Tuesday, June 3, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 3: In God We Trust? How about a bill that would require charter and cyber schools to post their PA School Performance Profile scores prominently in any advertising paid for with public tax dollars?

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Pennsylvania Education Policy Roundup for June 3, 2014:
In God We Trust?  How about a bill that would require charter and cyber schools to post their PA School Performance Profile scores prominently in any advertising paid for with public tax dollars?

Blogger Rant:

In God We Trust?  Budget; Pension Reform; Charter School Reform; Special Ed Funding; Plancon - "Fiddling While Rome Burns" comes to mind.

At a recent school board meeting I voted against authorizing a payment to Agora Cyber Charter School.  Why?  During the NCLB regime, Agora never once made AYP; this year their PA School Performance Profile Score was 48.3 (scale of 100).  In my district, our Middle School score was 94; our High School score was 96.4.  Agora is run by K12, Inc., a for-profit company founded by convicted bond felon Michael Milken.  K12 paid it's CEO $13 million from 2009 through 2013 and spent our tax dollars on over 19,000 local TV commercials.  I do not believe Agora should receive one cent of my neighbors' tax dollars.

Instead of posting "In God We Trust", how about a bill that would require charter and cyber schools to post their PA School Performance Profile scores prominently in any advertising paid for with public tax dollars?

Pennsylvania bill encourages schools 
to post ‘In God We Trust’ and the Bill of Rights
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 2, 2014 11:44 PM
The state House of Representatives on Monday approved legislation encouraging schools to post the national motto, “In God We Trust,” and the Bill of Rights.  The bill passed the chamber 172-24. It originally would have required school districts to display the motto, but the House unanimously amended it to say that schools “may” display “In God We Trust,” along with the Bill of Rights.  Its sponsor, Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, said schools are free to post the motto but that many fear lawsuits.

"Governors and lawmakers create one-time revenue sources via accounting tricks, like pushing certain bills back to another fiscal year or dipping into specialty accounts, to cover shortfalls. But Corbett's proposed 2014-15 budget already uses some of those tricks to boost spending by 3 percent to $29.4 billion, which includes an additional $400 million for public schools and $25 million in college scholarships for middle-class students."
Tax hikes, spending cuts and other ideas considered to close state budget gap
Revenue for the month came in $108 million below estimates.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 11:47 p.m. EDT, June 2, 2014
HARRISBURG — New taxes on natural gas drillers, and on smokers. Spending cuts. Online gambling. Changes to the liquor store system. Even bills to shrink the size of the 253-member Legislature.  These ideas and more are floating around the state Capitol this week as lawmakers returned Monday to face a deficit that got worse — May revenue collections came in $108 million below estimates. The state's budget shortfall now is estimated at $612 million by June 30 — and $1.3 billion or higher within a year.  That is an economic picture Gov. Tom Corbett and most lawmakers were hoping to avoid amid voter demands Harrisburg spend more on education to make up for previous state cuts. The governor, half the Senate and all in the House face re-election.  "What's important is for us to produce a document, a spending plan, that is responsible and responsive to the public opinion," said Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, Senate majority whip.
"But, as state Budget Secretary Charles Zogby reaffirmed Monday, every new monthly shortfall pushes those and any other hoped-for 2014-15 spending increases a little (or a lot) further out of reach.  "If you just did a budget within the existing revenues.... you'd have no new funding  for basic education (k-12), no new funding for higher education, no new funding to reduce waiting lists for those with intellectual disabilities, and we'd still probably have to go back and look at further cuts to balance," Zogby said."
Home stretch in Pennsylvania's budget season begins with another revenue stumble
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com on June 02, 2014 at 5:52 PM, updated June 02, 2014 at 6:45 PM
This story was updated at 6:45 p.m. with some information from a Monday meeting of legislative leaders.
Pennsylvania's streak of state tax collections falling below budget projections continues.  The state Department of Revenue said Monday general fund revenues came in $108 million below projections in May.  It's the sixth month in a row revenues haven't hit budget targets, leaving state government $532.5 million short for the fiscal year-to-date.  None of which is doing any good for the digestive tracts of school district officials or those fighting to grow services for adults with intellectual disabilities, two groups primed to benefit from Gov. Tom Corbett's election-year largesse this year.  Corbett, in February, proposed a total increase of $306 million in education spending, most of it targeted for public schools, and another $29 million to expand home and community-based services to help young adults with Down Syndrome, autism or other challenges live independently.

Corbett shuns tax increases amid worsening outlook
BY MARC LEVY Associated Press June 2, 2014 Updated 11 hours ago
HARRISBURG, PA. — Gov. Tom Corbett remains steadfast against raising taxes as a way to solve the state's growing budget shortfall, telling lawmakers Monday that he would rather pare back spending and tap other existing sources of money to paper over a billion-dollar-plus problem.   Corbett told leaders of the Legislature's Republican majorities in a closed-door meeting that he wants to balance the budget with spending cuts and one-time money transfers, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jake Corman said.  A Corbett spokesman did not dispute Corman's characterization, but also would not provide any details about what the Republican governor told lawmakers.  "We have a path to a reasonable, responsible budget that absent any new revenues would require the elimination of new spending proposals," spokesman Jay Pagni said.

GOP lawmaker offers own budget
CItizen's Voice BY ROBERT SWIFT Published: June 2, 2014
HARRISBURG — A maverick Republican lawmaker from Bucks County has unveiled his own state budget proposal, a departure in these uncertain fiscal times from the massive documents produced by appropriations committee staffs.  The proposal by Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bensalem, offers an alternative approach to recent budgets under GOP Gov. Tom Corbett.
DiGirolamo wants to tap new revenue for state coffers from business taxes, including a severance tax on natural gas production; accept a federally funded expansion of the Medicaid program and restore cuts to the county-run human service programs.  DiGirolamo plans to push in the weeks ahead to see which of his ideas could be included in the fiscal 2014-15 budget.

It's Wolf 51-31 percent over Corbett in new Rasmussen poll: Monday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com  on June 02, 2014 at 8:22 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
In case you're wondering what kind of bounce a 40-point primary victory gets you, look no further than the first Rasmussen poll of Pennsylvania's general election race for governor.  There, York County businessman Tom Wolf, a Democrat, leads Republican Gov. Tom Corbett 51 percent to 31 percent, with 14 percent undecided.  Those numbers, of course, are sure to shift as the campaign swings into full gear this summer and the air wars begin in earnest.

"More than one-third of Pennsylvania's school districts have applied for exceptions to increase property taxes above state-imposed limits, because the retirement system for school employees is gobbling up more and more of the funding each district receives to educate kids."
Beware, taxpayers - zombie pensions are eating your bacon: Stephen Bloom
PennLive Op-Ed  By Rep. Stephen Bloom on June 02, 2014 at 11:06 AM
For reasons that remain obscure, everyone loves talking about zombies. For reasons a bit more obvious, everyone loves loving bacon. Meanwhile, if there's one thing nobody loves talking about and nobody loves loving, it's pension reform. But zombie pensions are eating your bacon, so listen up!  The Commonwealth operates two pension programs for state workers and educators: the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) and the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). The systems were supposed to be fed a steady diet of employer and employee contributions and investment earnings. But now, due to years of skimpy feeding and overly generous benefits, they have become insatiable zombies with massive appetites for taxpayer bacon. And the amount necessary to satisfy their hunger grows with each passing minute.

Report calls hybrid pension proposal a bad deal for future hires and taxpayers
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com on June 02, 2014 at 5:45 PM
A proposed hybrid pension plan would lead to draconian pension benefit cuts for new state and school employees and produce little savings while potentially triggering a spending spree for the next few years, according to a report issued today from the labor-supported Keystone Research Center of Harrisburg.  The center's executive director Steve Herzenberg said the defined benefit-defined contribution retirement savings program, proposed by Rep. Mike Tobash, R-Schuylkill, is not the answer to addressing the $47 billion unfunded liability that the pension systems have accrued for benefits owed to current and past employees.

If lawmakers lower pension payments to balance budget, ratings agencies will not be pleased
By Jeff Frantz | jfrantz@pennlive.com on June 02, 2014 at 9:30 AM
When a state is facing a budget shortfall of more than $1 billion -- like Pennsylvania does right now -- it's going to have to make a lot of tough choices.  Here's one lawmakers face this month as they craft a balanced budget: If they overhaul the pension system for newly hired teachers and state workers, which would reduce the state's future pension bill, should they direct less money to paying what is already owed?  Right now, Pennsylvania is paying less than what actuaries say it should be into its pension fund, thanks to what is called a collared rate. By "tapering the collars," that is continuing to pay less for a longer period of time, the state and school districts would save money next fiscal year.  That would make balancing a budget easier. Gov. Tom Corbett's budget proposal calls for saving by $170 million next year by putting less money toward the state's pension debt of nearly $50 billion.  But "tapering the collars" comes with potential hazards. Namely, the ratings agencies that go a long way to determining how expensive it is for states to borrow do not like collars. They want to see a state is putting the kind of money actuaries say is necessary toward pension expenses.

PhillyDeals: Plan to stall growing gap in state pension
By Joseph N. DiStefano, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: June 01, 2014
How to get out of a $50 billion hole?  First, stop digging, reasons State Rep. Mike Tobash (R., Pottsville).  Tobash has a plan - a moderate plan, by today's standards - to stall the growing gap between the billions Pennsylvania's politically appointed pension trustees have invested, in hopes the money will magically grow very fast, and the tens of billions actually needed to keep future pensions flowing to ex-teachers, prison guards, legislators, and other public servants.

Avon Grove plan to outsource custodial jobs angers workers
The Avon Grove School District plans to outsource its 26 custodian jobs next school year as part of a cost-saving plan, and longtime workers who will lose pensions and some benefits - and maybe their jobs - are angry.  Within the next 15 years, most school districts facing tightening budgets are likely to outsource services that do not directly educate students, said Joseph O'Brien, executive director of the Chester County Intermediate Unit, which serves Chester County's 12 school districts and is brokering Avon Grove's outsourcing.  O'Brien said the majority of districts in the county have considered such moves to save money in one of the only areas where there is flexibility.

The Bravo Group BY SARAH BATTISTI  JUNE 2, 2014
A $1.8 billion deficit, a pension system that needs to be addressed, drilling on state lands, an outdated liquor delivery system, paycheck protection, civil rights and above all else (just ask anyone) a severance tax…the holy grail to fix the Commonwealth’s fiscal problems.  As the legislative session returns today, there will be plenty to talk about. But which card is played first and who wins? When we discuss winning issues in Pennsylvania this time of year can be like building a house of cards. You can build an entire neighborhood, but in the end there may be one house left standing or none at all.

Are These Marcellus Shale Drillers Being Taxed Too Much? Or Not Enough?
The Motley Fool By Arjun Sreekumar
Over the past few years, surging shale gas production from Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale has propelled the state to become the second largest gas-producing state in the country, recently inching ahead of Louisiana and behind only Texas.   In addition to its positive impact on the state's economy, surging shale gas output from the Marcellus is also lining the state's coffers with hundreds of millions of dollars from so-called drilling impact fees. Yet some argue that Marcellus shale drillers should pay the state even more money. Are they right?

DN Editorial: Inaction/proactive
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Tuesday, June 3, 2014, 3:01 AM
THE SCHOOL Reform Commission did the right thing last week in delaying a vote on the district's budget for next year.
By failing to pass a budget by June 1, the district is in technical violation of the city charter, but Superintendent William Hite, SRC chairman Bill Green and other members of the commission could not in good conscience pass the document before them. Had they done so, formal steps would have to be taken to send out notices laying off more than 1,000 teachers and school staff, cut more into scarce services in the schools and hobble the district's ability to provide even the most basic of education.  "Our severely under-resourced school system threatens the future of one of America's greatest cities," Hite said.  He is right, of course. Philadelphia cannot hope to advance and revive without an educated workforce - and without a functioning school system that educates them.

Editorial: Glimmers of optimism
the notebook Summer 2014
With a bleak financial predicament facing Philadelphia public schools, it is hard to maintain optimism about the future of public education here. As the Notebookreflects on 20 years of publishing in pursuit of educational quality and equity, we cannot say students are better off than they were in 1994. But we do see encouraging trends – both growing wisdom and evidence that an informed, engaged community can make a difference.
For example, we know now that the early years are critical for child development and that high-quality pre-K can help ensure success in school. In 1994, full-day kindergarten still was missing from most high-poverty schools here. That fight has been won, and now the public campaign has moved to expanding access to quality pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds. With most state legislators and the governor up for election this year, the “Pre-K for PA” campaign is positioned to win a statewide commitment to new investments in early education.
The Notebook is proud of the gains that have been made on another key equity issue – building awareness of how harsh disciplinary practices lead to unequal punishment of Black and Brown students and the criminalization of young people. In 2002

Philadelphia Tragedy Highlights Role of School Nurses
Tragedy resonates beyond Philadelphia
Education Week By Denisa Superville and Evie Blad Published Online: June 2, 2014
The death last month of a Philadelphia elementary student who fell ill at a school that did not have a full-time nurse on duty has reignited debate in the city and nationwide over the importance of school nurses and the reasons why they are among the first to go when money becomes scarce.  Sebastian Gerena's death has been attributed to a congenital heart defect, but that hasn't stopped some from wondering whether the outcome would have been different if a full-time nurse had been stationed at the school. The student's death came eight months after Laporshia Massey, 12, died after an asthma attack at a different Philadelphia public school that also did not have a full-time nurse.  The two deaths have led some parents and residents to call for an end to years of budget cuts that have reduced the number of nurses in the district from 289 in 2011 to 179 in the 2013-14 school year, according to the local union.

Charter School Operator in Chicago Charged With Defrauding Investors
Education Week By Michele Molnar on June 2, 2014 5:43 PM | No comments
A Chicago charter school operator was charged Monday in federal court with defrauding investors in a $37.5 million bond offering for school construction, according to a statement from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which filed the complaint.  The UNO Charter School Network, Inc. and United Neighborhood Organization of Chicago made "materially misleading statements about transactions that presented a conflict of interest," according to the commission's release based on its charging documents.  The issue came to light after the Chicago Sun-Times produced a series of articles about the neighborhood organization receiving a $98 million grant for charter school construction, and how much of that went to well-connected allies of the organization.

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades
New York Times By MARIA KONNIKOVA JUNE 2, 2014
Does handwriting matter?
Not very much, according to many educators. The Common Core standards, which have been adopted in most states, call for teaching legible writing, but only in kindergarten and first grade. After that, the emphasis quickly shifts to proficiency on the keyboard.  But psychologists and neuroscientists say it is far too soon to declare handwriting a relic of the past. New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.
Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.

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

PCCY invites you to get on the School Spirit Bus to Harrisburg on Tuesday June 10th for Fair and Full School Funding!
Public Citizens for Children and Youth
On Tuesday June 10th, Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) will be going to Harrisburg.  Join committed parents, leaders, and community members from around state to make it clear to Harrisburg that PA students need fair and full funding now!  We are providing free transportation to and from Harrisburg as well as lunch.   Please arrive at the United Way Building located at 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway no later than8:15am.  The bus will depart at 8:30am sharp! Reserve your seat today by emailing us at info@pccy.org or calling us at 215-563-5848 x11. You can download and share our flyer by clicking here. We hope to see you there!

Pennsylvania Education Summit Wednesday, June 11, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM (EDT) Camp Hill, PA
PA Business-Education Partnership
Welcome By Governor Tom Corbett (invited)
Remarks Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq (confirmed)
Perceptions & comments of business leaders, educators, college presidents, and advocacy groups

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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