Wednesday, June 29, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 29: Pa House OKs $31.5 billion budget and moves it to Senate

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PA Ed Policy Roundup June 29, 2016:
Pa House OKs $31.5 billion budget and moves it to Senate


Winnowing applicants to become Philly's first class of community schools
The notebook/WHYY Newsworks BY AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT JUNE 27, 2016
The mayor has lobbied hard for community schools, even pledging a chunk of the revenue from his hard-fought sweetened drinks tax to seed the initiative. That fight played out in public, defined by the fierce debate that so often attaches itself to big policy showdowns.  The community school selection process has been less public, partly by design. The mayor’s office doesn’t want the process to turn into a political frenzy.  It’s also indicative of the fact that the mayor’s office doesn’t have a set of rigid criteria for picking community schools. There’s no formula or set of weights city officials are using to narrow the pool of candidates. And that’s not unique to Philadelphia. Across the country, there’s no real consensus on how cities should select community schools  “There really aren’t existing best practices out there,” said Della Jenkins, an analyst at Research for Action who recently co-authored a report on community schools in practice.

Pa. House OKs budget; battle looms on how to pay for it
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis and Karen Langley, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: JUNE 28, 2016 — 6:35 PM EDT
HARRISBURG - The House of Reprsentatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a $31.5 billion budget, with support from both Republicans and Democrats -- but a stubborn behind-the-scenes fight remains over how to pay for it.  The spending plan passed by the GOP-dominated House in a 132-to-68 vote would spend about 5 percent more than this year's $30 billion budget, and send an additional $200 million for public school education.  Both parties hailed it as an example of the bipartisan spirit that has permeated budget talks this year, unlike last, when the budget impasse dragged on for nine months. But they have yet to move legislation that details a key tax they are seeking to increase -- or even whether the money-generating proposals they have already approved would raise enough new dollars to support it.  For his part, Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, said Tuesday that he does not believe the House's plan, which would rely on new money from online gambling, among other proposals, raises enough money.

Pa House OKs $31.5 billion budget and moves it to Senate
Morning Call by Steve Esack Contact Reporte r Call Harrisburg Bureau June 28
HARRISBURG — In a bipartisan vote, the House on Tuesday evening passed a $31.5 billion budget that increases spending by 5 percent by expanding gambling options, putting higher taxes on tobacco products, counting on more alcohol sales and allowing tax cheats to pay up.  The 132-68 vote moves the 2016-17 spending bill to the Senate, which would begin its debates and votes Wednesday with the goal of moving a final spending and tax package to Gov. Tom Wolf by Thursday. The current fiscal year closes Thursday and the new one begins Friday.  But it's not clear if the timelines will be met.  The House's spending bill did not include a tax package and the Senate is not happy. Wolf also has voiced concern that the House's package is not balanced.   Still, on Tuesday night, the House's Republican and Democratic leadership praised each other for passing a budget without the partisan warfare that led to a nine-month delay in approving this year's budget to the financial detriment of school districts, counties and nonprofits.

Budget bill clears House committee, but obstacles abound
Post Gazette By Angela Couloumbis & Karen Langley Harrisburg Bureau June 28, 2016 12:25 AM
HARRISBURG — There may soon be a budget bill, but there is no budget deal.
The proposal that cleared the House Appropriations Committee on Monday night calls for the state to spend about 5 percent more next year than it did under this year's $30 billion budget.  The boost in spending would be propped up by legalizing online gambling, loosening the state’s monopoly over the sale of wine, imposing new taxes on tobacco and instituting a tax amnesty program.  But neither the Republican-dominated Senate nor the administration of the Democratic governor has committed to support it.  Jeff Sheridan, Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokesman, said Monday that the governor has not agreed to the plan.  It doesn’t fully fund one of Mr. Wolf’s spending priorities: new dollars for opioid abuse treatment and prevention.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, expressed skepticism about aspects of the House plan: “We haven’t finalized anything,” he said, later noting, “There is no sense sending the governor something he doesn’t want, or at least won’t agree to sign.”

House passes $31.6 billion spending plan, putting Pa. on track for an on-time budget
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 28, 2016 at 6:20 PM, updated June 28, 2016 at 6:42 PM
The House on Tuesday passed a $31.6 billion spending plan for 2016-17 that sets the table for a final round of negotiations with the Senate and Gov. Tom Wolf.  The plan, which still awaits a finalized revenue plan to raise the money needed to balance spending at that level, now goes to the Senate with two days left until the fiscal year ends.  By voting 132-68 to approve the budget bill that represents a 4.8 percent increase in spending, several House members noted it could put Pennsylvania on track to pass an on-time budget.  Considering Pennsylvania endured a nine-month delay in getting a state budget finalized, "that in itself is a very good reason to vote for this budget," said House Democratic Appropriations Committee Chairman Joe Markosek of Allegheny County.  The revenue package to cover the $1.4 billion increase in spending over this year is still being finetuned in the House but it won't require an increase in sales or income tax rates. Rather, it looks to higher tobacco taxes, a tax amnesty program, gambling expansion, and liquor modernization to cover most of the new money that is needed. 

PA-BGT: House Passes $31.55 Billion Budget
PoliticsPA Written by Jason Addy, Contributing Writer June 28, 2016
The PA State Senate will begin considering a $31.55 billion budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year after the House of Representatives voted Tuesday evening to pass a 4.8% spending increase.  The budget vehicle legislation, Senate Bill 1073, passed by a132-68 vote just 20 hours after an omnibus amendment was adopted by the House Appropriations Committee. A motion was approved to bypass the rule requiring 24 hours for consideration.  The budget plan increases total spending for pre-K to 12th grade education by $250 million, and the state will meet its burgeoning pension obligations without raising income or sales taxes.  The deal still relies on an increased tax on tobacco products and new revenue from liquor privatization and expanded gaming in PA.

Pa. House approves $31.5 billion budget; Senate next
Trib Live BY CARLEY MOSSBROOK | Tuesday, June 28, 2016, 7:21 p.m.
HARRISBURG — A proposed state budget cleared its first hurdle Tuesday night, but still has a ways to go before the cash begins to flow.  The full House approved a $31.5 billion budget proposal by a vote of 132-68. The proposal would boost spending by $1.4 billion, almost 5 percent, though it is significantly less than the $33.3 billion sought by Gov. Tom Wolf.  The proposal relies on taxes raised on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco and new revenue from an online gaming proposal that also passed the House on Tuesday.  Wolf, a Democrat, and Senate Republicans, who will receive the budget in the next few days, have not agreed to it, but Rep. William Adolph, R-Delaware County, the House appropriations chairman, said it is a “middle of the road” proposal.  Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said the governor is hopeful that all sides can reach an agreement.

Wolf won't endorse House budget plan, says it's not balanced
Marc Levy, Associated Press and Joshua Vaughn, The Sentinel June 28, 2016
Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday that he is concerned about budget legislation that passed the House of Representatives Tuesday, but said there is still time to fix it before the state embarks on a new fiscal year.  Wolf said that he could not endorse a plan that he said is out of balance, and hoped the Senate will fix its flaws.  The House's vote, 132-68, came Tuesday, two days before the state's 2016-17 fiscal-year deadline. The plan won support from House Democratic leaders, putting Wolf in a position of criticizing a plan his close allies are backing.  In the Senate, leaders are cool to the House's plans.  "I haven't agreed to this and as far as I can tell there's still some things that need to be worked out," Wolf said during a regularly scheduled appearance on KQV-AM radio in Pittsburgh.  The state's 2016-17 fiscal year starts Friday.  The nearly $31.6 billion spending plan would increase overall spending by 5 percent and K-12 public school spending by $200 million, or about 3 percent. Wolf had sought $250 million more for schools and $34 million more to bolster heroin addiction treatment programs.  Every public school district in Cumberland County would see an increase in basic education funding under the current plan, according to numbers released by the Pennsylvania House Republicans.

“The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration and is considered as a key source of revenue to help fund the proposed $31.5 billion 2016-17 state budget.  A fiscal note attached to the bill estimates it will generate a total of $266.5 million in additional revenues from the payment of licenses and fees and collections of tax revenues in 2016-17.”
House approves sweeping gambling expansion bill, sending it to Senate
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  n June 28, 2016 at 4:47 PM, updated June 28, 2016 at 4:58 PM
Without any debate, the House voted on Tuesday 114-85 to approve a bill that would represent Pennsylvania's third expansion of gambling in six years.  It would create an online gaming industry, regulate fantasy sports betting and allows gambling in airports.  This bill will be up for final consideration in the House Thursday, and then must pass muster with the state Senate. 

Rep. Jim Christiana's bill requires local boards to post meeting agendas 24 hours in advance
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose jprose@calkins.com  Jun 28, 2016
Two years after he first introduced it, state Rep. Jim Christiana’s bill to reform the Sunshine Act and demand more transparency from local government passed the House State Government Committee on Tuesday.  Under House Bill 1155, which passed out of committee in a 17-8 vote, school boards, local governments and county commissioners would be required to post their agendas on their websites, if they have one, at least 24 hours before a meeting.  “All government officials have a responsibility to conduct the taxpayers’ business openly and transparently,” Christiana, R-15, Brighton Township, said in a statement. “Our school districts, along with state and local governments, are spending billions of taxpayer dollars every year. It’s unacceptable to not have a public agenda in place at least 24 hours in advance.”  Boards must make detailed agendas available at meetings and post a copy at the meeting place. Additionally, boards would not be allowed to act on an issue that is not included on the posted agenda.

“After the vote, DiBello explained that his rejection of the budget was not meant as a slight against the hard work done by the business office, but more of an objection to Harrisburg’s failure to reform the current property tax and pension systems. Property taxes have increased in Spring-Ford every year since 2001, according to the district. In addition, for the next seven years the district is mandated to pad its budget with at least a 0.6 percent tax increase to pay for the rising Public School Employees’ Retirement System costs. At some point the pension system contribution is going to peak and the district wants to be in alignment financially when that happens, DiBello explained.  “We’re not going to drop a bomb on the community and hit them with a 6, 7 (percent increase) whatever it may be to try to cover that peak,” DiBello explained. “So we’re slowly building this into the budget.”
Spring-Ford board OKs $151M budget, tax hike; top administrators get raises
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 06/28/16, 5:11 PM EDT | UPDATED: 8 HRS AGO
OYERSFORD >> The Spring-Ford Area School Board just approved its lowest tax hike in 15 years and gave two top administrators a raise.  Now board members are blaming Harrisburg for forcing the tax increase, while praising the efforts of the administration, including its chief financial officer.  In an 8-1 decision Monday, the board approved the 2016-17 budget of approximately $151 million, which calls for a 0.7 percent tax increase. Board President Tom DiBello dissented.

"The driver that hurts the education of the students is the pension fund," he said. The district's payments to the Public School Employees Retirement System shot up in the last couple of years, which Long called "a crisis."
"It's an unfunded mandate," he said.
Parkland School District passes budget with 3.48 percent property tax increase
Margie Peterson Special to The Morning Call June 28, 2016
Parkland school directors might argue about issues in committee meetings but by the time they vote on an item at their regular board meetings, the vote is usually unanimous.  So when Director Barry Long broke ranks Tuesday to vote against the final 2016-17 budget with its 3.48 percent property tax hike, it wasn't surprising that he spoke up to defend his position. The district's $166 million spending plan and tax increase was approved 8-1.  Long said senior citizens on fixed incomes are hurting and the 3.48 percent hike is too much. He said he wanted to see the tax hike remain within the state's Act I Index of 2.4 percent. 

Erie schools work to close budget gap on deadline
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News June 29, 2016 12:10 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- The Erie School Board could once again put its hope in Harrisburg.
The Erie School District's chief financial officer said Tuesday that, barring any new state budget developments, he will recommend that the Erie School Board pass a final 2016-17 budget that relies on anticipated additional state dollars and anticipated emergency funding to erase a $5.5 million deficit.  "We've been talking to our legislators almost daily, and they are working very hard to do something for us," Brian Polito said.  The School Board is scheduled to vote on the $185.8 million budgetWednesday at East High School, 1001 Atkins St., immediately following an unrelated public hearing scheduled for 6 p.m.  The proposed final budget approved by the School Board in May included an additional $1.6 million in anticipated state funding for the district, based on a projected increase of $100 million in education funding statewide.

Bradford Area School Board passes $38.6 million budget; no tax increase
By KATE DAY SAGER Era Reporter kdsager@bradfordera.com | 0 comments Posted: Tuesday, June 28, 2016 10:00 am
The 2016-17 Bradford Area School District general fund balance of $38.6 million, which includes no tax increase, was approved at Monday’s board meeting by a 6 to 1 measure.  Judy Bodamer, director of finance, said the final budget was lower than the originally preliminary  $39.4 million budget thanks in part to an increase in revenue.  “We were able to increase the revenues $269,098 and reduce expenditures by $95,446,” Bodamer explained. “(Increases in) revenues were largely due to grant changes.”  She said the final budget also represents a deficit of $822,099, down from $ 1.2 million.  In addition, teachers’ salaries, due to changes in personnel that stem from retirements, will decrease by $28,029. In addition, grant funds were used to purchase text books.  The millage rate will remain at 22.12 mills, therefore the average taxpayer with a home valued at $46,000 can expect to pay approximately $1,013 in school taxes next year. A taxpayer with a house valued at $100,000 can expect to pay approximately $2,212 in school taxes.

Chartiers Valley school board approves budget
Post Gazette By Deana Carpenter June 28, 2016 11:35 PM
The Chartiers Valley School Board on Tuesday voted 6-2 on the district’s $62 million 2016-17 budget which includes a 0.3892 mill tax increase. Board members Tony Mazzarini, Robert Kearney, Eric Kraemer, Mark Kuczinski, Alka Patel and Sandy Zeleznik voted in favor of the budget. Jeff Choura and Julie Murphy dissented and Jamie Stevenson was absent.  With the increase, the millage rate in the Chartiers Valley district is 16.6067 mills. Homeowners with property valued at $100,000 will pay about $1,660 in school taxes per year.  The district used about $500,000 from its fund balance to balance the 2016-17 budget. Chartiers Valley has $2.8 million remaining in its fund balance.  This year is the first year since 2010 that taxes have gone up in the Chartiers Valley District. Chartiers Valley has the lowest millage rate of any district in Allegheny County. The McKeesport Area School District had been the lowest, but it raised millage to 16.74 for the 2016-17 school year.

Plum SB OKs budget, tax increase
Trib Live BY EMILY BALSER  | Tuesday, June 28, 2016, 10:48 p.m.
The Plum School Board on Tuesday approved its $65.2 million budget and a 3 percent property tax increase. The board voted 6-3 with board members Vicky Roessler, Sue Caldwell and Steve Schlauch dissenting. The tax increase is the first in 10 years and raises the millage rate to 19.337. That's up from 18.758. With the current property-tax rate, the owner of a home assessed at $111,000 pays $2,082 a year in property taxes to the district. That will go to $2,146 a year with the tax increase. Officials have said the increase will generate an extra $850,000 for the district. The district worked to create a “bare bones” budget after a $4 million deficit was found this year. Officials have said it was due to overestimating the local tax revenue since 2013. The district also attributed rising salaries, health care and retirement costs to the deficit.The district is taking a $4 million loan to balance the budget as well as a $1 million loan to buy required new buses.

Baldwin-Whitehall budget balanced with tax hike, staffing cuts
Trib Live BY STEPHANIE HACKE  | Tuesday, June 28, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Two years after Baldwin-Whitehall school board members lowered taxes by 2 mills, a new board majority says it's working to “right the ship,” raising taxes and making staffing cuts to balance the 2016-17 budget without draining the district's reserve.  “Don't think anybody is taking this lightly,” Karen Brown, board vice president and chair of the finance committee, said.  Board members voted 7-2 on June 22 to adopt the district's $62.4 million 2016-17 budget that included a 0.83-mill tax increase, raising the tax rate to 19.25 mills. The budget also included cuts of more than 12 professional and eight service employee positions through attrition or furloughs. Board members Martin Michael Schmotzer and Elliot Rambo dissented on votes for the budget, possible furloughs and curtailment of programs.

Easton Area's equity plan aims to put all students on equal footing
Michelle Merlin Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call June 28, 2016
About 13 percent of Easton Area School District's 1,200 staff members are minorities, an amount that doesn't come close to mirroring the student population, about half of whom are non-white.  A new five-year plan aims to shift that dynamic and make progress toward putting students of any color or socio-economic status on a more equal footing.  The district released its equity plan, formally named Diversity Alliance Plan, at a school board meeting June 21 and the board approved it at a meeting Tuesday night.  The plan outlines short-term and long-term goals for the district to help create equity for students, including hiring minority teachers, building diversity programming, increasing parent outreach and creating a new equity-focused position.  The plan aims to recognize and celebrate diversity "as an essential ingredient to the success of a democratic society and to the fulfillment of the school district's mission …" the plan's statement of purpose reads.

McGuffey buzzing about bees as students keep hives
Inquirer by KAREN MANSFIELD, The Associated Press Updated: JUNE 28, 2016 10:40 AM EDT
CLAYSVILLE, Pa. (AP) - The decline of the honeybee - the insect responsible for pollinating more than 100 crops, from apples and almonds to plums and zucchini - worries former McGuffey High School student Emily Brownlee.  Three years ago, Brownlee put together a presentation about colony collapse disorder and the plight of honeybees, which have been dying by the tens of millions since 2006.  Brownlee's passion and enthusiasm struck a chord with Superintendent Erica Kolat and Assistant Superintendent Laura Jacob, who were in the audience. They attended a bee convention to gather information about integrating bees into the school curriculum and pursued grants and funding to purchase and raise beehives on a secluded section of the campus.  The goal is twofold: to educate students about honeybees and to help play a role in the bees' preservation.


Walton Family Foundation commits $250 million for new charter school facilities
Washington Post By Emma Brown June 28 at 4:40 PM 
The Walton Family Foundation on Tuesday announced that it would commit $250 million to help urban charter schools deal with a problem that has sometimes slowed their growth: access to facilities.  The money will go to nonprofit lenders and charter school developers, who will use it to help finance buildings for new charter schools in 17 cities, including the District.  Approximately 3 million children now attend charter schools across the country. The new effort from the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, is expected to create space for an additional 250,000 students by 2027, according to the foundation, which has played a key role in driving the expansion of charters during the past two decades.

After 25 Years, What's Next For Charter Schools?
NPR by CLAUDIO SANCHEZ June 28, 20165:30 AM ET
The major advocacy group for charter schools is meeting this week in Nashville, Tenn., and there's lots to celebrate.  What began with a single state law in Minnesota has spread to a national movement of nearly 6,800 schools, serving just under 3 million students.  But at its annual meeting, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools is also using the moment to call for a fresh look at how these innovative public schools are managed and how they're held accountable.  Among the concerns is whether the failure rate of online charter schools is hurting the credibility of the movement in general.  Others inside the movement say charters "have hit a wall" — that too many are operating like traditional public schools, with unimpressive results because they've done little or nothing to innovate and adopt the most promising classroom practices.

For Detroit’s Children, More School Choice but Not Better Schools
New York Times By KATE ZERNIKE JUNE 28, 2016
DETROIT — On the face of it, Ana Rivera could have had almost any choice when it came to educating her two sons. For all the abandoned buildings and burned-down houses in her neighborhood in the southwest part of this city, national charter school companies had seen a market and were setting up shop within blocks of each other, making it easier to find a charter school than to buy a carton of milk.  But hers became the story of public education in a city grasping for its comeback: lots of choice, with no good choice.  She enrolled her older son, Damian, at the charter school across from her house, where she could watch him walk into the building. He got all A’s and said he wanted to be an engineer. But the summer before seventh grade, he found himself in the back of a classroom at a science program at theUniversity of Michigan, struggling to keep up with students from Detroit Public Schools, known as the worst urban district in the nation. They knew the human body is made up of many cells; he had never learned that.  When his school stopped assigning homework, Ms. Rivera tried enrolling Damian at other charters, but the deadlines were past, the applications onerous. Finally, she found him a scholarship at a Catholic school, where he struggled to rise above D’s all year. “He doesn’t want to hear the word engineering,” she said.  Michigan leapt at the promise of charter schools 23 years ago, betting big that choice and competition would improve public schools. It got competition, and chaos.

House Members Introduce Bill to Overhaul Career and Technical Education
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on June 28, 2016 3:43 PM
A bipartisan bill to overhaul the law governing career and technical education was formally introduced by congressional lawmakers Tuesday, and aims to grant states more flexibility over federal funds and allow them to better align programs with current economic needs. 
Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act was introduced by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa. It's the proposed rewrite of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which was last reauthorized in 2006.
Much of the bill's substance focuses on reducing bureaucracy, increasing flexibility, and trying to ensure that the programs governed by the law at the middle school, high school, and postsecondary levels are better aligned with workforce demands and produce results. According to a press release sent out by House Democrats on the committee, the bill includes provisions to, among other things:
·         Ensure that more traditionally disadvantaged and vulnerable students are served by career and technical education programs;
·         Increase a focus on skills that translate more directly into employable skills;
·         Make it easier for states to apply for federal funds under the Perkins Act;
·         Allow for unique needs of states' local areas to be factors when states are deciding how to spend Perkins money;
·         Measure the performance of the programs in terms of how the money is spent, and outcomes for various subgroups of students, as defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act, which requries data disaggregation for a larger number of student subgroups than in the past. (See page 47 of the CTE bill from Clark and Thompson for this language); 
·         Replicate promising practices by directing an increasing slice of federal resources to programs proving to work.


Appointment of Voting Delegates for the October 15th PSBA Delegate Assembly Meeting
PSBA Website June 27, 2016
The governing body boards of all member school entities are entitled to appoint voting delegates to participate in the PSBA Delegate Assembly to be held on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. It is important that school boards act soon to appoint its delegate or delegates, and to notify PSBA of the appointment.
Voting members of the Delegate Assembly will:
1.     Consider and act upon proposed changes to the PSBA Bylaws.
2.     Receive reports from the PSBA president, executive director and treasurer.
3.     Receive the results of the election for officers and at-large representatives. (Voting upon candidates by school boards and electronic submission of each board’s votes will occur during the month of September 2016.)
4.     Consider proposals recommended by the PSBA Platform Committee and adopt the legislative platform for the coming year.
5.     Conduct other Association business as required or permitted in the Bylaws, policies or a duly adopted order of business.
The 2016 Delegate Assembly will meet on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the conclusion of the regularly scheduled events of the main PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference.

Apply Now! EPLC’s 2016-2017 Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program

Nominations now open for PSBA Allwein Awards (deadline July 16)
PSBA Website POSTED ON MAY 16, 2016 IN PSBA NEWS
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.

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:

PA Supreme Court sets Sept. 13 argument date for fair education funding lawsuit in Philly
Thorough and Efficient Blog JUNE 16, 2016 BARBGRIMALDI LEAVE A COMMENT

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 28: "First-draft" state budget passes first test in Pa. House Appropriations Committee with strong bipartisan vote

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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup June 28, 2016:
"First-draft" state budget passes first test in Pa. House Appropriations Committee with strong bipartisan vote


House panel OKs budget, full chamber to vote Tuesday
Morning Call by Steve Esack Contact Reporter Call Harrisburg Bureau June 27, 2016 11:30 pm
HARRISBURG — The Republican-controlled Legislature began voting Monday night on a $31.5 billion budget that would increase education spending by about $260 million and could put higher taxes on smokers while expanding gamblers' options to the internet.  The 2016-17 budget bill — if it passes muster with the House's large bloc of conservative Republicans and a growing number of conservative senators — would be 5 percent higher than this year's budget, which limped into law nine months late.  Looked at another way, the latest spending plan would be 5.4 percent lower than Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's February budget proposal and about 1.3 percent lower than what he was hoping to get through summertime negotiations.  The House Appropriations Committee overwhelmingly voted to accept the budget about 9:35 p.m. The spending plan now moves to the full 203-member House, where a vote will be held Tuesday. If the House adopts it, the bill would move to the Senate, and if it is not changed, to Wolf.

“The new fiscal year may begin Friday, but Mr. Wolf and legislators blew past that deadline last year — by nine months.  In the House Appropriations Committee meeting late Monday, that recent discord was nowhere to be seen. The committee voted unanimously to amend the spending plan into a bill and then voted 36-1 to send it to the House floor.”
Budget bill clears House committee, but obstacles abound
Post Gazette By Angela Couloumbis & Karen Langley Harrisburg Bureau June 28, 2016 12:25 AM
HARRISBURG — There may soon be a budget bill, but there is no budget deal.
The proposal that cleared the House Appropriations Committee on Monday night calls for the state to spend about 5 percent more next year than it did under this year's $30 billion budget.  The boost in spending would be propped up by legalizing online gambling, loosening the state’s monopoly over the sale of wine, imposing new taxes on tobacco and instituting a tax amnesty program.  But neither the Republican-dominated Senate nor the administration of the Democratic governor has committed to support it.  Jeff Sheridan, Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokesman, said Monday that the governor has not agreed to the plan.  It doesn’t fully fund one of Mr. Wolf’s spending priorities: new dollars for opioid abuse treatment and prevention.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, expressed skepticism about aspects of the House plan: “We haven’t finalized anything,” he said, later noting, “There is no sense sending the governor something he doesn’t want, or at least won’t agree to sign.”

"First-draft" state budget passes first test in Pa. House Appropriations Committee with strong bipartisan vote
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 27, 2016 at 10:43 PM, updated June 27, 2016 at 11:04 PM
The Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee gave a strong, 36-1 start Monday to what leaders in both parties called a "first-draft" state budget that - barring a major surprise - is likely to be the spending template for the fiscal year starting Friday.  The $31.6 billion spending plan will go to the full House of Representatives for a floor vote Tuesday, and then move to the state Senate.  It is, it's worth remembering, just a start.  The plan unveiled Monday is not an agreed-to package with the sign-off of Gov. Tom Wolf or the state Senate leadership.  Nor is there final agreement on a revenue package needed to bring the plan into balance.  But sources called the House plan a good snapshot of where negotiations stand as all sides hunker down for a final round of talks aimed at trying to produce a completed state budget on or near the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

Pa. House to vote on $31.5B budget with iGaming, tobacco taxes
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED AND CARLEY MOSSBROOK | Monday, June 27, 2016, 11:42 a.m.
HARRISBURG — The House Appropriations Committee on Monday approved a $31.5 billion state budget that raises taxes on cigarettes and smokeless tobacco and relies on new revenue from a proposal for online gaming.  The full House is expected to vote on the package Tuesday. It's not a budget agreed to by Senate Republicans and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. But it is a first step toward meeting a deadline of midnight Thursday for passage of a 2016-17 state budget.  “I think we have an agreement with House Democrats. That doesn't say that everybody is going to vote for this tomorrow,” Rep. William Adolph, R-Delaware County, said Monday. “Quite frankly, I feel a lot better this year than I did last year at this time.”  It's a budget driven by efforts to avoid anything resembling last year's nine-month impasse between Wolf and the GOP House and Senate.  It boosts spending by $1.4 billion, almost 5 percent, but is significantly less than the $33.3 billion sought by the governor.

GOP lawmakers complain about being frozen out of process as 2016-17 budget continues to take shape
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 27, 2016 at 2:22 PM, updated June 27, 2016 at 2:39 PM
A band of fiscal conservative House Republicans, frustrated over being kept in the dark about what is going in budget talks, gathered on Monday morning to call on their leaders to come clean about what's in the 2016-17 state spending plan they are crafting and how they are expecting to pay for it.  With three days until the fiscal year ends, this group of lawmakers criticized the House GOP leaders for being secretive with them about budget details while being more forthcoming with Democratic leaders.

“School officials blamed part of Chester Upland's continually skyrocketing debt on charter schools, which enroll about half of the students in the district.
In 2015, Chester Upland official and state officials sued area charter schools, in an extreme example of a common gripe — that the state's charter law is stacked against school districts.  The district argued that the boatload of money it was sending to charters for special-education students — $40,000 per student — wasn't actually being spent on those students.  Last fall, the two sides settled and signed a new agreement, instituting a lower rate — $27,029 for special-education students — and slightly raising regular student tuition to $10,683. While that contract and fluctuating enrollment ended up costing Chester Upland more in the regular tuition column, the change to special education spending stabilized charter costs and saved the district about $9.5 million in 2015-2016.”
After year of education funding fixes, Chester Upland still running in the red
WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF JUNE 27, 2016
Prepping seniors to walk the stage for the 2016 Chester Upland School District High School graduation ceremony, social science teacher Sherman Lineberry was all business.  "You really have nothing to do but pay attention," he said into public-address system. "No phones, no earphones, no texting."  On a steamy June morning, more than 200 students in matching black T-shirts practiced proceeding on and off Chester Upland's football field.  Listening to the familiar strains of "Pomp and Circumstance," it was easy to forget Chester's schools almost didn't open this year.  This year, battles in court and in Harrisburg sought to restore the Delaware County district from the clutches of skyrocketing debt. These efforts helped the district squeak by for one more year — but are not enough to put it in the black.

Seeking academic middle: How one group works to boost college completion in Philly
The notebook/WHYY Newsworks BY AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT JUNE 27, 2016
George Washington High School in Northeast Philadelphia has three guidance counselors for 1,700 students. Those seeking individual attention need to be one of two things, said recent graduate Tyreek Thompkins:  Really smart or really troubled.  “The people in the middle are just left there,” said Thompkins.  That’s no fault of the guidance counselors at George Washington, said Thompkins’ classmate Joseph Ware. He knows they’re overextended. Still, Ware can’t help but feel, in his words, “shafted.”  “He was never in his office,” Ware says of his assigned counselor. “When you needed him, he wasn’t there because he always had to deal with another student who needed to graduate rather than helping someone who’s on track to do it.”  Thanks to a modest budget surplus, the School District of Philadelphia will be able to put at least one guidance counselor in every school this September. But years of cutbacks have taken a toll, with outside groups often working furiously to fill in the gaps.

Commentary: SRC is acting as if it's above the law
Philly Daily News Opinion by Lisa Haver Updated: JUNE 28, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Lisa Haver is a retired Philadelphia teacher and co-founder of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools.
AMERICA WAS founded on a system of open government in which all citizens, rich or poor, should have equal access to those who make the laws and should be able to express opinions on those laws before they are enacted. Our nation's founders recognized that power must be divided among branches of government and that there must be checks on power. And when government officials betray the public trust, we can vote them out of office.  But there are no checks on those appointed to govern the School District of Philadelphia and no way to vote them out. The School Reform Commission, which has invoked "special powers" when it sees the law as an impediment to its agenda, is not compelled to follow the basic tenets of democracy.  Consider: To pass a bill, City Council must introduce the bill during a public meeting; advertise it in a major daily newspaper; hold committee hearings with opportunity for public comment before sending it to the full Council; give the public another chance to speak; and no less than two weeks later, vote the bill up or down.  Contrast that with the SRC's power to compose, introduce and vote on a resolution in the same session - with no opportunity for public review or comment. The SRC has not hesitated to use this power, for example, to cancel the teachers' contract and to turn over a public school to a charter company.

Philly school cafeteria workers get pay raise
WHYY Newsworks BY AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT JUNE 27, 2016
School cafeteria workers in Philadelphia ratified a contract extension Monday that includes wage increases and a 3 percent bonus.  The standing agreement between Local 634, School Cafeteria Employees Union UniteHere ,and the School District of Philadelphia wasn't slated to expire until next September. The extension inked Monday runs through September 2019.  "At the start of 2016, I made securing new and fair labor contracts for all of our unions a priority," said Philadelphia superintendent William Hite in a statement. "I am proud to announce a ratified agreement with our food service employees and student climate staff."  Over the life of the new deal, the union's lowest-paid workers will see hourly wages climb from $11.13 an hour to $12.85.  "This agreement recognizes our members contributions to the education of our children and guarantees wages and economic improvements over the next three years," said Nicole Hunt, staff organizer for Local 634, in a joint news release with the district.

Millcreek School District expects $3M surplus
By Erica Erwin 814-870-1846 Erie Times-News June 28, 2016 05:32 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- The Millcreek Township School District expects to end this fiscal year with a roughly $3 million surplus and an uncommitted fund balance of $6.4 million, indications that the district is back on solid ground after some financially tumultuous years, district officials said.  "We can now get back to talking about our programs and our kids and raising the instructional level in the classroom," Millcreek schools Superintendent William Hall said.  The surplus -- the third in as many years -- is the result of $500,000 in additional state revenue; health insurance expenses that were less than anticipated; the unexpected absorption of a few positions because of retirement; and a better-than-expected tax collection rate, said Aaron O'Toole, the district's director of finance and accounting.  The surplus also reflects $1.5 million the district expects to receive from the sale of Asbury Woods land.  The surplus and the fund balance were highlights of a year-end presentation O'Toole gave to the Millcreek School Board on Monday that painted a picture of a district in recovery.

Tick. Tick. Tick. Easton teachers' pact expires in 3 days
By Rudy Miller | For lehighvalleylive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on June 27, 2016 at 2:15 PM, updated June 27, 2016 at 3:52 PM
The Easton Area School District teachers contract will expire in three days, according to the teachers union president.  Teachers union President Julia Miles said teachers will continue to work under the terms of the previous deal until a new agreement is reached.  "A strike is not likely to happen," she said Monday. "At this point we will continue on with the old contract."  School board President Frank Pintabone said the district is negotiating four other labor deals in addition to the teachers contract. Much is at stake with the teachers contract, so both sides are proceeding with caution, he said.  "There's no argument," he said. "There's no standstill. That's not what's holding us up."

Moon Area taxpayers will see slight rise in rates for 2016-17 school year
Beaver County Times Online By Katherine Schaeffer kschaeffer@timesonline.com June 27, 2016
MOON TWP. -- Moon Area School District taxpayers will see a .07115 mill increase in taxes next year.  The board voted 7-1 to pass a 2016-17 budget that calls for $75,775,442 in district expenditures and will bump taxes to 19.5576 mills. Board member Jeff Bussard dissented but would not elaborate as to why.  A homeowner paying taxes on a home valued at $148,000, the district’s median, will see an annual bill increase of $105.51.  Even with increased taxes, the district will still operate at a net deficit of $4,874,003, which the district will cover with a loan, Business Manager Chuck Lanna said.    The district started the 2011-12 school year with about $10 million in its general fund. That amount dwindled each year due to former Superintendent Curt Baker and the previous board’s financial mismanagement and overspending, Board President Jerry Testa said.  Testa and Lanna both agreed the district will have to cut costs in coming years to avoid a yawning deficit.  Without any significant reduction in expenditure, the board can expect the annual deficit to remain at at least $5 million, Lanna said.

Peters Township School District adopts budget with tax increase
Post Gazette By Deana Carpenter June 27, 2016 11:04 PM
A $62.4 million budget with a 2.65 mill increase was unanimously approved by the Peters Township school board at its Monday meeting. The increase brings the millage rate in the district to 113.4 mills.  A homeowner who currently pays $2,000 in school taxes will see a $48 increase for the year. Homeowners with a $3,000 tax bill will see an increase of $72 in school taxes.  The board also unanimously approved designating $8.5 million of the district’s fund balance for the purpose of satisfying future debt service obligations and increases in the employer contributions to the Public School Employees Retirement System.  About $4 million will be designated for debt service and $4.5 million to the retirement fund. The district’s remaining unreserved fund balance is estimated at $2,085,686.

Penn Hills approves 2016-17 budget that includes tax hike
Post Gazette By Tim Means June 27, 2016 9:38 PM
Penn Hills school directors approved an $82.6 million budget for the 2016-2017 school year that includes a 1.5 mill increase in real estate taxes bringing the rate to 23.6 mills. The tax increase will generate $3.2 million in new revenue. According to business manager Robert Geletko, the increase means that the owner of a $100,000 house in Penn Hills will pay twelve dollars per month more in taxes next year. The average home in Penn Hills is valued at $68,800. Due to extenuating circumstances, the district was permitted to exceed the state’s Act 1 tax index which would have capped the increase at 0.84 mills.  In addition to the tax hike, the district has budgeted $4,467,433 for student transportation., although a transportation contract has not yet been awarded for the 2016-17 school year. This represents a savings of $1,535,616 over last year and includes a reduction in fuel costs of $750,000. The transportation expenditure is calculated by using the state’s formula as recommended by the auditor general’s office.

Apollo-Ridge School District holds line on property taxes
Trib Live BY GEORGE GUIDO | Monday, June 27, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Real estate taxes will remain the same in the Apollo-Ridge School District for the next school year.  The school board on Monday night approved a $24.1 million budget that keeps the real estate tax rate for Apollo, North Apollo and Kiski Township in Armstrong County at 62.9 mills. Property owners in Young and Blacklick townships in Indiana County will see their real estate taxes remain at 14.9 mills.  School districts that cross county lines have an equalization process that has residents in different counties paying roughly the same amount in property taxes.  The homestead exclusion for qualified properties will be $331.  The budget represents a 2.62 percent increase over the current spending plan.

Jury orders Phila. schools to pay firm $2.3 million in bias suit
Inquirer by Martha Woodall and Jeremy Roebuck, STAFF WRITERS Updated: JUNE 28, 2016 — 1:07 AM EDT
A federal jury entered a $2.3 million judgment against the Philadelphia School District and the late Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman on Monday, finding that she discriminated against a Bucks County company by steering a $7.5 million no-bid contract to a smaller, minority-owned firm that had not sought the work.  Newtown-based Security & Data Technologies Inc. (SDT) filed the racial discrimination suit after, it said, Ackerman and the School District "deselected" it in 2010 for a contract to install surveillance cameras at 19 schools that the state had deemed "persistently dangerous."  The company, which had begun preliminary work, said Ackerman changed course and ordered the emergency contract be awarded to IBS Communications, which was not on a state list of companies eligible for no-bid contracts.


Education Secretary King calls on charters to rethink discipline, reduce suspensions
Washington Post By Emma Brown June 28 at 6:00 AM 
John King Jr. once founded a charter school that aimed to prepare low-income children for college, and it was known both for posting high test scores and for issuing a lot of suspensions.  Now King is U.S. Education Secretary, and he plans to recognize the 25th anniversary of the nation’s charter school movement by calling on charter leaders to rethink their approach to discipline and reduce their reliance on suspensions and expulsions.  Within King’s planned speech Tuesday are echoes of critics who have long accused charter schools of using harsh “no excuses” and “zero tolerance” discipline tactics, which often end up pushing students out and sending them back to neighborhood schools that are responsible for serving any child who shows up.

High Test Scores At A Nationally Lauded Charter Network, But At What Cost?
NPR by ANYA KAMENETZ June 24, 20167:00 AM ET
Since its inception nearly a decade ago in Silicon Valley, Rocketship has been among the most nationally applauded charter networks, hailed as an innovative model of blended learning.  Founder John Danner, who made a fortune in Internet advertising, originally envisioned enrolling 1 million students by 2020, relying on the strength of three pillars — "personalized learning" with software, excellent teachers and parent involvement — to raise the achievement of underserved students.  Today there are 13 Rocketship schools, with 6,000 students, in the San Francisco Bay Area, Nashville, Tenn., and Milwaukee, with one scheduled to open in Washington, D.C., this fall. The students, largely low-income and Hispanic, outperform their peers on state tests.  The school has impressed parents like Letty Gomez, who grew up in East San Jose and whose first-grader attends Rocketship Fuerza Community Prep there.  She says from her very first visit, what she saw was, "Every single teacher and administrator ... motivated the students. They were encouraging the students. I have never seen that on any other campus [where] I myself went to school or that my children had attended." The company says that 91 percent of families return each year.  Yet despite its successes, as Rocketship has pushed to expand, some parents, teachers and community members have objected in public meetings, raising concerns about the school's tech-heavy instruction model, student-teacher ratio, and student health and safety.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 6/28/2016


Appointment of Voting Delegates for the October 15th PSBA Delegate Assembly Meeting
PSBA Website June 27, 2016
The governing body boards of all member school entities are entitled to appoint voting delegates to participate in the PSBA Delegate Assembly to be held on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. It is important that school boards act soon to appoint its delegate or delegates, and to notify PSBA of the appointment.
Voting members of the Delegate Assembly will:
1.     Consider and act upon proposed changes to the PSBA Bylaws.
2.     Receive reports from the PSBA president, executive director and treasurer.
3.     Receive the results of the election for officers and at-large representatives. (Voting upon candidates by school boards and electronic submission of each board’s votes will occur during the month of September 2016.)
4.     Consider proposals recommended by the PSBA Platform Committee and adopt the legislative platform for the coming year.
5.     Conduct other Association business as required or permitted in the Bylaws, policies or a duly adopted order of business.
The 2016 Delegate Assembly will meet on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the conclusion of the regularly scheduled events of the main PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference.

Apply Now! EPLC’s 2016-2017 Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program

Nominations now open for PSBA Allwein Awards (deadline July 16)
PSBA Website POSTED ON MAY 16, 2016 IN PSBA NEWS
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.

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:

PA Supreme Court sets Sept. 13 argument date for fair education funding lawsuit in Philly
Thorough and Efficient Blog JUNE 16, 2016 BARBGRIMALDI LEAVE A COMMENT