Tuesday, June 24, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 24: It’s worth looking at the numbers to understand the depth of the pension crisis facing Pennsylvania schools.

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 24, 2014:
It’s worth looking at the numbers to understand the depth of the pension crisis facing Pennsylvania schools.

Budget bill that remains 'a work in progress' awaits action in the state House
By The Associated Press on June 23, 2014 at 8:00 PM, updated June 23, 2014 at 8:41 PM
* This post was updated to reflect that the House's pension reform debate got derailed.
A state budget bill reached the floor of the Pennsylvania House floor Monday, one week before the current budget expires, but with the major spending questions unresolved.
The House sent the bill to the Appropriations Committee, which is expected to amend it Tuesday with proposals for plugging a projected revenue gap of $1.7 billion.
House members were poised to stay late Monday night to launch a long-awaited debate over public pensions.  However, the debate never got started.

Challenging Budget Action Moving Ahead
YouTube video runtime 8:10 RepAdolph·Published on Jun 23, 2014
PA House Appropriations Chairman Rep. William Adolph explains the latest step in the PA Budget process and the reasons that Pennsylvania is facing such a challenging budget deficit.

Nothing but questions as June budget deadline nears
WITF Written State House Sound Bites by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 20, 2014 2:20 PM
State lawmakers are heading into the final stretch of June, and for the first time in four years, a budget agreement doesn't appear to be on the horizon.  Governor Corbett, who ran for office promising timely state budgets, has said he'll forgive a late spending plan in return for passage of two other legislative priorities: an overhaul of public pensions and changes to how alcohol is sold in Pennsylvania.  Trouble is, those bills don't appear to be ready for primetime, and the major outlines of a state budget remain unknown to rank-and-file lawmakers of the Republican Party, which controls the House and Senate.

Political math is tough when it comes to public pension reform in Pennsylvania
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com on June 23, 2014 at 7:30 AM
Gov. Tom Corbett has called for action on public pension reform as a prerequisite to discussing new taxes to balance the 2014-15 state budget,which is due on July 1.  The state House of Representatives' Republican caucus has been holding closed-door caucuses on the pension issue for weeks, but is still, but some internal estimates, about 12 votes short of the 102 needed to pass its preferred plan.

School district costs central to PA Republicans’ pension pitch
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent June 23, 2014
Pennsylvania’s House Republican leaders hope to vote on a pension overhaul bill this week, and they spent the past week trying to court votes from members who are still on the fence.
Since all politics are local, the group of Republicans pushing the pension bill are trying to show other members how bad things will get for their local school districts in the next few years. It’s not a pretty picture, but the pension bill being offered by state Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schyulkill, and backed by Gov. Tom Corbett will do little to make it any prettier.
Still, it’s worth looking at some of their numbers to understand the depth of the pension crisis facing Pennsylvania schools.

Small tax on stock sales could help Pa.'s pension crunch: PennLive letters
PennLive Letters to the Editor byROBERT FLEMING on June 22, 2014 at 12:46 PM
Again the state is lacking money due to the pension shortfall of the state's own making. The old and new solutions are being trotted out without agreement — sell the liquor stores, legalize and tax marijuana, increase property taxes.  At least the governor seems to realize the Grover Norquist "no new taxes" pledge is unworkable.  Recently in this column a writer suggested a small [less than a percent] sales tax on a purchase of stock. If you purchase a Ford car you pay sales tax. Why not pay a tax on the purchase of Ford stock?

“Screwed up is what it was when in 1991 we went to court with 240 other school districts (to push for equitable school funding across the state). This is four, five or six levels above that”
Education pros call for new school funding formula
By BETH ANN MILLER Our Town Johnstown Staff Writer bethm@ourtownjohnstown.com | Posted 1 month ago
WESTMONT — Pennsylvania’s current policy of funding public school education is “beyond screwed up,” according to a longtime education professional, lobbyist and former member of the Pennsylvania Board of Education.  Dr. Arnold Hillman, who also represents the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools, spoke April 23 at the Rotary Club of Johnstown’s weekly meeting at Sunnehanna Country Club. Hillman is also a former teacher, superintendent and Intermediate Unit 8 executive director. He was invited to speak at the meeting by Dr. Gerald Zahorchak, superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District and member of the Rotary Club.  “Screwed up is what (it) was when in 1991 we went to court with 240 other school districts (to push for equitable school funding across the state). This is four, five or six levels above that,” he said.  Hillman was referring to two maps showing the average taxable personal income above or below the statewide average, by school district — one from 1979 and one from 2011. In 1979, the state was nearly divided in half between school districts (300) with above the then-state average of $13,721 in personal taxable income and those below the state average (201). In 2011, the state average personal taxable income was $53,588, but only 122 school districts had residents with taxable incomes at or above the state average; the overwhelming majority of school districts (378) showed taxable incomes below the state average.

"Taxpayers are frustrated, programs/services are cut to the bone and staffing is at historic minimums. If assistance cannot come in the form of new funds, there must be a reduction in unfunded mandates confronting public school districts."
State wastes education money while starving districts
Bucks County Courier Times By MARK B. MILLER Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 6:00 am
Mark B. Miller is the vice president of the Centennial School Board, director of Network for Public Education, co-chair of the Keystone State Education Coalition, and BuxMont Region director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
Gov. Corbett took a great step forward on the special education landscape last June when he came to Bucks County to sign Act 3 into law. The Act formed a 15-member commission to recommend a new special education funding formula for public and charter schools that directs money where it is most needed in an equitable manner.  The commission, which filed a full report on Dec. 11, 2013 was the concept of two members of the General Assembly who introduced legislation now stalled in the state House of Representatives.
Sen. Pat Brown (author of Senate Bill 362) and Rep. Bernie O’Neill (author of House Bill 2138) had full support of the governor every step of the way. The highly profitable charter industry is pushing back despite a heightened need for relief.

"Regardless of where children live in this city, they have a right to a high-quality education," he said, "and poverty shouldn't influence that. Whether they are learning English shouldn't influence that. If they have an IEP should not influence that."
Superintendent Hite: Pa. not providing Philly kids a 'thorough and efficient' education
Has Pennsylvania been coming through on its constitutional requirement to provide all children with a "thorough and efficient" education? In a recent interview at WHYY studios, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite said, flatly, "No."  "Unfortunately we're left with a situation where we're trying to only spend what we have," said Hite, "and that provides resources that are inadequate and insufficient in order to educate children."
In the extended interview above, Hite, having now finished his second school year at the district's helm, expounds on a variety of issues facing Philadelphia schools.   "Regardless of where children live in this city, they have a right to a high-quality education," he said, "and poverty shouldn't influence that. Whether they are learning English shouldn't influence that. If they have an IEP should not influence that."  The district needs $66 million just to provide students next year with this year's admittedly "insufficient" resource levels. On top of this, Hite says he needs $224 million to begin implementing his vision for districtwide growth.

Refusing to Educate Other People’s Children: Woes Continue in Philadelphia
Jan Resseger's Blog Posted on June 23, 2014 by janresseger
What does it mean when, in June, the leaders of a school district that serves over 131,000 students are working with city and state governments to locate enough money to open school in August?  In the United States—where provision of K-12 education has for nearly two centuries been provided publicly, where it has been believed essential for the formation of an informed democracy, where all have taken for granted the provision of schooling that is free and universally available—what does Pennsylvania’s seeming incapacity to provide adequately staffed schools for Philadelphia’s children mean?  On June 18, the  Associated Press reported that school superintendent William Hite remained alarmed about a gaping hole in next year’s school budget.  Still needed was “at least an additional $96 million to offer students even a ‘wholly inadequate’ education next year.”
Pennsylvania lacks a working formula to distribute funds to local school districts. 

Still short of funds, School District turns its eyes to Harrisburg
By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jun 23, 2014 09:37 AM
Despite securing additional funding from City Council last week, the Philadelphia School District still faces a budget gap that threatens to strip its already bare-bones schools even further.
All eyes have now turned to the State Capitol.  Philly schools need $66 million just to provide students next year with this year's admittedly "insufficient" resource levels.
That's after selling buildings, getting principals to agree to less compensation, and leveraging City Council to borrow $57 million on its behalf.  If any more new revenue is going to come, it will have to be approved by the Republican-controlled, tax-averse state legislature.
"Everyone is definitely aware of the situation in Philadelphia," said Stephen Miskin, spokesman of House majority leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny.

Family and consumer sciences classes face budget cuts from Lehigh Valley districts
Lehigh Valley Live By Rudy Miller | The Express-Times on June 22, 2014 at 5:45 AM
When school districts want to balance budgets without raising taxes, something's got to give.
In the Bangor Area and the Saucon Valley school districts, administrators looked to cut family and consumer sciences for fiscal reasons.  Once called home economics, family and consumer science classes expanded the curriculum of sewing and cooking in the mid-1990s to include human development, family finance, interior design, food science, nutrition, textiles and apparel, and consumer issues, according to the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.
If Saucon Valley and Bangor Area decided to cut the classes, they'd contribute to a nationwide trend. About 3.5 million American teens were enrolled in those classes in school years 2010-11 and 2011-12, down 38 percent from 10 years before, according to the family and consumer sciences association.
No school board would suggest dropping math, science, English or history, so they look to electives as places to trim fat.

Carlynton School Board approves budget with tax increase
By The Tribune-Review Published: Monday, June 23, 2014, 9:33 p.m.
Property owners in the Carlynton School District will see a tax increase in 2014-15.
The school board voted Monday night to approve a tax rate of 19.604, up from 19.089. The board also voted 9-0 to approve a $28.73 million general fund budget.  The board voted to move all but 8 percent of its $6.24 million general fund balance to an assigned fund to go toward retirement, health care benefits and renovations.
Final East Penn schools budget raises property tax 3.34 percent
School board also votes to give administrators, staff $65,000 in merit raises.
By Margie Peterson, Special to The Morning Call June 24, 2014
East Penn School Board on Monday approved a final budget that increases taxes 3.34 percent.
The $137 million spending plan eliminates two administrative positions and four-and-a-half teaching positions, all by attrition. Those teaching jobs include an English teacher and social studies teacher at the high school.  The tax increase amounts to 0.539 of a mill for a new tax rate of 16.6649 mills. At that rate, a homeowner with property assessed at $200,000 would pay $3,332 or $107 more.  The budget was approved 8-1 with Director Lynn Donches voting no.
East Penn managed to reduce the tax increase from the initial proposed 4.5 percent back in February.  School officials have pointed to large increases in expenditures for special education, staff pensions and charter school tuition as among the big drivers of the tax hike.
Souderton Area School Board approves 1 percent increase in final 2014-15 budget
Souderton Independent By Victoria Wolk vwolk@21st-centurymedia.com Published: Sunday, June 22, 2014
The Souderton Area School Board voted June 19 on the district’s final 2014-15 budget. All eight board members in attendance voted in favor of the budget, which includes a real estate tax increase of 1 percent.  That is equal to an increase of $42.39 for the average home, said Bill Stone, SASD director of business affairs.  When the board’s finance committee last reviewed the budget at a June 11 meeting, the proposed tax increase stood at 1.24 percent, or $52.56 for the average homeowner. That number was revised after looking at this year’s revenues and expenditures and evaluating whether the district was spending faster or slower than expected.

In split vote, Pennsbury School Board approves tax increase; budget allocates $678,000 for full-day kindergarten
By Petra Chesner Schlatter pschlatter@buckslocalnews.com  Sunday, June 22, 2014
PENNSBURY - In a 5-4 vote, the Pennsbury School Board on June 17 approved a 2.1-percent increase in its real estate tax for the 2014-15 school year.  That means an owner of a property with an average assessment of $31,487 will pay $101 more in taxes.  There has not been a tax increase in Pennsbury since the 2010-11 school year.  The budget allocates $678,000 for full-day kindergarten, which will start with this coming school year in all 10 elementary schools in the district.

Four Nazareth Area School District employee groups to forego raises as part of contract extension
By Pamela Sroka-Holzmann | The Express-Times on June 23, 2014 at 8:57 PM
The Nazareth Area School Board has approved two-year contract extensions -- calling for zero percent raises in the second year -- with four employee groups.
The contracts included the Teamsters Union Local 773, which makes up the district's custodial and maintenance staff; the Nazareth Area Educational Support Professionals, which makes up secretaries, associate teachers and cafeteria workers; the management association, which makes up approximately 30 administrators; and three administrative assistants.  
Under the terms of the approved contracts, all four accepted a 2.5 percent salary increase in the first year and no increase in the second year. Benefits remain the same and no other concessions were sought, according to district Superintendent Dennis Riker.

“We have done a very good job of educating our community about unfunded state and federal mandates and how much of our budget is out of local control,” she said. “They want us to respect the T/E Culture with an eye on success and sustainability.”
Tredyffrin/Easttown respondents want money-savvy superintendent
By BILL RETTEW JR., For 21st Century Media
TREDYFFRIN – Results of a recent Tredyffrin/Easttown School District survey indicate most of 1,021 community stakeholder respondents consider money management the top priority when hiring the district’s next superintendent.  When asked to pick three categories from a list of 10 options, 83 percent of students, teachers, parents and taxpayers overwhelmingly chose budget and financial matters as the top challenge a new superintendent will face.
Almost 600 respondents checked financial expertise as a top qualification for the new super.
Superintendent Dan Waters is scheduled to retire July 1, 2015.

Mutchler’s right to know
Scranton Times-Tribune BY ROBERT SWIFT HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF Published: June 22, 2014
HARRISBURG — As they advanced a major open records bill, senators of both parties renewed calls last week for Gov. Tom Corbett to reappoint Terry Mutchler as executive director of the state Office of Open Records.  Ms. Mutchler is the first director of the office created in 2009 to oversee the state law expanding public access to government documents and handle the appeals process when requests are denied.  Ms. Mutchler’s first six-year term has expired but she continues on the job while awaiting word from the governor on her fate. Her situation is not unusual in Harrisburg, but it’s noteworthy that Ms. Mutchler is the recipient of much bipartisan support.
Pennsylvania has been recognized as having a strong Right-to-Know Law and a widely recognized Right-to-Know office under her leadership,” said Sen. Lloyd Smucker, R-13, Lancaster, chairman of the Senate State Government Committee.

Congressman Patrick Meehan Observes Humanoid Robots in Garnet Valley Schools
Garnet Valley Press Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Congressman Patrick Meehan visited the Garnet Valley School District recently to observe teachers utilizing newly purchased humanoid robots as an educational tool for both regular and special education students. The Garnet Valley schools are in a select group of educational institutions in 70 countries that have partnered with French-based company, Alderaran Robotics, which designs, produces and sells humanoid robots for education.  The Congressman participated in speech activities and a health lesson with students who have autism. Not only teachers, but also students who are in the high school robotics program assisted with the lessons.  In March, the district purchased five NAO Robots, and since implementing the educational applications teachers are utilizing the technology to support in-class tasks, facilitate communication, and help children with autism reach their goals.

Pediatrics Group to Recommend Reading Aloud to Children From Birth
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH JUNE 24, 2014
In between dispensing advice on breast-feeding and immunizations, doctors will tell parents to read aloud to their infants from birth, under a new policy that the American Academy of Pediatrics will announce on Tuesday.  With the increased recognition that an important part of brain development occurs within the first three years of a child’s life, and that reading to children enhances vocabulary and other important communication skills, the group, which represents 62,000 pediatricians across the country, is asking its members to become powerful advocates for reading aloud, every time a baby visits the doctor.

National School Boards Action Center June 20, 2014 by Staff
NSBA Bill Introduced in the United States Senate
NSBA is pleased to announce that the Local School Board Governance and Flexibility Act, S.2451 was introduced by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) on June 10.  This bill serves as the Senate companion bill to H.R. 1386, that was introduced by Representatives Aaron Schock (R-IL),Patrick Meehan (R-PA), David Valadao (R-CA), Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Ron Kind (D-WI) on March 21, 2013.  Since that time the number of co-sponsors of HR 1386 has increased to 43.

After a year-long investigation, the Detroit Free Press published a scathing report on the state’s thriving charter sector.  Charter schools receive $1 billion in taxpayer funding with virtually no accountability.  They get worse results than traditional public schools.  140,000 children attend charter schools in MichiganMichigan has more for-profit charters than any other state. The for-profit organizations are secretive about their finances because they are private.

"The findings, based on tens of thousands of records spanning two decades as well as hundreds of interviews, paint a dismal picture of a charter sector that spends $1 billion annually with little accountability and lax oversight. Ultimately, the paper found, Michigan’s charter schools do no better in terms of student achievement than traditional public schools."
Major probe of Michigan charter schools finds wasteful spending, little accountability
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS June 24 at 4:00 AM  
This week the Detroit Free Press is publishing results from its year-long investigation into charter schools in Michigan, which has more for-profit companies operating schools than any other state. The findings, based on tens of thousands of records spanning two decades as well as hundreds of interviews, paint a dismal picture of a charter sector that spends $1 billion annually with little accountability and lax oversight. Ultimately, the paper found, Michigan’s charter schools do no better in terms of student achievement than traditional public schools.

Join the Notebook! Become a Member!
The Notebook invites all of our readers to join us now, as members by signing up on our "Donate" page. Our reporting depends on the continued generous support and contributions from our growing Notebook membership. In 2013, we reached more than 500 memberships!  Thanks to all of our supporters.  Don't forget to renew or join for this calendar year. Help us reach 600+ members in 2014!  We're excited about this program as a way to recognize your support, give you some extra perks, and support our work and sustainability.  Learn more about our work here.
Membership starts at $40 for the 2014 calendar year. Learn more about the membership levels here. You can also give the gift of Notebook membership.

Come to Harrisburg to Speak Up for Public Education 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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