM
Four years ago, Joe Szalwinski knocked on doors and "passed out more fliers than I can count" to help elect Tom Corbett governor of Pennsylvania.  This year? "I'll probably vote for him, but I won't work for him," said Szalwinski, 58, a tea party voter from Fishtown.
He was disappointed that Corbett had abandoned the legal fight after a federal judge threw out the state's ban on same-sex marriage, and by the governor's willingness last year to put extra money into Philadelphia schools.

Corbett carries the pension torch
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 20, 2014 9:09 PM
Governor Corbett isn't giving up the ghost of a public pension overhaul -- saying he may still call a special session of the state Legislature to address the issue.  His preferred proposal still does not have enough support in the House and Senate, Corbett said at a roundtable discussion in Hummelstown Friday - one of many such events his office scheduled across the commonwealth last week.  The governor made daily statements about the plan to reduce retirement benefits of future public workers. Supporters say the changes would reign in long-term costs of public pensions. Opponents, most of them Democrats, say a better solution is to find new funding for pensions by raising taxes.
"They just feel, well you have to tax more," Corbett said. "Well, you'd have to tax and tax and tax everybody. You couldn't tax any one business enough."
The governor has begun to acknowledge that the proposal in question would not generate short-term savings for the state or school districts, both of which are buckling under rising pension costs due to the state's heavy debt on its two public pension funds.  "This is a first step," Corbett said of the House proposal that evaded a vote in July. "This stops the bleeding by moving everybody over to a different system."  Opponents say even the long-term relief Corbett promises is in question.

With election looming, Corbett tries to seize the narrative on school funding: Monday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com on July 21, 2014 at 9:04 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
With four months to go until the November general election, Gov. Tom Corbett is trying to regain the high ground on his record on public education funding -- and lawmakers' inaction on pension reform may just have given him the path to get there.  In case you've missed it, the Republican governor has been out on the stump almost non-stop for the last two weeks, hammering the Republican-controlled General Assembly for failing to deliver a reform plan before it broke for its annual summer recess.

Scarnati: "Gov. Corbett's numbers have only one way to go -- up," he said. "And after he spends $15 million or $20 million, they will improve."
Democrats expect gains in state Senate
Party hopes lead in governor’s race will bring majority
By James O'Toole / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Republicans have controlled the state Senate in Harrisburg for two decades.
But some Senate Democrats, buoyed by the polling lead of their candidate for governor and their own gains in the 2012 elections, contend they are on the verge of reclaiming the majority that has eluded them for a political generation.  "We're really excited,'' said Sen. Jay Costa, the Democrats' Senate leader. "We're really right on the cusp."
His opposite number, Sen. Joseph Scarnati, the Senate president pro tempore, says he's confident not just that the GOP will retain the majority, but that it has a real chance to enhance it.

Teachers are getting support they need to improve their practices and deepen students’ knowledge and skills
US Dept of Education Progress Blog July 2014
James Ellis, the principal of White Deer Elementary School in New Columbia, Pennsylvania, likes the conversations he and other administrators in his district are having with teachers about what great instruction looks like.  These discussions occur after school leaders observe teachers in action and are designed to provide helpful feedback and guidance on what teachers can do to improve in their jobs, such as by better managing their classrooms or helping students make more progress. The observations are part of Pennsylvania’s new teacher evaluation system, which went into statewide use as a pilot for the first time this year. Under the old system, Ellis said he didn’t have the same deep discussions about what he saw or should have seen.

Guest Column: Let’s listen to the people
July 19, 2014 6:00 pm  •  By Jill Bartoli, For The Sentinel
Jill Sunday Bartoli, of Carlisle, is the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s 199th House District seat.
Knocking on the doors of people in my hometown of Carlisle, and in the surrounding areas of Silver Spring, Plainfield and Newville, has given me renewed faith in the basic common sense and good will of fellow human beings.  People have welcomed me into their homes when it was freezing cold to warm up, or when it was blazing hot to cool down. They have shared their worries about their families, our public schools and the need to work together.
They have also shared their worries about the kind of world we are leaving to our children and grandchildren:


"Not to sound overly sanctimonious here, but how long do you think Common Core would last if the public relations money pushing it dried up? How many people believe strongly enough in it to volunteer their time to promote it?" 
Helmsley Steps Up Fight for the Common Core
Susan Ohanian's Blog July 2014
Ohanian Note: In case you missed it, here are a few Helmsley grants over the past couple of years to support Common Core--money to everyone from the Business Roundtable to Charlotte Danielson's enterprise
http://susanohanian.org/core.php?id=726

Five Inconvenient Truths for Reformers (1 of 2)
Education Week Learning Deeply Blog By Jal Mehta on July 16, 2014 11:49 PM
In a piece that Steven Teles and I published last year, we argued that a group of "jurisdictional challengers" were seeking to replace many of the functions of traditional educational entities. So we have alternative teacher certification alongside traditional certification, charter schools alongside traditional public schools, new graduate schools of education, like Relay, Sposato, and High Tech High alongside more traditional ones affiliated with universities; and even new foundations like Gates, Walton, and Broad seeking to supplant older ones like Ford, Carnegie, and Spencer. Unlike critics like Diane Ravitch, I do not take the position that these groups are simply corporate reformers seeking to privatize education; nor do I take the bullish view held by Eli Broad, Joel Klein, and others that these reformers are the likely saviors of public education. Given the scale of the challenge of helping all students engage in deeper learning, we need an all hands on deck approach, and thus I'm increasingly convinced that neither the reformers nor the traditionalists have the answer on their own, and that drawing together the best of both camps is the way to move forward.
To this end, I wanted to offer two posts, this and the next, that spotlight some of the blind spots or inconvenient truths for each. Down the road, I'll try to explain some places where I think the two groups might work together. Today it is the reformers turn. I'll stay away from the obvious ones that get bandied about in the blogosphere (reformers are too wedded to value-added measures, can't fire your way to better quality, etc.) and instead try to describe some that come out of our visits to dozens of schools, both charter and traditional public, over the past four years.

Five Inconvenient Truths for Traditionalists (2 of 2)
Education Week Learning Deeply Blog By Jal Mehta on July 18, 2014 3:12 PM
In a post yesterday I argued that moving towards deeper learning would require an all hands on deck approach that neither the "reformers" nor the traditionalists could achieve on their own. In the spirit of open discussion, I highlighted five blind spots or inconvenient truths for the reformers; today I do the same for those who would put their faith in the more traditional actors in the sector.

Georgia has an important run-off for State Superintendent of Education in the Democratic Party on July 22. If you care about the future of public education in Georgia, please vote.  Valarie Wilson came in first in the primary, with 32% of the vote. The runner-up, Alisha Thomas Morgan, received 26%.  The Network for Public Education has endorsed Valarie Wilson, a strong supporter of public education. In reviewing her list of contributors, it appears that almost all of them live in Georgia. Wilson’s total contributions, after taking out loans, was $178,147. Of those, $174,572 came from supporters who live in Georgia; $3,575–or 2%-came from outside Georgia.
Valarie was elected to the local school board in Decatur in 2002 and served as its president from 2005-2011. She was elected president of the Georgia School Boards Association in 2012-13.
Her opponent, Alisha Thomas Morgan, has been endorsed by the corporate reformers, the hedge fund managers and billionaires, who support privatization, charters and vouchers.

University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education Research to Practice
The National Writing Project's resources for teachers\Inspiring Students to Write
The Philadelphia Writing project (PhilWP), a renowned local site of the National Writing Project, teaches writing and literacy as critical tools for learning. Penn GSE professor Dianne Waff works with teachers to move them and their students toward writing-intensive lives that connect learning, high student achievement, and personal growth.  The following tips come from experienced PhilWP Teacher Consultants (TCs), who offer ideas to encourage students to write and develop a love for words and creative expression.

BATS DC Rally July 28 10 am
BATS PRESS RELEASE Sunday, July 20, 2014
The Badass Teachers Association (BATs), an activist organization of over 50,000 teachers will be holding a rally in Washington D.C. to protest the devastating educational policies of the United States Department of Education and Arne Duncan.   The Rally will be held on July 28, 2014 at the USDOE Plaza beginning at 10 a.m. and will draw thousands of teachers, parents, students, and educational activists from around the country.  BATs will demand such things as ending federal incentives to close and privatize schools, promote equity and adequate funding for all public schools, and ban all data sharing of children’s private information.

Bucks Lehigh EduSummit Monday Aug 11th and Tuesday Aug 12th
Location: Southern Lehigh High School 5800 Main Street, Center Valley, PA 18034
Time: 8 AM - 3 PM Each Day(Registration starts at 7:30 AM. Keynote starts at 8:00 AM.)
The Bucks Lehigh EduSummit is a collaboratively organized and facilitated two day professional learning experience coordinated by educators in the Quakertown Community School District , Palisades School DistrictSalisbury Township School DistrictSouthern Lehigh School DistrictBucks County IU, and Carbon Lehigh IU, which are all located in northern Bucks county and southern Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Teachers in other neighboring districts are welcome to attend as well! The purpose of the EduSummit is to collaborate, connect, share, and learn together for the benefit of our kids. Focus areas include: Educational Technology, PA Core, Social Media, Best Practices, etc.
http://buckslehighedusummit2014.wikispaces.com/Home

Educational Collaborators Pennsylvania Summit Aug. 13-14
The Educational Collaborators, in partnership with the Wilson School District, is pleased to announce a unique event,  the Pennsylvania Summit featuring Google for Education on August 13th and 14th, 2014!  This summit is an open event primarily focused on Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks, Google Earth, YouTube, and many other effective and efficient technology integration solutions to help digitally convert a school district.  These events are organized by members of the Google Apps for Education community.

Pre-K for PA has supporters all over the greater Philadelphia region who want to help ensure all three and four year-old children can access quality pre-K.
We need your help -- join an upcoming phone bank. Join a fun gathering of like minds in Philadelphia and Conshohocken on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. We are calling fellow Pre-K for PA supporters to build local volunteer teams.
Call a Pre-K Friend in Philly:
United Way Building, 6th Floor 1709 Ben Franklin Parkway 19107 
Wed July 30, 5-7 PM
Call a Pre-K Friend in Mont Co:
Anne's House 242 Barren Hill Road Conshohocken PA 19428
Wed July 30, 5-7pm

EPLC Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters - Harrisburg July 31
Register Now!  EPLC will again be hosting an Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters. This nonpartisan, one-day program will take place on Thursday, July 31 in Harrisburg. Space is limited. Click here to learn more about workshop and to register. 

Education Policy and Leadership Center
Click here to read more about EPLC’s Education Policy Fellowship Program, including: 2014-15 Schedule 2014-15 Application Past Speakers Program Alumni And More Information

2014 PA Gubernatorial Candidate Plans for Education and Arts/Culture in PA
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Below is an alphabetical list of the 2014 Gubernatorial Candidates and links to information about their plans, if elected, for education and arts/culture in Pennsylvania. This list will be updated, as more information becomes available.