Thursday, July 10, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 10: 190,000 School kids in Philly don't have a lobbyist

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 10, 2014:
190,000 School kids in Philly don't have a lobbyist

"If lawmakers don't find a solution to what Corbett calls a pension crisis, costs will steadily rise for taxpayers. Pennsylvania will raise payments into the state's pension systems by $600 million in the new budget year. The state has $47 billion in unfunded liability in pension obligations."
Veto, special session studied by Corbett to push Pa. pension reform
TribLive By Brad Bumsted Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 10:48 p.m.Updated 5 hours ago
HARRISBURG — Republican Gov. Tom Corbett is strongly considering using his veto power on Thursday to strike funding for the Legislature and calling a special session on pension reform, sources close to the governor say.  The legislature's operating budget would be $280 million in the 2014-15 budget. There's $50 million in proposed funding for legislative agencies and up to $153 million in a so-called legislative surplus. All three are in play as Corbett considers vetoing budget line items, sources told the Tribune-Review.
The governor has a constitutional obligation to sign a balanced budget.
Lawmakers failed to act on Corbett's request to address the cost of public employee pensions before recessing for summer. They're scheduled to return in mid-September.
Cutting the Legislature's money and calling lawmakers back into session could be an attractive move to a governor seeking re-election and trailing in public opinion polls. Yet analysts who know Corbett aren't sure he'll do so. He could sign or veto the entire $29.1 billion budget.
A tweet from the Patriot News noted a 10:30 am schedule for the Governor to speak this morning
Corbett to speak on budget deliberations Thursday morning
By Charles Thompson | on July 09, 2014 at 10:10 PM, updated July 09, 2014 at 10:19 PM
The next act in Pennsylvania's increasingly tense budget standoff will play out Thursday morning in Gov. Tom Corbett's reception room at the state Capitol.  That's when, administration officials said Wednesday night, the governor will make his next public statements about his 10-day ponder over whether to sign the proposed $29.1 billion spending plan, or send it back to the Legislature with a veto message demanding more work.

Pa. budget widens gap between haves and have-nots
Pottstown Mercury Editorial POSTED: 07/07/14, 6:09 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
In this year’s state budget negotiations, the Pennsylvania Legislature scaled back in some categories on the proposal put forth by Gov. Tom Corbett, widening the gap for some school districts between the haves and the have-nots. Pottstown schools came out on the losing end.
Pottstown ranked 16th in the state for the funding lost per student between what the governor requested and what the House of Representatives approved — a loss of $133 per student — according to an analysis by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a liberal advocacy group.  Wealthier districts fared better in the reduction.
For example, Owen J. Roberts lost only $52 per student in the change from Corbett’s budget to the House version. Upper and Lower Merion school districts, two of the wealthiest districts in Montgomery County, each lost only $31 per student, according to the analysis.
Pottstown’s losses will keep it from having a balanced budget.

Without cigarette tax, Philly schools chief says layoffs to begin Aug. 15
After winning a major victory in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last week, the proposed cigarette tax for Philly schools appears stalled in a game of legislative pingpong.
The Senate Tuesday sent the bill back to the House by adding amendments, and now the House isn't scheduled to reconsider the measure until Aug. 4.  School leaders say that leaves plans for opening schools in September in total disarray.  The school district has been counting on the $2-per-pack cigarette tax as a recurring source of funding in the face of a $93 million budget gap.
Without swift passage, Superintendent William Hite said 1,300 staffers would be laid off, and classrooms would see student-teacher ratios swell to as great as 41 to one. 

Hite: Layoffs at Philadelphia School District if no cigarette tax by Aug. 15
If there is no cigarette-tax agreement in Harrisburg by August 15, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. would have to lay off employees and consider a delay in the opening of schools, he said Wednesday.  "There's a lot of uncertainty around what our next move is," Hite saidWednesday.
The state Senate passed an amended cigarette tax bill this week, but the legislation still requires House approval. The House is out on summer recess and won't return until a special session called for August 4. Even then, passage is not assured.

"Tobacco companies spent $6 million on lobbying last year in Harrisburg and have so far spent $1.7 million in 2014, although that figure does not include convenience stores that sell tobacco products, according to data from the Department of State.  The most vocal lobbyists fighting the city cigarette tax represent Altria Group, formerly part of Philip Morris, one of the largest tobacco companies in the world, as well as lobbyists for distributors who sell tobacco products to retailers.
In 2013, Altria spent $395,698 on lobbying in Pennsylvania, according to its financial disclosure reports. In the first three months of this year alone - the last information available - the company spent $88,503.  Altria employs some of the biggest lobbying firms in Harrisburg, including Greenlee Partners and Gmerek Government Relations. Those two firms alone contribute tens of thousands of dollars to state legislators every year."
No pressure from Big Tobacco on tax, say Senate Republicans
POSTED: Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 7:51 PM
HARRISBURG - Philadelphia was one state Senate vote away from winning its $2-per-pack cigarette tax in the General Assembly on Tuesday.  But, after a late-hour lobbying effort by tobacco manufacturers, the senators jammed in a provision setting a five-year expiration on the tax.  So, despite the prospect of delayed public school openings and hundreds of layoffs, the bill was sent back to the state House, which had departed for its summer break and may not return until Aug. 4.  That news sent Mayor Nutter, on hand for the deliberations, into a tailspin, and he accused Big Tobacco of "trying to take money away from Philadelphia schoolchildren."
On Wednesday, Sen. Jake Corman (R., Centre), chairman of the powerful appropriations committee, dismissed the notion that tobacco lobbyists played a significant role in adding the temporary language.

"The Altria Group's political-action committee has given Corman $9,500 in campaign contributions since 2009, including $2,000 this year even though he is unopposed in the primary and general election. The company also has given $31,500 since 2009 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, which works to keep the GOP in control of the state Senate's chambers.
A political-action committee for R.J. Reynolds gave Corman a $10,000 campaign contribution in March."
Smoke signals: Tobacco lobbyists take advantage of legislative discord
THE MARLBORO Man and Joe Camel helped push into legislative limbo a new $2-per-pack tobacco tax in Philly that would help to fund the city's public schools.
Harrisburg lobbyists for the nation's largest cigarette company, the Altria Group - maker of the Marlboro, Parliament and Virginia Slims brands - initially had opposed the tax altogether.
A lobbyist for the nation's second-largest cigarette company, R.J. Reynolds - maker of Camel, Pall Mall and Kool brands - also was involved in the effort.
Although the lobbyists were unable to kill the cigarette tax, disagreements between the state House and Senate provided a window Tuesday for them to push to include a "sunset provision" limiting the tax to five years.

"Legislative leaders of both parties declined to provide a list of names and locations set to receive millions of dollars for projects contained in the bill. The bill's vague language means taxpayers would find it difficult to determine who gets grants, the Tribune-Review reported on Tuesday."
Taxpayers on the hook for $1M more for Consol Energy Center lease
TribLive By Brad Bumsted Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 11:00 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Taxpayers will pay almost $1 million more for the Consol Energy Center lease to the PittsburghPenguins as part of a budget-related bill the Senate approved on Tuesday and sent to Gov. Tom Corbett for signature or veto.  A 2007 arena deal received state backing as part of a 30-year package to keep the National Hockey League team in Pittsburgh with an Uptown stadium. Under a deal brokered by ex-Gov. Ed Rendell, a number of public and private entities agreed to pay the lease held by the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority.

Legislative leftovers
John Baer, Daily News Political Columnist POSTED: WEDNESDAY, JULY 9, 2014, 8:17 AM
Let's see what they left behind.
State lawmakers adjourned until mid-September after delivering a no-new-taxes budget to Gov. Corbett's desk and after leaving the Philly cigs tax issue unresolved in a way that threatens the opening of city schools this fall.  But they also left behind a litany of unfinished and, for those who care about government reforms, much-wished-for actions.

Cigarette Tax Stalled; School Funding in Danger
Derailed by dispute over hotel taxes, new five-year sunset provision. BY JOEL MATHIS  |  JULY 9, 2014 AT 5:22 AM
This is why you don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched: Yes, both the Pennsylvania House and the Pennsylvania Senate have given approval to bills allowing Philly to raise its cigarette tax by $2 per pack to fund local schools — but they haven’t approved the same version of the bill so far. And that’s turning out to be a big problem.
The House version ran into a Senate buzzsaw on Tuesday — with the upper chamber balking at provisions in the bill that would allow some Pennsylvania cities to raise their hotel taxes. Senators began amending the House bill (it now includes a five-year sunset provision on the cigarette tax) but it’s uncertain the House will return from its break to pass the revised version — which would leave Philly in limbo — or whether, in fact, it would approve those revisions.

Williams defends vote for sunset amendment on cigarette tax
thenotebook on Jul 9, 2014 05:05 PM
Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams has been criticized for being the only Philadelphia Democrat in the Senate to vote for an amendment that would "sunset" the $2-a-pack cigarette tax for Philadelphia schools after five years.  In a statement sent to reporters, Williams said he did so as the best choice available to get the tax approved.
Following is the text of his statement:

Still no Budget
Yinzercation Blog July 9, 2014
When I left for Alaska ten days ago, parents, teachers, and community members from across the state were still camped out at the Capitol building keeping a vigil for a better budget. The group from Pittsburgh included many ActionUnited volunteers, who worked around the clock.
Having just returned to the lower-48, I fully expected to see news of a final state budget. Oh, but no. In case you haven’t been paying attention, or have been off-line in the wilderness like me, here’s the current situation.

Rock the Capitol Posted by By Mark Schwartz at 9 July, at 10 : 53 AMPrint
Every year with the coming of the summer solstice, Philadelphia School District honchos put up a hue and cry for money to put a band-aid on a total debacle.   Every year we hear of cuts beyond the bone and the prospect of school not opening the Fall. I wonder if it would matter given the level of education currently being delivered.  As in life, repeatedly crying wolf is tiring, has diminishing returns, and ultimately results in collective tone-deafness. The latest “rescue “got Philadelphia the power to levy a $2 a pack cigarette tax; hardly a growing or dependable revenue source, which yields a veritable drop in the ocean compared to the state budget. What’s more everyone agrees that this does not cover the deficit.

Special education taken over by testing frenzy: Letter
South Jersey Times Letters by Jack Scheidellon July 09, 2014 at 2:49 AM
To the Editor:
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, enamored of the magical power of tests, recently announced without qualifiers that students with disabilities do poorly in school and perform below their grade level in English and math.
This is a new bar for ignorance, insensitivity and flat-out lack of any cogent thought.
Now, what I call "rigoritis" — an experimental disease created in the Petri dishes of the pernicious labs of Duncan's Department of Education  — is spreading to special education students. "Rigoritis" conflates a combination of "rigor" and "tests."

"This push to simplify K-12 funding in the state leads into the second point—the new funding system would determine whether each student can be classified as an English-language learner, low-income, special education, or other designations, and assign additional funding for each such classification. Students could earn more than one such designation and therefore receive additional "weighted" funding from the state, although some are mutually exclusive."
Illinois Moves Towards Significant Shift in How Schools are Funded
Education Week State EdWatch by By Andrew Ujifusa on July 9, 2014 9:24 AM
About four months ago, I wrote about a proposal to overhaul how schools are funded in Illinois that seemed to resemble California's new Local Control Funding Formula. The basic elements of that plan, which came out of the state Senate education committee, were incorporated into Senate Bill 16 (called the School Funding Reform Act of 2014), which has passed the upper chamber of the state legislature and is now being considered in the House.
Here are the main elements of the bill, as described in an analysis for the Illinois State Board of Education:
• Create a single funding formula that provides simple, straight-forward and equitable means to distribute education funds to Illinois school districts.
• Prioritize resources where there is greater student need.
• Provide greater transparency about how funds are spent at the school level.
• Phase in the new funding formula over four years to allow districts to adjust to new spending levels.
The idea behind the "single funding formula" is to reduce and consolidate the number of funding streams coming from the state. The Senate committee's report that I wrote about in February said that having so many different and disparate sources of money for districts means school funding in Illinois lacks both clarity and predictability.

America’s Most Financially Disadvantaged School Districts and How They Got that Way
How State and Local Governance Causes School Funding Disparities
By Bruce D. Baker | July 9, 2014
Bruce D. Baker is a professor in the Department of Educational Theory, Policy and Administration at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
·         Download the report:
·         Download introduction & summary:
·         Read it in your browser:
This report explores some of the most financially disadvantaged school districts in the country and identifies a typology of conditions that have created or reinforced their disadvantage. Financially disadvantaged districts are those that serve student populations with much greater-than-average need but do so with much less-than average funding. The Education Law Center of New Jersey’s annual report, “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card,” uses a panel of the most recent three years of U.S. Census Bureau Fiscal Survey data on state and local revenues per pupil in order to determine which states achieve systematically greater funding per pupil in districts serving higher student poverty concentrations and which states maintain school funding systems where higher poverty districts have systematically fewer resources per pupil.
The same data have been used in follow-up analyses to identify the local public school districts across states that are saddled with greater-than-average student needs and less-than-average state and local revenue. As one might expect, numerous poorly funded local public school districts exist in the least fairly funded states. That is, where a state school finance system is such that higher-need districts on average have lower state and local revenue, there tends to be more high-need districts with lower state and local revenue. And as it turns out, there are unfairly funded districts in what are traditionally viewed as fairly funded states. In other words, poorly funded local public school districts exist in states where school finance systems are, on average, progressive. This report looks at why this happens—and what can be done about it.

Teaching in Pennsylvania -
EPLC "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - July 13 at 3:00 p.m. 
The next EPLC "Focus on Education" episode will air this coming Sunday, July 13 at 3:00 p.m. on PCN television.  This July 13 panel will discuss the status of the teaching profession in Pennsylvania; what it takes to become a teacher in the state; teacher preparation programs; whether there are efforts to attract more minority students to the teaching profession; why we lose a high percentage of new teachers after only a few years; the status of the new teacher evaluation system in Pennsylvania; and much more.
The panel will include: 
·         Ron Cowell, President of The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC) and Host of the "Focus on Education" programs;  
·         Dr. Theresa Barnaby, Director, Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality;
·         Ryan Devlin, 2013 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and Brockway Area High School English and Technology Teacher;
·         Dolores McCracken, PSEA Treasurer, Council Rock Education Foundation Treasurer, and parent education advocate; and
·         Dr. Sally A. Winterton, President, Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators.

Educational Collaborators Pennsylvania Summit Aug. 13-14
The Educational Collaborators, in partnership with the Wilson School District, is pleased to announce a unique event,  the Pennsylvania Summit featuring Google for Education on August 13th and 14th, 2014!  This summit is an open event primarily focused on Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks, Google Earth, YouTube, and many other effective and efficient technology integration solutions to help digitally convert a school district.  These events are organized by members of the Google Apps for Education community.

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 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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