Thursday, July 31, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 31: "Based on national estimates for an FTT at 3/10th of 1%, PA conservatively could generate between $3.5 billion and $7 billion per year to solve the pension problem"

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3250 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 31, 2014:
"Based on national estimates for an FTT at 3/10th of 1%, PA conservatively could generate between $3.5 billion and $7 billion per year to solve the pension problem"

Thanks to Keystone State Education Coalition Co-Chairs for their quick assistance yesterday with pension impact figures for their school districts:
Shauna D’Alessandro, West Jefferson Hills School District, Allegheny County
Lynn Foltz, Wilmington Area School District, Lawrence County
Mark B. Miller, Centennial School District, Bucks County
Roberta Marcus, Parkland School District, Lehigh County
Missed the discussion about state budget and pensions on 'Live from the Newsroom?' Here is the replay
Delco Times POSTED: 07/30/14, 9:50 AM EDT | UPDATED: 4 MINS AGO
On Wednesday's 'Live from the Newsroom,' we were joined by State Sen. Dominic Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, the Senate majority leader, and Rep. Bill Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, the majority chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, as well as longtime Haverford School Board member Larry Feinberg, who also just happens to be the founder and co-chairman of the Keystone State Education Coalition.
Here is the replay:

"Based on national estimates for an FTT at 3/10th of 1 percent, Pennsylvania conservatively could generate between $3.5 billion and $7 billion per year to solve the pension problem"
A temporary financial transaction tax would solve our pension problem: Tim Potts
By PennLive Op-Ed  By Tim Potts on April 10, 2014 at 1:00 PM
It has been frustrating to see this year’s gubernatorial candidates largely ignore the most serious problem Pennsylvania faces: our $50 billion pension debt. It’s a debt that must be paid, and it sucks the life out of state and local school budgets.  The debt is the result of our legislature, abetted by both Republican and Democratic governors, being irresponsible stewards of the retirement systems on which hundreds of thousands of seniors depend. First lawmakers increased the pension benefits in 2001; then they refused to pay for it.
In the Carlisle Area School District, where I serve on the board of directors, the share of property taxes going toward pension costs has increased 1,691 percent since 2001. 
Chances are, the increase in your school district is about the same.

"In an interview last week, Mennis said his group has offered three basic pieces of advice to Mike Brubaker, R-36th, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and John P. Blake, D-22nd, the committee’s minority chair.  “First, Pennsylvania has to commit to paying the current bill; second, we think they should establish a funding task force or study commission to come up with a comprehensive and transparent solution to this long-standing problem; and third, if that solution is some kind of hybrid plan design, that they consider a simple and proven hybrid model,” Mennis said."
Pa. not alone in having pension woes, Pew notes
By EVAN BRANDT, POSTED: 07/28/14, 4:55 PM EDT
Pennsylvania is not alone in its public pension problems.  Other states have struggled as well.
Nationwide, total debt facing state pension plans is $915 billion, according to the Public Sector Retirement Systems project of the Pew Charitable Trusts.  “Only 15 states have consistently made at least 95 percent of the full actuarially required contributions for their pension plans from 2010 through 2012; the remaining 35 states (including Pennsylvania) fell short in at least one year,” according to the project website.  And since last fall, the director of that project, Greg Mennis, has been trying to help Pennsylvania solve its pension problems.
In an interview last week, Mennis said his group has offered three basic pieces of advice to Mike Brubaker, R-36th, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and John P. Blake, D-22nd, the committee’s minority chair.  “First, Pennsylvania has to commit to paying the current bill; second, we think they should establish a funding task force or study commission to come up with a comprehensive and transparent solution to this long-standing problem; and third, if that solution is some kind of hybrid plan design, that they consider a simple and proven hybrid model,” Mennis said.

Grell's pension reform plan produces some savings but only by borrowing $9 billion
By Jan Murphy | on July 30, 2014 at 5:44 PM, updated July 30, 2014 at 8:49 PM
Rep. Glen Grell's pension reform idea that would impact future state and school employees would produce savings that range between $27 billion and $30.5 billion savings for the two state pension funds over 30 years, according to an actuarial review of his plan released on Wednesday.  But for taxpayers who foot the bill, the bulk of those savings for the Public School Employees' Retirement System and State Employees' Retirement System would be offset by having to pay off a $9 billion pension obligation bond that the Hampden Twp. Republican lawmaker's plan would require.  Specifically, his plan would move new employees, hired after Jan. 1 (and new lawmakers taking office Dec. 1), into a "cash balance" plan. That plan would have them contributing 7 percent of their pay to their pension account and the employer would make a 4 percent contribution to it for the first 15 years of service, 5 percent after that.

State Education Funding Cuts and Corporate Tax Giveaways, Not Pensions, the Primary Drivers of Property Tax Increases
Keystone Research Center Press Release July 14, 2014
Harrisburg, July 14:  In Western Pennsylvania today, Governor Corbett held the first of a series of events on state pensions. In response Keystone Research Center economist and Executive Director, Dr. Stephen Herzenberg issued the following statement:
“The Governor is right that communities across Pennsylvania are concerned with school funding and rising property taxes, but he’s wrong that the modest retirement benefits of public workers are to blame. It is the Governor’s draconian $1 billion cuts in state education funding and the over $3 billion the state gives away every year in corporate tax breaks that have put enormous pressure on local governments and school boards to raise property taxes.
“Meanwhile, independent pension actuaries have concluded that the Corbett-Tobash pension proposal provides no budget relief this year and no significant relief long term. In fact, according to the actuaries, this plan could end up increasing costs to taxpayers. Why? Because it drains the existing pensions of investment funds and forces new employees increasingly into inefficient 401(k)-type savings plans that have high costs and low returns.

Their View | The hard truth of pension reform
Centre Daily Times Opinion BY JIM PAWELCZYK July 26, 2014 
Jim Pawelczyk lives in Ferguson Township and serves on the State College Area school board. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the district or the board.
With combined debts approaching $50 billion, the Public School Employees Retirement System and State Employees Retirement System are in trouble. The blame game is in full swing: It’s the legislature’s fault. It’s the governor’s fault (insert any governor of this century). It’s school boards’ fault. It’s unions’ fault.  Take your pick. To some degree, each assertion is correct.
Gov. Tom Corbett is sounding the alarm for “meaningful pension reform.” Reform, however, has two different meanings in legislative doublespeak: Reduce costs by changing benefits, or provide budgetary “relief” to employers by deferring payments.
Harrisburg is buzzing with proposals. The hot topic is the Tobash plan, a hybrid model for new employees that would cap defined benefits at $50,000 per year for qualifying retirees and would create a variable annuity for benefits in excess of the cap.

Gov. Tom Corbett on defense over school spending
Wolf hammers at claims governor cut $1 billion.
By Steve Esack and Samantha Marcus, Of The Morning Call 9:57 p.m. EDT, July 30, 2014
As polls have predicted for more than a year, education funding has become the most tangible issue for voters in the upcoming governor's election.  The candidates know it, as evidenced by commercials and news conferences across Pennsylvania.
For the past week, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, his campaign team and supporters have been on a mission to change Corbett's image among many voters who remain angry at $1 billion in cuts he imposed on schools and universities in 2011-12.
At the same time, Democrat Tom Wolf, his campaign team and backers have orchestrated TV ads, emails, and public events critical of Corbett's 4-year-old budget decisions.
Corbett's office responds to ethics investigation request related to higher education advisor
By Christina Kauffman | on July 30, 2014 at 1:41 PM, updated July 30, 2014 at 3:55 PM
Gov. Tom Corbett's office, responding to a request for comment, offered the following comments in response to a request for an ethics investigation into former state education secretary Ronald Tomalis, now Corbett's higher education special adviser:  "Ron Tomalis is a valued member of the Department of Education team. His work is focused on advancing the administration's priorities in higher education and developing bridges between higher education and K-12.

A sliver of good news for Gov. Corbett
Delco Times Heron's Nest Editor's Blog by Phil Heron Thursday, July 31, 2014
Remember where you heard it.
I am one of the few voices heard in Pennsylvania who believes Tom Corbett will be re-elected to a second term as governor.  I know what the poll numbers say. I know that he sits double digits behind Democrat Tom Wolf. I know all about the hue and cry over his austere budgets.
And yes, I am aware that earlier this week the Washington Post again crowned Corbett as the nation's governor who is most likely to be shown the door by voters in November. It wasn't the first time. In fact, they have done so for 13 months in a row.
But here's a poll you may not have seen. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll showed Wolf's big lead is shrinking. What was once a 20-plus point margin is down to single digits at 9 percent.

Daily News Letters: 100 pastors unite for Pa. education
POSTED: Thursday, July 31, 2014, 3:01 AM
THOUGH THE 100 congregations we represent hail from different faiths, we are united by our belief that each person is made in the divine image. But Pennsylvania faces a school-funding crisis that stands in the way of living according to that value.  Districts across the state are squeezing more kids into each classroom, cutting counselors that are a vital lifeline and taking away the music classes that are the only way for some kids to connect to school. Low-income children, from both communities of color and poor white communities, are hit harder than most.
That's why we prayed as the newly formed Basic Education Funding Commission held its first meeting on July 24, beginning a process to fix our broken school-funding system. These officials have been commissioned with a holy task, one that will require great moral courage. They are charged with creating a funding formula, like what 47 states have but Pennsylvania lacks.

Will they or won’t they be back in session next week? — Under The Dome™ Wednesday, July 30, 2014
A couple weeks ago when the state House of Representatives announced it would be in voting session the week of Aug. 4 (well, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the week), it raised a few eyebrows. Sure, there’s the pension issue on which to work, and the School District of Philadelphia would certainly like to see a bill containing language authorizing the city to hike its cigarette tax approved and on its way to the governor before school starts in September. But, after Gov. Tom Corbett vetoed some of the General Assembly’s money in the budget, did anyone really think legislators would rush back and approve a pension reform bill? And with the House and Senate grumbling at each other over other elements within the cigarette tax legislation, did anyone really expect the House to rubber stamp the latest version of the bill? So that’s prompted rumors to begin swirling – advanced mostly by lobbyists - through the state Capitol: the House might not be back in voting session next week. According to House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin, the plan – right now – is for the House to still be in session, but that could all change at a moment’s notice. And if they are back in session next week, what do they plan to do? Probably alter the cigarette tax bill – House Bill 1177 – to pull out stuff they don’t like, which could prompt the Senate to return later next week, but maybe not, and it’s no guarantee the Senate would vote to send the bill to Corbett. Meaning HB1177 might have to wait for further action until, at the earliest, the week of Sept. 15, after students are back in school in Philadelphia. Plus, with HB1177 the only potential item currently on the "to do" list, it’s possible the House decides to not be in session very long next week, i.e. it could drop a day or two from its schedule. So, clear as mud, right? Just another day in Pennsylvania state government.

Former education exec set for federal theft plea
Lancaster Online Associated Press Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 9:11 am
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The former executive director of a western Pennsylvania regional education service agency has been scheduled to plead guilty to federal charges that she used her work credit card to buy things for herself.  Federal prosecutors in Pittsburgh contend 56-year-old Cecelia Yauger, of Grove City, made $73,000 in questionable purchases, including at restaurants, pharmacies, department stores and retail outlets.  Yauger resigned in April 2013 from the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV, which serves several school districts.

Understanding the backlash to Common Core and PARCC
Laura Waters is president of the Lawrence Township School Board in Mercer County. She also writes about New Jersey's public education on her blog NJ Left Behind. Follow her on Twitter @NJLeftbehind.
Last week I looked at some of the myths surrounding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), a set of learning goals in language arts and math which seek to promote educational equity and excellence across America.
CCSS represents a collaborative response to the acknowledgement that American schools are not effectively preparing children for college and careers. According to this new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 66 percent of America's 4th graders are not proficient in reading and 66 percent of America's 8th graders are not proficient in math. (In New Jersey the averages are, respectively, 58 percent and 51 percent; in Pennsylvania the averages are 60 percent and 58 percent.)  Noble aspirations aside, the CCSS have ignited an increasingly fractious debate. The National Governors Association, which led the initiative, was too timid to put it on this year's annual agenda. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers once avidly supported CCSS but now appear on the brink of denouncing them. Forty-five states signed up to adopt the Common Core in 2010; nine have dropped out.

Next PA Basic Education Funding Commission meeting is scheduled for August 20, 2014
Teplitz, Folmer on new commission for education funding
By NIKELLE SNADER 505-5431/@ydschools POSTED:   07/29/2014 10:57:03 PM EDT 
Two York-area senators are part of a new commission to determine how state money is distributed to the 500 public school districts in Pennsylvania.  Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon/York, and Sen. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin/York, are part of the new 15-member Basic Education Funding Commission, which has one year to develop and recommend a new formula for distributing the $5.5 billion in public education.  The commission comes after the passage of House Bill 1738 in June, which set up the parameters for the commission.  Teplitz said he has been a vocal supporter of public education and has been a part of the Senate Education Committee since he was elected in 2012.  r"What we need to do is make sure that the state is investing appropriately in the school districts that need the most help," he said. "I'm not sure that's happening right now."

Upcoming meetings on Philly District's school redesign initiative
the notebook By Marilyn Vaccaro on Jul 30, 2014 05:14 PM
The School District is planning a series of meetings and discussions about its new school redesign initiative, which was announced last week.  Two informational sessions will be held, one tomorrow evening and the second on Aug. 12. Those who participate will be able to learn more about the application process and the specifics of the initiative itself.   Through the initiative, the District is calling on teams of educators, parents, community groups, and other outside organizations to propose their own school turnaround plans. Ten winning design teams will be chosen in October and will receive grants of $30,000 to support planning costs.

Important updates to Federal E-Rate Program
PSBA website 7/30/2014
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued an Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking making extensive changes to the federal E-rate program that provides funding for school and library Internet connectivity.  The FCC's goals in modernizing the E-rate program were to increase high-speed broadband connectivity in schools and libraries to meet the needs of 21st century learners, maximize cost-effectiveness in spending, and streamline the application process and other E-rate processes for greater speed and efficiency. Some notable changes include:
·         Elimination of certain services, including web hosting, email and paging, beginning in funding year 2015.
·         Phasing out of other services, including voice, cellular and VOIP beginning in funding year 2015 by reducing the applicant's shared discount by 20% each year.
·         Changing to district-wide discount calculations based on district enrollment and NSLP eligibility, rather than the former school-based calculations.
·         Funding allocations for each school building to qualify for a pre-discount cap of $150 per student budget (or minimum of $9,200) over 5 years for Priority 2 purchases.
·         Elimination of requirements for technology plans.
·         Records retention requirements expanded from 5 years to 10 years.
A detailed summary of the Order developed by the PA E-rate coordinator is available online.

What Happens on K-12 Policy if Republicans Take Over the U.S. Senate?
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on July 31, 2014 6:01 AM
What if some political prognosticators are right and the U.S. Senate flips to GOP control in November? What happens to key pieces of education legislation, including the reauthorization of the outdated No Child Left Behind Act, which has been stymied by partisan paralysis for years?
The person best positioned to make an educated guess on those questions is Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the top Republican on the Senate education committee. Alexander, who isfacing a primary challenge but is expected to prevail, is the likeliest candidate to take over the helm of the Senate education committee if the chamber flips to GOP control in the fall.
Alexander is a former U.S. Secretary of Education (under the first President George Bush), and college president (of Vanderbilt University). Before those gigs, he served as governor of Tennessee, and championed one of the earliest experiments with merit pay for teachers.
I asked him a series of 'what if' questions, based on a possible Senate turnover. 

PCCY: Join us in Harrisburg Aug. 4th to Fight for Philadelphia Schools
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will return to work on Monday, August 4th and it is critical to vote to approve the Philadelphia cigarette increase for schools.  Join us in Harrisburg as we visit lawmakers to tell them the wisdom of siding with children over big tobacco by voting for the cigarette tax increase.  If this vote doesn't happen or, if it fails, there is a strong chance Philadelphia Public Schools will not open this September.
Buses are filling up quickly. Click here to RSVP today or call 215-563-5848 x11 or Buses depart 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 8:30am and return to Philadelphia about 5:00pm.  If you plan to drive, meet us in the Capitol at 10:30am in Room 39 of the East Wing.

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.

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