Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Budget Updates and Rep. Christiana’s “Different Money”


Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1500 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, members of the press and a broad array of education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Take a quick look at this graphic timeline showing the flow of big voucher money
BIG MONEY BEHIND SCHOOL TAX CREDIT
Philly.com Interactive Timeline created using Timeline JS
The state House education committee debated but did not vote on a bill Monday that would expand the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit. The measure is backed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and a political action committee called Fighting Chance PA that is funded by a group of hedge fund managers in Bala Cynwyd.
Here's an interactive look into how money has gone from the hedge fund managers to the lawmaker that introduced the measure.

Rep. Christiana’s “Different Money”
On Monday I attended the House Ed Committee meeting and listened as Rep. Christiana tried to explain how diverting millions of dollars to non-accountable private and religious schools would somehow actually help our struggling school districts, and that somehow $50 million of additional EITC money was “different money” not subject to the same considerations as general fund appropriations.  Please continue to disabuse your state reps of these peculiar notions.  There is no “different money”: $50 million diverted is $50 million that cannot be spent on other things, like constitutionally mandated public education.

Correction 1: On Monday we reported that Rep. Christiana and the “Commonsense for the Commonwealth” PAC shared the same address as his district office.  That is incorrect.

The Citizens for Jim Christiana Campaign and the PAC share the same mailing address for remittances.

Correction 2: On Monday the Students First PAC “Follow the Money” chart sent as an attachment understated the contributions by the Black Clergy PAC to Friends of Fatimah; there was an additional $43,000 used for media buys.

See the budget updates below.  For the sake of context, for two years in a row the Governor has proposed eliminating the ABG; two years ago the accountability block grant was $254 million.  Still in play:
  • Christiana’s proposed $50 million EITC/voucher expansion
  • New teacher/principal evaluation plan using test scores as 50% of rating
  • Distressed school districts $50 million assistance
  • Charter school “reform” – Killion’s HB2352 would remove local control, giving a new state commission authorization and oversight, would create a parent trigger conversion, would put off any funding formula changes for another year

Pennsylvania Senate budget would reinstate $100 million in block grants for education

By JAN MURPHY, The Patriot-News  Published: Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 11:22 PM
Lawmakers are nearing completion of a $27.7 billion state budget that would offer more money to schools and colleges than Gov. Tom Corbett proposed.
With the potential for more aid than expected, Harrisburg might avoid becoming the first school district in the state to eliminate kindergarten.
A spending plan unveiled Tuesday by the state Senate would restore $100 million in accountability block grants to the state’s education budget. The governor had proposed eliminating the grant program.

PSBA 4:11 pm Tuesday June 25th
PSBA 2012-13 Budget Update: Senate Appropriations Committee Issues Basic Education Subsidy and General Budget Spreadsheets
This afternoon (June 26) the Senate Appropriations Committee issued its spreadsheets with figures concerning the 2012-13 state budget.  The committee released school district Basic Education funding spreadsheets this afternoon. Click here for the General Fund Budget Spreadsheet. 

Please click here to see the Basic Education Funding charts for school districts.  Please be aware that these spreadsheets may not be final as the House has not passed any budget legislation at this time. 
The budget as proposed by Gov. Corbett in February was set at $27.15 billion. However, the budget in the Senate spreadsheets contains $27.65 billion. The charts reflect:
·         Basic Education Funding is set at $5.40 billion, with no inclusion of the Student Achievement Education Block Grant (SAEBG) proposed by the governor for distribution of education funds currently calculated through separate formulas, including the basic subsidy, pupil transportation and Social Security.  The SAEBG is zeroed-out in the document. Funding for the basic education subsidy, pupil transportation, non-public and charter school pupil transportation and school employees Social Security are continued under separate line items.
·         Funding for the Accountability Block Grant is included at $100 million.
·         Special education funding is level funded again at $1.02 billion.

PSBA Presents Testimony Opposing EITC/EISC Expansion
PSBA’s website 6/25/2012
On June 25, PSBA presented testimony to the House Education Committee opposing HB 2468, Rep. Jim Christiana's (R-Beaver) "school choice" plan that includes two elements: an expansion of the established Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, and a new Educational Improvement Scholarship Credit (EISC) program. The proposed EISC program alone would provide $200 million in tax credits to businesses over three years, with continued expansion based on participation in the program.
The hearing can be watched on the House Republican Caucus' website at http://www.pahousegop.com/wsa.aspx. Click on the video titled "House Education Committee Informational Meeting."

Yinzercation Blog by YinzerThing June 26, 2012
HB 2468 has lots of cheerleaders. That’s the current House Bill under consideration that would expand Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, and add a new scholarship program, diverting $200 MILLION in public money to private and parochial schools. (See “One Million Per Day” for the details.)
The voucher-in-disguise bill was introduced by Rep. Jim Christiana, a Republican who hails from Monaca in Beaver County – site of the proposed Shell cracker plant. Just a few weeks before he brought the bill forward, Rep. Christiana received a nice fat check for $25,000 from the “Fighting Chance PA” PAC. That was the single largest contribution from this new political action committee (or PAC) that has already “doled out $225,000 to pro-voucher state lawmakers and other political committees in Harrisburg.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 6-26-12]

Here’s another perspective on that “Different Money”…..

“Expanding the EITC now will drain more state revenue away from public schools at a time when many are laying off teachers, cutting kindergarten or prekindergarten, and eliminating courses.”

Analysis of HB 2468

Pennsylvania Budget and Policy CenterJune 25, 2012

Individuals, Not Corporations, Pick Up the Tax Tab for EITC Scholarships

Corporations get triple dip deduction for contributions to private schools

Proponents argue that expanding the EITC doesn’t affect the budget because companies pay the bill; however, the opposite is true.  Individual taxpayers will pay at least $9 of $10 in EITC funding.

The EITC program needs substantial program reform prior to any expansion.  It is a costly program with little accountability that allows businesses to direct other taxpayers’ money to favored organizations. 


Schools' financial squeeze gives rise to questions about future of early education in state

Published: Monday, June 25, 2012, 6:00 AM
On Wednesday, we’ll know if Harrisburg will become the first school district in the state to eliminate kindergarten.
Maybe the novel idea to privately pay for kindergarten through tax credits for businesses will come through, maybe it won’t. Maybe the state will suddenly increase school funding.
Or maybe, as parents have feared all spring, 5-year-olds will spend this fall at home instead of in a classroom.

Posted: Tue, Jun. 26, 2012, 9:15 PM
Troubled Philly-based cyber charter school ordered closed
Philadelphia Daily News By David Gambacorta Daily News Staff Writer
It looks like the plug might finally be pulled on a troubled Philly-based cyber school that had siphoned a hefty sum of tax dollars.  A lengthy investigation by the state Department of Education determined that the Frontier Virtual Charter High School had "severe and pervasive" violations of its charter and the state's Charter School Law, according to a June 13 letter that state Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis sent to the school's CEO, John Craig.
Tomalis said Craig had until June 18 to notify the state if he and the school's Board of Trustees would surrender the school's charter. Otherwise, Tomalis said, the state would file charges to have the charter formally yanked.

Posted at 03:32 PM ET, 06/26/2012

Loch Ness Monster real in biology textbook

Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss
This would be funny if it weren’t so, well, not funny.
A biology textbook used by a Christian school in Louisiana that will be accepting students with publicly funded vouchers in the fall says that the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland is real. And it isn’t just any monster but a dinosaur — an effort to debunk evolution and bolster creationist theory.

Is your State Rep. on the cosponsor list for HB 2364? If not, why not?
If they tell you that we should make it easier to authorize charters or that they are already accountable enough have them read this:

PA Charter Schools: $4 billion taxpayer dollars with no real oversight

More details on HB 2364 from PSBA:

http://www.psba.org/news-publications/headlines/details.asp?id=3469

 

Education Voters PA ‏@EdVotersPA
Please take 2 minutes to send an email to your state reps; ask them to restore public ed funding:

STATEWIDE PRESS COVERAGE OF SCHOOL DISTRICT BUDGETS
Here are more than 800 articles since January 23rd detailing budget cuts, program cuts, staffing cuts and tax increases being discussed by local school districts
The PA House Democratic Caucus has been tracking daily press coverage on school district budgets statewide:

June 29 is deadline to submit proposals for PSBA’s 2013 Legislative Platform
Your school board is invited to submit proposals for consideration for PSBA’s 2013 Legislative Platform. The association is accepting proposals now until Friday, June 29, 2012.  Guidelines for platform submissions are posted on PSBA’s Web site.  The PSBA Platform Committee will review proposals and rationale submitted for the platform on Aug. 11. The recommendations of the committee will be brought before the Legislative Policy Council for a final vote on Oct. 18.

Absentee ballot procedures for election of PSBA officers
PSBA website 6/1/2012
All school directors and school board secretaries who are eligible to vote and who do not plan to attend the association's annual business meeting during the 2012 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in Hershey, Oct. 16-19, may request an absentee ballot for election purposes.
The absentee ballot must be requested from the PSBA executive director in accordance with the PSBA Bylaws provisions (see PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 4, J-Q.). Specify the name and mailing address of each individual for whom a ballot is requested.
Requests must be in writing, e-mailed or mailed first class and postmarked or marked received at PSBA Headquarters no later than Aug. 15. Mail to Executive Director, P.O. Box 2042, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 or e-mail administrativerequests@psba.org.

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