Wednesday, June 17, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 17: PASA-PASBO School Budget Survey Released; Basic Ed Funding Commission to Release Report Thursday, June 18th at 10 a.m.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 17, 2015:
PASA-PASBO School Budget Survey Released; Basic Ed Funding Commission to Release Report Thursday, June 18th at 10 a.m.

Tight lips and mixed reactions follow Tuesday budget meeting
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Following Tuesday’s weekly budget meeting between Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative Republican leadership, negotiators remained silent as to possible areas of potential agreement, but offered mixed reaction as to the progress of the ongoing negotiations surrounding the budget and related major pieces of legislation.  Tuesday’s discussions lasted about 30 minutes.  First out of the meeting to catch up with reporters was House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) who relayed that talks are still progressing on the big issues.  “Certainly, sometimes these meetings are more going through an update on what staff has been meeting on in the working groups,” he said. “We’re still plowing ahead.”

State budget negotiators have a quick, cordial meeting; and leave the details in the room
Penn Live By Charles Thompson |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 16, 2015 at 12:56 PM, updated June 16, 2015 at 2:14 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf and senior Republican legislative leaders had another closed-door meeting about Pennsylvania's $30 billion budget Tuesday, and it was short, sweet and private.  Participants described Tuesday's session as more of an update on the work of various working groups looking at issues like pension reform, liquor reform, new revenues and other matters.  And the singular agreement seemed to be, for the time being at least, to keep the details in the room.

Basic Education Funding Commission: Lawmakers will release recommendations on Thursday
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2015 1:51 pm | Updated: 2:19 pm, Tue Jun 16, 2015.
The Basic Education Funding Commission will release recommendations for a new school funding formula on Thursday, according to a press release.  The state Legislature created the Basic Education Funding Commission in June 2014. Members were charged with studying how to distribute state money to K-12 public schools. Pennsylvania is one of only a few states without a consistent school funding formula.  The commission's report was initially expected last week, but lawmakers said they needed more time to hammer out the details. According to the commission's press release on Tuesday, the panel will hold a meeting on its recommendations at 10 a.m. on Thursday. The meeting will stream live on and  The commission's recommendations would not go into effect without legislation approved by the Senate, House and Gov Tom Wolf.

Basic Education Funding Commission to Release Report Thursday, June 18th at 10 a.m.
PA Senate Republican website June 16, 2015
The Basic Education Funding Commission, Co-Chaired by Senator Pat Browne (R-16 Lehigh) and Representative Mike Vereb (R-150 Montgomery), will meet on Thursday, June 18th at 10 a.m. to consider recommendations and a funding formula and release its report to the General Assembly and the public.  The Basic Education Funding Commission was established through Act 51 of 2014 to develop a new formula for the distribution of state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts. The 15-member commission has undertaken a comprehensive study of a number of factors, held 15 hearings over the past 11 months and heard from a wide-range of experts and advocates in the education field, as well as parents, before arriving ultimately at a consensus on a new formula.  The meeting will be held in the Majority Caucus Room of the House of Representatives. The recommendations of the commission will not go into effect, however, without legislation approved by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.  Barring any unforeseen technical difficulties, the hearing will stream live on and

"More than half of the state's 500 districts cannot generate sufficient revenues with Act 1 to cover mandated expenses, said Jay Himes PASBO executive director.  Mr. Himes said school districts tax hikes are prompted by insufficient state funding.  He said nationally, states contribute more than 48 percent of the education dollars spent, but in Pennsylvania the average is 35 percent. Mr. Himes said Pennsylvania is ranked 46th on the list of states in terms of school funding."
Seven of 10 Pa. school districts expect to raise taxes for 2015-16 school year
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 16, 2015 12:15 PM
Seventy-one percent of Pennsylvania school districts who participated in a recent survey predicted they will raise taxes for the 2015-16 school year, with 30 percent raising beyond their Act 1 state limit.  The revenues beyond the limit -- which is set by the state for each district based on its relative wealth - will come from exceptions granted by the state department of education for pension, special education and construction.  The information came from a survey conducted last month by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and presented today.  Of the state's 500 school district's 346 responded to the survey, representing 66 of the state's 67 counties and 74 percent of students.

PASA-PASBO School Budget Survey Released
By: PASBO On: 06/15/2015 10:50:02
The latest version of the PASA-PASBO school budget survey, Continued Cuts: the PASA-PASBO Report on School District Budgets, has been released and shows that school districts across the state are continuing to face financial challenges. In many of the school districts participating in the survey, property tax increases, staff reductions and cuts to programs are on the table to balance 2015-16 budgets. Survey respondents also indicated that mandated pension, health care, special education and charter school tuition costs continue to present sizable burdens, with a significant majority of districts projecting increased costs in each of the four areas for next year.

Educators say Senate vote to delay Keystone Exams as graduation requirement is 'good first step'
By Jacqueline Palochko Of The Morning Call June 16, 2015
Superintendents call the push to delay the state's graduation requirements a “good first step”
School districts across Pennsylvania, in a panic over what to do with the students who fail the Keystone Exams, were handed a lifeline this week when the state Senate agreed to place a moratorium on making the tests a graduation requirement.  The Senate voted 49-0 on Monday to delay using the exams as a graduation requirement until 2019. The requirements — which demand students pass tests in Algebra I, biology and English to graduate — were to be in place for the Class of 2017.  The Senate bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, who has been a vocal critic of the Keystone Exams. It would give school districts more time to plan for the project-based assessments that students must take after failing algebra and English twice or biology once.  The bill still needs the approval of the state House and Gov. Tom Wolf. On Tuesday, a Wolf spokesman said the governor supports a two-year delay.

"Philadelphia educates more children from low-income backgrounds than any other district. More than 80 percent of Philadelphia students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, almost twice the statewide average of 43 percent.  Such a high concentration of poverty comes with added education costs, since it typically requires more remedial work, more need for counseling and violence prevention, and more special education programs."
When it comes to education funding, what's the deal with Philly schools?
WHYY Newsworks/Keystone Crossroads BY PAUL JABLOW JUNE 17, 2015 MULTIPLE CHOICES: PART 14
Fourteenth in an occasional series of podcasts and web "explainers." 
How much does the Philadelphia School District spend?
The district's budget for the 2014-15 school year is roughly $2.6 billion. The School Reform Commission and Superintendent William Hite have proposed a $2.89 billion plan for the 2015-16 school year, arguing that the additional money is needed to restore vital, basic services.
Doesn't Philadelphia get a huge share of state education aid already?
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R- Allegheny) makes the point that the city has 12 percent of the state's school population, but receives 18 percent of the state's basic education subsidy.  That's accurate.  Philadelphia school officials counter that those numbers alone don't capture the situation. They cite several reasons. First, Pennsylvania chips in a smaller share of education funding than most other states, so there is less state aid to balance out unequal tax bases among districts.  Also, they say, the state's school aid system is supposed to send more help to districts that have a lot of impoverished families with children who pose extra challenges to educate. 

Closing of Kensington Urban postponed a year
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa on Jun 16, 2015 07:26 PM
The merger of Kensington International Business High School and Kensington Urban Education High School has been postponed a year so that the community can be involved in planning for the change, District officials said Tuesday.  Superintendent William Hite sent a letter to parents saying that he was recommending delaying the merger until 2016-17.  "This planning year will provide more time to collaborate with students, staff, families and community stakeholders on the design for a new academic program at the merged school," Hite's letter said.  The School Reform Commission had been scheduled to vote Thursday night on a resolution to close Kensington Urban, which shares the building with Kensington Business, effective in September.

Reductions In Funding Forcing Many Pa. School Districts To Consider Property Tax Hikes
KDKA CBS Pittsburgh by Harold Hayes June 16, 2015 5:15 PM
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – For five years, there have been reductions in state and federal funding for schools.  During the same time period, mandated costs have increased and school districts are left to make up the gap. Now, many school districts across Pennsylvania plan to balance their budgets by increasing property taxes or reducing staff.  Seventy percent of districts across the state plan to raise property taxes, and 41 percent plan to reduce their staff. In addition, some of Pennsylvania’s poorest districts plan to reduce or eliminate certain programs.  That’s according to the latest budget survey from the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.  The Montour School Board plans to discuss a possible tax increase this week. Officials have been analyzing the district’s budget for months. If a tax increase is approved to make up budget shortfalls, it would be the first tax increase in the district in eight years.

Penn Hills school board considers cuts, awaits $12 million loan
By Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 8, 2015 11:37 PM
Penn Hills School District is beginning its arduous campaign to rescue the district from financial distress, which includes significant school program cuts, salary freezes and reduction of personnel.  The district announced in a finance committee meeting Monday night that it has a negative balance of $1.7 million in its checking account and is anticipating a $12 million loan from PNC Bank to be deposited into the account this week to cover immediate costs. The cuts come after the district was granted only partial funding to cover an original $18 million debt, only to then discover additional costs from inaccurately budgeted debt service payments and transportation, mainly attributed to the cost of fuel. The district went about $4 million overbudget in transportation costs this school year.

Wallingford-Swarthmore OKs 2.56 percent tax hike
Delco Times By NEIL A. SHEEHAN, Times Correspondent POSTED: 06/17/15, 12:12 AM EDT
NETHER PROVIDENCE >> Final adoption of the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District’s 2015-16 budget went off without a hitch, with the votes falling the same as they had during two previous decision points on the spending package.  The board approved the roughly $74 million proposal by a tally of 7-2 on Monday night. Board President Paul Schregel and member Robert Reiger once again cast opposing votes.  Taxes will increase by 2.56 percent under the fiscal roadmap. For a property owner with a home assessed at the district average of $179,000, the change will translate into a tax hike of $186, on top of the current district bill of $7,439.  Superintendent Richard Noonan said a major driver of the increase is another dramatic rise in the district’s pension obligations. Still, he said the administration had worked to identify $1.1 million in cuts to help ease the impact of climbing costs combined with state-imposed restraints on school district spending.  Under the state’s Act 1 index, Wallingford-Swarthmore’s tax increase was to be capped at 1.9 percent for the next fiscal year. However, like other districts, it was allowed to make use of specific exceptions if it opted to do so.

Greater Latrobe school board passes budget, 1-mill tax hike
Trib Live By Stacey Federoff Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 11:12 p.m.
Greater Latrobe school board on Tuesday adopted its final budget for the 2015-16 school year with a 1-mill tax increase to make up for an expected shortfall while state funding levels are uncertain.  The board passed the $53.3 million spending plan and the millage levy 6-0 with members William Mohler, Merle Musick and Michael Zorch absent.  The average assessed property value in the district is $25,860, which means the average homeowner could experience a $26 increase in property taxes next year.  Business administrator Dan Watson said the state budget, normally finalized by June 30, is uncertain because of the new governor.  The district's mandated contribution to state retirement benefits, known as the Public School Employees' Retirement System, increased 24 percent from 2014-15.
Spring-Ford School District proposes $143M budget, 1.2% tax hike
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 06/16/15, 7:04 PM EDT
Royersford >> While it still increases taxes, officials in the Spring-Ford Area School District say its newest proposed final budget for 2015-16 accomplishes more for less.  During Tuesday night’s school board meeting, the administration proposed a $143.8 million final budget that increases property taxes by 1.22 percent. With a millage rate of 26.061, the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 would pay an additional $31.50 a year for a tax amount of $2,606.10. A mill is equal to $1 for each $1,000 of assessed property value.  With a tax increase, Superintendent David Goodin said the district can add 12.5 new teachers, three guidance counselors, curriculum and special education supervisors, and increase a communications staff member from a part time to full time position. At the same time, taxes are low, comparatively speaking.

Pottsgrove Tax Hike Stops Short of 0%
Digital Notebook Blog by Evan Brandt Wednesday, June 17, 2015
The Pottsgrove School board stopped short of enacting a $63.9 million budget that did not raise taxes Tuesday night.  Instead, they adopted a $63, 916,463 budget that raises taxes a little bit, under 1 percent in fact.  The final budget the board adopted will raise taxes by .2 mills, or .55 percent.  For a home assessed at $120,000, the district median, it means a tax hike of $24 in the 2015-16 school year.  A number of assumptions and financial maneuvering was requited to get to this point, including the use of $200,000 of district surplus funds; the assumption that the state budget, whenever its finalized, will provide an additional $100,000 in funding over this year; and using $80,000 of capital fund money to buy one of three new school buses the district plans to buy next year.

Pennsylvania: A State of Great Teachers!
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch June 15, 2015
Like every other state, Pennsylvania spent many tens of millions (or more) to develop a new teacher evaluation system. Guess what?  Teachers got their highest ratings ever!
“In the first year of many school districts using a new statewide teacher evaluation system, a greater portion of teachers was rated satisfactory than under the old system.
“In figures released by the state Department of Education, 98.2 percent of all teachers were rated as satisfactory in 2013-14 — the highest percentage in five years — despite a new system that some thought would increase the number of unsatisfactory ratings.”  “In the four prior years, 97.7 percent of teachers were rated satisfactory in all but 2009-10, when 96.8 percent were. These figures count teachers in school districts, career and technical centers, intermediate units and charter schools.”  Pennsylvania is fortunate to have so many good teachers!
Whom shall we blame now?

Testing Resistance & Reform News: June 10 - 16, 2015
Fairtest Submitted by fairtest on June 16, 2015 - 1:47pm 
With the school year ending around the notion, the assessment resistance and reform movement is focusing its energies on Congress and state legislatures to end policies encouraging test overuses and misuses, which that opt-out activists and their allies have exposed.

Come to Harrisburg on June 23rd for an All for Education Day Rally!
Education Voters PA website June 1, 2015
On June 23 at the Capitol in Harrisburg, Education Voters will be joining together with more than 50 organizations to send a clear message to state lawmakers that we expect them to fund our schools in this year’s budget. Click HERE for more information and to register for the June 23 All for Education Day in Harrisburg.  Join us as we speak up for the importance of funding our schools fairly and at sufficient levels, so that every student in PA has an opportunity to learn.  Community, parent, education advocacy, faith, and labor organizations will join together with school, municipal, and community officials to hold a press conference and rally at 12:00 in the main rotunda and to make arrangements to meet with legislators before and after the rally.  We must send a strong message to state lawmakers that we are watching them and expect them to pass a state budget that will fund our schools this year. Please come to Harrisburg on June 23 to show broad support for a fair budget for education this year.

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 »

Berks County IU June 23, 7:00 - 8:30 pm
Date:  Tuesday, June 23, 2015  Time:7:00 – 8:30 p.m. | Registration begins at 6:30 p.m.
Location: Berks County Intermediate Unit, 1111 Commons Boulevard, Reading, PA 19605
Local school district leaders will discuss how state funding issues are impacting our children’s education opportunities, our local taxes, and our communities. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn how you can support fair and adequate state funding for public schools in Berks County.  State lawmakers who represent Berks County have been invited to attend to learn about challenges facing area schools.

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