Wednesday, May 13, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 13: Roebuck to introduce Wolf blueprint for school changes; Property Tax and Pension bills move in the Legislature

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for May 13, 2015:
Roebuck to introduce Wolf blueprint for school changes; Property Tax and Pension bills move in the Legislature

Education Voters PA: Join our Call to Action on Thursday, May 14th
Join others across Pennsylvania and take 5-10 minutes on May 14th to call our state legislators to tell them that Harrisburg’s top priority this year must be enacting a new system that provides adequate and fair funding for public schools.

Roebuck to introduce Wolf blueprint for school changes
Rep. Roebuck Press Release May 12, 2014
HARRISBURG, May 12 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, will introduce legislation to carry out Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed changes to the state school code.  "After four years of cuts and underfunding of K-12 and higher education, Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly elected Governor Wolf to put us back on the right track in education. I'm proud to work with the governor and House leadership to introduce this blueprint of necessary changes to the school code to help our kids," Roebuck said.
Wolf has proposed a $400 million increase in the basic education subsidy to K-12 schools -- the largest in Pennsylvania history – to restore Accountability Block Grant and Educational Assistance Program funds cut under the Corbett administration. Under this plan, school districts would receive reimbursement for about 10 percent of their mandatory charter school tuition payments. Also, more resources would be made available to help close the funding gap that resulted from cuts in the basic education subsidy dating to the 2010-11 school year.

House property tax reform plan passes key House floor vote
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Tuesday, the House approved a measure by Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) that would raise Pennsylvania’s income and sales tax while providing dollar-for-dollar property tax reduction.
The proposal was adopted as an amendment to Rep. Matt Gabler’s (R-Elk) House Bill 504 by a 109 to 86 vote that crossed party lines.   The proposal calls for increasing Pennsylvania’s personal income tax by 0.63 percent to 3.7 percent while raising the sales and use tax a full percentage point to seven percent in order to earn an estimated $5 billion in additional revenue to be dedicated to property tax relief.

Pa. House set to approve property tax-relief plan
WHYY Newsworks BY MARY WILSON MAY 13, 2015
Pennsylvania House lawmakers are expected to take a final vote Wednesday approving a property tax relief plan similar to what Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed.  Like the governor's plan, it would seek higher sales and personal income taxes in order to give Pennsylvanians a break on property taxes. But it would not target extra relief to cities and poor school districts – something Wolf wants to do.  The measure attracted Democratic leaders, including caucus whip Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton, and divided the chamber's Republican majority.  "I am really shocked that we would be proposing a 16 percent increase in state spending on a billion dollar structural state deficit," said Rep. Bill Adolph, R-Delaware, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

House poised to vote on property tax reform on Wednesday
By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 12, 2015 at 9:11 PM, updated May 12, 2015 at 10:00 PM
In what some described as the most significant property tax vote in decades if not longer, the state House on Tuesday approved a proposal that would shift $4.2 billion of the school funding burden that property owners now bear on to wage earners and consumers.  The tax-shifting measure, which passed by a 109-86 vote, was amended to a tax code bill exempting timbering operations from the sales tax. The legislation now is expected to be considered for final passage by the House on Wednesday, sending it to the Senate for anticipated further refinement.  The House plan, offered by Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Red Lion, proposes to raise the state's 3.07 percent personal income tax to 3.7 percent. It also would increase the state's 6 percent sales tax to 7 percent but would not expand the base of items that are subject to the tax.  In return, property owners, residential and commercial alike, would reap the benefit of lower school property taxes. It also adds $125 million more to the state's property tax and rent rebate program that benefits low- to low-middle income senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Changes to Pa. property taxes advance in House
Morning Call By Mark Scolforo Associated Press May 13, 2015
Pennsylvania House passes property tax amendment that would increase income, sales taxes
Republican-drafted property tax amendmentl OK'd by Pa House
HARRISBURG — A plan to replace nearly $5 billion in property taxes that are used to fund public education in Pennsylvania with higher sales and income taxes passed the state House on Tuesday, placing the issue squarely before lawmakers at the start of peak dealmaking season.  The House voted 109-86 for a Republican-drafted plan that would raise the sales tax rate in most of the state from 6 percent to 7 percent and increase the personal income tax rate from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent.  Supporters called it a rare opportunity to act on something with wide support in their districts, while opponents warned the plan lacked a mechanism to prevent school boards from eventually returning property taxes to current levels or higher.  "This is not the amendment I would write, but I'm not in the majority," said Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Cambria. "What I believe is more important is that we reach some compromise that helps our oldest citizens stay in their houses."

Tax relief, and school funding
Lancaster Online Editorial  posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 6:00
School district property tax rates have increased an average of 26.5 percent across Lancaster County since Act 1 took effect seven years ago — well above the inflation rate of 17.4  percent for the same time span. The state House passed property tax reform Tuesday that, as in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget, would increase Pennsylvania’s personal income tax to 3.7 percent. The House proposal also would raise the state sales tax to 7 percent — a bit more than the 6.6 percent sought by Wolf but without expanding the range of items and services taxed, as the governor has proposed.  No doubt frustrated by Act 1’s failure to reduce their property taxes, many Lancaster County residents have a pretty simple opinion about the school property tax: Don’t mend it, end it.
State Rep. Stan Saylor, a York County Republican who chairs the House Education Committee, understands that.  “We’ve tried total elimination,” Saylor said Tuesday. “It’s always failed. I’ve proposed something to try to get the ball moving.” (Saylor said he believes the governor’s plan has no chance of House passage.)  We’re with Saylor and Wolf and, for that matter, the lawmakers who have resisted the elimination of property taxes.  Property taxes provide a safety net for school districts during economic downturns — when they must continue to pay their utility bills, teachers’ existing contracts, and for special education and other services we rightly expect of them in educating our children.

“There hasn’t been a hearing on it, there hasn’t been a lot of deliberation on it, there hasn’t been a lot of stakeholder input,” he said, further pointing out one of the actuaries studying the bill said time constraints prohibited them from reading the bill.  “We are disclosing that the time available for preparing this letter as insufficient to perform a complete review and thus, this letter should be considered preliminary in nature,” read part of the cover letter for the actuarial report delivered by Milliman, an actuarial firm contracted by PERC."
House and Senate advance defined contribution pension bills
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Though different in substance, both the House and Senate were active Tuesday in moving bills designed to dramatically reform Pennsylvania’s state-run public employee pension systems.  Furthest along in the process is Senate Bill 1, the Senate Republican caucus’s pension reform plan that would move new employees to a 401(k)-like pension plan and alter the future benefits of current employees by requiring a higher employee contribution or rolling their defined benefit plan structure back to that of pre-Act 9-levels.  After making its way through the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, the legislation was considered Tuesday morning by the Public Employee Retirement Commission.  There, an actuarial note to the legislation was approved that showed the bill could save anywhere between $8 billion and $18 billion depending on which analysis is used.  Voting against the actuarial note, commission member Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna) reiterated process concerns he made during Monday’s Senate Finance Committee meeting.

Democrats dispute savings in GOP’s state pensions bill
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau May 13, 2015 12:10 AM
HARRISBURG -- A pensions bill Senate Republicans are preparing for passage today could save the state and school districts $18 billion in retirement costs over 30 years, according to an analysis released Tuesday by a state commission.  Most of that savings is projected to come from changes to the benefits of current workers -- provisions that Democrats, who oppose the measure, say violate state law.  With Republicans planning for a final Senate vote today, the state Public Employee Retirement Commission on Tuesday released an analysis of the plan to increase paycheck contributions or lower benefits for most current state and public school workers while closing the traditional pension plan to new hires.

Five takeaways from the Senate Republicans' proposed reform of Pennsylvania's statewide pension plans
By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 12, 2015 at 6:32 PM, updated May 12, 2015 at 11:25 PM
Here's some early observations from the preliminary analyses of Senate Republicans' effort to reform Pennsylvania's two statewide public pension systems.  1. It appears to save more for taxpayers faster than most of the other legislative initiatives introduced to date.  The plan built by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh County, would save about $18 billion to taxpayers from current obligations through the next 30 years.  That's a little higher target than we've seen from two pension reform alternatives advanced by House members last session, but the main benefit to Browne's plan is more of these savings can be enjoyed in the near-term.

Key PSERS Provisions of Senate Bill 1
PSBA website May 12, 2015
The following is PSBA’s initial summary of key provisions of Senate Bill 1, as of May 12.
Senate Bill 1 is the Senate version of pension reform that seeks to change the Public School Employee Retirement System (PSERS) and the State Employee Retirement System (SERS) for both long- and short-term cost savings. Preliminary Public Employee Retirement Commission (PERC) analysis suggests (download the PERC Actuarial Note)this legislation could save approximately $16.2 billion for PSERS through 2048. It is intended to stabilize the system for future years and begin to fix the insurmountable unfunded liability.

Pa. and New Jersey graduation rates among top in nation
Sara K. Satullo | For May 13, 2015

The truth about cyber charter schools
Trib Live Letter By Michael J. Conti Tuesday, May 12, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
Michael J. Conti is CEO of The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School.
Your recent article “Jeannette joins the call for cyberschool funding change” begs a rebuttal. The rationale the district relies upon is tired and flawed. Alarmingly, in presenting an entirely one-sided story, your editorial team and reporter did not strive to meet a basic journalistic principle: balance.  
Superintendent Hutchinson says, “The cyber charter school funding formula has no basis in the actual price to educate (those students).” What he fails to admit is that the existing formula for traditional school districts lacks equity, as well. Furthermore, all school districts pay a per-pupil payment minus all per-pupil expenditures for each student attending a cyber school, which is about 80 percent of what they pay to educate that student.
East Penn School Board defends budget that calls for 3.8 percent tax hike
By Margie Peterson Special to The Morning Call May 12, 2015
East Penn school board defends 2015-16 budget which calls for 3.8 percent tax hike
See how much East Penn School District taxes will go up  Before voting Monday for a proposed final 2015-16 budget with a 3.78 percent tax increase, several East Penn school directors defended the budget process against criticism that the district should have worked harder to practice austerity.  School Director Lynn Donches said she couldn't support the $141 million spending plan because the board and administration hadn't done enough to curtail increases in salaries and health benefits of staff at contract time or to practice thrift in administration.  "Are our taxpayers going to be able to afford the 2.5 percent increase in salaries?" she asked.  She said 65 percent of the district's budget goes to salaries and benefits, but in private industry those line items run about 40 percent.

Whitehall-Coplay eyeing 3 percent tax hike
By Kevin Duffy Special to The Morning Call May 12, 2015
The Whitehall-Coplay School District approved a preliminary-final budget of $61.9 million that calls for a real estate tax increase of nearly 3 percent for the 2015-16 school year.
Taxes would rise to 15.8673 mills, an increase of 0.4487. The spending plan represents a 3.59 percent increase over the current outlay.

"In previous meetings, McHale-Small said the biggest cost increases for the district are state-mandated retirement contributions, which will increase by $900,000 going into the 2015-16 year. Health care benefits will see the next biggest increase, going up by about $375,000."
Saucon Valley School Board cites surplus, won't raise taxes
By Christy Potter Special to The Morning Call May 13, 2015
The Saucon Valley School Board wants to tap the district's surplus, not raise taxes, to balance the 2015-16 budget.  The board voted 8-1 Tuesday night to pass the $42.9 million proposed final budget and draw on the district's $15.2 million fund balance to close a $478,725 gap.  Director Ed Inghrim, who made the motion to approve the spending plan with no tax increase, said he didn't want to increase property taxes when the district is running a surplus.

6 Lancaster County high schools named among state's best in U.S. News & World Report rankings
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, May 12, 2015 8:09 am | Updated: 10:48 pm, Tue May 12, 2015.
In 2008, Penn Manor High School was in trouble. It hadn't met the state's academic targets for two years in a row, and was required to come up with an improvement plan.  Seven years later, the school has been recognized as one of the state's best by U.S. News & World Report.  The magazine's annual Best High Schools list awards gold, silver and bronze medals to public schools it deems best at preparing students for college. Six Lancaster County high schools made this year's list. Rankings were calculated using standardized test scores in math and reading, as well as participation and success on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams.

Philly Chief Financial Officer Matt Stanski to leave District at the end of June
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on May 12, 2015 06:19 PM
School District Chief Financial Officer Matthew Stanski is leaving at the end of June to take a similar position in the Montgomery County, Maryland, school district.  Stanski came to Philadelphia to manage District finances in November 2012 from Prince George's County, Maryland, where he had worked with Superintendent William Hite.  District spokesman Fernando Gallard said that the Montgomery County Board of Education voted Tuesday on Stanski's appointment to be their supervisor for management, budget and planning.  "As CFO, Matt navigated the District through a crippling financial crisis and created the conditions for financial stability," Gallard said in a statement. "In FY 2014, the District faced a $304 million shortfall. The District is expected to end this fiscal year with a small surplus."

SRC votes not to renew one of its initial Renaissance charters
A dozen other schools had charters renewed at a special meeting Monday.
By Laura Benshoff for NewsWorks on May 12, 2015 09:37 AM
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission voted not to renew two charter schools, including, for the first time, one of its own hand-picked Renaissance charters Monday night.  Delaware Valley Charter High School (DVCHS) and Universal Bluford both received notices of nonrenewal.  DVCHS CEO Ernest Holiday pushed back on the numbers gathered as a part of the Charter School Office's evaluation process, including math proficiency of less than 30 percent for the last three years.

More questions than answers on funding for Philly schools
THE CITY'S public school system is once again stuck in no man's land, otherwise known as a new budget cycle.  The city charter requires the school district to adopt its budget by May 30, but funding from the city and state are a giant question mark at this point, leading to the possibility that the district might violate the charter and go past its deadline for the second straight year.  "I can't see how the district would conceive of passing a budget by May 30," Bill Green, a member of the School Reform Commission, the district's governing body, said in a recent interview.

Philly Daily News has endorsed Helen Gym, long time public education advocate, for at-large city council seat.
DN Editorial - For At-Large: New faces
To foster progress & cooperation, our selections are a needed sea change
Philly Daily News Editorial POSTED: Wednesday, May 13, 2015, 12:16 AM
IN PAST City Council races, we've always been impressed with the wide variety of candidates that come up from the neighborhoods and community activism, "regular joes" who are dedicated to public service. These contenders are not always the best qualified, but their runs represent the essence of democracy - and a refreshing counterpoint to a City Council that has often represented political dynasties as much as, if not more than, the people's business.

Finance reports give insight to Philly at-large council race
There's only a few days remaining until Pennsylvania's May 19 primary — when Philadelphia voters will choose a new mayor and may elect to dramatically shake up City Council.  Council's seven at-large seats are up for grabs and at least one will be taken by a newcomer.  According to the city charter, at least two of these seats go to Republicans as the minority party. Historically, based on the city's political demographics, Philly's at-large council members typically split five for Democrats and two for the GOP.  To focus on the Democrats: on primary day, voters can choose five candidates from a list of both incumbents and newcomers.

Neshaminy superintendent leaves for Lower Merion by Kathy Bocella Wednesday, May 13, 2015, 1:08 AM
LANGHORNE Neshaminy School District's superintendent, Robert Copeland, has resigned to take the same job at the Lower Merion School District, effective July 1.  Copeland announced his resignation in a letter to the school community on Tuesday, the same day that Lower Merion's school board said he was being hired in the Montgomery County district.  Before going to Neshaminy three years ago, Copeland was a longtime superintendent in Piscataway Township, N.J., and was named 2007 New Jersey Superintendent of the Year by the Association of School Administrators, according to a news release.

Nicholas Kristof: Peace in our schools
Let’s call a truce in the education wars and focus on pre-K
Post Gazette Opinion By Nicholas Kristof May 13, 2015 12:00 AM
For the last dozen years, waves of idealistic Americans have campaigned to reform and improve K-12 education.  Armies of college graduates joined Teach for America. Zillionaires invested in charter schools. Liberals and conservatives, holding their noses and agreeing on nothing else, cooperated to proclaim education the civil rights issue of our time.  Yet I wonder if the education reform movement hasn’t peaked.  The zillionaires are bruised. The idealists are dispirited. The number of young people applying for Teach for America, after 15 years of growth, has dropped for the last two years. The Common Core curriculum is now an orphan, with politicians vigorously denying paternity.  K-12 education is an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield. It’s Agincourt, the day after. So, a suggestion: Refocus some reformist passions on early childhood.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: May 6 - 12, 2015
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on May 12, 2015 - 1:37pm 
As standardized exam season winds down, heavy pressure from the grassroots testing resistance movement is posting multiple policy reform victories. Just this week, Texas essentially eliminated graduation testing requirements for most high school seniors. Backed by a powerful movement of parents and educators, the Colorado legislature overwhelmingly voted to send the governor a package that cuts state-mandated testing hours by more than 30%, supports parental out-out rights, and allows districts to pilot alternative assessments. Bills strengthening opt-out provisions are also moving in Delaware and Wisconsin. In New York, the incoming State Senate Majority Leader is the primary sponsor of legislation to limit state exams.

Education Voters PA: Join our Call to Action on Thursday, May 14th
Join others across Pennsylvania and take 5-10 minutes on May 14th to call our state legislators to tell them that Harrisburg’s top priority this year must be enacting a new system that provides adequate and fair funding for public schools.
Our legislators must take politics out of school funding and distribute state funding to school districts using a formula that is based on real factors and the real costs of delivering services.
• Support sufficient funding for public schools that provides every student with the opportunity to learn, to meet state standards, and to be self-sufficient adults, ready for college and the workforce. Money matters when it comes to providing programs and services.
• Drive out state funding to districts using a formula that is based on real factors and the real costs of delivering services, including student factors such as the number of students who live in poverty, who are English language learners, and who are homeless. It should also take into account district factors such as the sparsity/size of the district, local tax effort, local wealth, and the number of students attending charter schools.
• Please support a long-term, student-driven, and equitable funding formula that provides adequate resources for every student to be able to meet academic standards.

School directors, superintendents and administrators are encouraged to register and attend this event.
Bucks / Lehigh / Northampton Legislative Council
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM Quakertown Community School District, 100 Commerce Drive  Quakertown, PA 18951
Welcome by Paul Stepanoff , Board President , QCSD
Introduction of Paul Clymer, State of State Education

Mr. Glenn Grell , PSERS Executive Director
Introduction by Dr. Bill Harner, Superintendent QCSD

Panel of Superintendents and Elected School Directors from Bucks / Lehigh / Northampton Counties
Introduction by Mark B. Miller, Board Vice President, Centennial SD

1) The status of 2015-16 budget in their district (including proposed tax increase)
2) PSERS impact on their budget
3) Proposed use of any new funding from Commonwealth

Larry Feinberg and Ron Williams
Benefit and need for County Wide Legislative Council in Delaware and Montgomery Counties respectively

Dr. Tom Seidenberger (Retired Superintendent ) - Circuit Rider Update

SAVE The DATE: Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508
Conneaut School District
Mr. Jarrin Sperry, Superintendent, Ms. Jody Sperry, Board President
Corry School District
Mr. William Nichols, Superintendent
Fort LeBoeuf School District
Mr. Richard Emerick, Assistant Superintendent
Girard School District
Dr. James Tracy, Superintendent
Harbor Creek School District
Ms. Christine Mitchell, Board President
Millcreek School District
Mr. William Hall, Superintendent Mr. Aaron O'Toole, Director of Finance and Accounting
Keynote Speaker
Mr. Jay Himes, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials

Sponsored by Coatesville and Media Area NAACPs
9:00 AM – 1:30 PM SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2015
Our children have to pass the state mandated tests in order to move on with life. SO - it is time for the PA Assembly to provide adequate and equitable funding to the public schools of Pennsylvania.
Pre-Registration is required for meals. Deadline for Pre-registration is May 12, 2015

PHILADELPHIA—The School District of Philadelphia, in partnership with local organizations, will host community budget meetings. District officials will share information about budget projections and request input on school resources and investments.  Partnering groups include the Philadelphia Education Fund, POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower & Rebuild), Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), local clergy and community advocates. All meetings will be held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The dates and locations are as follows:
 Thursday, May 14
Congreso, 216 West Somerset St.
 Wednesday, May 20

Martin Luther King High School6100 Stenton Ave.

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