Tuesday, June 30, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 30, 2015: Fiscal New Year’s Eve….

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 30, 2015:
Fiscal New Year’s Eve….



Just a heads-up that the PA Ed Policy Roundup may be intermittent and/or late this week



Last day of Pennsylvania’s budget year brings share of drama
Delco Times By Mark Scolforo And Marc Levy , Associated Press 06/30/15, 5:38 AM EDT
HARRISBURG >> The governor and state lawmakers face a day of big votes in the Capitol with a lot at stake on what is the final day of Pennsylvania’s budget year.  Republican majorities in the House and Senate are expected to send budget legislation to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday, along with bills to completely change how wine and liquor are sold and to squeeze billions in savings from public sector pensions.  Wolf’s warned he’ll veto some or all of the budget proposal, which he’s criticized for not devoting sufficient money for education and for adding to the state’s deficit.  This is Wolf’s first budget after beating Republican Gov. Tom Corbett last fall.  The Republicans’ budget of nearly $30.2 billion is a year-over-year increase of about 4 percent.

Budget Battle 2015 - What have we learned?: Monday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 29, 2015 at 8:15 AM, updated June 29, 2015 at 11:30 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Soooo ... how was your weekend?
We spent Sunday evening in the belly of the beast -- an overheated state Capitol, where both the rhetoric and the mercury were causing tempers to steadily rise.  And a mere 24 hours away from the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year, we know a few things for certain. But for those of you tuning in late, let's review what we've learned thus far:
1. The House has sent the Senate a pension reform bill that Gov. Tom Wolf is probably going to veto.
2. On Tuesday, the Senate will act on an amended version of House-approved liquor reform bill that Gov. Tom Wolf is probably going to veto.
3. Also on Tuesday, the Senate will likely send a $30.2 general fund budget bill to Gov. Tom Wolf that he's going to ...
Forget it ... you get the idea.

GOP budget package not like the one Wolf hoped he would see
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 29, 2015 at 8:34 PM, updated June 29, 2015 at 9:42 PM
It's June 30. By now, Gov. Tom Wolf was probably hoping to have his dream budget in hand that delivers on his campaign promises of property tax relief, major restoration of the school funding cut four years ago, and sustainable revenue sources including a new tax on natural gas drilling.  Instead, he's likely to be staring at something that he may think looks more like a Republican-crafted nightmare of a budget package that includes none of the above.  What's more, the GOP are also planning on Tuesday to send Wolf a liquor privatization plan as well as a pension reform that look vastly different from what he had proposed in his March budget address.  Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said the governor hasn't made a decision as to whether he will veto the budget bill in full or in part. But undoubtedly, vetoes will be forthcoming since none of the parts of the budget package that the GOP-controlled General Assembly is sending him has Wolf's buy-in.

As Pa. budget deadline looms, partial shutdown appears likely
ANGELA COULOUMBIS AND MADISON RUSS, INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, June 30, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, June 29, 2015, 7:33 PM
HARRISBURG - With just one day left to achieve an on-time state budget and no further talks planned, the impasse between Gov. Wolf and the Republican-controlled legislature seems certain to end in a partial government shutdown.  On Monday, Wolf sent letters to state employees and contractors preparing them for the likely outcome of Pennsylvania's missing Wednesday's deadline to enact a spending plan for the new fiscal year. Though missing the deadline by a few days - or even weeks - would not have repercussions, a protracted impasse would restrict the state's ability to spend and pay bills.  And with both sides seemingly entrenched, it remains unclear how quickly they can strike a deal.

Countdown to a clash over Pennsylvania budget
Morning Call By Sam Janesch and Steve Esack Call Harrisburg Bureau June 29, 2015
HARRISBURG — Four months. Four days. A matter of hours.
Four months is how long Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf tried to sell the public on his $33.8 billion budget that raises and lowers several taxes.  Four days is how long it took Republican lawmakers to fast-track their $30.1 billion budget that does not carry tax changes.  And it's a matter of hours until the two sides meet in a showdown of wills over the spending plan for the 2015-16 fiscal year, which starts at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.  "We expect a budget on his desk that he will veto [Tuesday]," Wolf's spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, said. "Whether that's a line-item or a full veto, the governor has not made that decision yet."

PA Budget: A look at GOP plans for budget, pension and liquor bills
Delco Times By The Associated Press POSTED: 06/30/15, 5:40 AM EDT 
The House and Senate Republican majorities in the Pennsylvania Legislature are lining up votes to advance major legislation to the desk of Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday, the final day of the state government’s 2014-15 state fiscal year. Here is a summary of the legislation:

Budget standoff continues as GOP moves legislation Wolf plans to veto
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau June 30, 2015 12:07 AM
HARRISBURG — Legislative Republicans continued on their collision course with Gov. Tom Wolf, preparing to send the governor today a state budget he has said he will veto along with liquor and pension proposals he does not support.  Republican leaders have said there is not support in the House and Senate to approve the tax increases Mr. Wolf has proposed, and that sending him a balanced budget by the end of the fiscal year today — even a budget he opposes — would fulfill their obligations.  The governor’s office has said that the GOP budget is not balanced and does too little to increase funding for education, perhaps Mr. Wolf’s foremost campaign promise.  But even in recent days, administration staff have continued to meet with Republican legislators and staff, said Jeffrey Sheridan, spokesman for the governor.

Making sense of Pa. school funding: budgets, formulas and stalemates
WHYY Newsworks BY LAURA BENSHOFF JUNE 29, 2015
In sight of the state's budget deadline of July 1, education funding for Pennsylvania schools is still a question mark.  Over the weekend, legislators held 12-hour sessions and advocates flooded the Capitol in Harrisburg to work on a deal, but Democrats and Republicans have shot down each other's plans. Swirling through the budget debate are two questions that will have a big impact on schools' bottom lines: How much money should the state contribute to education this year? And what to do with the new education funding formula?

School funding formula will boost Pa. economy
Philly.com Letter By Joseph P. McLaughlin Jr. POSTED: Tuesday, June 30, 2015, 1:08 AM
Joseph P. McLaughlin Jr. is director of Temple University's Center on Regional Politics
A new school funding formula for Pennsylvania has been widely praised on moral and constitutional grounds for targeting extra state aid to educate children living in poverty. In light of a study soon to be published by Temple University's Center on Regional Politics and the Rand Corp., the formula also deserves praise as a smart investment policy that could add tens of billions of dollars to the state's economy over the next decade.  The bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission's formula still has to be adopted and adequately funded by the General Assembly, of course, no small task given the different budget priorities of our Democratic governor and Republican legislature. But history shows that divided government can be consistent with stable and rational school funding.

Editorial: State needs to push fair school funding
Delco Times POSTED: 06/29/15, 11:45 PM EDT 
In typical Pennsylvania legislative tradition, this week promises to be the most active of the year in Harrisburg. The activity around the end of the fiscal year, which falls at midnight Tuesday, rolls together everything the Legislature should have been doing since the governor’s budget address last winter.  In recent days, the Republican-controlled House has voted on a budget which Gov. Tom Wolf has vowed to veto, and the partisan bickering over every topic from pension reform to how liquor is sold is going at full tilt.  In the midst of the chaos, the Basic Education Funding Commission recently offered its report and recommendations for a fair funding formula.  The bipartisan commission came up with a formula that would benefit poorer schools in the commonwealth, correcting some of the funding imbalance that has earned Pennsylvania a ranking among the most failing states for equity in public education.  The unbalanced, unfair resulting playing field has penalized too many kids in Delaware County for too long. Kids in financially struggling districts, such as William Penn, Southeast Delco, and Chester Upland, have received lesser education opportunities for no other reason than their zip code.

“In order for the year-long funding commission to produce meaningful policy reform, lawmakers must agree on a sensible approach to transition away from hold harmless. If, for example, the new formula is only applied to new spending — and some $5 billion in education funding remains attached to hold harmless — the broken, irrational method of school funding will remain intact.  The sooner we distribute the bulk of education funding by a student-based formula, the better for Pennsylvania's public school children.”
Student-based formula best for Pennsylvania's public school children: PennLive letters
Penn Live  Letters to the Editor by JAMES PAUL, senior policy analyst, Commonwealth Foundation, Harrisburg on June 29, 2015 at 4:15 PM, updated June 29, 2015 at 7:39 PM
Much of the reaction to the Basic Education Funding Commission's final report has been positive — and for good reason. The commission proposed a student-based formula that finally accounts for enrollment and student need. But considerable legislative legwork remains to ensure that state education dollars are distributed in a rational, transparent manner.  What's the heaviest lift remaining for the General Assembly? Deciding how to phase out Pennsylvania's "hold harmless" provision, which guarantees each school district receives no fewer state dollars than it received the previous year. While the policy ostensibly exists to prevent school districts from being harmed by reduced funding, it has, in fact, brought real harm and inequity to hundreds of growing districts across the commonwealth.

School aid formula being considered creates winners, losers
Education Week by Associated Press Published Online: June 29, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A new public school funding formula being considered by the Legislature would create winners and losers as it seeks a way to link the distribution of state aid more closely to need.  Shrinking school districts that were previously spared aid cutbacks — many in western Pennsylvania — would see their share of aid come in lower under the proposed new formula, an Associated Press analysis found.  But many of Pennsylvania's biggest cities and fastest-growing suburbs — believed to have been shortchanged previously — would get a larger slice of aid for public school instruction and operations.  Here's a further examination and breakdown of the plan, including which counties and districts would see the biggest gains and which would see the biggest losses:

Impoverished schools score low on profile
Citizens Voice by KYLE WIND, STAFF WRITER Published: June 28, 2015
In Jennifer Telesco’s first-grade classroom at John Adams Elementary School in Scranton, learning competes with surviving.  Some of her 6-year-old pupils at a building where nearly nine out of 10 children come from low-income households are latchkey kids or caretakers for younger siblings because their parents work several jobs. Others live in volatile or unstable homes.  “A lot of the time, they’re not focusing on being kids,” Telesco said. “They’re focusing on surviving when they get home from school.”  Among the 193 elementary, middle, high and charter schools in Northeastern Pennsylvania, buildings filled mostly with economically disadvantaged students, like John Adams Elementary, tend to have the lowest scores on a fairly new state Department of Education grading system, a Times-Shamrock Newspapers’ analysis found.

Hundreds lobby Harrisburg for school funds
KRISTEN A. GRAHAM, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Tuesday, June 30, 2015, 1:08 AM POSTED: Monday, June 29, 2015, 3:41 PM
HARRISBURG - Third-grade teacher Elaine Blackmon took a deep breath and made her best sales pitch.  "What's good for Philadelphia public students is good for students across the commonwealth," Blackmon told an impassive assistant to Rep. Martin Causer (R., McKean). "We're asking him to reconsider Gov. Wolf's budget."  Blackmon was among hundreds of people who descended on the state Capitol on Monday to lobby lawmakers deep in negotiations to pass a state budget. Among them were more 100 teachers, nurses, and other members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, sporting red T-shirts and making their case for more funding for city schools.  Philadelphia School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. has asked for more than $200 million in new money from the state. Wolf has proposed $159 million extra for the Philadelphia school system. Republicans passed a budget that would give the district just $18 million more.

PA School Districts Await Budget Passage
Pittsburgh NPR 90.5 By KEVIN GAVIN  June 29, 2015
Pennsylvania school districts are more concerned with “how much” than “when” regarding passage of a fiscal budget and any new state appropriation they might receive.  “In general, initially, if a budget does not pass by June 30, districts won’t find themselves in dire situations,” said Steve Robinson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.  Budgets tend to be front-loaded for districts, he said.  "They are able to send out their tax bills, which happens around July 1 or so," Robinson said. "That money would still be coming in, even if a [state] budget hasn’t passed and the districts might be delayed in getting whatever state subsidy has been approved.”  The Republican-controlled legislature is expected to pass a budget along party lines without taking a vote on Gov. Tom Wolf’s $29.9 billion spending plan. Wolf proposed increasing funding for school districts by $400 million – about 7 percent – to $6.13 billion in the new fiscal year.

Come together
INQUIRER EDITORIAL BOARD POSTED: Tuesday, June 30, 2015, 1:08 AM
The $30 billion budget the Pennsylvania legislature's ruling Republicans are catapulting through the Capitol is going to miss the mark. The plan dusts off one-shot gimmicks and a pledge of allegiance to gas drillers while offering no relief to property tax payers and ignoring the state's schoolchildren.  This bucket of bad ideas can hardly be seen as a serious proposal. One can only hope that Harrisburg's reckless tone will change after Gov. Wolf inevitably vetoes the proposal and the state slips past the budget deadline Wednesday. Maybe then negotiations will begin in earnest.

THIS is Why Everyone HATES Harrisburg
Digital Notebook Blog by Evan Brandt Monday, June 29, 2015
With sad predictability, the process of adopting a budget in Pennsylvania has devolved to the usual last-minute maneuvers, rushed half-baked proposals and political stunts that looks for all its chicanery like a cross between speed chess and Let’s Make a Deal.  The opening move, as it always is, belongs to the Governor when he proposed his budget in February.  That budget, if adopted unchanged, would have added $1 million to Pottstown Public Schools  Then comes the long staring contest in which, quite literally, nothing happens for months and months, all while business managers and school board’s in Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts are scrying tea leaves trying to figure out where up to one-third of their budget revenues may end up.

State considers new plan to take over poorly performing schools
By Eleanor Chute / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 30, 2015 12:04 AM
If the state House follows action already taken by the Senate, Pennsylvania could have a new school district in the fall of 2016, this one run by the state for struggling schools.  The state Senate early Monday approved a plan to establish the Achievement School District, which would be run by a board appointed by the governor and Senate and House leaders.  Poor-performing schools would stay in the district for at least five years. Funding would come from the home districts of the students.  The new board would be required to take at least one of several actions, including replacing the principal and at least half of the professional staff; converting the school to a charter school; contracting with an education management service provider; or closing the school.  The bill, called the Educational Opportunity and Accountability Act, is the latest of a series of attempts by the state to address chronically troubled schools.

“In a split decision on the constitutionality question, the state's highest court found the program conflicts with "broad, unequivocal language forbidding the State from using public money to fund religious schools."  The court wrote: "... this stark constitutional provision makes one thing clear: A school district may not aid religious schools."  That, the court held, is precisely what the voucher program does. Chief Justice Nancy Rice wrote in the court's opinion that it "essentially functions as a recruitment program, teaming with various religious schools" to seek scholarship candidates.”
Colorado Supreme Court rejects Douglas County voucher program
State's top court rules that Choice Scholarship Program is unconstitutional; district wants to take case to U.S. Supreme Court
By Eric Gorski The Denver Post POSTED:   06/29/2015 09:38:41 AM MDT
In a nationally significant case involving religion, taxpayer dollars and school choice, a divided Colorado Supreme Court on Mondayrejected the Douglas County School District's groundbreaking school voucher program as unconstitutional.  The wealthy suburban district's Choice Scholarship Program, which aims to use taxpayer money to send children to private schools, has been at the center of a four-year legal battle.  School district officials strongly indicated they would likely ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case and pledged to seek a legal way to proceed with the voucher program as early as this fall.  More than nine in 10 students in the program — put on hold in 2011 as the first 304 students were to enroll — chose religious schools. 


Don’t Miss Tuesday, June 30, 8 p.m. #FairFundingPA chat on Twitter
You are invited to join the next monthly Twitter chat with Pennsylvania’s major education leadership organizations on Tuesday, June 30 at 8 p.m. They will discuss details of the recommendations for a fair, school funding formula made by the General Assembly’s Basic Education Funding Commission. Use hashtag #FairFundingPA to participate and follow the conversation.  On the last Tuesday of each month at 8 p.m., the following organizations go to Twitter to discuss timely topics, ask questions and listen to the public’s responses:
  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA);
  • The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA);
  • The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO);
  • The Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals (PAESSP)
  • The Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS)
Join the conversation. Share your ideas, lurk, learn and let us know what you think about the state’s support for public schools. It’s a simple, free and fast-paced way to communicate and share information. If you’ve never tweeted before, here are directions and a few tips:

Register Now – PAESSP State Conference – Oct. 18-20 – State College, PA
Registration is now open for PAESSP's State Conference to be held October 18-20 at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, PA! This year's theme is @EVERYLEADER and features three nationally-known keynote speakers (Dr. James Stronge, Justin Baeder and Dr. Mike Schmoker), professional breakout sessions, a legal update, exhibits, Tech Learning Labs and many opportunities to network with your colleagues (Monday evening event with Jay Paterno).  Once again, in conjunction with its conference, PAESSP will offer two 30-hour Act 45 PIL-approved programs, Linking Student Learning to Teacher Supervision and Evaluation (pre-conference offering on 10/17/15); and Improving Student Learning Through Research-Based Practices: The Power of an Effective Principal (held during the conference, 10/18/15 -10/20/15). Register for either or both PIL programs when you register for the Full Conference!
REGISTER TODAY for the Conference and Act 45 PIL program/s at:

Apply now for EPLC’s 2015-2016 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Applications are available now for the 2015-2016 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC).  With more than 400 graduates in its first sixteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, charter school leaders, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders.  Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 17-18, 2015 and continues to graduation in June 2016.
Click here to read about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.

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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 »

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