Wednesday, June 18, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 18: "School Choice" - In PA Senate, Florida Real Estate Trumps Special Needs Kids

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 18, 2014:
"School Choice" - In PA Senate, Florida Real Estate Trumps Special Needs Kids

"Leaders from both the House and Senate said Tuesday they do want to fully fund the governor's request for nearly $300 million in increased k-12 education funding, as well as an increase in state funding for home- and community-based services for adults with Down Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.  But doing that, Browne noted, almost forces a discussion of new revenues - whether or not that takes place before a pension reform vote. And that's where the different opinions need to be sorted out."
Pennsylvania legislative leaders have same goals as Gov. Corbett; attaining them may be a different story
By Charles Thompson | on June 17, 2014 at 6:37 PM
Meeting shortly after Gov. Tom Corbett's call for action on pension reform as an essential first part of a 2014-15 budget plan, Pennsylvania House and Senate Republican leaders voiced broad support for the governor's goals.  But the GOP legislative leaders cautioned Tuesday that they may be forced to operate on a different order of priorities.  "Our concern in the Senate is first to make sure that we pass a responsible, sustainable budget," Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, said earlier Tuesday.  "That's our Constitutional obligation. These other bills (public pension reformand liberalization of Pennsylvania's alcohol sales laws) are important bills that we're working on and will continue to work on.  "That's not in conflict with the governor's position," Pileggi continued. "But maybe our priorities are a little different."

What budget deadline?
Inquirer Commonwealth Confidential Blog by Angela Couloumbis  JUNE 17, 2014, 3:36 PM
Gov. Corbett on Tuesday said he is willing to miss the June 30 deadline to pass a state budget if more time means he can get his initiatives done.  “We need to get this done right rather than quickly,” Corbett said during an afternoon press conference in the Capitol.  “So if we are not able to do this budget by June 30, we are not able to do this budget by June 30,” Corbett said of meeting the deadline. “I am willing to be here. … No bluster. No threats. Just facts.”
Having said that, the Republican governor said he was optimistic that he and the GOP-led legislature can meet the deadline for the fiscal year, which begins July 1.  But he reiterated his position that he will not consider any proposals to raise new revenue — including a natural gas extraction tax — unless the legislature delivers on two of his priorities: reining in the skyrocketing cost of public employee pensions and privatizing the sale of wine and spirits.

Budget chief: Corbett 'not ruling out severance tax' on gas drillers
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review By Brad Bumsted Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 4:00 p.m.
HARRISBURG — After years of opposition, the Corbett administration said for the first time on Tuesday that the governor will not preclude a Marcellus shale tax as part of a budget solution to close a $1.4 billion deficit.   Republican Gov. Tom Corbett stressed during a news conference that he would consider new revenue only once the Legislature sends him legislation to curb spiraling pension costs from a $50 billion unfunded liability.  “I'm not ruling out a severance tax. You didn't hear me rule out a severance tax,” state Budget Secretary Charles Zogby told reporters after the news conference.
Pa. needs pension cuts before tax increase, Gov. Corbett says
By MARC LEVY, Of The Associated Press POSTED: 06/17/14, 4:41 PM EDT
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Corbett acknowledged Tuesday that Pennsylvania’s budget situation is not pretty but insisted he will not listen to arguments for a tax increase until lawmakers pass major legislation slashing public employee pension costs.  A tax increase is looking increasingly likely as lawmakers eye a state budget for the soon-to-start fiscal year. The alternative — cutting programs, tapping politically sensitive grant programs or forgoing more aid for public schools and human services programs — would be a challenge to pass, said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi.  Corbett and Pileggi spoke against the backdrop of closed-door negotiations on Corbett’s $29.4 billion budget plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Stumbling tax collections and risky assumptions, however, have blown a nearly $2 billion hole in that plan.

One blogger's opinion: "School Choice" - Florida Real Estate Trumps Special Needs Kids
Last evening, thirty-six PA Senators voted for an amendment to SB1316 Special Ed Funding Bill that would permit special ed money to continue being used for charter operators' Florida real estate, corporate executive bonuses and ubiquitous advertising for up to 17 more years instead of being spent serving special needs kids.

SB1316: Senate vote expected on overhauled special education funding formula
By Jan Murphy | on June 17, 2014 at 7:37 PM
The state Senate is poised to vote on Wednesday on a bill that overhauls the way the state distributes special education funding to public schools.  The new formula distributes resources based on a three-tiered system of funding based on the cost of providing services to special education students and incidence of disability.  It moves away from a funding system that assumed all districts had 15 percent of their students with mild disabilities and 1 percent with severe disabilities to educate.  The proposed formula is the product of a bipartisan Special Education Funding Commission's work and some last-minute negotiations to make adjustments to address charter schools' concerns about how it treats their special education funding.
The Senate today voted 35-15 to accept an amendment offered by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, to reflect the outcome of the negotiations over the formula's treatment of charter schools.   Pileggi said the amendment's intention is to implement the new formula "in a way that allows public charter schools to continue to grow and to thrive."

Pittsburgh mayor’s education task force assembles
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 17, 2014 11:55 PM
In a private session, the mayor's education task force met for the first time Tuesday, an unusual session combining City Hall and school district officials and others.  Reporters were permitted in when Preston Green, a University of Connecticut professor who was hired to mediate the sessions, opened the meeting, but were told to leave before the three-hour discussion began.
Afterward, Mr. Green characterized the discussion as “very passionate,” saying, “It’s very clear everyone does care about what happens to public schools here.”
Read more:

Green and Hite on the ongoing school budget crisis
WHYY Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane TUESDAY, JUNE 17
Guests: Bill Green and William Hite  audio runtime 52:01
Once again, the School District of Philadelphia faces a huge budget gap — $216 million dollars for the coming year. In an historic and symbolic move last month, the School Reform Commission, which oversees Philadelphia’s schools, refused to adopt an already bare bones budget that would require even further cuts in services, more layoffs and increases in class sizes. To address the ongoing crisis, school officials are counting on City Council and legislators in Harrisburg, both of whom are debating a series of funding options. And as always, politics are involved. Joining us to talk about the District’s financial challenges and the obstacles it faces in providing education and much needed social services to the City’s children, are School Superintendent WILLIAM HITE and SRC chairman BILL GREEN.

District ratchets up pleas for more funds; Clarke calls request 'disturbing and unfair'
The notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 17, 2014 06:35 PM
Superintendent William Hite and School Reform Commission Chairman Bill Green areputting on a full-court press through the media to convince City Council to approve a higher borrowing level for the School District, warning of hundreds of teacher layoffs and other dire consequences if lawmakers don't act.  In response, Council President Darrell Clarke accused the District of "dealing with a ... budget deficit of its own making" and of "disrespect" for the city's taxpayers.
“Considering City Council is the only funding authority that has consistently increased revenues for the state-controlled School District of Philadelphia over the last four years, this disrespect toward City taxpayers is disturbing and unfair," said Clarke in a response to Green's and Hite's statements. 

"Let's stop acting like these are other people's children. They are our children,"
Hite to Council: Borrow, or drastic school cuts inevitable
LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: June 17, 2014, 4:53 PM
Flanked by education advocates, Philadelphia School District leaders on Tuesday urged City Council to increase borrowing to $55 million to stave off yet more draconian cuts in school staff and supplies.  "Let's stop acting like these are other people's children. They are our children," Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said at a noon news conference at School District headquarters. "Today, we're asking City Council to save the children of Philadelphia from significant budget cuts."  He spoke two days before Council is to meet for the last time before summer recess.

Council needs long-term solution for school funding
Inquirer opinion By Christine Carlson POSTED: Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 1:08 AM
Christine Carlson is a public school parent and founder of the Greater Center City Neighborhood Schools Coalition
City Council President Darrell L. Clarke deserves credit for acknowledging Philadelphia's pension deficit and working toward a long-term solution to alleviate a very complex issue. But when he states that Council's primary responsibility is to Philadelphia taxpayers, he misunderstands the nature of government.  Council's primary responsibility is not to Philadelphia's taxpayers, but to its citizens.  Yes, Council must ensure that all collected taxes are used efficiently and wisely, but it must do so in a way that best serves the city and all of its citizens for the collective good.

Pen Argyl Area School Board, teachers reach new three-year deal that includes raises
Lehigh Valley Live By Lynn Ondrusek on June 17, 2014 at 9:39 PM
After about seven months of negotiations, the Pen Argyl Area teachers union has reached a tentative agreement with the school board on a new contract for the next three years.
At tonight's school board meeting, Superintendent William Haberl gave specifics on the new labor deal, which includes raises over the three-year period and increases in health care expenses.
Teachers will receive a 2.8 percent salary increase for the 2014-15 school year, a 2.3 percent raise for the 2015-16 school year and a 2.6 percent increase for the 2016-17 school year.

SDL budget relies on tax hike and outsourcing
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 9:14 pm
The School District of Lancaster board on Tuesday approved a 2014-15 final budget that raises taxes by 2.92 percent and relies on outsourcing almost 100 custodial and grounds positions, among other cuts.  The $185.1 million budget includes a tax rate of 26.68 mills. That's $2,668 on a home assessed at $100,000, or a $75 increase.

Elanco School District's final budget includes 2.1 percent tax hike
Lancaster Online BY JUSTIN STOLTZFUS | Correspondent Tuesday, June 17, 2014 6:00 pm
The Eastern Lancaster County school district's new final budget is in, and it includes a tax increase of 2.1 percent for property owners.  Monday night the Elanco school board voted to approve the final budget for the 2014-2015 school year.  The increase helps to close a deficit that has been whittled down throughout the year: The board started with a deficit of just over a million dollars, which was eventually pared down to approximately $620,000 in May.

Why It's So Hard to Close the Digital Divide in High-Poverty Schools
PHILADELPHIA—When it comes to speedy Internet access in schools, which technology advocates say will be critical to ensuring that American students stay competitive globally, Philadelphia is way ahead of many districts across the country.
In the Obama administration’s new ConnectED initiative, an effort to redirect $2 billion in federal funding to put high-speed broadband in all American schools, the goal is for schools to have Internet speeds of at least 1 gigabit per second by 2017. Philadelphia schools already have 2 gigabits, and will have 20 in 18 months, says Melanie Harris, the district’s chief information officer. “We call it laying the highway,” she said. “We’ve put our schools in a great position.”
It’s a major accomplishment, but one that also highlights the difficulties of bringing technology to the nation’s neediest kids. When President Obama announced the ConnectED plan last year, he said “there’s no reason we can’t do all this.”  Yet in Philadelphia, where 87 percent of students are economically disadvantaged and school resources are scarce, the city’s schools still have far to travel before they reach the president’s goal “that virtually every child in America’s classrooms has access to the fastest Internet and the most cutting-edge learning tools.”

Transformation Grant Fuels Overhaul of Philly School's Instruction
Education Week By Benjamin Herold Published Online: June 10, 2014
Gianeen C. Powell gets goosebumps talking about the opportunity before her.
Last August, James G. Blaine Elementary, a small district-managed school in a blighted section of North Philadelphiareceived a $1.5 million grant to reimagine its instructional model. Ms. Powell, a 16-year district veteran and the school's principal since 2008, also won considerable freedom to reshape her staff, overhaul Blaine's school day, and more.  "It feels like everything I want to happen, can happen," she said.  Among the first places Ms. Powell turned for guidance was Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy.

EdWeek: Philadelphia School Officials Continue to Seek Funds as Budget Deadline Looms
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Denisa R. Superville on June 17, 2014 1:51 PM
With the June 30  budget deadline fast approaching, Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite and William Green, the chairman of the city's School Reform Commission, took their near-daily call for funding on the road Tuesday, kicking off their day with an interview on the WHYY radio program,  Radio Times.  School Superintendent William Hite said that all options were on the table, including opening schools later, and closing earlier. His answer was in response to a caller's questions about the options the district had considered, including not passing  a budget by the drop-dead deadline of June 30 and operating the schools until the money ran out.  Green, who joined the School Reform Commission this year, said that he was not entirely sure what kind of budget will  pass on June 30, as the district—to this day —still is unsure of its revenues for the upcoming year. He said he prays about the situation every morning "because I don't see how this will be accomplished without a higher power."

Charter Schools are Costing Local taxpayers Millions
Lower Macungie Patch Posted by Mark Spengler , June 16, 2014 at 06:34 PM
Pennsylvania taxpayers are footing the bill for a huge increase in charter school spending.  The biggest problem is the lack of a funding formula based on true costs.  The pension double dip and special education costs provide two troublesome examples:
The Pension Double Dip:Charters are given pension payments by both the state and local districts funding 150% of their pension costs. 
Special Education: Last year charter schools received over $350 million of special education payments but used only $156 million on special education costs resulting in a $200 million profit.
Incredibly, charters are allowed to use their excess funds however they want; including the use of mailerstelevision commercial sand highway billboards.

"The first 40 schools will be paired with nonprofit organizations and city agencies to deliver all kinds of services during the school days, after hours, and on weekends. Free counseling, health, dental and vision services will be among the offerings, as well as early-childhood programming and after-school opportunities for middle school students."
N.Y.C. Mayor Announces $52 Million Effort to Launch Community Schools
Education Week By Lesli A. Maxwell on June 17, 2014 3:35 PM
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio today unveiled plans to bring a range of health and social services to 40 high-need public schools in the coming academic year, making good in part on a pledge to transform some of the city's most struggling schools into full-service community hubs. 
The $52 million initiative announced by the mayor and Chancellor Carmen Fariña, will launch the first 40 "community schools" in a broader effort that de Blasio has pledged will reach 100 schools across the city by the end of his first term.

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.

EPLC Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters - Harrisburg July 31
Register Now!  EPLC will again be hosting an Education Issues Workshop for Legislative Candidates, Campaign Staff, and Interested Voters. This nonpartisan, one-day program will take place on Thursday, July 31 in Harrisburg. Space is limited. Click here to learn more about workshop and to register. 

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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