Thursday, June 28, 2012

Early Evening Budget Update: House delays #pabudget debate until Thursday.

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Capitol Ideas Blog by John Micek June 28,2012
Thursday Morning Coffee: Three days and counting.
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
The state House convenes at 9:30 a.m. this morning to finally begin consideration ofthe 2012-13 state budget.
The chamber broke for the night last night without beginning an expected debate on the $27,66 billion spending plan for the new fiscal year that begins Sunday. Legislative leaders and the Corbett administration spent much of the night engaged in shuttle diplomacy trying to lock down the key parts of the spending plan that remain unresolved.
…..SCHOOL REFORM: The debate over charter school reform remained very much in flux last night. The long-standing idea of creating a statewide authorizing panel that would approve all or some new charter applications appears to be a non-starter.  Instead, budget negotiators are weighing a proposal that would vest new powers in the Pennsylvania Charter School Appeals Board. While the panel would not be authorized to approve charter applications, it would have more power on the back end.
The House advanced new teacher evaluation legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, positioning it for a vote Thursday or Friday. The proposal would allow local districts to adopt their own evaluation tests from a menu of predetermined benchmarks with the approval of the state Department of Education.
Efforts to expand the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and what's become known as EITC 2.0 appear to be locked down. The former would be increased by $25 million from $75 million now to $100 million next year, while EITC 2.0, advanced by Rep. Jim Christiana, R-Beaver, would receive $50 million to pay for scholarships for kids in the poorest and worst-performing districts.

Posted: Thu, Jun. 28, 2012, 3:00 AM
EITC: Pa. taxpayers underwrite Sandusky charity
Philadelphia Daily News By Will Bunch Daily News Staff Writer
PENNSYLVANIA TAXPAYERS have underwritten nearly $1.4 million in contributions to the Second Mile, the disgraced charity founded by convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky where testimony showed he groomed some of the boys he later molested.
The taxpayer-subsidized donations — which support the Second Mile's summer camp and an annual Leadership Institute — come through a controversial scholarship program called the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, or EITC, that may be dramatically expanded as lawmakers in Harrisburg look to pass a new state budget this weekend.
Critics of EITC — currently a $75 million program that mainly underwrites scholarships for kids to attend religious and private schools — say that the Second Mile is a glaring example of a shocking lack of oversight of what the Pennsylvania tax subsidies actually pay for.
"There really is very minimal accountability," said Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center, a progressive policy think tank. Last year, his center issued a report called "No Accountability" that said that state officials lack basic information on whether EITC scholarships actually improve student performance, even as they mandate extensive testing and evaluation in public schools.
Despite that study and a recent New York Times report tracking political influence in the tax-credit program, lawmakers in Harrisburg — aided by lobbying from the Philadelphia Archdiocese and big-bucks proponents of vouchers — are debating several proposals that would increase EITC funding from the current $75 million to somewhere between $100 million and $200 million.

Critics say Auditor General Wagner's report on PA charter funding is misguided; what do you think?

PA Charter funding formula is great for CEO whose cyber never made AYP

Auditor General's Charter School Funding Special Report 

Early Evening Budget Update: House delays #pabudget debate until Thursday.
Capitol Ideas Blog by John Micek June 27, 2012
The state House is poised to begin debate as soon as Thursday on a $27.656 billion, no-tax hike budget  plan that spares Pennsylvania’s state colleges and universities the deep cuts sought by Gov. Tom Corbett and provides public schools and public libraries with the same amount of taxpayer support they receive right now.
The proposed 2012-13 spending plan keeps the Accountability Block Grant and basic education subsidy at the same levels as this year for school districts. That means the final budget includes about $139 million more for public education than Corbett had initially proposed.
The decision to level-fund the public schools was similar to leaders in the post-Civil War South deciding to reconstruct at “post-Sherman levels,” Rep. Steve Samuelson, R-Northampton, said, referring to Union Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s devastating march across Georgia in 1864.
Legislative leaders and the administration were still working to reach agreement on components of the administration’s school reform agenda, which includes changes in the way the charter schools are authorized and the expansion of a popular tax credit program for businesses that donate to private school scholarship organizations.
The House advanced teacher evaluation legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, positioning it for a vote Thursday or Friday. The proposal would allow local districts to adopt their own evaluation tests from a menu of predetermined benchmarks with the approval of the state Department of Education.

Crunch time with Pa. budget deadline near
June 27, 2012|By Angela Couloumbis, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU
HARRISBURG - This year's state budget process is quickly turning into the Capitol equivalent of an end-of-semester college crunch: a time to cram - with no guarantees that deadlines will be met.  With three days left before the start of the new fiscal year, the House has yet to start debating the state's $27.65 billion budget agreement. The chamber was expected to do so Wednesday but broke shortly after 8 p.m. with no discussion on the plan.

Committee moves $27.7 billion budget to House floor for consideration

Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012, 11:40 AM
By JAN MURPHY, The Patriot-News 
Following a two-hour debate, the House Appropriations Committee approved by a 24-12 party-line vote a nearly $27.7 billion spending plan that includes no tax increases and grants a $288 million in business tax breaks.  Several Republican lawmakers stepped to the microphone during the committee meeting to hail the proposed spending plan as reasonable and sustainable.
Rep. Mauree Gingrich, R-Cleona, called it a "realistic budget for this time."
Rep. Glen Grell, R-Hampden Twp., said, "I believe this (plan) does a very good job allocating the resources, establishing priorities based on what we have available this year."
Both Republican and Democratic members voiced appreciation for the restorations made by lawmakers to line-items that Gov. Tom Corbett had cut or eliminated in his $27.1 billion February budget proposal.

Posted: Wed, Jun. 27, 2012, 7:43 PM
Three Phila.-area school districts get a funding break
School funding in the new Pennsylvania budget will likely be about the same as this year for most area districts, but three - Chester Upland, Coatesville, and Upper Darby - will get millions more, thanks to onetime special allocations added by legislators.
The news was greeted with cheers by the favored districts. Critics said a funding plan that singles out some for extra money while leaving out others in need is unfair.
Philadelphia, for example, which is nearing a financial meltdown, did not get any extra funding under the deal, announced Tuesday by legislative leaders.

Posted: Thu, Jun. 28, 2012, 3:01 AM
4 more cyber charters set to open as lawmakers debate charter funding
By Martha Woodall Inquirer Staff Writer
While debate continues in Harrisburg over a state formula that some say wastes taxpayer money by inflating payments to cyber charter schools, four more schools are set to open in the fall.
After rejecting seven new cyber applications earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has given tentative approval to four that reapplied.
The green light for the new cyber charters - which typically provide online instruction to students in their homes - will boost the number of those schools in the state by 30 percent.

City schools take on cyber rivals with Pittsburgh Online Academy 6-12

New online school includes lure of Promise scholarship
June 28, 2012 12:51 am
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pittsburgh Public Schools board has approved a new school, a full-time online program aimed at competing with cyber charter schools that have been draining students and money from the district.  The board Wednesday voted to open the school -- now known informally as the Pittsburgh Online Academy 6-12 -- this fall with the goal of targeting at least some of the 789 residents who attend cyber charter schools.
The new school was packaged with a series of other resolutions that the board unanimously passed, although board member Mark Brentley Sr. expressed opposition.
Unlike other public schools that have created their own cyber schools, the Pittsburgh district has a significant incentive for students to transfer into its online academy: Students enrolled in the program will qualify for college scholarship funds from the Pittsburgh Promise.

Submitted by thenotebook on Wed, 06/27/2012 - 00:57
by Dale Mezzacappa, Benjamin Herold, and Katie McCabe
If hired as Philadelphia school superintendent, William R. Hite Jr. said, the first thing he would do is travel the city and listen; once, as the principal of a new middle school, he knocked on the doors of 660 of the incoming 800 students.
As he made the rounds in a day-long series of meetings Tuesday, Hite painted a picture of himself as an engaged and focused educator, which got a warm response from parents, teachers and community members.

Submitted by thenotebook on Mon, 06/25/2012 - 23:09
by Dale Mezzacappa, Benjamin Herold and Katie McCabe
Pedro Martinez is on board with the need to “increase quality seats” in Philadelphia schools, endorsing the primary reform strategy of the School Reform Commission that is considering whether to hire him as the next superintendent.

Column: Voters aren't buying school choice snake oil
USA Today June 27,2012 By Walt Gardner
Despite mounting anger and frustration over the glacial pace of school improvement, voters consistently turn thumbs down on plans to give parents wider choice. The results have emboldened reformers to try an end run around their will. In the process, they've made a travesty of the separation of church and state.

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:


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

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

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