Thursday, June 12, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 12: Substantive Pension Reform - Don't Leave Town Without It

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 12, 2014:
Substantive Pension Reform - Don't Leave Town Without It

"Both Adolph and the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny), said this is the latest the House has advanced a placeholder bill in the past several years.  "The reason why it is this late in June is because I've never been involved in this type of revenue shortfall, month in and month out," said Adolph, ticking off the list of monthly revenue collections that came in below expectations. Lawmakers are looking at a revenue shortfall of at least a billion dollars.  Adolph hinted that his party, which controls both the House and Senate, will need help from the Democratic minority in the coming weeks to pass a budget."
With chilly revenue outlook, party leaders warm to each other
WITF State House Sound Bites Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief Jun 11, 2014
Revenue updates continue to leave state lawmakers cold, but partisan tensions may be starting to thaw as leaders sense tough decisions ahead.  The news is bad and not getting better for anyone interested in finishing a state budget by the end of June. April tax collections were down by hundreds of millions of dollars, followed by a May haul that came in roughly $100 million below estimate. Today, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) said low June revenues are expected to contribute to the growing deficit.  "These are changes that we were not expecting," said Adolph. "We're negotiating and trying to fill this gap to the best of our ability."  His committee voted Wednesday to send a placeholder budget bill to the full House. It isn't the blueprint for state spending for next fiscal year - merely a "legislative vehicle." Whatever's negotiated by legislative leaders can be dumped into that cab later without slowing down the legislative procedural moves that are necessary to get legislation to the governor by the end of the month.

"Despite a sea of red ink that is engulfing Harrisburg, with some experts saying the budget shortfall could go as high as $1.3 billion, Corbett has told legislative leaders he doesn’t even want to talk about a fiscal blueprint until they tackle the pension crisis."
Editorial: Corbett ups ante in push for pension reform
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 06/11/14, 9:11 PM EDT |
Gov. Tom Corbett is drawing a line in the sand.
And just like that, the always-interesting month of June in Harrisburg just got a lot more interesting.  The governor, who happens to be running for re-election to a second term while his poll numbers are in the toilet, has decided to flex his muscles a bit.  The Republican guv has been frustrated by his inability to get major parts of his legislative agenda through the GOP-controlled Legislature.  The one aspect he delivered on – a massive transportation package – only earned him further scorn from the right-wing of his own party, which considered it a betrayal of his pledge not to raise taxes.  The other two planks, pension reform and privatization of liquor sales, went nowhere fast.  Now Corbett has decided to up the ante.

Pennsylvania House fails to act on pensions for school, state workers
By Karen Langley and Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau June 12, 2014
HARRISBURG — The House of Representatives left town for the week Wednesday without a vote on a Republican plan to alter the retirement benefits of future school and state workers.
Republican leadership had indicated the pension proposal, backed by Gov. Tom Corbett, was on the agenda Tuesday, and members discussed the bill in private meetings. But they declined to call a vote that day or the next.  “It’s a complex issue, and it just takes a little extra discussion to get people comfortable that it addresses whatever their concerns are,” House Speaker Sam Smith said after the House adjourned. “We’re a little slower this week than I probably would have liked, but we’re still moving forward and hope to get a pension bill passed by the House in the near future.”  The Republican-backed proposal is in the form of an amendment to existing legislation, so the House would have to approve the language and then vote again to send the bill to the Senate.

PSBA calls on General Assembly to enact pension reform now
Steve Robinson, Sr. Director of Communications 6/10/2014
With just a few weeks left before the General Assembly finalizes a 2014-15 state budget, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association urges legislators to adopt a pension reform plan for public school employees.  In recent weeks, Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill) has proposed a plan that is a viable long-term solution worthy of serious consideration. PSBA supports Rep. Tobash's plan and believes a plan to address immediate cost concerns must also be enacted in order to address the short-term impact of the current funding crisis.  "Pennsylvania's massive public pension crisis must be a top priority for legislators in June. It will not be an easy debate, but the need to deal with escalating expenses related to rising pension costs for state and school employees is critical. If not addressed, the pension crisis will have a crippling effect on the state's economy and a devastating impact on local school district budgets, as well as on programs and services for our students," said PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains.  Without action, the state and school districts will be accountable for billions of dollars in retirement contribution costs that ultimately will have to come from the pockets of taxpayers. For school districts, pension obligations are the highest increasing mandated costs in their budgets, and the number one reason for local tax hikes.

Capitolwire: Pension reform stalls in PA House
PSBA website 6/11/2014 Capitolwire by Chris Comisac
The planned consideration of pension amendments by the state House of Representatives did not come to fruition on Tuesday due to what sources within the state Capitol said was a lack of votes for the House Republicans' primary pension reform proposal.  The House GOP said the delay was due to the need for more answers about the proposal, but whether it's votes or questions, it's now unclear when pension reform will be addressed by the chamber.
"There's a lot of support in the caucus, but there's also a lot of questions, and after the caucus a lot of the questions still lingered," said House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin about the "stacked Hybrid" pension proposal of Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill. "We're just going to try to clarify the answers - as you know it's a very complicated issue."  Miskin said Republicans caucused for nearly three-and-a-half hours, but several questions remained unanswered about the Tobash plan, prompting a delay of chamber consideration.  He said some of the questions will require answers from the pension systems, so the speed with which those answers are delivered to members could determine when the bill and its amendments are again on the chamber's voting agenda.  And while Miskin wouldn't say how many GOP votes the Tobash plan has, he did say his caucus does not expect to get any Democratic votes for the Tobash proposal.

Want to guarantee a kid a sound future? Invest in early childhood education: Ed Rendell and Mark Schweiker
PennLive Op-Ed  By Ed Rendell and Mark Schweiker on June 11, 2014 at 9:30 AM
There are few occasions when two former governors from opposing parties find themselves in total agreement, but investing in early learning is one issue where we see eye-to-eye.
By increasing access to early learning opportunities for all children, we will improve our state's economic future and most certainly better the life chances of each child who is given this important head start.   We are not newcomers to this issue. We both took very seriously the need to boost the skills of all students, even those as young as three and four years old. It all starts with great parents and well-prepared teachers.

School taxes are high, but this year, mine were well spent: PennLive letters
PennLive Letters to the Editor  by CHARLES E. SMITH, Hampden Twp. June 11, 2014 2:51 PM
Like many other Pennsylvanians, I am unhappy with school taxes: the way they are calculated, the way they are distributed and the obvious political corruption that surrounds the entire process of their assessment and distribution. But I would like to make a statement about their use. 
On Saturday, June 7th, I attended the commencement exercises of the Cumberland Valley School District at the Giant Center. I watched as these young people were awarded innumerable scholarships, awards and honors. I would not have thought it possible that four high school years could have produced such rewards.  I will take back nothing of what I said about the taxation process.  But I must, in honesty, say that my money has been well spent.

Here's a link to SB1382 that would remove the graduation requirement from the Keystone Exams
SENATE BILL No. 1382 Session of 2014 INTRODUCED BY DINNIMAN, MAY 30, 2014
….Section 121.1. Limitation of Assessments.--(a) Student demonstration of proficiency of the academic standard measured in an assessment required under Federal or State law shall not be a requirement of eligibility for high school graduation unless so decided by the school entity. A school entity may elect to have the assessment count for any portion of the student's course grade as it deems prudent.

Philly School officials meet again with Council members on funds
With time ticking away to solve the School District of Philadelphia's latest budget crisis, district officials went to a skeptical City Council Wednesday with a new last-minute plea for funding.
"We'll be straight about it," said Sophie Bryan, chief of staff for the School Reform Commission. "We are asking for every dollar we can possibly get."  The plea came on a day when about 100 high school students left classes and joined teachers, parents, and activists in a march down Broad Street chanting, "S.O.S. - save our schools."

"Promise Academies were targeted for additional resources and called for changes to at least 50 percent of the staff. They received additional money for professional development, a longer school day, additional teachers and staff support.  But since 2011, King and the other Promise Academies have seen those "extras" disappear as a result of budget cuts, leaving their futures less certain, particularly in light of the district's $216 million deficit for next year."
Broken promise? School turnaround model in limbo amid district funding crisis
DURING ASHNA Blackston's sophomore year at Martin Luther King High in East Germantown, she got out of school later than her peers at other schools. For many teenagers, it would've been a nuisance, but the extra time allowed Blackston to get tutoring, dig into her studies and develop a closer relationship with her teachers.  "You could learn more in the classes. We had more time for the teachers to work with us one-on-one," recalled Blackston, now a senior. "It was helpful."
King was part of the second set of Promise Academies - the district's turnaround model ushered in under the late Arlene Ackerman's Renaissance Schools Initiative to turn around failing schools.

"Central High School currently has two counselors for 2,400 students. Northeast High has two for 3,000 students. Last year the schools had ten and seven counselors respectively."
With film, students document dire conditions in Philly schools
A student-produced documentary that provides an overview of the Philadelphia School District's funding crisis will premiere Wednesday night at an event hosted by Philly School Counselors United.  Dalena Bui and Danielle Little, seniors at Science Leadership Academy, co-directed the 8-minute film, which they've titled "Schools Interrupted."  "I'm the first one in my family to go to college," narrates Bui in the film. "My parents are immigrants from Vietnam, and they sacrificed their lives so that my siblings and I could have a better education and a better life."
The film specifically laments the fact that budget cuts have severely reduced students' access to guidance counselors this year.  "I was lucky to have my teachers, advisers and counselors intact," says Bui. "Our school community spent a lot of time and energy fundraising to make this happen. But, again, I just got lucky. But should we just hope for luck?"

THE INNOVATION GAMBLE Award-Winning Phila. Teacher Frustrated by Stagnation
Education Week By Benjamin Herold Published Online: June 10, 2014
Daniel E. Ueda spent the past five years developing an innovative, project-based physics curriculum for his students at Philadelphia's Central High, founded in 1836 and now one of the city's elite magnet schools.  One week before this school year started, he was forced to put it aside.  Severe budget cuts and stringent staffing rules meant that Mr. Ueda was shifted into precalculus, a subject he had never taught.  It's been hard for the former engineer not to draw a connection between the upheaval at Central this year, the school's pronounced lack of resources and Superintendent William R. Hite Jr.'s decision to redirect millions of district dollars into new school models.

"Felix is one of 43 in this year's graduating class of students in the Philadelphia Futures Sponsor-A-Scholar program.  Futures works exclusively with the district's high school students who come from low-income households and hope to be in their family's first generation to graduate college.  Students receive a $7,500 pledge of financial support from a local benefactor ($6,000 of which pays for college expenses such as books), a mentor to guide them through the struggles of their sometimes harrowing personal lives, as well as a rigorous college preparatory program that demands their time after school, on weekends and through the summer."
Philly Futures helps college-bound Northeast High student defy expectations, odds
Chris Felix wants to shatter the misconceptions about students in the Philadelphia School District.
"When somebody hears that I come from Northeast High School, they expect me to be failing half my classes, they expect my pants to be sagging below my behind," said Felix, 18. "But ... when I walk down Market Street and I have a tie on, my shirt's tucked in, pants are above the waist, belt on, I just know that I'm breaking through that stereotype."  For Felix, breaking stereotypes extends well beyond the world of fashion. As the son of a single mother who emigrated from Haiti, he's out to prove that kids from Philadelphia's neighborhood public schools can compete at the highest levels of post-secondary education.

Baldwin-Whitehall lowers taxes, passes 2014-15 budget
South Hills Record by Stephanie Hacke Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 11:03 p.m.
A divided Baldwin-Whitehall School Board Wednesday night approved a 2-mill decrease in real estate taxes for the 2014-15 school year.  Board members, in a 5-4 vote, approved reducing the millage rate from 19.61 to 17.61. One mill in Baldwin-Whitehall brings in about $1.8 million.
Board members in a separate 5-4 vote approved a $62.7 million budget for 2014-15.
To make up for the $3.6 million reduction in revenue from the tax reduction, board member Martin Michael Schmotzer said the money will be taken from the district's fund balance.
“We're not a bank,” said Schmotzer, who made the motion during the meeting.
"The lawmakers' move isn't a total surprise—members on both sides of the aisle have grown increasingly skeptical of the Obama administration's competitive-grant programs, and this is a very tight budget year.   Another prominent Obama priority fared better in the subcommittee: Money to help states bolster their preschool programs would see a second year of financing, and even get a $100 million increase. "
U.S. Senate Spending Panel Zeroes Out Race to the Top Proposal
Education Week Pollitics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on June 10, 2014 4:31 PM
The Obama administration's splashiest new K-12 initiative—a new iteration of the Race to the Top program aimed at bolstering educational equity—was rejected by Senate Democrats under a spending bill for fiscal year 2015 approved by a spending subcommittee Tuesday. 
The program, which was floated in the administration's most recent budget request, would have offered grants to states and districts to help close the achievement gap between poor and minority students and their more advantaged peers, including by ensuring that students in high-poverty schools have access to as many effective teachers as other students. 
The budget process is far from finished, so this isn't the final nail in Race to the Top proposal's coffin. But the Senate Democrats' rejection is a really bad sign for the fans of the equity program. It seems even less likely to find support in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Education Voters of Pennsylvania, the NAACP and the Keystone State Education Coalition are sponsoring a public meeting with speakers from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Education Law Center.
When:  Monday June 16th, 6-7 PM
Where: Delaware County Community College Southeast Center, Room 135
              2000 Elmwood Ave, Sharon Hill, PA 19079
Learn about how a statewide legal strategy could help students in William Penn, Southeast Delco and neighboring districts and how you might participate.  Legal experts and attorneys will be present to talk about the law, your children’s rights and a potential lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania based on the state Constitutional requirement to provide an education.

Come to Harrisburg to Speak Up for Public Education
Wednesday, June 18, Monday, June 23, and Monday, June 30
Education Voters PA
Governor Corbett’s “election-year” budget is falling apart. Revenue projections are down and Corbett and state legislators are looking to make more than $1.2 billion in cuts to his proposed 2014-2015 budget.  Lobbyists will be swarming the Capitol in the month of June and we need to be there, too.  Join Pennsylvanians from throughout the commonwealth as we send a loud and clear message that after three years of balancing the state budget on the backs of Pennsylvania’s public school children, it is time for our state government to do what is right and pass a fair budget that will provide students with the opportunities they need to meet state standards and be successful after they graduate.

PA Basic Ed. Funding Campaign: Building capacity to advocate for adequate, equitable school funding
PSBA website 6/10/2014
The Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Campaign seeks up to ten (10) regional "circuit riders" statewide to work with and support school system leaders to build capacity and advocate for an adequate and equitable school funding system.
Regional Circuit Riders Contract Employment Announcement
The Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Campaign seeks up to ten (10) regional "circuit riders" statewide to work with and support school system leaders to build capacity and advocate for an adequate and equitable school funding system. Circuit riders will support school system leaders by providing education and training about past and current school funding systems, principles and models of good school funding systems and effective advocacy strategies using information and materials provided by the Campaign. School system leaders include school directors, Intermediate Unit executive directors, district superintendents, business managers and other key school district leaders.  Building capacity among Pennsylvania school system leaders to advocate for an adequate and equitable school funding system is one component of a broader multi-year effort that involves more than 25 organizations across Pennsylvania. This component is a collaborative effort of the PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), PA Association of School Administrators (PASA), PA School Boards Association (PSBA), PA Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and PA Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU). PASBO serves as the fiscal agent for the collaborative.

Julian Vasquez Heilig  |  | 1 Comment
WE NEED YOUR HELP! Do you believe in public education? Do you want US policymakers to understand why decision makers in Chile have now judged vouchers to be problematic after 30 years of universal implementation? Do you have frequent flier miles you can donate? Sponsor a grad student today!  This summer, I along with eight UT-Austin graduate students will travel to Santiago, Chile in August 2014 with Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig to conduct field research that will result in a policy brief, op-eds and a peer-reviewed academic paper detailing recent changes in Chile’s market-based education policy proposed this past April by Chile’s current Education Minister Nicholas Eyzaguirre.

PSBA opens nominations for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award
The nomination process is now open for the Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award. This award 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.  Applications will be accepted until July 16, 2014. The July 16 date was picked in honor of  Timothy M. Allwein's birthday. The award will be presented during the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in October. More details and application are available on PSBA's website. 

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

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

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