Friday, July 18, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 18: Sturla: historically, no other administration has ever included pension costs when calculating levels of education funding

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 18, 2014:
Sturla: historically, no other administration has ever included pension costs when calculating levels of education funding

State Capitol gridlock? PA's state House GOP has been leading from the front: Sam Smith and Mike Turzai
PennLive Op-Ed  By Sam Smith and Mike Turzai on July 17, 2014 at 12:00 PM
State Reps. Sam Smith, of Jefferson County, and Mike Turzai, of Allegheny County, both Republicans, are respectively, the Speaker and Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Members of the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus have been affecting policy in Harrisburg since gaining the majority in 2011.  Those successful legislative policy initiatives have helped propel private sector job growth, brought back budgetary responsibility, pushed and passed unparalleled investments in education, and changed how Harrisburg operates.
Republicans in the legislature have been identifying both the needs of Pennsylvania's families and children, and the requirements of employees and employers, and then proactively moving an agenda of responsible solutions.

Top Dems decry pension proposal as Corbett tours state for support
By Kathleen Carey, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 07/17/14, 11:06 PM EDT |
As Gov. Tom Corbett stumps throughout the state to try to drum up support for pension reform, top state Democrats decried his plan as dangerously misleading and ineffective.  Corbett backs a proposal by state Rep. Mike Tobash, R-125, of Pottsville, which would have state employees retirement benefits covered by a defined benefit program, commonly known as a pension, up to $50,000 in salary and then switch to a 401(k) contribution after that amount.  Failing to pass the state Legislature, the governor is canvassing the state to garner public approval.

"Opportunity" for education dollars, hurt by tax breaks
Commonwealth Common Sense Blog by Rep. Mike Sturla Thursday, July 17, 2014
Crafting a state budget is all about priorities.
For four years now, Gov. Tom Corbett and his Republican colleagues leading the House and Senate have shown that giving tax breaks to some multi-national corporations, while refusing to tax others at all, is their priority and that funding public education is not.  Since he took office, Corbett has provided more than $2 billion in big-business tax cuts. Not to mention allowing multinational corporations to continue using the Delaware loophole to avoid paying taxes while, at the same time, refusing to implement a shale gas severance tax.
In an attempt to cover their tracks, Corbett and the Republicans are now trying to include funding for pensions as part of their calculations of education funding levels. But that's not flying with the parents and taxpayers in Pennsylvania who understand that funding for old pension obligations doesn't help a single student learn to read, write or solve a math equation. It never has, nor should it now be, included in the bottom line. For comparison sake, the total education spend, not including pension costs, (... because historically, no other administration has ever included pension costs when calculating levels of education funding) for 2008-09 -- the year before federal stimulus funding -- was $9.36 billion. Meanwhile, total education dollars spent in 2014-15, not including pension costs, (... because historically, no other administration has ever included pension costs when calculating education funding levels) is $9.18 billion. Clearly less funding, yet Corbett and the Republicans in an attempt to call a lame duck a swan, try to tout this as an increase.
Simply put -- Corbett and the Republican-led House and Senate have cut education funding in Pennsylvania by about $3 billion total over the past four years.

Rep. Grove: Pa. House did heavy lifting on education-funding requests
Lebanon Daily News Opinion By Rep. Seth Grove UPDATED:   07/15/2014 01:19:27 PM
Grove is a York County Republican lawmaker.
I recently read your editorial titled "State budget fiddling hurts schools" and wanted to update you on what the now enacted 2014-15 budget does to help school districts across this commonwealth.
Total PreK-12 education state spending in 2008-2009 was $9.6 billion (Rendell).
Total PreK-12 education state spending in 2009-2010 was $9.2 billion (Rendell).
Total PreK-12 education state spending in 2010-2011 was $8.9 billion (Rendell).
Total PreK-12 education state spending in 2011-2012 was $9.4 billion (Corbett).
Total PreK-12 education state spending in 2012-2013 was $9.7 billion (Corbett).
Total PreK-12 education state spending in 2013-2014 was $9.97 billion (Corbett).
Total PreK-12 education state spending in 2014-2015 is $10.6 billion (Corbett).
In the 2014-15 budget, we provided an increase of $100 million in flexible block grants to school districts, a $20 million increase for the first time since 2007 in special education funding and a $10 million increase to PlanCon. Here is what the school finance gurus had to say:

School funding disparate in Western Pennsylvania
Trib Live By Megan Harris Thursday, July 17, 2014, 11:18 p.m.
Pension funds and long-spent federal surplus dollars still weigh heavily on the minds of state leaders debating whether a budgetary boost to state education funding really qualifies as an increase at all.  Western Pennsylvania school districts account for close to one-fourth of the state's new $92 million in education grants divvied up by Gov. Tom Corbett's 2014-15 budget, according to budget numbers that the state House Committee on Appropriations' minority staff released this week.  Increases ranged statewide, from $169 in Montgomery County's Bryn Athyn School District — so small it contracts educational services to other school districts — to $15.9 million in Philadelphia.  In the region, Pittsburgh Public Schools led the pack, receiving nearly $1.58 million, about a 1 percent increase from 2013-14. Midland in Beaver County was allotted just under $34,000. Other regional districts varied widely between the two.

CapitolWire: Basic ed funding commission could tackle charter school issues that special ed commission could not
Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools website By Christen Smith Staff Reporter Capitolwire July 14, 2014
HARRISBURG (July 14) — As the dust of budget season settles around the state capitol Monday, education advocates regroup and prepare for a bigger — and arguably more complex — discussion centered on reforming how the government funds public education.  It’s a debate rife with many of the same pitfalls lawmakers and advocates alike stumbled into during last year’s Special Education Funding Commission hearings — an effort that many charter school advocates have said should have come after, not before, the Legislature reformed the basic education funding formula.  Charter schools, incidentally, led the opposition against the new special education funding formula passed earlier this month — a formula that lawmakers ultimately exempted charters from as a way to sidestep certain inequities found within the legislation.
This time around, charter schools anticipate a seat front and center at the Basic Education Funding Commission’s hearings.

PSEA: How state budget cuts affect your district (calculator)
PSEA websiteIn 2011, Gov. Tom Corbett slashed nearly $1 billion from Pennsylvania's public schools, creating a school funding crisis that is getting worse every year these funds are not restored.  Despite the governor's steadfast refusal to raise new revenue to fill the funding hole he created, legislators found a way to increase education funding modestly in the final 2014-15 budget. Unfortunately, the funding increase will be distributed with strings attached through the governor's "Ready to Learn" block grant – rather than through the basic education subsidy, the primary mechanism through which school districts receive state funding.

PASA Education Update for July 14, 2014
Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators
The Enacted 2014-15 State Budget: Last Week's Action…
Final Budget – Last week Tuesday the Senate returned to the Capitol for a one-day session to give final approval of the House-amended HB 278, the Fiscal Code bill that provides the mechanisms for distributing funds outlined in the budget. On Thursday, Gov. Corbett signed that bill and the $29.1 billion budget plan (HB 2328) into law.
The budget provides a spending increase of about $651 million, or about 2.3 percent. It also adds another $220 million to cover expenses from the 2013-14 fiscal year’s. As noted in the June 30 Update, the spending plan calls for NO significant increase in taxes or recurring revenues. Rather, it is based on one-time, non-recurring revenues and budget assumptions, including an assumption that an additional $224 million in revenues will be available for the general fund budget in remaining fiscal year 2013-14 and in 2014-15. (Efforts to pass a liquor privatization plan to generate revenue have apparently fallen well short.)  One-time revenues include transferring funds from the tobacco settlement, eliminating numerous tax credit programs (but not EITC), and delaying the state’s last payment to Medicaid managed care organizations (approx. $394 million in savings).

School districts say state pension crisis boosting local tax rates
Trib Live By Chris Foreman and Kelsey Shea Wednesday, July 16, 2014, 9:00 p.m. 
“Pac-Man” is poised to gobble a larger chunk of school district budgets starting this month.
The state's pension crisis, which Gov. Tom Corbett once likened to the insatiable video-game character, is among reasons that many Allegheny County school boards are hiking property tax rates for the 2014-15 year.  Higher pension payments from all districts are necessary to help fund the Public School Employees' Retirement System, or PSERS, which state officials project to be underfunded by $38.6 billion in the fiscal year that started July 1. Barring legislative action, districts' state-mandated contributions will increase from 16.9 percent per employee in 2013-14 to 21.4 percent in the new fiscal year.  An employer contribution rate that was as low as 1.1 percent in 2002 is paced to leap to 25.8 percent in 2015-16 and average 31.4 percent from 2016-17 through 2023-24.

Despite lifting moratorium, problems still abound in state PlanCon
PSBA's website Capitolwire by Christen Smith 7/17/2014
A break in the $2 billion logjam clogging the state's construction project reimbursement program, known as PlanCon, could flow as much as $80 million to school districts throughout the next year. Or maybe as little as $10 million -- it's hard to tell for sure. (Story posted with permission of Capitolwire.) Lawmakers on Tuesday cautioned that the exact dollar amount that will be freed up in the process through a tweak in the Fiscal Code is hard to predict because PlanCon, itself, remains a cumbersome and antiquated system of reimbursing school districts for construction costs.

Radio Times: A conversation with PFT president Jerry Jordan
WHYY Radio TImes with Marty Moss-CoaneTHURSDAY, JULY 17 audio runtime 52:01
Guest: Jerry Jordan
Throughout this past school year, Philadelphia teachers have been coping with the effects of a budget crisis that has resulted in more children in their classrooms, fewer, and in some cases, no counselors and nurses on site, a reduced number of school-based administrators and support staff, and a shortage of textbooks and supplies for their students, among other things. At the same time they have been working without a contract since August, 2013. Dividing the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) and the School District of Philadelphia are proposals around salary cuts, benefit reductions and a work-rule changes – all of which school officials say will help reduce the ongoing deficit. JERRY JORDAN is president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. He’s in the studio today to share his perspective on the challenges facing public education in Philadelphia.

The path forward: A Q&A with Education Voters PA's Susan Gobreski
the notebook By Bill Hangley Jr. on Jul 17, 2014 11:55 AM
With all the questions swirling around this year’s education budget, virtually everyone agrees on one thing: It won’t solve the Philadelphia School District’s big problems. Union officials, charter advocates, School Reform Commission officials, parent groups, Mayor Nutter, even President Obama’s top education official, agree that under the current status quo, Philadelphia students are not getting the education they deserve.  With that in mind, the Notebook has asked education advocates to weigh in on the bigger question: What’s the long-term path to a truly stable, well-funded, reliable school system? Over the next few weeks, we’ll run a series of Q&As with local leaders and ask for their thoughts on the route to a better place.
Our first interviewee is Susan Gobreski, executive director of Education Voters Pennsylvania, an advocacy group. A 20-year veteran of political activism in Pennsylvania, Gobreski’s goal is to fight for a “thorough and efficient public education” for all students, District and charter alike. 

People must show more interest in government
Morning Call Letter to the Editor by Scott Armstrong July 16, 2014
The writer is a member of the Allentown School Board.
Recently a vacancy was created on the Allentown School Board when a Democratic board member moved from the district. The district followed protocol to fill the seat, advertising the vacancy in the newspaper; board members and others encouraged interested parties to apply.
In May, the board interviewed two Democratic candidates. That's right. In Pennsylvania's third largest city, exactly two people cared enough about public education in Allentown to apply. Is this not a sad testament to the public's near-total apathy when it comes to civic involvement?
In the not-so-distant past, public boards were populated by people with vision, experience and expertise who wanted to repay society that provided them with opportunity and success.
OP-ED: The sinister truth about supporting Common Core
York Dispatch By RYAN M. BANNISTER, Pennsylvanians Against Common Core POSTED:   05/01/2014 09:3
In response to a recent op-ed by William Bartle, education policy director for Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, I would like to point out some conveniently ignored truths regarding Common Core.  Mr. Bartle, with either willful ignorance or contempt for the "regular class," has lacked the integrity to offer full disclosure in his April 18 piece titled "Nothing sinister about Common Core." The title itself screams "nothing to see here."
I offer a public response to Mr. Bartle in order to enlighten him with the facts and further educate him on honesty in communication.  Fact: William Bartles' organization, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, has received three separate grants from the Gates Foundation to sponsor Common Core. These three grants total $935,859.
I wonder why he failed to mention this.

OP-ED: Nothing sinister about Common Core
York Dispatch By WILLIAM BARTLE Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children POSTED:   04/18/2014 08:06:09 AM EDT
A recent letter critical of Pennsylvania's academic standards and state Rep. Seth Grove's support of those standards contained some oft-repeated myths about efforts to improve our public schools. Here are the facts:  Pennsylvania Core Standards do not in any way undermine the commonwealth's long-standing tradition of local control in our public schools. There is no federally or state-mandated curriculum and local school officials and educators will continue to make key decisions about the day-to-day operations in schools and classrooms, including lesson plans, activities, textbooks and other resources to be used.
The standards do not involve or require the collection of any new student data, nor is any new information shared between local schools and the state or federal governments. There are no additional reports required by the federal government and reports that are sent to the federal government by Pennsylvania or its schools do not include any individual student data.

A renaissance requires investment, and Pennsylvania falls far short in support of public higher education
Pennsylvania ranks 47th among the 50 states in terms of its support for public higher education
Post-Gazette Opinion By MARK A. NORDENBERG July 18, 2014 12:00 AM
A Post-Gazette town meeting last week focused on Pittsburgh’s “New Renaissance.” Our regional progress has attracted national and international recognition. In fact, just days before I had returned from Asia where I was invited to speak about the role of “eds and meds” in the inspiring re-birth of our economy.  When the PG town meeting discussion shifted from reasons for celebration to causes for concern, my co-panelists shared assessments that might seem surprising. Jared Cohon, the president emeritus of Carnegie Mellon University, bluntly stated that the single biggest threat to Pittsburgh’s ongoing progress was the state’s significant retreat from its commitment to adequately fund pubic higher education. Esther Barazzone, the president of Chatham University, agreed. Jim Rohr, PNC’s recently retired CEO, reminded the audience that a key to our success in attracting and retaining 21st-century businesses was an abundance of today’s most important natural resource — the ideas and well-educated students produced by the region’s universities.  The element of surprise came from the fact that it was leaders of private universities — more typically considered to be rivals for such funding — who identified sharp reductions in state support for public higher education as the top threat to future regional prosperity. That is one indication of how far Pennsylvania has fallen.

Ohio Charter School Chain Under Investigation
Education Week Charters and Choice Blog By Arianna Prothero on July 16, 2014 5:51 PM
The Ohio State Board of Education has ordered an investigation into 19 charter schools in the Horizons Science network after allegations surfaced of severe misconduct among school officials at one of the schools in Daytonaccording to The Columbus Dispatch.
Four former teachers at the Horizon Science Academy Dayton High School leveled hefty accusations against their ex-employer at the state education board's monthly meeting Tuesday. Among the allegations they made are:
·         The school broke standardized-testing protocol;
·         School administrators suspended two students for sexual misconduct on campus, but lied to the students' parents about the reason for their suspension; 
·         Officials didn't punish Turkish students or teachers for bad behavior, even when a Turkish teacher referred to African-American students by racial slurs. The schools, which have a math and science focus, were founded and are managed by Turkish scientists.
The Columbus Dispatch article details other accusations and says this is not the only investigation Horizon Schools has been connected to recently:

Bucks Lehigh EduSummit Monday Aug 11th and Tuesday Aug 12th
Location: Southern Lehigh High School 5800 Main Street, Center Valley, PA 18034
Time: 8 AM - 3 PM Each Day(Registration starts at 7:30 AM. Keynote starts at 8:00 AM.)
The Bucks Lehigh EduSummit is a collaboratively organized and facilitated two day professional learning experience coordinated by educators in the Quakertown Community School District , Palisades School DistrictSalisbury Township School DistrictSouthern Lehigh School DistrictBucks County IU, and Carbon Lehigh IU, which are all located in northern Bucks county and southern Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. Teachers in other neighboring districts are welcome to attend as well! The purpose of the EduSummit is to collaborate, connect, share, and learn together for the benefit of our kids. Focus areas include: Educational Technology, PA Core, Social Media, Best Practices, etc.

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 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. 

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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