Wednesday, July 9, 2014

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 9: Budget bill passes, but Philly schools in limbo

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 9, 2014:
Budget bill passes, but Philly schools in limbo


No decision from Gov. Tom Corbett today on state budget package, staffers say
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com  on July 08, 2014 at 7:04 PM, updated July 08, 2014 at 11:14 PM
This story was updated at 7:40 p.m. to reflect plans by the House Speaker to sign the fiscal code bill and send it to the governor's desk.
Gov. Tom Corbett's director of communications says there will be no finality to the governor's consideration of the state's delayed $29.1 billion 2014-15 budget package on this night.
Lynn Lawson said Tuesday evening that the governor is committed to reviewing the package as a whole, including the fiscal code bill passed Tuesday afternoon, and that's an exercise that will take more than a couple of hours to complete.

Budget bill passes, but Philly schools in limbo
Lancaster Online by Associated Press  Posted: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 7:33 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania state senators finished Tuesday what Republican majority leaders viewed as the remaining pieces of budget-related legislation, although Democrats went away frustrated and a controversial bill remained undone eight days after the beginning of the new fiscal year.  The Senate narrowly passed a key budget-related bill, 26-22, that is a companion to the $29.1 billion spending plan that is sitting on Gov. Tom Corbett's desk.
Corbett, a Republican, has until Friday night ends to sign or veto the main budget bill before it becomes law on its own. He has expressed disappointment that public pension legislation he had sought remained stalled in the Legislature and he has not said what he will do with the budget legislation while he waited out a fight between leaders of the House and Senate Republican majorities.  Every Democrat has opposed the Republicans' budget bills, and one, Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny, took to the floor of the Senate to skewer it as a "clear violation of the public trust."

"Legislators like to boast that the new budget doesn't increase taxes on Pennsylvanians. That isn't so. Within hours of the budget's passage in the House, the Shippensburg school district was forced to raise property taxes to make up for the state support it had counted on that didn't materialize."
Budget based on illusions
By Sharon Ward POSTED: Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 1:08 AM
Sharon Ward is the director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Centerward@pennbpc.org
As the General Assembly takes final action on the state budget, even before the ink is dry, the spending plan for the fiscal year that started July 1 will have begun its slow collapse.
Although it was structured in the hopes of avoiding new cuts to things that voters care about - schools, early-childhood education, and support for children with autism - the promised funding may never materialize. The budget is balanced with sleight of hand and magical thinking - not actual dollars. And that truth may by revealed as soon as December, when the money begins to run out long before the budget year ends.

2013-14 General Fund Revenues finish below 2012-13 levels, yet 2014-15 Budget assumes over $1 billion in revenue growth
PA Budget and Policy Center Posted by Michael Wood on July 7, 2014
Despite better than expected collections in June, the commonwealth’s fiscal year 2013-14 General Fund revenue collections totaled less than the revenues collected in 2012-13, falling over a half a billion dollars short of estimate. While revenues can decline during economic downturns, it is highly unusual that it happens in a time of economic expansion. Years of tax cuts certainly added to this unexpected decline.  Even with the lower than expected revenue collections in 2013-14, the budget for 2014-15 approved by the General Assembly is based on revenue collections of $29.6 billion, over $1 billion more than were collected in 2013-14. This represents growth of 3.5% from 2013-14. Details of this projection have yet to be released, as the Governor has not signed the budget plan. Based on earlier projections, this amount of revenue growth may be difficult to achieve – putting funding increases in the 2014-15 budget in jeopardy.

Interest groups' lobbying tally tops $500M in Pennsylvania
By Melissa Daniels Friday, July 4, 2014, 11:07 p.m.
HARRISBURG — Lobbyists wearing suits and gripping cellphones line the Capitol's ornate rotunda balcony, crowd into committee meetings and orbit at the foot of the marble staircase between the House and Senate chambers.  The time of budget negotiations is peak season for the $500 million business of government influence.  In 2013, lobbyists spent $518 million on costs related to influencing Pennsylvania's lawmakers. It's the first time spending exceeded the half-billion-dollar mark, according to Department of State filings.
"Hughes blamed the influence of the tobacco lobby.  "This is a cigarette tax. You have to assume that the cigarette lobby got engaged in this process and tried to make changes in the legislation," he said. "All our information indicates that those are the individuals who drove the process."  Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, D-Philadelphia, echoed that sentiment, referencing the tobacco lobby's influence with Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson, who represents tobacco growing districts in western Pennsylvania."
Philly cigarette tax for schools stalled in legislative pingpong match
By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on Jul 8, 2014 09:00 PM
The passage of the Philadelphia cigarette tax hit a major setback Tuesday.
The Pennsylvania Senate approved the tax, but added provisions as part of an omnibus package that will yet again need the blessing of the House of Representatives, which is not scheduled to return to a voting session until the fall.  The Philadelphia School District had been desperately hoping the Senate would allow the House version of the cigarette tax – approved in dramatic fashion last week – to pass unscathed.  But Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, added an amendment to the bill that would "sunset" the tax after five years and prohibit the School District from borrowing against cigarette tax proceeds.  Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite immediately blasted the move in a written statement, calling it an action that "throws us back into uncertainty."

"Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware) said in an interview that several members of his caucus suggested ending the tax after five years, but declined to say who those members were.  Pileggi, who voted for the change, said he believed the request was reasonable.  "That is something that should be examined after five years to see what impact it has had on revenues collected. Is it stable? It is declining, is it growing, what effect has it had on neighboring counties," said Pileggi.
Pa. Senate delays cigarette tax, fate uncertain
ANGELA COULOUMBIS AND AMY WORDEN, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU
LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, July 9, 2014, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, July 8, 2014, 4:21 PM
HARRISBURG - A bill allowing Philadelphia to impose a new cigarette tax to help fund the city's cash-strapped schools is again up in the air.  The Republicans who control the state Senate made changes to the legislation in the eleventh hour early Tuesday evening, delaying implementation of the $2-per-pack tax and setting the stage for Philadelphia public schools to possibly not open on time.  "This is terrible for schoolchildren, for teachers, for parents, and for the taxpayers in the city of Philadelphia," said Mayor Nutter. "We are caught in a vortex of political hell with no way out." 

Hite: $40 million shortfall, more cuts needed
Philly Trib Written by Wilford Shamlin III July 6, 2014
School Superintendent William Hite Jr., on Friday announced the district’s budget shortfall at $40 million just hours after state lawmakers approved a new cigarette tax hike in support of Philadelphia public schools.  But the school chief also warned spending cuts on the order of $45 million were still needed to balance the $2.6 million operating budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
“In the next few weeks, the school district will work on closing the remaining shortfall, an effort that may require a number of difficult actions,” Hite said. He said ongoing contract negotiations with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) could yield additional savings, but the two sides have been at an impasse for months. Teachers continue to work under terms of a collective bargaining agreement that expired nearly a year ago.
PFT president Jerry Jordan made no reference to ongoing negotiations with the school district in a statement responding to the approval of the cigarette tax legislation. He called the action by state lawmakers a huge victory for local public schools.

Their View | The hijacking of the charter school movement
Centre Daily Times BY DAVID HUTCHINSON July 8, 2014 
The concept of the charter school was first articulated back in the 1980s by Albert Shanker, the head of the New York City teachers’ union. Charter schools were conceived as an extension of the public school system — “incubators of experimentation” — to be run by public school teachers, but having the flexibility to try out new ideas, which, if successful, could be templates for school improvement. In State College, our alternative school, the Delta Program, is the closest to matching Shanker’s original vision.  But there are some other pretty good local examples. One of our charter schools was built on the small learning community model; another emphasizes project-based learning; yet another, instruction in multiple languages. These models have value to students and their parents, and they could provide us with useful insight. But any value we receive from these “experiments” comes in spite of state policy, not because of it.


Departure of Official Is Sought by Teachers
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH JULY 8, 2014
The long partnership between Democrats and teachers’ unions has frayed in recent years as the Obama administration has pursued policies that many teachers oppose, including performance ratings that link student test scores to evaluations and decisions about promotion or firing.
But the dissatisfaction hit a new level late last week when the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, with almost three million members, passed a resolution at its convention in Denver calling for the resignation of the secretary of education, Arne Duncan.

Largest U.S. teachers union calls for Education Secretary Duncan to resign
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss July 8 at 7:02 AM  
Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s relations with teachers unions just got more difficult.
Delegates of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, voted at their annual convention to call on Duncan to resign after similar efforts had failed in previous years. And the NEA is about to get a new president, Lily Eskelsen García, who is known for her tough talk and determination to fight back against corporate school reformers. She told the delegates:
“People who don’t know what they’re talking about are talking about increasing the use of commercial standardized tests in high-stakes decisions about students and about educators … when all the evidence that can be gathered shows that it is corrupting what it means to teach and what it means to learn….
We know what is at stake, and it is why we are who we are. It is why we are fearless and why we will not be silent when people who, for their own profit and political posture, subvert words like ‘reform’ or ‘accountability.’”
The delegates voted on a surprise agenda item that said the “department’s failed education agenda focused on more high-stakes testing, grading and pitting public school students against each other based on test scores, and for continuing to promote policies and decisions that undermine public schools and colleges, the teaching education professionals, and education unions,” according to the Associated Press.

FCC Prepares to Vote on E-Rate Overhaul
Education Week By Michele Molnar Published Online: July 8, 2014
Schools and libraries hungry for faster and more reliably funded Wi-Fi connections will be watching the July 11 open meeting of the Federal Communications Commission closely.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's long-awaited E-rate modernization plan, which he released in outline form on June 20, will be discussed by commissioners and presumably voted on during the meeting.

A watershed moment for technology in education
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss July 7  
It is more than likely that many of you don’t know much, if anything, about the “E-Rate,” which is formally the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund administered  under the auspices of the Federal Communications Commission.  The E-Rate offers discounts for schools and libraries to get Internet access and telecommunications. This week, the FCC will vote on modernizing the E-Rate in a move that would first redirect a few billion dollars in E-Rate funds to the benefit of millions of students this year alone. In this post, Julius Genachowski and Jim Coulter explain why they think the FCC should approve the modernization. Genachowski is managing director of The Carlyle Group and former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Jim Coulter is a commissioner of the bi-partisan Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission, and co-founder and chief executive officer of TPG Holdings.

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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