Tuesday, February 24, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 24: Survey of PA school districts highlights pension, health care, special ed and charter school payment increases

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3525 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business 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, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for February 24, 2015:
Survey of PA school districts highlights pension, health care, special ed and charter school payment increases

Education Voters of PA holding public forums on school funding
Lancaster County: Tuesday, March 17, at 7:00 pm at Millersville University
York County: Wednesday, March 25th, 6:30pm at the York Learning Center
Cumberland County: Wednesday, April 1, 7:00 pm at the Grace Milliman Pollock Performing Arts Center

"Jay Himes, PASBO executive director, said the reduced student opportunities are the result of a “continued upward spiral” of mandated expenditures, including pensions.  Most of the schools surveyed are also seeing increases in expenses for health care, special education and charter school payments according to the survey.  Himes said the pension rate by school districts will increase from about 16 percent to 21.4 percent this fiscal year.  “For each one percent increase in the public school employee retirement systems contribution rate, school budgets take an approximate hit of $60 million,” Himes said. “So this year school payments to PSRS (the Public School Employees’ Retirement System) will mean more than $270 million in additional mandated costs to schools."
Survey: PA Schools Struggle to Make Ends Meet
Pennsylvania schools are being forced to make cuts to programming and staff in order to keep up with mandated costs and lack of funding.  That’s according to the Pennsylvania Associations of School Administrators (PASA) and of School Business Officials (PASBO) which released their fourth annual Survey on School District Budgets.  With responses from 321 of the 500 school districts throughout the commonwealth, the survey has indicated that school districts are still struggling to make ends meet.  Basic education funding stayed mostly the same this fiscal year, while funding for special education increased by about two percent.

Even as school funding challenges persist, changes may be on horizon
The new report commissioned by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) addresses the myriad issues affecting school funding across the state.
Beaver County Times Onlinie By Tom Davidson tdavidson@timesonline.com |1 comment Posted: Monday, February 23, 2015 11:45 pm
A report released Monday by two Pennsylvania education trade groups acknowledges that state leaders have been trying to come up with a way to fund public schools since the 1830s.  But in 185 years, no one's figured out an answer that works.  The tide may be changing this year, as new Gov. Tom Wolf and state Secretary of Education-designate Pedro Rivera settle into office and results of a legislative commission studying school funding are due.
The problems have only intensified in recent years as public school officials deal with a statewide pension crisis, the entrance of cyber and charter schools onto the landscape, and tougher national mandates to increase the quality of education for all students.

PASA/PASBO Press Release February 23, 2015

Continued Cuts: The PASA-PASBO Report on School District Budgets

Cash on hand: Legislature ended 2013-14 with $161.4 million surplus
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on February 23, 2015 at 11:30 AM
The state Legislature and legislative service agencies closed the books on the 2013-14 with $161.4 million in the bank.  According to an audit released on Monday of the legislative branch's finances, the House and Senate and 13 legislative service agencies spent or committed nearly $335 million of $496 million they had available to operate the House, Senate and legislative service agencies in the last fiscal year.  That left this branch of government sitting on a surplus that grew by $8 million from the prior year's $153.5 million.

Tapping budget brakes, PA GOP legislators rally behind new plan to growth in state government spending
By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on February 23, 2015 at 5:57 PM
Wary of a return to major growth in government spending and taxes under Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania Republican legislative leaders endorsed a plan Monday that would place new caps on state spending growth rates.  The bill would cap year-over-year spending growth to the lesser of:
* Average growth in personal income in Pennsylvania through the preceding three years; or
* The sum of annual inflation rates and annual population growth rates in Pennsylvania, again as averaged across the preceding three years.
The plan is introduced by Lebanon County Republican Sen. Mike Folmer.  But Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny County, were quick to add Monday that - whether in law or not - they intend to apply the so-called "taxpayer protection" guidelines to upcoming budget negotiations with Wolf this spring and summer.  Scarnati predicted they will be needed with Wolf, whose public platform has included increases in spending for education; a move away from the Corbett-drafted medical assistance expansion, a new natural gas tax and reforms to the state's personal income tax.
"if you don't know the secret I'll tell you the secret," Scarnati said. "We have a governor who wants to propose massive spending and tax increases - massive - and we need to put some checks and balances into place," he said.
Wolf is scheduled to unveil his first budget plan on March 3.

DN Editorial: Fix the charter situation
The SRC vote was prudent, but a reform bill is needed more than ever
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Monday, February 23, 2015, 12:18 AM
EVEN FOR a school district that has essentially set up permanent residency between a rock and a hard place, last week's vote by the School Reform Commission to approve five new charter schools was notable.  Faced with 39 applications for charters, pressure from Harrisburg lawmakers and Philadelphia School Partnership to approve as many as possible, pressure from Gov. Wolf to approve none, vocal protesters at the meeting on both sides of the issue, and a deficit that can only be worsened with more charter schools, the SRC took what looks to be the most prudent path: five approvals, 34 denials.  Anything more would have been irresponsible. Anything less would have been hard to justify.

District posts reasons for denying and approving charters
By the Notebook on Feb 23, 2015 05:46 PM
The School District has posted the "adjudications," or reasons behind the School Reform Commission's votes last Thursday on charter school applications, when it denied 34 of the 39 proposals.  The adjudications go into more detail regarding the denials compared to reasons that charters were approved. Charter applicants have 60 days to appeal the decisions to the state Charter Appeal Board.   At the meeting, the SRC voted without giving explanations for the denials. They did explain conditions imposed on the approved charters.  

In a tough spot, the SRC got it right
the notebook commentary By Christine Carlson on Feb 23, 2015 12:44 PM
A child asks for a puppy. Presented with a hole-punched gift box, he opens it with excitement, only to find a venomous snake.  So it was with the cigarette tax. As public school advocates, we pleaded for the revenue that the cigarette tax would provide. Although we got the funding we asked for, it was delivered with a life-threatening twist. The bill’s last-minute addition, which reopened the District to new charter school applications and allowed an appeal process for those rejected, threatens the existence of the District schools we sought to help. Each new charter seat added drains even further the resources needed to keep District schools afloat.
The School Reform Commission’s primary responsibilities are maintaining the financial stability of the District and supervising the superintendent. For many years, the SRC acted responsibly by not authorizing any new standalone charter schools. And it acted responsibly again last week, when it approved five of the 39 charter school applications that it was required to review.

District appeals to state Supreme Court on teachers' contract decision
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Feb 23, 2015 02:31 PM  Updated | 4:30 p.m.
The School Reform Commission is asking the state Supreme Court to reverse a lower court decision that the SRC lacks the authority to cancel its contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and spend the savings on programs in the schools.   The District and SRC waited until the last possible day to file the appeal of the Commonwealth Court's Jan. 22 decision.
“We remain convinced that the SRC had clear statutory authority when it acted last fall to redirect a projected $200 million in savings to our schools over the next four years," said a statement from the SRC and the District. "The SRC was exercising the precise function for which it was created: achieving financial stability for the District in a crisis of underfunding that has prevented our schools from providing basic resources and services to students."

SRC appeals court ruling on teachers' contract cancellation
Philly Daily News Homeroom Blog POSTED: MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2015, 11:16 AM
The School Reform Commission and the Philadelphia School District filed an appeal Monday to a Commonwealth Court ruling that the commission did not have the authority to cancel a contract with the Philadelphia teachers’ union.  The appeal will go to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The district had 30 days to appeal the Jan. 22 decision from the lower court and Monday was the deadline.

School district releases charter school adjudications
SOME CHARTER-SCHOOL operators are frustrated and disappointed with school district reports posted yesterday that explained the district's reasoning in denying charter-school applications.
The School Reform Commission last week approved five of the 39 applicants, angering both sides in the charter-school debate. The 39 adjudications posted on the district's website explained why officials did or did not approve a charter.

Preliminary T/E school budget calls for tax hikes
West Cheester Daily Local By Virginia Lindak, For 21st Century Media 02/23/15, 8:55 PM EST |
The Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board recently voted to adopt the district’s preliminary budget for 2015-16 that includes a tax increase.  A $5.3 million deficit in revenue is addressed through an increase of 1.9 percent in the property tax, the projected referendum exception tax revenue of 1.78 percent, and from a contribution from the fund balance.  “The preliminary budget that we adopted basically is a starting point in the budget development process that will be between now and June,” said Art McDonnell, business manager.  “Initially our preliminary budget has started with an imbalance of about $5.3 million. That submission to the state can’t be submitted with any kind of imbalance. The preliminary budget includes property tax revenue through two sources. One, being the Act 1 Index of 1.9 percent and a projection of the district being eligible for some Act 1 referendum exception which would allow that they would increase taxes above the Act 1 Index. The balance of the funds to close the $5.3 million operating deficit would come from reserves ...”

West York Area School Board approves preliminary budget
York Dispatch By JOSHUA VAUGHN 505-5438/@ydschools  02/23/2015 09:14:03 PM EST
The West York Area School District has a rough blueprint for its finances for the 2015-16 school year, as the school board voted Tuesday night to approve the proposed preliminary budget.
The district will seek two exceptions, for special education and for increased payments to Pennsylvania Public School Employee's Retirement plan, to exceed the state-set tax increase cap of 2.4 percent. The district would gain $988,000 in added revenue, and the money would help fill the projected $2.5 million deficit.  Board members cautioned that this was only a preliminary move and does not indicate whether the district will actually raise taxes.

York NAACP to hold meeting on York City schools
THE YORK DISPATCH POSTED:   02/23/2015 08:02:33 PM EST
The York NAACP will hold a town hall meeting on York City schools at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Crispus Attucks, 605 S. Duke St.  Participants will include the Rev. Aaron Wilford Jr. of Bethlehem Baptist Church and of the Concerned Clergy of York.  The community is invited to participate in a discussion of "how did we get here and where do we go from here" as well as the current status of litigation over the attempt to take over the school district. 

More Conflict Over Cutting Federal Role in Education
New York Times By TAMAR LEWIN FEB. 24, 2015
As the House of Representatives prepared to take up a Republican proposal for the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, Congress and the White House on Monday inched toward a confrontation over the federal role in education.  The House is expected to pass a plan this week that would cut back federal regulation of education from kindergarten through 12th grade and give state and local authorities more discretion over everything from assessing teacher and student performance to the flow of Title I money, the largest stream of federal funding for low-income students.

As House Prepares to Vote on NCLB, Advocates Push for Preschool Funding
The proposal would create a federal-state partnership and would cost $27 billion over five years.
US News and World Report By Allie Bidwell Feb. 23, 2015 | 4:12 p.m. EST
As the House of Representatives prepares to vote on Republican legislation to update the No Child Left Behind Act, a coalition of education professionals and advocacy groups is urging lawmakers to consider adding dedicated funding for preschool in the bill.
The groups – including both national teachers unions, a national principals association and groups that advocate for education equity – on Monday are releasing a proposal to add funding for early childhood education as a new title to the overarching education law formally known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The proposed title – which follows the structure of the Strong Start for America's Children Act – would cost $27 billion over five years and would be paid for by closing certain corporate tax loopholes. The law currently governs how all federal funds are directed to states and local education agencies and holds states accountable by tracking student progress through test data.

N.J. Assembly restricts use of controversial PARCC test
RITA GIORDANO, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, February 24, 2015, 1:07 AM POSTED: Monday, February 23, 2015, 6:46 PM
The New Jersey Assembly on Monday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would keep the results of a new standardized test from being used to measure student achievement for three years.
The legislation would prohibit the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) from determining a student's placement in a gifted and talented program; placement in other programs or interventions; grade promotion; as a state graduation proficiency test; or any other school- or district-level decision that affects students. It also could not be used in teacher evaluations during that period.

INVITATION: Join Next Twitter Chat on Pennsylvania Education - Tonight 8 pm
PSBA's website
The next monthly Twitter chat with Pennsylvania’s major education leadership organizations is set for Tuesday, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. The February chat will focus on the PASA-PASBO annual budget survey, released the day before, and the on-going need for a fair, predictable basic education funding formula. Use hashtag #FairFundingPA to participate and follow the conversation.

PSBA Members Only Annual Pennsylvania Education Budget Briefing
MAR 4, 2015 • 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Join us for a special complimentary members-only Annual Pennsylvania Education Budget Briefing webinar, Wednesday, March 4 at noon.  The webinar features Acting Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and PSBA Senior Director of Government Affairs, John Callahan, who will discuss Gov. Wolf’s 2015-16 proposed budget. You will have the option to attend live at PSBA’s Headquarters in Mechanicsburg or join us online through your computer. Both options will allow you to ask questions during the webinar.

"Test-In" & Forum on High Stakes Testing
Thurs., Feb 26, 2015 (5-7pm)  Free Library of Philadelphia – Central Branch Room 406 & 407 1901 Vine St., Phila 19103 (between 19th and 20th Streets on the Parkway)
Caucus of Working Educators BY MAX ROSEN-LONG 301SC ON FEBRUARY 16, 2015
Join parents, teachers, students, community members, higher ed faculty, politicians, & district administrators at the...“Test-In” & Forum on High Stakes Testing
-Answer sample PSSA and Keystone test questions.
-Hear teachers break the code of silence and reveal the injustice of high stakes testing from the classroom perspective.
-Hear students describe how the onslaught of testing has forced art, music, gym, and recess out of the school day.
-Hear school nurses describe the emotional and physical impact testing has on students.
-Learn exactly how much money and time is spent on testing annually in our schools.
-Discuss alternatives to high stakes testing.
-Learn how parents, teachers, and students have fought back again high stakes testing in Chicago, New York, Seattle, and other cities across the country.

The State of Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia Tuesday, March 17, 2015 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM
United Way Building, 1709 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA
Join Law Center attorneys for a briefing on the basics of education funding, a recap of the March 11th oral arguments in the school funding lawsuit, information on the new administration’s budget proposal and more.  There are limited spots available for this free event. 1.5 CLE credits will be offered to participating attorneys.

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in Lancaster County Tuesday, March 17, at 7:00 pm at Millersville University
Education Voters of PA and the Millersville University Education on Location program will be co-hosting a forum about public school funding in Lancaster County on Tuesday, March 17, at 7:00 pm at Millersville University, the Lehrer Room in the Bolger Conference Center.
This event is free and open to the public. It will give Lancaster County residents the opportunity both to learn more about how state funding issues impact their own school districts and to learn about how they can make a positive difference for their schools and communities by advocating for a state system of funding schools that is fair, adequate, and predictable and will provide all students with an opportunity to learn.
Panelists for the forum include:
Dr. Brenda Becker, Hempfield Area SD, Superintendent
Dr. Bob Hollister, Elanco SD, Superintendent
Dr. Mike Leichliter, Penn Manor SD, Superintendent
Dr. Tim Shrom, Solanco SD, Business Manager
Ms. Idette Groff, Conestoga Valley SD, School Board Member    
Mr. Tim Stayer, Ephrata Area SD, School Board Member
Ms. Susan Gobreski, Education Voters of PA

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in York: Wednesday, March 25th, 6:30pm to 8pm at the York Learning Center, 300 E. 7th Avenue, York.
This forum will give York County residents the opportunity both to learn more about how state funding issues impact their own school districts and to learn about how they can make a positive difference for their schools and communities by advocating for a state system of funding schools that is fair, adequate, and predictable and will provide all students with an opportunity to learn.
Panelists for the forum include:
Dr. Emilie Lonardi, West York SD, Superintendent
Dr. Scott Deisley, Red Lion Area SD, Superintendents
Mr. Brian Geller, Northeastern York SD, Director of Operations
Mr. Troy Wentz, Hanover Public SD, Business Manager    
Mrs. Ellen Freireich, York Suburban SD, School Board Member    
Mr. Eric Wolfgang, Central York SD, School Board Member
Guest Panelist: Mr. Jim Buckheit, Executive Director, PA Association of School Administrators
Moderated by: Ms. Susan Spicka, Education Voters of PA

Education Voters of PA will hold a forum about public school funding in Cumberland County: Wednesday, April 1, 7:00 pm at the Grace Milliman Pollock Performing Arts Center, 340 North 21st Street, Camp Hill.
This forum will give Cumberland County residents the opportunity both to learn more about how state funding issues impact their own school districts and to learn about how they can make a positive difference for their schools and communities by advocating for a state system of funding schools that is fair, adequate, and predictable and will provide all students with an opportunity to learn.
Panelists for the forum include:
Mr. Richard Fry, Big Spring SD, Superintendent
Mr. John Friend, Carlisle Area SD, Superintendent
Dr. Mark Leidy, Mechanicsburg Area SD, Superintendent
Ms. Christine Hakes, Camp Hill Area SD, Business Manager
Mr. Matt Franchak, school board member, East Pennsboro SD, School Board Member    
Guest Panelist: Mr. Dave Patti, President and CEO, Pennsylvania Business Council
Moderated by: Ms. Susan Spicka, Education Voters of PA

PSBA 2015 Advocacy Forum
APR 19, 2015 • 8:00 AM - APR 20, 2015 • 5:00 PM
Join PSBA for the second annual Advocacy Forum on April 19-20, 2015. Hear from legislative experts on hot topics and issues regarding public education on Sunday, April 19, at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg. The next day you and fellow advocates will meet with legislators at the state capitol. This is your chance to learn how to successfully advocate on behalf of public education and make your voice heard on the Hill.
·         Schedule of Events
·         Day One –PSBA headquarters
·         10 a.m. — Early Bird Arrival and Registration
·         10:30-12 p.m. — The State Education Agenda
The chairman of the Senate and House Education Committees will share their perspectives on the education agenda for the 2015-16 session of the General Assembly. Speakers: Senator Smucker, chairman, Senate Education Committee; and Representative Saylor, chairman, House Education Committee
·         Noon-1:15 p.m. — Welcome Lunch
·         1:00-12:15 p.m. — Special Welcome and Introduction: Nathan Mains, PSBA Executive Director and William LaCoff, PSBA President
·         12:30-1 p.m. — Speaker: Diane Ravitchnationally known education historian, policy analyst and author of Reign of Error.
·         1:15-2:00 p.m. — Education Priorities will be discussed with the Education Secretary Pedro Rivera
This session provides the latest information on the governor’s proposed state funding plans, the pension crisis and the latest on special education.
·         2:00-2:30 p.m. — Federal Education Update: NSBA
Director of National Advocacy Services Kathleen Branch will join Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman from NSBA, to speak about federal advocacy.
·         2:30-3 p.m. — Social Media Training Mary Curley, Communications Director for Chester County Intermediate Unit
·         3-3:15 p.m. — Break
·         3:15-3:45 p.m. — Grassroots Advocacy: How to be an Effective Advocate
Hear from Allwein Advocacy Award winners Shauna D’Alessandro, school director from West Jefferson Hills SD and PSBA Allegheny Region 14 director, and Mark B. Miller, board vice president of Centennial SD and PSBA vice president.
·         3:45-4:15 p.m. — Legislative Update and Lobby Day Coordination
PSBA’s Senior Director of Government Affairs John Callahan will walk you through legislative issues and priorities that might be addressed the next day during legislative visits by members.
·         4:15-5 p.m. — Roundtable Discussion
Network with your fellow board members before visiting your legislator
·         5:00-5:15 p.m. — Break
·         5:15-6:30 p.m. — Dinner Buffet
Enjoy a legislative discussion on the 2015-16 budget and appropriations with Senator Browne
·         6:30 p.m. — Adjourn

Campaign for Fair Education Funding Seeks Campaign Manager
Campaign for Fair Education Funding February 2, 2015
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding seeks a campaign manager who is a strategic thinker and an operational leader. This position could be filled by an individual or firm. The manager will lead the day-to-day operations of the campaign and its government relations, communications, mobilization and research committees and work in partnership with the campaign governing board to set and implement the campaign’s strategic direction.

Sign-up for weekly email updates from the Campaign
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding website

PA Basic Education Funding Commission website

Thorough and Efficient: Pennsylvania Education Funding Lawsuit website
Arguing that our state has failed to ensure that essential resources are available for all of our public school students to meet state academic standards.

Sign up for National School Boards Association’s Advocacy Network
Friends of Public Education

Register Now! EPLC 2015 Regional Workshops for School Board Candidates and Others
The Education Policy and Leadership Center, with the Cooperation of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO), will conduct A Series of Regional Full-Day Workshops for 2015 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.  Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in these workshops.
Harrisburg Region Saturday, March 7, 2015– 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania School Boards Association Headquarters, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
Philadelphia Region Saturday, March 14, 2015 – 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Montgomery County Intermediate Unit, 2 W. Lafayette Street, Norristown, PA 19401

NPE 2015 Annual Conference – Chicago April 24 - 26 – Early Bird Special Registration Open!
Early-bird discounted Registration for the Network for Public Education’s Second Annual Conference is now available at this address:
These low rates will last for the month of January.
The event is being held at the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago, and there is a link on the registration page for special hotel registration rates. Here are some of the event details.
There will be a welcoming social event  7 pm Friday night, at or near the Drake Hotel — details coming soon.   Featured speakers will be:
§         Jitu Brown, National Director – Journey for Justice, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Network for Public Education Board of Directors
§         Tanaisa Brown, High School Senior, with the Newark Student Union
§         Yong Zhao, Author, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?
§         Diane Ravitch in conversation with
§         Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA President and
§         Randi Weingarten, AFT President
§         Karen Lewis, President, Chicago Teachers Union

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