Thursday, June 19, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 19: Bethlehem Area School Board blames charter schools for tax increase

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 19, 2014:
Bethlehem Area School Board blames charter schools for tax increase

The PA Senate will reconvene on Monday, June 23, 2014 at 1:00PM.  After voting to amend on Tuesday afternoon, no further action was taken yesterday on SB1316, the special education funding bill.  HB2138, the House version of the bill, is on the House calendar for second consideration today.

Bethlehem Area School Board blames charter schools for tax increase
Print Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times By Sara K. Satullo | The Express-Times
on June 18, 2014 at 7:03 AM, updated June 18, 2014 at 7:21 AM
When Bethlehem Area School District taxpayers open their property tax bills this year, they will see a letter letting them know who to blame for their almost 5 percent tax hike:  Charter schools.
Bethlehem doesn't have money to buy fancy billboards to spread its message, school board President Michael Faccinetto said Monday. But the tax bill does present an opportunity to communicate directly with taxpayers, he said.  The school board Monday night approved a $242.5 million 2014-15 final budget by a 6-3 vote. District officials blame the tax hike on school choice.

Legislature sitting on $154 million surplus
Audit comes amid budget showdown between the Legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 9:41 p.m. EDT, June 18, 2014
HARRISBURG — The Legislature's surplus grew about 4 percent to $153.6 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013, according to an audit released Wednesday.
If lawmakers used that full surplus to help with the 2014-15 budget deficit, it would save taxpayers a chunk of money. The surplus is more than 55 percent of the Legislature's total $277.6 million budget for 2014-15.  But using the surplus to reduce the deficit is highly unlikely.
The Legislature likes to keep a hefty fund balance as a precaution against budget stalemates with governors.  Such a stalemate started Tuesday, when Gov. Tom Corbett told lawmakers he would not consider tax increases to close a projected $1.4 billion deficit until they changed the state liquor and pension systems as he wants. The deadline to pass a budget is June 30.
Tom Corbett's other budget math problem (vote-counting): Wednesday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek |  on June 18, 2014 at 8:51 AM, updated June 18, 2014 at 9:02 AM
Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Well, we now know two things about Gov. Tom Corbett's budget for the fiscal year that starts on July 1: It's probably going to be late. And there's a pretty good chance that it's going to include some new taxes.  At a news conference on Monday, Corbett told Capitol scribes that "given the difficulty of this budget, I have allowed — I have informed — the legislators, we need to get this done, and we need to get it done right, rather than quickly.So, if we are not able to finish by June 30, we are not able to finish by June 30.”  Asked repeatedly about how he planned to pay for new education programs and other initiatives included in the $29 billion spending plan without a tax increase, Corbett said he first wanted to address big-ticket "cost-drivers" such as pensions and maybe score a win on liquor reform before he'd talk about what those in the politics biz charmingly (and euphemistically) refer to as "revenue enhancements."

Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch June 18, 2014 //
This is a report on charter school funding in Pennsylvania, especially the effect of excess special education funding for charter schools. It was distributed by the Keystone State Education Coalition.  The KSEC writes:  “Each time charter schools skim marginal need special ed students out of public school districts, they artificially cause the average special ed cost to spiral higher for the next year’s special ed charter school tuition rate.
“Would the special ed funding bill HB2138/SB1316 be the “end of charter schools as we know it”? It might be, especially for the operators of for-profit management companies that contract with charter schools. As best we can tell, instead of special ed money serving special needs students, it appears that the windfall has funded things like multi-million dollar CEO compensation, over 19,000 local TV commercials, a jet and Florida condo, generous political campaign contributions and a 20,000 square foot mansion on the beach in Palm Beach Florida. Here’s a three minute youtube video produced by KEYSEC Co-Chair Mark B. Miller that clearly explains how this happens.

Pocono Mountain Charter School ends fight to stay open
Decision comes after state appeal board reaffirmed vote to shut it down.
By Chris Reber, Of The Pocono Record 7:09 p.m. EDT, June 17, 2014
Pocono Mountain Charter School, which has been held up as a symbol of what's wrong with the state's charter school laws, is giving up its fight to stay open.  Alan Price Young, the school's court-appointed custodian, announced Monday that the school will accept a state appeal board's decision to revoke its charter, ending a long court battle that cost taxpayers nearly $1 million, but frustrating parents who sought an alternative to Pocono Mountain School District.
Young said the school will be dissolved Saturday.
This month the state Department of Education's Charter Appeal Board reaffirmed an earlier vote, concluding that there was excessive entanglement between the school and its landlord, the Shawnee Tabernacle Church in Tobyhanna.
NPR: Philly Schools Teeter On Brink Of Layoffs, Struggling For Funding
All Things Considered by JEFF BRADY June 17, 2014 4:06 PM ET
Listen to the Story 1 min 46 sec
Philadelphia's school district once again needs tens of millions of dollars to avoid layoffs. With just a few weeks left before the district approves a new budget, school leaders are asking the city, the state and labor unions for help filling a $96 million budget hole.
…And I'm Melissa Block. Once again, one of the most troubled school districts in the country is sounding alarm bells over funding. The head of the Philadelphia school district says he needs almost $100 million, and even that, he says, would just maintain a status quo he calls inadequate. NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

A costly pension-reform plan
Inquirer Opinion by ROB MCCORD POSTED: Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 1:08 AM
Rob McCord is the treasurer of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania lawmakers face many difficult challenges, including a billion-dollar revenue shortfall, as they try to meet the June 30 deadline for enacting a balanced budget. They shouldn't add to their list of issues by adopting pension reforms that would only create future problems for seniors and taxpayers.  This election year is the wrong time to rush through sweeping public-pension changes that too few understand. Although there has been general discussion about addressing our public-pension shortfall, lawmakers now face a specific proposal that neither the General Assembly nor the public has fully evaluated.

Blogger's school funding note: Private Philly philanthropy continues funding charters while Philadelphia's Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences can't get toilet seats replaced……
PSP Grant will let three Philadelphia charter schools grow
The Philadelphia School Partnership announced Wednesday nearly $3 million in grants to help three high-performing city charter schools expand.

Sounding the alarm about school conditions
the notebook commentary By Amy Roat, Ray Porreca, and Kelley Collings Jun 18, 2014
This is a call to action regarding the crisis in the School District of Philadelphia.
We are teachers at the Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences in North Philadelphia. Our school is predominantly Latino and has a large population of special education and ESL students. This is our story, but it is not exceptional.  We know our problems are similar to other schools throughout the District. We don't have basic resources such as supplies and updated textbooks. We lack valuable programs and the appropriate staff, including a full-time counselor, nurse, non-teaching assistant, librarian, and cleaning staff. Classrooms are dirty, and we're unable to get toilet seats replaced. Students do not have enough staff who can relate to them in ways that promote safety and avert crises. The resulting environment is one in which turmoil reigns, as staff and teachers cobble together an inadequate education for students.

Sources say Council to propose new borrowing for Philly schools
TROY GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, June 19, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 8:38 PM
After weeks of being pressured to find money to plug the School District of Philadelphia's $216 million budget deficit for the next school year, City Council plans to unveil a new borrowing plan Thursday, at its final scheduled meeting before the summer recess, according to sources in the Council president's office.  The measure could not be approved until the fall, when Council returns, and it is unclear how much it would authorize the city to borrow.  But it is also unclear, less than two weeks before the start of the new fiscal year, how much more money the School District will need.

Council committee wants local school board to make school district decisions
A BILL THAT barely moved out of a City Council committee yesterday calls for the abolition of the School Reform Commission, but its passage teetered on the brink because of its purely symbolic nature.  Council's Committee on Law and Government moved the bill - with "no recommendation" for passage. If adopted by the full Council, the bill would allow a question on the November ballot asking voters whether the SRC should be eliminated through an amendment to the city charter. Although the state has ultimate authority over the School District of Philadelphia, Council wants to turn up the pressure on state lawmakers to return local control of Philly schools.

Audit shows PA legislative branch sat on $153.5 million nest egg at start of the 2013-14 fiscal year
By Jan Murphy | on June 18, 2014 at 11:47 AM, updated June 18, 2014 at 12:50 PM
After reconciling the General Assembly and legislative service agencies' various checkbooks for 2012-13, the balances showed they were sitting on more than $153.5 million.  That represents an increase from the $140.7 million held in reserve the prior year.  The outside audit report on the legislative branch's finances accepted today by the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission shows the Senate began this current fiscal year with a $50.1 million financial cushion and the House had a $71.8 million reserve.

PCCY website June 18, 2014
State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, (D-Chester County), introduced legislation in Harrisburg Wednesday that would exempt Pennsylvania high school students from having to pass standardized tests to graduate.  Starting with the class of 2017, Pennsylvania law dictates that students must show proficiency on Keystone standardized tests in Algebra I, Biology and Language Arts before earning diplomas.  Dinniman said recent state cuts to classroom education budgets make this requirement an "unfunded mandate" that will simply "stamp failure" on many students coming from impoverished school districts.  Dinniman's proposal, S.B. 1382, would leave graduation requirements up to individual districts.

More info on SB1382 from Senator Dinniman's newsletter

Tenure for public school teachers
WHYY Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane June 18, 2014 audio runtime 52:01
Guests: Jim Wyckoff, Jack Schneider
A California court struck down tenure for public school teachers last week, inflaming the debate over how teachers can be hired and fired.  The landmark Vergara v. California ruling decided that state protections for teachers deprive poor and minority students of equal education.  Tenure was introduced in American public schools in the early 20th Century, to stop teachers being fired unfairly.  Since 2009, two-thirds of states have watered down teacher protections, to compete for billions of education dollars from President Obama’s Race to the Top program.  We delve into the arguments over tenure with JIM WYCKOFF, the Curry Memorial Professor of Education and Policy at the University of Virginia and JACK SCHNEIDER, Assistant Professor of Education at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.

Establishment panel: The Pittsburgh education task force needs outside perspective
Post-Gazette Editorial June 18, 2014 12:00 AM
Pittsburgh mayors have no legal authority over the city school district, but Bill Peduto is right to have a strong interest in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Education quality, after all, is necessary to sustain a thriving American city.  So it’s good that Pittsburgh’s new 25-member task force on public education wasted no time in holding its first meeting on Tuesday. Our concern is that most of its members are employed by or have links to the school district and city government, to the neglect of creative thinkers and innovators outside the city’s school and political establishments.

Cocalico budget raises school taxes 2.6%
Lancaster Online by ALICE HUMMER | Correspondent Wednesday, June 18, 2014 11:52 am
The Cocalico school board unanimously approved a 0.56-mill tax increase on Monday, bringing the real estate levy to 22.32 mills for 2014-15.  The increase, which is just under 2.6 percent, means the owner of a home with the district’s median assessment of $138,600 will pay about $78 more in tax, for a total bill of $3,094.

Ephrata adopts final $60 million school budget with no tax increase
Lancaster Online by DEAN LEE EVANS | Correspondent Wednesday, June 18, 2014 4:42 pm
A high school stage renovation bid and approval of next year's budget were the major topics of discussion at Ephrata Area's last board meeting for the school year on Monday, June 16.
Board President Timothy Stayer took time to explain to the public the reasons behind keeping the 19.6-mill tax rate for a second year in a row.  The budget calls for expenditures of $59,792,040 and revenues of $58,864,188. A deficit of $927,852 was covered by savings from the district's fund balance.

Garnet Valley approves budget
Delco Times By SUSAN L. SERBIN, Times Correspondent POSTED: 06/18/14, 11:11 PM EDT
CONCORD—The school board approved the 2014-15 school year general fund budget of $93 million.  After foregoing the opportunity to request any exceptions above the 2.1 percent Act 1 index, the district whittled the necessary increase to 1.86 percent from the 2.4 percent in the approved preliminary budget. This is the second-lowest tax increase for the district in a dozen years, the lowest being the school year just concluded.

Controversial tax increase in U-CF budget
West Chester Daily Locall By CANDICE MONHOLLAN,
POSTED: 06/18/14, 7:07 PM EDT |
With the June meeting of the Unionville-Chadds Ford school board came the approval of the final budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year at $75.9 million which, although passed unanimously, came with some controversy among the members.  The final number, down about $75,000 from the preliminary number in January, includes a tax increase of 2.76 percent in Chester County and 2.26 percent in Delaware County. The increase is down from the original estimates in the preliminary budget, but was still a staggering number to see for board member Keith Knauss.

Evidence for What Works in Education
US Dept. of Education Institute of Education Services What Works Clearinghouse
We review the research on the different programs, products, practices, and policies in education.
Then, by focusing on the results from high-quality research, we try to answer the question “What works in education?”  Our goal is to provide educators with the information they need to make evidence-based decisions.

La. Gov. Bobby Jindal Declares State Dumping Common Core, PARCC Tests
Education Week State EdWatch Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on June 18, 2014 3:16 PM
Louisiana will be required to seek a new state assessment and dump the Common Core State Standards in favor of new standards, according to a June 18 announcement from Gov. Bobby Jindal. He also said he is requiring the state board to seek the new state assessment through a competitive-bidding process.  But Jindal faces a fight on his hands from state Superintendent John White and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, who say that Jindal has no legal power to unilaterally force the state to pick new standards and new tests. 
In a five-point plan, outlined in an afternoon news conference, Jindal, a Republican and a one-time common-core supporter, said he has told the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association, the two groups that oversaw the creation of the standards, that the state is dropping the common core.

Come to Harrisburg to Speak Up for Public Education
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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