Pennsylvania Education Letter
Education Policy News, Analysis, and Commentary

By Ronald Cowell, President
The Education Policy and Leadership Center
February 13, 2017
Welcome to our new EPLC e-publication, Pennsylvania Education Letter, which is sent only in electronic format. The Letter highlights significant education policy issues, events and personalities with a focus on Pennsylvania, but includes some coverage of national activities as well. The Letter is published at least once a month. We want the Pennsylvania Education Letter to be without cost to our readers, but we will welcome donations and advertising support.
In this issue
Governor Tom Wolf delivered his proposed 2017-2018 budget to a joint session of the General Assembly on Tuesday, February 7.

In contrast to his first two budget messages, the Governor struck a much more conciliatory - and less ambitious - tone, and his message has been met with relatively positive reaction from many majority Republican legislators, including some leaders. They especially like the fact that he did not ask for any broad based income or sales tax increases. That doesn't mean they support all the budget details he proposed, but they do seem to be off to a more positive negotiating season.
The Governor, and now the Legislature, are challenged by a state fiscal condition that is in serious trouble. The Independent Fiscal Office estimates a current fiscal year revenue shortfall of more than $500 million, and a structural deficit for the upcoming year of almost $2 billion.
The Governor seemingly addressed these challenges in a budget proposal that seems to balance revenues and expenses for 2017-2018, but there are serious questions about the details and the practicality of some of what is in the Governor's proposed budget. It is a complicated proposal that lawmakers will debate in coming months.
On the revenue side, the Governor assumes more than $200 million income from a Marcellus Shale tax that lawmakers have been unwilling to enact for the past several budget cycles. He also assumes other significant increases in taxes for some businesses, and a substantial amount of income by imposing a tax on communities that depend on state police services rather than have their own local police department.
As all governors have done, Governor Wolf also left out of his spending proposal many items totaling millions of dollars that are usually described as legislative initiatives. These are appropriations that are especially favored by the General Assembly or one or more key leaders, and it will again be up to legislators to determine whether to keep funding them and how to pay for them.
Early education advocates have much reason to be pleased with the Governor's proposed budget. The budget asks for an additional $75 million for Pre-K Counts and Head Start Supplemental appropriations that would add more than 8,000 state funded early education slots for eligible children - an important step forward and generally recognized as a smart investment.
The K-12 public education community has been diplomatic in its response to the Governor's spending plan, expressing appreciation for a $100 million increase for basic education, and a $25 million increase for special education, but noting that this increase will not keep pace with the projected increase of $144 million that school districts will have to pay next year for pension contributions alone.
Other significant K-12 items are flat funded, including Career and Technical Education which has not received any increase in funding for several years despite arguments made by many lawmakers about the importance of CTE for the state's workforce development efforts.
There is no increase for services to non-public K-12, or for public libraries.
In contrast, there is an increase of $240 million proposed for school employees' retirement, highlighting the big impact pension fund obligations have on the state budget as well as the budgets of school districts.

Higher education is mostly flat funded as well, except for an increase for the State System of Higher Education - the 14 state-owned universities. There is no increase proposed for the community colleges, the state-related universities, and non-public colleges and universities.
The Governor's budget message kicks-off a process of posturing, debating and negotiating that will likely take several months leading up to the June 30 constitutional deadline to complete the budget. In the meantime, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are beginning several weeks of public hearings in Harrisburg.
The Department of Education has a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on March 6 and before the Senate Appropriations Committee on March 7.
All involved with the state budget-making process are also mindful of another big uncertainty. Budget actions in Washington DC and related issues such as the future of Obamacare can certainly have implications for Pennsylvania's budget and related policies. State lawmakers will be watching carefully to see whether federal action will make worse Pennsylvania's daunting fiscal challenges.
You can view the entire budget document online, here.

CAUTION: It is 990 pages! But
Education pages are found in sections E-14 and E-15.
EPLC again will host a series of regional Education Policy Forums to discuss the Governor's proposed education budget for 2017-2018. While there is no charge to attend, an RSVP is required. For details and to RSVP, visit

Here are the dates and locations:

Thursday morning, February 23 - Pittsburgh
Tuesday morning, February 28 - Harrisburg
Thursday morning, March 2 - Philadelphia
Tuesday morning, March 14 - Indiana
Tuesday morning, March 28 - Lehigh Valley
The 2017-2018 session has begun with Republicans enjoying majorities not seen in decades. In the Senate, there are now 34 Republicans and 16 Democrats. In the House, there are now 121 Republicans and 81 Democrats, and one vacancy to be filled by a special elections this spring. 
House Education Committee members include:
Majority party:
Minority party :
Senate Education Committee members include:

Majority party:
Here is the schedule of House and Senate session days for February through June:

PA House of Representatives
February 6, 7, 8
March 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22
April 3, 4, 5, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26
May 8, 9, 10, 22, 23, 24
June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

PA Senate
February 1, 6, 7, 8
March 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29
April 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26
May 8, 9, 10, 22, 23, 24
June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

In addition to a state budget process that undoubtedly will be very challenging, many lawmakers are promising to deal with complex and elusive issues like pension reform, charter school reform, and property tax reforms. In many ways, this is a legislative agenda that looks much like years past.
Petitions for school board positions may be circulated beginning Tuesday, February 14 and must be filed no later than Tuesday, March 7. The Primary Election is Tuesday, May 16.

As in every year when school board elections occur, EPLC will be conducting a series of regional workshops for school board candidates and other voters. These all-day sessions are on Saturdays during March and April. Details will be announced soon at and in the next edition of EPLC's Pennsylvania Education Letter.
EPLC's television program - Focus on Education - has begun its fifth year of broadcast on Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). Except for January and August, the show is broadcast monthly on PCN on the 2nd Sunday at 3:00 p.m. PCN usually airs the show at additional times during the month. All shows are archived and available "on demand" on EPLC's website at .
The most recent February 12 program was about Governor Wolf's proposed 2017-2018 state budget, and the guests included Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and leaders of several statewide education associations. The show is available on demand at
The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announced Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera is joining its Board of Directors. CCSSO's Board of Directors manages the overall business affairs of the Council and is the governing body of the national organization. The board is composed of the president, the president-elect, the past president, and six directors elected by CCSSO members. "Secretary Rivera recognizes the realities of our public school systems, and as the leader of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, he continues to exemplify his commitment to equity for all kids. We are honored to have him join our Board of Directors," said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO.

The Washington, DC-based Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) announced Dr. Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the U.S. Department of Education , as the sixth president of the Institute. Uvin succeeds Martin Blank, who served as IEL President since 2009 and remains the Director of the Coalition for Community Schools . Prior to his recent post as Acting Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) at the U.S. Department of Education, Uvin served at the Department in various capacities, including: OCTAE acting director of the Policy Research and Evaluation Services Division; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Strategic Initiatives, and as an OCTAE senior policy advisor.
PENNSYLVANIA CALENDAR (additions made after the January 10 Education Letter are in BOLD)
February 14 - 2017 Candidate Petitions May be Circulated 
February 16-17 - PA Association of Career and Technical Administrators (PACTA) 27th Annual Education & Workforce Development Symposium - Hershey 
February 17-18 - Keystone Progress Summit - Harrisburg
February 23-25 - Black Conference on Higher Education Annual Conference - Monroeville
February 23 - EPLC Regional Education Policy/Budget Forum - Pittsburgh
February 27-April 7 - PA Art Education Association Youth Art Month Exhibit - Harrisburg
February 28 - EPLC Regional Education Policy/Budget Forum - Harrisburg
March 2 - EPLC Regional Education Policy/Budget Forum - Philadelphia
March 2 - PA Budget and Policy Center Annual Budget Summit - Harrisburg

March 6 - PA House Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing for PA Department of Education
March 7 - PA Senate Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing for PA Department of Education
March 7 - 2017 Candidate Petitions Filing Deadline
March 8-9 - PA State Board of Education Meeting - Harrisburg
March 14 - EPLC Regional Education Policy/Budget Forum - Indiana
March 21-24 - PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) Annual Meeting - Pittsburgh 
March 28 - EPLC Regional Education Policy/Budget Forum - Lehigh Valley
March 29-30 - PA Association of School Administrators 2017 Education Congress - Camp Hill 
April 19-22 - PA Music Educators Association Alumni Conference - Erie
April 23-26 - PA Education Policy Fellowship Program Washington Seminar - Washington DC
April 25 - Arts & Culture/Arts Education Advocacy Day - Harrisburg 
April 25 - Early Education Economic Summit - Harrisburg
April 26-28 - PA Association of Small and Rural Schools (PARSS) Annual Conference - State College
May 10-11 - PA State Board of Education Meeting - Harrisburg
May 16 - Primary Election Day
Late May - Applications for 2017-2018 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program available
July 10-12 - Title I State Parent Advisory Council Annual Conference - Seven Springs
July 12-13 - PA State Board of Education Meeting - Harrisburg 
July 23-25 - PA Education Leadership Summit co-sponsored by PASA, PA Principals, PASCD - Altoona
July 23-28 - PSEA Summer Leadership Conference - Gettysburg
September 13-14 - PA State Board of Education Meeting - Harrisburg
September 14-15 - Opening Retreat of 2017-18 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program - Harrisburg
October 15-16 - 2017 PA Principals Association Conference - Cranberry Township
October 19-21 - PA Art Education Association Annual Conference - Pittsburgh
October 20-22 - Pennsylvania PTA Convention 2017 - Pittsburgh 
November 7 - General Election Day 
November 8-9 - PA State Board of Education Meeting - Harrisburg
November 16-19 - PA State Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Annual Conference - Valley Forge 
NATIONAL CALENDAR (additions made after the January 10 Education Letter are in BOLD)
February 22-24 - National Education Finance Academy Annual Conference - Cincinnati
March 2-4 - American Assoc. of School Administrators (AASA) Annual Meeting - New Orleans
March 2-4 - National Association for Arts Education Annual Conference - New York
March 16-18 - Association of Education Finance and Policy Annual Conference - Washington DC
March 18 - Arts Education Partnership Forum - Washington DC
March 19-21 - National Association of State Boards of Education Legislative Conference - Washington, DC
March 20-21 - Americans for the Arts (AFTA) Arts Advocacy Day - Washington DC
March 25-27 - Assoc. of Supervisors and Curriculum Development Annual Meeting - Anaheim
March 25-27 - National School Boards Association (NSBA) Annual Meeting - Denver
March 27-28 - National School Foundations Association Annual Conference - Oak Bridge, IL
April 27-May 1 - American Education Research Assoc. (AERA) Annual Meeting - San Antonio
May 1-4 - 2017 National Smart Start Conference - Greensboro, NC
June 16-18 - Americans for the Arts (AFTA) Annual Meeting - San Francisco
June 22-25 - National PTA Annual Conference - Las Vegas
June 25-28 - ISTE Annual Conference - San Antonio
June 28-30 - Education Commission of the States (ECS) Annual Forum - San Diego
August 7-10 - National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Annual Conference - Boston
The Center for Safe Schools will host the next session of its Third Thursday Bullying Prevention Online Learning Series. On Thursday, February 16, 2017 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m., "Mean on Purpose? Bullying Prevention in Early Childhood", a live online learning session for educators will be held.

The majority of research on bullying focuses on its prevalence, causes and appropriate prevention and intervention responses for school-aged children. However recent studies examine bullying behaviors that are exhibited by preschool-aged children. Young children who are victimized by their peers report being fearful of other children, are vulnerable to future episodes of victimization, and are anxious about going to school. (Alsaker, F., Valkanover, S. The Bernese Program Against Victimization in Kindergarten and Elementary School). Preschool children, like older children, are capable of direct and indirect bullying behaviors ( Vlachou, M., Andreou, E., Botsoglou, K. Bully/Victim Problems Among Preschool Children: a Review of Current Research Evidence). Participants will learn to identify aggressive behaviors, learn bullying prevention strategies for early childhood, and examine approaches to enhance social emotional learning.

The Center for Schools and Communities, as a division of the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit, is offering Act 48 professional development credit for those with Pennsylvania teaching or administrative certificates. Participants must attend the online session from beginning to end to receive credit. Only specified professional development sessions are available for credit. The Record of Attendance will be emailed to participants upon completion of the session. If you are interested in receiving Act 48 credit, please check the appropriate box on the registration form.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

A Future Third Thursday On-Line Learning Session Will Be Held:
May 18, 2017: Implications of the recently released National Academies Report Preventing Bullying Through Science, Policy, and Practice: How to use the report to further your bullying prevention efforts.
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© 2017 The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Pennsylvania Education Letter is published by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). Permission to reprint or electronically redistribute the Letter in whole or in part is granted provided attribution to EPLC is provided. The Education Policy and Leadership Center is an independent, non-partisan and not-for-profit organization. The Mission of the Education Policy and Leadership Center is to encourage and support the development and implementation of effective state-level education policies to improve student learning in grades P-12, increase the effective operation of schools, and enhance educational opportunities for citizens of all ages.