Thursday, June 26, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 26: Are PA cyber charters overpaid? How about a $120.8 million budget with a $40.7 million fund balance?

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 26, 2014:
Are PA cyber charters overpaid?  How about a $120.8 million budget with a $40.7 million fund balance?

Are PA cyber charters overpaid?
How about a $120.8 million budget with a $40.7 million fund balance?
BTW, PA Cyber's 2013 PA School Performance Profile score was 59.4
·         "For regular education students, the district PA Cyber gets the most from is Lower Merion School District near Philadelphia. It pays $17,182.17 per student to the school. 
·         The lowest is Hazelton Area School District, which pays the school $6,628.24 per student.
·         For special education students, Bryn Athyn School District in Montgomery County near Philadelphia pays $76,904.22 per student.
·         The lowest special education rate is St. Mary’s School District, which pays $12,883.93 per student."
PA Cyber trustees approve $120.82M budget for 2014-15
By Tom Davidson
MIDLAND -- The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School will use just over $1 million of its $40.7 million cash reserves to balance a 2014-15 budget the school’s board of trustees approved Monday.  The $120.82 million spending plan includes adding between 60 and 80 new teachers to the school. The budget is supported by $119.73 million in revenue that comes from the state Department of Education and the home school districts of PA Cyber’s students.
The difference will be made up using cash from the school's $40.7 million fund balance.
PA Cyber is reimbursed at a rate of between 70 percent to 80 percent of the per-pupil expenditure of each student’s home district -- a figure that varies across the state, according to PA Cyber Chief Executive Officer Michael Conti.
“You see a wide range across the state,” Conti said.

PA Cyber trustees approve $5.7 million building project
By Tom Davidson  Published: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 4:00 am
MIDLAND -- Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School was initially formed using a model that eschews brick-and-mortar school buildings and instead uses a computer-based system that educates thousands of students outside traditional classrooms.  But the 14-year-old school based in Midland is starting to use an old-school approach as it moves forward. The school’s Board of Trustees approved Monday a $5.7 million project that will demolish a building at 900 Midland Ave. and build a new, three-story facility there.

"Public schools would see an extra $100 million, including $70 million for instruction and operations, $20 million for special education and $10 million for school construction projects. But the new, $340 million "Ready to Learn" block grant program proposed by Corbett in his February budget plan was jettisoned from the House budget."
Senate prepares for House's $29.1B GOP budget plan
Lancaster Online by Associated Press | Posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 8:25 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A $29.1 billion Republican-penned budget plan that makes higher payments to public schools, human services and public pension funds passed late Wednesday but was headed for certain changes in the Senate as the new fiscal year closed in and Democrats accused Republicans of assembling an irresponsible budget.
The bill, made public barely two days ago, passed, 110-93, with every Democrat and one Republican opposing it. Five days are left in the fiscal year, and senators seemed likely to have their own ideas about where to find the revenues, particularly because the House plan relies on $380 million from the unlikely sell-off of the state's wine and liquor operations.

Pa. House approves budget plan and sends it to the Senate
AMY WORDEN, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU LAST UPDATED: Thursday, June 26, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 6:17 PM
HARRISBURG - The state House on Wednesday approved a $29.1 billion spending plan for 2014-15 that will serve as the framework for final budget negotiations ahead of the Monday deadline.  The GOP-crafted budget, which passed on a near-party-line vote of 110-93, calls for increasing spending on education and human services.  But as the bill heads to the Senate, the lingering question was how to pay for it and close an estimated $1.5 billion deficit.
The Senate could approve the bill as early as Friday and send it to the governor's desk. But legislative leaders say negotiations will likely continue through the weekend.

Pa. House passes its GOP-crafted state budget plan
By Jan Murphy |  on June 25, 2014 at 6:12 PM, updated June 25, 2014 at 8:10 PM
In a nearly straight 110-93 party-line vote, the state House moved a $29.1 billion state general fund budget for 2014-15 to the Senate.  The plan serves as the House's opening position in the final round of budget talks with the Senate and Corbett administration that will take place over the next few days as they try to finalize a budget before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.
The House-passed budget represents a 1.9 percent, or $536 million, increase over this year.
It spends $300 million less than Gov. Tom Corbett budget proposed in February in recognition of the persistent shortfalls in state tax collections.  The plan provides $10.3 billion for K-12 education including the first increase in seven years for special education.

"With no new taxes included, the funding plan relies on $380 million from the sale of the state liquor stores, legislation widely understood to be dead.  Democrats accused the Republicans of offering a "phony budget" and suggested the liquor store sales were only a placeholder for a natural gas extraction tax to be added by the Senate."
Senators discussing mix of taxes to help close Pennsylvania's budget gap
Tribune Review By Brad Bumsted Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 6:45 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Taxes on natural gas, cigarettes, snuff and cigars, and forgoing a scheduled business tax reduction are part of the potential budget plan under discussion by Senate leaders of both parties, Minority Leader Jay Costa said Wednesday.  Costa, D-Forest Hills, said lawmakers need to raise money to fill gaps between tax collections and spending in a House-passed, $29.1 billion budget that includes $380 million from privatizing liquor sales, something the Senate isn't likely to embrace.  He said the House version isn't a real budget: “It's built on smoke and mirrors.”  The House approved its plan 110-93.
“It's being held together by tape and rubber bands,” said Rep. Joe Markosek of Monroeville, ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.  The state faces a deficit of at least $1.4 billion. Markosek said the deficit may be closer to $1.7 billion.
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, called it a “compassionate and prioritized” budget.  “Education will be at its highest level ever — $10.3 billion,” Turzai said, calling the proposal an “exceptionally responsible budget.”
The Senate is expected to amend the budget and send it back.
The Real Question About the Budget
Politically Uncorrected Blog by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L.Young June 25, 2014
People are asking lots of good questions lately about Pennsylvania’s proposed 2014/2015 budget. But few are raising what may be the most urgent question of all: why are state revenues down this year--more than a half billion dollars amid a national economic recovery?  Indeed, Pennsylvania’s revenue shortfall contrasts markedly with most other states. Revenues in 80 percent of the other 49 states will meet or beat budget projections this year.  Pennsylvania is one of only 11 that will not.  Pennsylvania’s revenue gap, along with projected spending, leaves a budget deficit of at least $1.4 billion. The problem is so severe that Gov. Tom Corbett and his notoriously tax-averse administration are furiously signaling they might consider new taxes, including a Marcellus Shale extraction tax.

If Lancaster County's Poorest, Most Tax-Strapped School District Fails, What Does It Mean For All Of Us?
A Lancaster Newspapers Special Report By Jeff HawkesSusan Baldrige and Gil Smart
Photography by Casey Kreider, Richard Hertzler, Jeff Ruppenthal and Blaine Shahan
In Columbia on a frigid February morning, students without a ride to school walked.
On sidewalks between high snow banks, they passed art galleries and tattoo parlors, Club Good Times and the National Watch Museum, empty storefronts and charming Victorian homes.
The kids walked because the compact, 1,310-student district doesn’t run buses.
It never has, which in these challenging times for all school districts is a rare financial advantage.

"Michael Rock, a Unionville-Chadds Ford school board member, said the district needed to push back more often against top-down policies.  "I have thought for a long time that we are passive recipients of everything that gets imposed on us from the outside," Rock said at the board's June 16 meeting."
Chester County school district to forgo U.S. lunch guidelines
Saying stricter federal nutrition guidelines are too much to swallow, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District has decided to remove its 1,300 high school students from the program that is to go into effect next school year.  In deciding last week that the students would not join the 31 million across the country who get free or reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program, the district said its own food policies were healthy enough for its high schoolers.
The district's middle school and four elementary schools will still participate.

Manheim Central High School exits federal lunch program
Lancaster Online by K. SCOTT KREIDER | Correspondent Posted:June 25, 2014 1:44 pm
Manheim Central School District officials have voted to buck new federal regulations on school menus — regulations that they say are too onerous — by voting to take the high school off of the National School Lunch Program.  By doing so, Manheim Central stands to lose a potential $195,000 in federal reimbursements.  But the new set of regulations on a la carte menu items could end up costing the district nearly as much, according to food service director David Ludwig. Called “Smart Snacks in Schools,” the regulations are set to take effect in July under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.

A+Schools June 2014 Pittsburgh Board Watch Report Card
A+Schools June 24, 2014 2:21 pm
Since the launch of Board Watch in January 2009, A+ Schools has issued 20 report cards on Pittsburgh School Board governance practices based on observations of meetings by trained volunteers.
Below is the twentieth Board Watch report card based on volunteer assessments.  The current report card reflects assessments from March through May.  Overall, the School Board maintained a B– average. 

Wilkinsburg furloughs 11 teachers, appoints acting superintendent
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 24, 2014 11:20 PM
The Wilkinsburg school board swallowed a bitter pill Tuesday when it approved a $27.7 million budget that furloughs 11 teachers, two guidance counselors, two secretaries and a custodian to free up funds to make improvements to the curriculum in grades 7-12.  The budget further reduces the teaching staff by not including replacements for five other teachers who are retiring.
….The board also approved the appointment of Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, as the acting superintendent effective July 1, to replace Donna Micheaux, who was hired in March but recently accepted a position as deputy superintendent at Pittsburgh Public Schools.  Mrs. Hippert will provide her services to the district at no cost while it searches for a permanent replacement.

"The board also voted at the meeting to furlough three teachers, including an auto mechanics teacher at the high school, a family and consumer science teacher at Founders Hall Middle School and an art teacher. A fourth teacher would have been furloughed, but chose to resign."
McKeesport Area school board approves budget, increases taxes
Post-Gazette By Deana Carpenter
School directors in McKeesport Area School District voted 5-4 to approve a $62.4 million budget for the new fiscal year, including a 0.48-mill property tax increase that brings the millage to 15.7.
The average property owner in McKeesport will see a $25 to $30 increase in school taxes as a result.

Daniel Boone School Board approves $53M budget with no tax increase
Pottstown Mercury By Denise Larive, 21st-Century Media POSTED: 06/24/14, 12:01 PM EDT 
AMITY — The Daniel Boone School Board approved a $53,633,344 budget with no tax increase for 2014-15 by a 6-3 vote Monday night.  Taxes will remain at 28.9618 mills, meaning properties assessed at $100,000 will pay $2,896 in property taxes.  All programs also remain at all district buildings next year.  The budget was balanced with the use of $330,000 in bond swap revenue, $100,000 in Title I grant funds for a basic reading skills teacher salary (and a daytime instead of after school program), as well as $1.1 million from the district’s $3.4 million fund balance.

ECS seeks city school board’s OK to expand
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 26, 2014 12:12 AM
When the first group of 58 eighth-graders at the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park graduated last week, they officially were scattered to a variety of high schools, from Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 to City Charter High School to Penn Hills High School, but if the city school board approves an expansion of the charter, the eighth-grade Class of 2017 will be able to go to a high school that ECS will operate in the former Letsche building in the Hill District.
It would start with 75 to 100 ninth-graders and grow to about 400, one grade at a time. Pittsburgh Public Schools no longer owns Letsche.  Besides the high school, the charter school, which has 605 students and hundreds more on its waiting list, seeks to open a second K-8 school of similar size in fall 2015, starting with 288 students in K-3.

Sporting chance: The PIAA passes a sensible mixed-gender rule
Among the life lessons that sports teach, fair play may be the most important. But how fair is it for a boy with a big physical advantage to play field hockey on a girls’ team? It isn’t fair — yet it has been a common sight in Western Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the state, not only for field hockey but other girls’ sports, too.  The presence of boys on girls’ teams came about because of a well-intentioned Commonwealth Court ruling in 1975. It held that a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association bylaw forbidding girls from practicing or competing against boys was unconstitutional.

Women In Computer Science Day 2014
University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science
Each year, the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science holds its Women in Computer Science High School Day for Girls. At this year's event, 140 Philadelphia area high school girls visited Penn Engineering to learn about the various academic and career opportunities possible in this vital field.   Women are underrepresented in computer science and engineering majors. Research shows that if girls do not have a computer scientist or engineer in the family, they often have little access to information about careers in these fields. The goal of this annual event is to show girls interested in science or math what computer scientists and engineers do, and to encourage them to study these disciplines in college. 

Standard & Poor’s rates outlook for charter school sector as ‘negative’
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog BY VALERIE STRAUSS June 26 at 6:00 AM  
Standard & Poor’s has issued a new report that extends its “negative” outlook for the charter school sector. Of 214 public charter school ratings done by the agency, 41, or 19 percent, are negative while only 4 — or 2 percent — are positive. Furthermore, it says, funding has not generally “returned to pre-recessionary levels, and some schools are struggling to operate in this “new normal.’”
Here’s the complete report:

"Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Tuesday that his department for the first time will also consider outcomes: How well special-education students score on standardized tests, the gap in test scores between students with and without disabilities, the high school graduation rate for disabled students and other measures of achievement."
U.S. tightens standards for special education
Education Department to weigh outcomes
Post Gazette by Lyndsey Layton / The Washington Post June 24, 2014 11:51 PM
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is tightening its oversight of the way states educate special-needs students, applying more-stringent criteria that drop the number of jurisdictions in compliance with federal law from 38 to 15.  Congress has guaranteed severely disabled students the right to a “free and appropriate” education since 1975. The 1990 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, requires public schools to meet the educational needs of students with disabilities, an estimated 7 million students. The federal Education Department distributes $11.5 billion annually to states to help pay for special education and monitors their performance.
Until now, the agency considered whether states evaluated students for special needs in a timely manner, whether they reported information to the federal government and met other procedural benchmarks.

Converting Catholic Schools to Charters Draws Scrutiny
Education Week By Arianna Prothero Published Online: June 10, 2014
Leaders at a private Roman Catholic school in St. Louis are preparing for a big change: They are planning to give up the inner-city institution's religious identity to become a public charter school, so they can serve more low-income families.  The reason is financial. De La Salle Middle School—which now serves about 70 students and has a focus on getting disadvantaged students on track for college—will have access to public funding.  Although such conversions to charter status are rare, a number of Roman Catholic schools have done so in recent years. Often, the move is sparked by a concern that otherwise the school would have to close.

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.

Pre-K for PA has supporters all over the greater Philadelphia region who want to help ensure all three and four year-old children can access quality pre-K.
We need your help -- join an upcoming phone bank. Join a fun gathering of like minds in Philadelphia and Conshohocken on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer. We are calling fellow Pre-K for PA supporters to build local volunteer teams.
Call a Pre-K Friend in Philly:
United Way Building, 6th Floor 1709 Ben Franklin Parkway 19107 
Wed July 9, 5-7 PM
Wed July 30, 5-7 PM
Call a Pre-K Friend in Mont Co:
Anne's House 242 Barren Hill Road Conshohocken PA 19428
Wed July 16, 5-7pm
Wed July 30, 5-7pm

Monday, June 30 Statewide Call to Action for Public Education
Education Voters PA
It is hard to imagine, but the PA House advanced a state budget in Harrisburg that is far worse for public schools than the budget Governor Corbett proposed earlier this year. 
The PA House is calling to eliminate the $241 million increase in state funding for proposed Ready to Learn Block grants and replace this with a paltry $70 million increase in Basic Education Funding.Under the House budget, PA school districts would lose about 70% of the increases in state funding they were expecting to receive this year, funding that they were relying on to balance their budgets.
The House budget is irresponsible and unacceptable.  It does not call for a shale tax or a cigarette tax.  Instead, it relies on the sale of state liquor stores (which the Senate has so far not supported), gimmicky sources of one-time funding, and the suspension of selected tax credits to balance the budget.
Budget negotiations are just beginning. While the budget is still fluid and negotiations are taking place, advocates must speak out loudly and with one voice in support of responsible funding for public schools this year. If we don't speak up, public education will likely receive little more than scraps in the budget this year.
Mark your calendar for Monday, June 30th – and do 3 things in 10 minutes to make a difference! 

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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