Wednesday, May 27, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 27: When was the last time you saw any coverage of public charter school budgets?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3600 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, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, 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 May 27, 2015:
When was the last time you saw any coverage of public charter school budgets?



Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508



This is a great series of podcasts and "web explainers" providing in-depth reporting on many facets of PA school funding.
MULTIPLE CHOICES:THE INS AND OUTS OF SCHOOL FUNDING IN PENNSYLVANIA
Keystone Crossroads

Here is the latest in the above series….
What is a millage rate and how does it affect school funding?
WHYY Newsworks BY CONNIE LANGLAND MAY 27, 2015 MULTIPLE CHOICES: PART 10
Tenth in an occasional series of podcasts and web "explainers." 
 What is a millage rate?
Millage is a relatively obscure term that represents the tax rate levied on real estate or other property. A mill is one thousandth of a dollar, or one tenth of one cent. 
The millage rate is the number of dollars of tax assessed for each $1,000 of property value. A rate of 10 mills means that $10 in tax is levied on every $1,000 in assessed value.
A school district typically will set the millage rate each spring as it calculates what it needs to fund its final budget. Some years, the rate stays the same; other years, there's an increase.
What else goes into setting my tax bill?
The other key figure is the assessed valuation.
Every property has one. It is set by each county in Pennsylvania. But in many counties, the assessed valuations are not updated systematically on any set schedule.
When property values rise, this means the assessed value can lag behind what the house might sell for in the current year. It can even be far less if the value of real estate in the area has spiked and assessments aren't updated, as happened in the first decade of this century in some gentrifying neighborhoods in and around Center City Philadelphia.

Wolf: Let's pay for preschool, not prison
ANGELA COULOUMBIS, INQUIRER HARRISBURG BUREAU POSTED: Tuesday, May 26, 2015, 12:56 PM
HARRISBURG - Pay now, or pay more later.  That was the message Gov. Wolf and law enforcement officials delivered Tuesday as they stood outside the state prison near Harrisburg to call for money for early childhood education in the upcoming budget - an investment they said has been shown to boost high school graduation rates and reduce the number of people in prisons.  "If you want to make Pennsylvania a place where we have safe neighborhoods and people can grow up and have fulfilled lives - and not end up in places like this- then we need to invest in early childhood education," said Wolf, surrounded by area district attorneys and other law enforcement officials outside the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill.  "I can't think of a wiser investment," he added.  Wolf made the pitch as he and the legislature continue to grapple over his proposed $30 billion budget and try to meet a July 1 deadline to enact a new spending plan.  As part of his budget, the governor has proposed increasing funding for early childhood programs by $120 million. That includes an additional $100 million that would help another 11,600 children.

Governor ties early childhood education to crime prevention
By Sam Janesch, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tuesday, May 26, 2015
CAMP HILL, Pa. - Gov. Tom Wolf stood outside a state prison near Harrisburg on Tuesday alongside several district attorneys to support increased funding for early childhood education. Mr. Wolf, along with state Corrections Secretary John Wetzel and others, noted a report released from the organization "Fight Crime: Invest in Kids" that says more pre-kindergarten programs would boost high school graduation rates and reduce the number of people in prison. According to the report, the $120 million spending increase for early childhood education included in Mr. Wolf's budget proposal would eventually save the state $350 million in prison spending each year. It would aid in the education of about 14,000 children, the governor said. Mr. Wolf called the multimillion-dollar investment a "down payment" for pre-kindergarten education - the "first step" in the governor's effort to fully fund early childhood education in four years

Law enforcement adds backing to Wolf's pre-kindergarten plan
AP State Wire By MARC LEVY Published: Yesterday
CAMP HILL, Pa. (AP) - Gov. Tom Wolf is getting help from law enforcement officials in his push to persuade lawmakers to spend more money to raise the quality of Pennsylvania's pre-kindergarten programs.  Wolf appeared Tuesday morning outside the Camp Hill state prison in suburban Harrisburg with several district attorneys and the head of the state prisons agency to tout his proposal that would add $120 million in early-childhood education funding - an 88 percent increase.  "There is no better way to invest in the lives of our fellow citizens than in early childhood education. We can see the reverse when we don't invest," Wolf told reporters.  Wolf and his team pointed to a body of studies from other states they say bears out their message.

What are the Top 5 issues facing Gov. Wolf, lawmakers as budget season really kicks in?: Tuesday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 26, 2015 at 7:38 AM, updated May 26, 2015 at 8:22 AM
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Well, we hope you're rested and refreshed after the long, bank holiday weekend. As we write this, there's little more than a month to go before the June 30 deadline to pass a new budget.  
And with that in mind, now seemed as good a time as any to run down the top 5 issues facing Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled General Assembly as both the weather -- and the tempers -- really warm up.

Tidal shift: Pennsylvania is on track to reducing school taxes
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board May 24, 2015 12:00 AM
The state House has advanced historic changes to Pennsylvania’s system of taxing its residents, a plan designed to reduce school property taxes. It comes with a big price tag.  The House passed a bill that would raise the state income tax and the state sales tax. House Bill 504 would boost the sales tax by nearly 17 percent, from 6 to 7 percent, and from 7 to 8 percent in Allegheny County. At the same time, the income tax rate would increase by 20 percent, from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent.  House approval gets the measure only halfway to the goal line, but the Senate could act next month, suggesting that a tidal shift in how Pennsylvanians are taxed is coming.  The biggest beneficiaries would be homeowners. The state would use the new pool of money, $4.3 billion in the first full year, for larger homestead exemptions on owner-occupied residences and to send dollars to school districts in exchange for them reducing their millage rates.

POWERFUL STUDY SHOWS WHY MORE STATE DOLLARS ARE NEEDED FOR SCHOOLS
Third and State Blog Posted by Michael Wood on May 22, 2015 11:06 am
Within three years, MOST school districts in Pennsylvania will be cutting programs and laying off staff if we continue on the current path of school funding. While program eliminations and staff reductions are already the case in a number of lower-income districts, they could soon become the norm across the state, according to an updated report from Temple University's Center on Regional Politics (authored by Drs. William Hartman and Timothy Shrom).  State limits on property tax increases and the very modest increases in state funding we've seen in the past few years mean that revenues in a growing number of districts aren't able to keep up with known increases in costs. As school districts exhaust their reserves, cuts will follow if we don't change this dynamic. We've already seen the impact of program and staffing losses on our schools during and immediately after the recession, and it isn't a recipe for success.   This cuts to the heart of why we need a major infusion of additional state funding for school districts, and why it must be a key part of the 2015-16 state budget.

Pennsylvania: Charters Say Demand for Data is “Frivolous”
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch May 26, 2015 
When the idea of charters was first floated in the late 1980s, advocates offered a simple promise: Give us autonomy, and we will be accountable.  That was then, this is now.
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association estimates that public schools lose $1.3 billion each year to the state’s 177 charters. It filed a “Right to Know” request seeking information about how charters spend public money on such matters as salaries, consultants, advertising, rentals, etc.  A charter spokesman said the PSBA request was “frivolous.” Thus far, not a single charter has responded to the request for financial data.

This matrix has been updated with the status of several charter schools who have either complied with the May 15th RTK request or requested a 30 day extension.
Charter Schools: Tracking PSBA's Right-to-Know Requests
PSBA filed a Right-to-Know request with Pennsylvania charter and cyber charter schools on May 15, 2015. PSBA is tracking the response from each charter in the table below and updating it on a weekly basis. According to Right-to-Know Law, public entities have five days from receipt of an open records request by the agency’s open records officer to either 1) provide the requested records (indicated by a green check); 2) deny the request and give reasons for the denial (indicated by a red X); or 3) invoke a 30-day extension for specific legal reasons (indicated by an (E)).

Blogger note: It is noteworthy that the Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools does not appear to support or advocate for Pennsylvania cyber charters
Close failing schools, whether district-run or charter
Philly.com Opinion By Tim Eller POSTED: Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 1:08 AM
Tim Eller is executive director, Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools
When the Philadelphia School Reform Commission recently voted to close two underperforming charter schools, it was making a decision that was in the best interests of students.  The Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools applauds the SRC; however, the alliance believes that the commission should go further and close the other underperforming public schools in Philadelphia: district-run schools.  Across the state, students and parents expect and deserve the opportunity to receive a high-quality education, whether it is obtained at a public charter school or a traditional public school.

Readers of this blog know that we regularly post coverage of school budget deliberations and approvals which are required to be discussed at multiple public school board meetings over the course of the year and are subject to public scrutiny and public comment.

When was the last time you saw any coverage of public charter school budgets?

Have you ever seen any coverage of the budgets of private and religious schools that receive EITC and OSTC diverted tax dollars?  Under pending legislation, those schools may receive up to $250 million in diverted PA tax dollars this year, with intermediary scholarship organizations keeping up to 20% as administrative fees.  Good luck finding any details on that $50 million…..
Spring-Ford approves $145M budget, 2% tax hike
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 05/26/15, 10:54 PM
Royersford >> Spring-Ford Area School Board member Tom DiBello said Tuesday’s approval of a proposed final budget was just to follow state rules — the real work was still to come.  In a 6-1 decision, the Spring-Ford Area School Board passed a proposed final budget of $145,221,260, which calls for a property tax increase of 2.72 percent.  With a millage rate of 26.446, the owner of a home assessed at $100,00 would pay an additional $70 a year. A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of assessed property value. Board President Mark Dehnert dissented saying he felt the district was headed in the wrong direction by increasing expenses. Board members Todd Wolf and Dawn Heine were absent.  “I’m not trying to raise taxes on people,” DiBello said. “I’m trying to get us to a point where we can advertise this budget.”  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Act 1 time line, a proposed final budget must be approved 30 days before a final budget can be adopted. It also must be available for public inspection at least 20 days before adoption.

West Jefferson Hills School Board approves contract with teachers
Post Gazette By Margaret Smykla May 27, 2015 12:21 AM
At its Tuesday meeting, the West Jefferson Hills School Board approved the collective bargaining agreement between the district and the 206-member Jefferson Federation of Teachers for July 1, 2015,through June 30, 2020.  The federation approved the five-year agreement earlier in the day. The agreement includes annual raises of 2 to 2.5 percent.  Forty-nine teachers who are at the highest step level accepted a pay freeze for the first year of the contract.  The raises will cost the district an additional $542,533 each year, or a total of $2.7 million.  The contract also includes changes in education reimbursement; medical co-pays; procedural changes in filling positions; clarified dates for returning from various leaves; and more.

Hite, SRC make pitch to City Council
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on May 26, 2015 03:00 PM
The annual ritual of District officials appearing before City Council began on Tuesday.
School Reform Commission Chair Marjorie Neff told the lawmakers that "our fiscal house is now in order."  While acknowledging the need to significantly boost academic performance, Superintendent William Hite touted achievements: safer schools, better student attendance, three new innovative high schools, a push for early literacy, curriculum aligned to Common Core standards.   One student gave a personal testimonial and another made a video pleading for more funds for education.  But, as usual, Council members had their own concerns, including why cursive writing wasn't a mandatory part of the curriculum.

School District's budget request gets a skeptical hearing from Council
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER  LAST UPDATED: Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Tuesday, May 26, 2015, 6:08 PM
The Philadelphia School District wants $103 million more from City Council.  On Tuesday, Council made it clear: It is not thrilled with the request, and the cash won't come easily after several years of increases for a district in crisis.  In a long, often tense hearing, Council members expressed skepticism on topics ranging from the district's governance structure to the instruction in cursive handwriting.  Hardly mentioned was the proposed method of raising the money the schools want: a property-tax increase.

Philadelphia City Council talks budgets, penmanship with school district
WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF MAY 27, 2015
It's budget season, and the School District of Philadelphia is making the rounds to seek money for the coming school year.  District officials appeared before City Council Tuesday to ask for recurring funds, to the tune of about $100 million a year,  to help them achieve long-term strategic plans. In response, City Council asked for more information about how the district had spent past budget contributions, as well grilling the educators about penmanship.  With no additional funding from either the city or state, the district faces an $85 million budget deficit for the next school year. In order to make good on the promises in Action Plan 3.0, the district's strategic lodestar, it's requesting $300 million in combined additional, annual funding from Philadelphia and the state.

Bernie Sanders On Education: 5 Things The Presidential Candidate Wants You To Know
Forbes.com April 30, 2015
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is challenging front-runner Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democrat party presidential nomination. Though he is a registered Independent and is proud to call himself a democratic socialist, he will run as a Democrat. In his campaign announcement today he called once again for a move to “make college tuition in public universities and public colleges free.”  He has not had much to say recently on the hot-button issues of school choice, Common Core curriculum standards, charter schools or vouchers, but over the years he has decried a move toward “privatizing” education. Before his election to the Senate in 2006, he served as Vermont’s lone Congressman and voted against voucher programs and for No Child Left Behind. Here are some of his views on education:

Testing Resistance & Reform News: May 20 - 26, 2015
Fairtest Submitted by fairtest on May 26, 2015 - 1:31pm 
More victories for the assessment reform movement this week as activists move into the policy and electoral arenas: the PARCC consortium votes to reduce testing time; Florida suspends high-stakes for end-of-course exams; Colorado's governor signs compromise legislation, Wisconsin blocks test-based teacher assessment, and New Yorkers elect many allies to school boards. 

Sign up here to receive a weekly email update on the status of efforts to have Pennsylvania adopt an adequate, equitable, predictable and sustainable Basic Education Funding Formula by 2016
Sign up to support fair funding »
Campaign for Fair Education Funding website
Our goal is to ensure that every student has access to a quality education no matter where they live. To make that happen, we need to fundamentally change how public schools are funded. The current system is not fair to students or taxpayers and our campaign partners – more than 50 organizations from across Pennsylvania - agree that it has to be changed now. Student performance is stagnating. School districts are in crisis. Lawmakers have the ability to change this formula but they need to hear from you. You can make a difference »

NAACP PA STATE CONFERENCE YOUTH & COLLEGE DIVISION:
FAIR SCHOOL FUNDING MOBLIZATION WORKSHOP
Saturday, May 30, 2015 9:00 am
St. Bernard Hall, Friendship Circle Senior Center - First Floor
1515 Lansdowne Avenue DarbyPA 19023.
East Campus of Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital
Please RSVP to panaacpyc@gmail.com by May 25

Northwestern PA School Funding Forum
May 28, 2015 7:00 PM Jefferson Educational Society 3207 State St. Erie, PA 16508
Panelists
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

PILCOP: Adequately and Fairly Funding Pennsylvania Schools: What are the Needs and Where Does the Money Come From? (Live Webinar)
June 8, 2015, 12:00 — 2:00 P.M.
Staff attorney Michael Churchill will speak about what schools need and where the money comes from in this Pennsylvania Bar Institute (PBI) webinar on June 8. Click here to register.
Governor Wolf has proposed $500 million in new funding for public schools starting this July. He has proposed as shale extraction tax and increases in personal income and sales taxes to pay for this.  This Philadelphia Bar Association Education Law Section and PBI are hosting a webinar that will focus on how much public schools need and differing proposals on how state funds should be distributed this year and in the future. Other focuses will include the current local tax burdens for public schools and issues concerning how the state should raise revenues to pay for these programs.  The program will also provide information about the components of a good funding formula and look at the work of the Basic Education Funding Commission and the state-wide Campaign for Fair Education Funding, of which we are a leading member.

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