Established in 2006, the Keystone State Education Coalition is a growing grass roots, non-partisan public education advocacy group of several hundred locally elected, volunteer school board members and administrators from school districts throughout Pennsylvania. Our mission is to evaluate, discuss and inform our boards, district constituents and legislators on legislative issues of common interest and to facilitate active engagement in public education advocacy.
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
Mark B. Miller,CentennialSchool
District,BucksCounty Roberta Marcus, ParklandSchool District, LehighCounty
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.
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 CarlisleAreaSchool
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
"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."
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
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.
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
Press Release July 14, 2014
July 14: In Western Pennsylvania today, Governor Corbett held the first
of a series of events on state pensions. In response KeystoneResearchCenter 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
“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.
Centre Daily Times Opinion BY JIM PAWELCZYK July 26, 2014
Jim Pawelczyk lives in FergusonTownship 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
Capitolwire.com — 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
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
WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA
WATERS JULY 31, 2014 COMMENTARY
Laura Waters is president of the LawrenceTownshipSchool
Board in MercerCounty. 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
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.
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
·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
·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.
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 VanderbiltUniversity).
Before those gigs, he served as governor of Tennessee, and championed one of the
earliest experiments with merit pay
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 todayor call 215-563-5848 x11 or
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.
EduSummit Monday Aug 11th and Tuesday Aug 12th Location: Southern Lehigh High School5800 Main Street, Center Valley, PA18034
Time: 8 AM - 3 PM Each Day(Registration
starts at 7:30 AM. Keynote starts at 8:00 AM.)
Pennsylvania Summit Aug. 13-14
The Educational Collaborators, in partnership with the WilsonSchool
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