Tuesday, July 1, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 1: Happy Fiscal New Year! Governor refuses to sign budget without pension reform. Philly SRC adopts $2.6B 'placeholder' budget

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 1, 2014:
Happy Fiscal New Year!  Governor refuses to sign budget without pension reform.  Philly SRC adopts $2.6B 'placeholder' budget

Gov. Tom Corbett refuses to sign budget without pension reform
House and Senate sign off on $29 billion spending plan.
By Steve Esack, Call Harrisburg Bureau 12:45 a.m. EDT, July 1, 2014
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett swiftly announced late Monday night that he would not sign a $29.1 billion budget the Legislature had just approved.
He is holding out — at least for a night and perhaps longer — because he wants lawmakers to reduce the state's and school districts' pension payments to free up money in the fiscal year that starts Tuesday and pass a bill that reduces pension costs in decades to come.
"We are elected to serve the best interests of the people of Pennsylvania," Corbett said in a statement issued 22 minutes after the House approved the budget. "Leadership is not always about the popular choices; it's about difficult choices.
Governor refuses to sign state budget
Corbett prepared to miss budget deadline to get his initiatives done
By Karen Langley & Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau June 30, 2014 11:55 PM
HARRISBURG -- With an hour left in Pennsylvania’s fiscal year, Gov. Tom Corbett said in a statement last night he would withhold his signature from a $29.1 billion budget sent to him by the Republican General Assembly while he considers its effect on the state.
In his statement, the Republican governor cited the failure of legislators to deliver measures reshaping the retirement systems for state and public school workers. He cited the rising costs of pensions under current law.  “The budget I received tonight makes significant investments in our common priorities of education, jobs and human services,” he said. “It does not address all the difficult choices that still need to be made.”  Mr. Corbett said he would continue to push for a pension bill and that he was “withholding signing the budget passed by the General Assembly while I deliberate its impact on the people of Pennsylvania.”

Corbett won’t sign Pa. no-tax budget yet
LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 12:04 AM POSTED: Monday, June 30, 2014, 10:58 PM
HARRISBURG - Gov. Corbett refused late Monday to sign a $29.1 billion budget that the Republican-controlled legislature scrambled to deliver to him just 90 minutes before the midnight deadline.  The legislature approved a plan that includes some increased money for schools, and would not raise any taxes or impose new ones.  But Corbett, a Republican facing a tough reelection battle in the fall, signaled disappointment that the legislature was unable to deliver on one of his priorities: a measure that would change pension benefits for new employees.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20140630_As_deadline_looms__Pa__passes_no-tax_budget.html#skuAK7trvT2E2mqu.99

Pa. House passes 2014-15 budget, sending plan to Gov. Tom Corbett for approval
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com 
on June 30, 2014 at 10:30 PM, updated July 01, 2014 at 3:06 AM
A $29.1 billion general fund budget to keep Pennsylvania's state government in business passed the state House Monday night, just 90 minutes before the July 1 dawn of the new fiscal year.
Rep. Bryan Barbin speaks at the Capitol on the last day of the fiscal year Monday in  Harrisburg.
Gov. Tom Corbett — who as early as Sunday afternoon was still pressing lawmakers for major changes to Pennsylvania's public pension systems — was being coy about his plans as the House debate progressed.  The House vote broke mostly on party lines, with 108 Republicans voting for a plan they praised as providing a modest boost in school funding and replenishing the ranks of the Pennsylvania State Police in spite of severe fiscal challenges without any increases in state taxes.  All 92 Democrats and three Republicans were opposed.

Corbett wants General Assembly to send him 'meaningful pension reform' before signing the budget
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com on July 01, 2014 at 12:08 AM, updated July 01, 2014 at 3:07 AM
When Gov. Tom Corbett took a look at the $29.1 billion general fund budget plan that the General Assembly sent to him on Monday, it was missing something he wanted.
It lacked any meaningful pension reform to address the single expenditure in the budget that is eating up 60 cents of every new dollar.  So less than half-hour after the House voted 108-95 on a mostly party-line vote to approve the plan that increases spending by a little less than 2 percent, Corbett made the decision to sacrifice his perfect record of signing an appropriations bill before the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.  "I will continue to work with the Legislature toward meaningful pension reform," the governor said in a statement. "I am withholding signing the budget passed by the General Assembly while I deliberate its impact on the people of Pennsylvania."  Democrats were puzzled that Corbett would hold up the budget since the pension reform proposal he supported has zero impact on the 2014-15 pension contributions.

Corbett promises review of budget, makes no promises of a result
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com on July 01, 2014 at 2:38 AM, updated July 01, 2014 at 6:25 AM
Leaving his Capitol office about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, Gov. Tom Corbett and one of his top aides sought to tamp down any impending sense of Capitol chaos over Pennsylvania's unsigned budget.  Corbett said he had had "very nice conversations" with several top Republican legislative leaders shortly before, and that he planned to spend part of his workday Tuesday reviewing the $29.1 billion spending plan that passed both the state Senate and House Monday night, along with the related codes.  "There was not an agreed-to budget (with legislative leaders) necessarily, on the details," Corbett explained. "So we'll get a chance to take a look at it and we'll make our decisions."  But the budget is clearly not all that Corbett is going to be taking a look at.
The decision not to sign the spending plan immediately is also part of a calculated gamble designed to give the governor at least another day - or maybe 10 - to press for positive action on a plan to reduce Pennsylvania's long-term pension costs.  It is the issue Corbett has spent most of his political capital on in recent weeks, and with Monday's move it seemed as if the embattled governor was putting all of his chips in the center of the table.

How much of the Ready-to-Learn block grant money will your school district receive?
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com on June 30, 2014 at 8:39 PM
Public schools across Pennsylvania will all be eligible to receive a share of the $200 million set aside in the proposed 2014-15 state budget for a newly named block grant program named Ready to Learn.  This program replaces the Accountability Block Grant, which was funded this past year at $100 million. And, like that program, its uses are targeted to any single or combination of 11 educational initiatives.
Among those initiatives are:
·         Offering preschool and full-day kindergarten;
·         Providing supplemental instruction for the Keystone Exams;
·         Finding ways to customize instruction using technology.
Districts and charter schools must seek the state Department of Education's approval for how they intend to use their block grant funds.
In addition to the block grant, districts will receive the same amount of the $5.5 billion in state funding being put into basic education that they received this past year.

A budget? Sure. But it's a patchwork that'll have to be fixed again: John L. Micek
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com on June 30, 2014 at 10:58 PM, updated June 30, 2014 at 11:00 PM
(This post has been updated to reflect House approval of the budget and comment from Gov. Tom Corbett.)  By the time majority Republicans in the state House and Senate wrapped up a flurry of votes late Monday that resulted in them sending a new budget to Gov. Tom Corbett, they could claim a victory of sorts.  Republicans delivered a fourth straight on-time and balanced spending plan.  But giving the GOP credit for that is kind of like giving the sun credit for rising every day: The former is the bare minimum lawmakers are supposed to do. The latter is required by law.  But that didn't stop some of them from taking a premature victory lap anyway.

Some Delaware County politicians happier than others with 2014 budgeting process
By John Kopp, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 07/01/14, 12:35 AM EDT
State lawmakers worked throughout the weekend to piece together a budget before Tuesday’s midnight deadline.  The result was a $29.1 billion spending plan that does not raise taxes, but increases spending over the current fiscal year by $723 million. However, another $200 million was being added to the end of the current fiscal year, making a total increase of $923 million.
The budget increases spending on public schools, pensions, healthcare and social services. It does not include revenue generated from liquor privatization, as proposed by the state House last week, or an extraction tax on Marcellus Shale.  The Republican-controlled legislature scrambled throughout a busy June to eliminate a $1.7 billion structural deficit from the budget plan initially proposed by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in February.  Some local lawmakers were more pleased with the budgeting process than others.

Waiting on Harrisburg, Philly Schools adopt 'placeholder' budget
By unanimous vote, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission passed a budget Monday night that includes a $93 million placeholder for money that it hopes comes through if a political logjam in Harrisburg breaks.  Short of that, district leaders say they'd have to choose between laying off 1,300 employees, or shortening the school year.  What once had seemed a far-fetched idea on the fringes, cutting the Philly school year short of the state-mandated 180 days is now being discussed openly by Superintendent William Hite.  Hite acknowledged that would be a major burden on families, but, he said, the alternative could be worse.
"I think 40 students in a class is unrealistic and not responsible," he said. "And I think that as we think about the elimination of 1,300 more individuals, I'm not so sure that will leave our schools with the resources they need to ensure safety and security."

SRC adopts a $2.6B budget with a $93M question
Kristen A. Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 1:07 AM
Gambling on ongoing budget negotiations in Harrisburg, the School Reform Commission on Monday night adopted a $2.6 billion budget with a gigantic question mark.
The placeholder spending plan means the Philadelphia School District will not need to lay off 1,300 workers or swell class sizes to 40 and beyond - yet. But it contains a $93 million gap that needs to be filled either with revenue or, if state legislators do not come through, cuts.
The reductions, including the layoffs, bigger class sizes, and fewer student supports and security measures, would leave the district in such rough shape that schools might not open as planned on Sept. 8.  "It's not acceptable, and we have no intention of creating that kind of environment," Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said at a special SRC meeting Monday. He called the harm that could be done "irreversible."

SRC adopts $2.6B 'placeholder' budget
WITH STATE funding still up in the air, the School Reform Commission last night unanimously adopted a $2.6 billion budget that assumes additional support from the state to prevent making devastating cuts - although the pain may only be delayed.  The district's budget includes a "placeholder" for $93 million in additional revenue from the state to close the district's budget shortfall - a move urged by Mayor Nutter in a letter to commissioners yesterday - but that money is far from certain.  "We're going to do this placeholder, and, hopefully, over the next week or so [it] will be made up with revenue," SRC chairman Bill Green said before the vote. "We're really punting on our difficult decisions tonight by passing a placeholder budget. We have [advocated], and will continue to advocate, for additional funding."

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

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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