Friday, June 19, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 19: Statewide Coverage/Reaction to Basic Education Funding Commission Report

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 19, 2015:
Statewide Coverage/Reaction to Basic Education Funding Commission Report

Basic Education Funding Commission Releases Recommendations and Report
Basic Education Funding Commission website June 18, 2015
The Basic Education Funding Commission recommended today (June 18th) that the General Assembly adopt a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts, according to a statement from the members of the Commission.  The Commission – which was co-chaired by Senator Pat Browne and Representative Mike Vereb – undertook an extensive and comprehensive study of a number of factors before arriving ultimately at a consensus on a new formula that will benefit school districts, parents and children.  The 15-member group, created through Act 51 of 2014 (sponsored as House Bill 1738 by Representative Bernie O’Neill), held 15 hearings over 11 months and heard from a wide range of experts and advocates in the education field, as well as parents, from urban, suburban and rural school districts throughout the state.  The Commission determined that allocation of basic education funding needs to allow for accountability, transparency and predictability. The main objective of the new funding formula is to fairly distribute state resources according to various student and school district factors.  “The lack of a permanent state funding formula for education has provided an unbalanced distribution of state funding to school districts and does not match the needs to educate students in some districts,” members of the Commission said. “All of this information the commission received throughout the past year has allowed us to develop a funding structure based on the actual costs involved in providing basic education, including factors that require more than the normal level of funding for a child.”

BEFC: We apologize, but the final report for the Basic Education Funding Commission is not posted online yet.  We expect to have it posted by early afternoon on Friday, June 19th.
Basic Education Funding Commission website June 18, 2015

Draft Version Basic Education Funding Commission report
Lancaster Online Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2015 11:33 am
This is a draft of the Basic Education Funding Commission's report to the General Assembly. A final version is expected to posted online Friday afternoon.

Gov. Wolf praises new plan for doling out money to Pa. schools
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 18, 2015 at 3:17 PM, updated June 18, 2015 at 3:30 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf met with members of the Basic Education Funding Commission Thursday to praise a new, proposed formula for distributing money to Pennsylvania's 500 public school districts.  The proposed funding formula, which has not yet been passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly,recognizes not just a district's number of low-income students, but the number of students living at the deepest level of poverty — below the federal poverty level — and the proportion of the district's enrollment they represent.  It would also consider a district's current enrollment, addressing complaints from growing school districts, and for the first time recognize a district's charter school costs, geographic size and financial wherewithal to fund schools with local taxes.

Press release: Campaign for Fair Education Funding Commends Basic Education Funding Commission on Developing School Funding Formula Proposal
Campaign for Fair Education Funding Press Release June 18, 2015

"During the release of the commission’s report, every member making comments lauded the recommendations contained therein.  According to Chairman Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), the report’s likely success in the legislature will come from the commission reflecting the diversity of Pennsylvania and its school districts.  “The members of the commission very fairly and very accurately represent the dynamics of the General Assembly,” he said. “I think that reflects the thought process of the Assembly regarding the work product we have.”  As for that legislative action, House Education Committee Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York) said he will bring the funding formula up for a vote next week. It was reported all four Education Committee chairs are engaged in the process of drafting legislation based on the commission’s recommendations."
Conditions already placed on use of fairer education funding formula?
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, June 18, 2015
Bipartisanship and cheer abounded at the Capitol Thursday for those taking part in the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission, which included representatives from all four legislative caucuses and the governor’s office, when they unanimously released their long-anticipated funding formula recommendations and other education funding suggestions.  The commission’s recommended funding formula was described as taking into account both student-based and district-based factors that are aimed at providing funding that is truly representative of a district’s needs and unique situation.  However, while many are anticipating swift action on legislative implementation of the commission’s recommendations, some are already putting preconditions on when it would be best to implement the new funding formula.

Panel: Education funding needs to be based on 'equity, fairness'
By Steve Esack and Jacqueline Palochko f The Morning Call June 19, 2015
HARRISBURG — A legislative panel says Pennsylvania needs to take politics and uncertainty out of the way it pays for public schools.  The Basic Education Funding Commission, co-chaired by the Lehigh Valley's longest-serving lawmaker, recommended Thursday the Legislature adopt a data-driven school funding formula as 47 other states have done.  The proposed formula, should it become law, does not recommend a minimum or maximum amount of money the state should spend annually to teach students. Rather, it redistributes funding, giving more money to poorer districts and less to wealthier ones and would not let politicians adjust it on a whim.  The new formula, Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, said is based on "equity, fairness and sustainability."  It would send state tax dollars to local districts based on annual weighted measures that rely on U.S. Census records and data from the state Revenue and Education departments, among others.

Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton school districts to benefit under proposed state funding formula
By Lynn Olanoff | For Follow on Twitter on June 18, 2015 at 5:30 PM, updated June 18, 2015 at 5:47 PM
The Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton school districts should receive more state funding under a new formula approved Thursday by a bipartisan panel of state lawmakers.  The formula, endorsed by the Basic Education Funding Commission, would give more funding to districts with high percentages of children living below the federal poverty level and English-language learners. It would also consider charter school costs for the first time.  "I do think it would be beneficial to the urban districts," Allentown School District uperintendent Russell Mayo said. "It's trying to bring equity of opportunity for the kids."  While the Bethlehem and Easton districts don't have as many English-language learners and very poor children as Allentown, they do have more than most Pennsylvania school districts, officials said.

New Pennsylvania school funding formula wins endorsement of bipartisan panel
By Karen Langley / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 18, 2015 12:34 PM
A commission of Pennsylvania legislators and members of the Wolf administration today recommended a new formula for the distribution of state funding for public schools.  Pennsylvania's school districts have the most inequitable spending, in terms of poverty, of any state in the nation, with districts with many impoverished districts spending significantly less than more affluent districts, according to the U.S. Department of Education.  The state Basic Education Funding Commission recommended this morning that Pennsylvania adopt a new funding formula that would allocate additional money to districts according to their numbers of students in poverty, students with limited English language and students attending charter schools.  The commission recommended that the state consider a district's median household income and tax effort in determining its level of school funding.  Commission members noted that their recommendation is only an initial step in changing how Pennsylvania schools are funded, and that many questions remain unanswered.

Bipartisan panel calls for new formula to divvy up Pa. education aid
A bipartisan Pennsylvania commission unanimously recommended a new school funding formula Thursday that would account for several student-weighted factors including poverty. 
The proposed formula — which would affect only new spending — calls for Pennsylvania to provide districts with predictable, student-weighted funding that accounts for enrollment changes, poverty, how many students are learning English as a second language, as well as enrollment in charter schools.  The proposed formula would also account for a district's ability to raise funds locally — keeping in mind a locality's median household income and how much it taxes property already.  The commission also calls for a formula that accounts for the fact that districts serving large, sparsely-populated rural areas require additional funding because of logistical issues.  Philadelphia school officials lauded the commission's report.  "The Commission took on a serious challenge, engaged in thoughtful fact-finding and discussion, and emerged with a formula that is good for the future of education in Philadelphia and across the state," said Superintendent William Hite in an official statement. "We are immensely grateful for their efforts."

Basic Education Funding Commission unveils recommendations for new school funding formula
By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Posted: Thursday, June 18, 2015 1:45 pm | Updated: 3:44 pm, Thu Jun 18, 2015.
State lawmakers today unveiled their recommendations for what they call a fairer way of distributing money to public schools.  The new formula recommended by the Basic Education Funding Commission would account for a district's current enrollment and demographics, as well as its relative wealth and ability to generate local tax revenue.  The 15-member commission spent the last yearsoliciting and studying ideas for a new school funding formula. Pennsylvania is one of only a few states without a consistent formula. The state also has been identified as having some ofthe nation's worst school funding disparities in several recent reports.

Lancaster County educators say new funding formula proposal would be a good first step
Lancaster Online By KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer posted: Thursday, June 18, 2015 6:26 pm | Updated: 6:33 pm, Thu Jun 18, 2015.
All Lancaster County schools would stand to benefit if proposed changes to the state's school funding formula go into effect, says Martin Hudacs.  The former Solanco superintendent is one of several local educators who have sounded the alarm for school funding reform in the last year. On Thursday, a group of lawmakers and state officials charged with studying the issue released recommendations for a new way of distributing money to public schools.  The results, Hudacs and other educators said Thursday afternoon, include much of what they were hoping for. But that's only the first step, they said.

Proposed funding formula for Pennsylvania school districts factors in poverty, charters, number of English learners
Under the proposal, factors including a district's level of poverty and number of English learners would be included
York Daily Record Staff and wire report UPDATED:   06/19/2015 01:04:04 AM EDT
A bipartisan panel of state lawmakers and advisers to Gov. Tom Wolf gave unanimous approval Thursday to a new formula to distribute aid to Pennsylvania's 500 public school districts, a model that would funnel more money to districts with rising enrollment and more students whose families are deeper in poverty.  The formula still does not have the agreement of the Legislature, and there are battles that remain to be fought over whether and when to start using the formula, as well as how much money to distribute through it.  For now, the formula endorsed by the Basic Education Funding Commission is being advanced as a way to get politics out of determining which school districts should get more aid in a state branded as harboring some of the nation's worst disparities between wealthy and poor school districts.  For the first time, the formula would recognize not just a district's number of low-income students, but the number of students living at the deepest level of poverty — below the federal poverty level — and the proportion of the district's enrollment they represent.

Panel: Pa needs to overhaul school funding
KATHY BOCCELLA, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER LAST UPDATED: Thursday, June 18, 2015, 2:51 PM POSTED: Thursday, June 18, 2015, 11:29 AM
A state commission Thursday called for a sweeping overhaul of Pennsylvania's funding formula for education aid that would take into greater account factors such as poverty and numbers of non-English-speaking students, in an effort to close the nation's biggest spending gap between richer and poorer districts.  The formula recommended by the Basic Education Funding Commission, a bipartisan task force of lawmakers and key administration officials, would be a boon to cash-poor, poverty-stricken districts across the state but especially Philadelphia's, which is pressing Harrisburg for an additional $200 million in aid.  The panel also proposed factoring payments to charter schools -- which district officials contend are draining their budgets -- into the formula.  City school officials called the panel's recommendations, which will require full approval from the legislature, a first step toward fairer funding.

New Pennsylvania school funding formula wins panel's OK
The Sentinel by Marc Levy Associated Press June 18, 2015
HARRISBURG — A bipartisan panel of state lawmakers and advisers to Gov. Tom Wolf gave unanimous approval Thursday to a new formula to distribute aid to Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts, a model that would funnel more money to districts with rising enrollment and students whose families are deeper in poverty.  The formula still does not have the agreement of the Legislature, and there are battles that remain to be fought over whether and when to start using the formula, and how much money to distribute through it. It also would not automatically correct the inequities built into Pennsylvania’s current system of distributing nearly $6 billion in for classrooms and administration.  For now, the formula endorsed by the 15-member Basic Education Funding Commission is being advanced as a way to inject transparency, fairness and predictability into distributing school aid in a state branded as harboring some of the nation’s worst disparities between wealthy and poor school districts.  The real-world effect of the proposed formula remained unclear, since the commission would not release a rundown showing exactly how money would flow through it to each district.

Basic Education Funding Commission Releases Recommendations and Report
The Kittanning Paper June 19, 2015
The Basic Education Funding Commission recommended yesterday that the General Assembly adopt a new formula for distributing state funding for basic education to Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.  The Commission, which was co-chaired by Senator Pat Browne (Lehigh) and Representative Mike Vereb (Lower Providence Township), undertook an extensive and comprehensive study of a number of factors before arriving ultimately at a consensus on a new formula that will benefit school districts, parents and children.  The 15-member group, created through Act 51 of 2014 (sponsored  as House Bill 1738 by Representative Bernie O’Neill), held 15 hearings over 11 months and heard from a wide range of experts and advocates in the education field, as well as parents, from urban, suburban and rural school districts throughout the state.

ELC-PA: Commission’s Formula Proposal Makes Strides Towards Addressing Equity Gaps
Restoring 2011 School Funding Cuts Must be the First Step
Education Law Center PA Press Release Contact: Deborah Gordon Klehr, or 215-346-6920 June 18, 2015
Philadelphia—The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania commends the Basic Education Funding Commission for its hard work over the past year. We applaud its members for crossing party lines to work together to address Pennsylvania’s most pressing problem: the stark inequalities of our school funding system. The Commission has proposed some necessary steps forward in fixing our broken system.  Too many school districts in Pennsylvania’s poor and struggling communities lack the resources needed to provide the thorough and efficient system of education required by our state constitution. By all accounts, our school funding system is the most inequitable in the country. The state’s wealthy districts outspend the poorest districts by over 30 percent. And yet, students living in poverty, students with special needs, and English language learners are disproportionately concentrated in the districts where funding cuts have decimated staff and eliminated educational opportunities. Access to quality schools should not depend on one’s race or ZIP code.

STATEMENT: PASBO Supports Basic Education Funding Commission Recommendations
By: PASBO On: 06/17/2015 13:43:52
PASBO believes the recommendations of the Basic Education Funding Commission for a new basic education funding will serve to begin to remedy the inequity that currently exists across the commonwealth. By counting students and providing weights for certain categories of students, such as students living in poverty and students who are English Language Learners, the proposed basic education funding formula will direct additional dollars to those school districts that have the greatest need for additional resources.  PASBO also applauds the Commission’s efforts to end the use of the outdated and flawed aid ratio—a measure that has been used in school funding since 1966, and no longer accurately reflects the local wealth of school districts across the commonwealth.

PASA Issues Statement on the Report of the Basic Education Funding Commission June 18, 2015
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA), whose members include school district superintendents and other school administrators from across the state, applauds the work and bipartisan recommendations of the Basic Education Funding Commission issued today. PASA members have long advocated for funding necessary to support high quality public education in our state. The formula developed and recommended by the Commission today provides a sound basis for distributing Basic Education Funding to school districts across the state. Now that the Commission has made its recommendation, the ball is now in the court of the General Assembly to adopt it and sustain it going forward to have Pennsylvania join the other 47 states that already use a formula to distribute funding to their public schools.

STATEMENT: PSBA calls proposed school funding formula great step forward
PSBA website June 18, 2015
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) applauds the work of the Basic Education Funding Commission and says the proposed formula developed by the group over the past year is a great step forward to adequate, equitable and fair school funding in Pennsylvania. The commonwealth is currently one of only three states in the nation without a funding formula for public education.  “The time is now for a bipartisan effort to move the funding formula across the final finish line and pass legislation putting it into place,” said PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains. “A formula will go a long way to help school entities develop their annual budgets. Additionally, a formula will help with the equitable distribution of school funding to alleviate the current disparities in how state dollars are allocated.”  The proposed formula has many of the elements PSBA has advocated for, including basic elements of counting students consistently; student weights taking into consideration poverty and English Language Learners; district weights taking into consideration scarcity of student populations, local tax efforts, and local cost adjustments (see PSBA’s special report, “The Need for a New Basic Education Funding Formula”).

Pa. Lawmakers Propose New School Funding Formula, as Tax Hikes Loom
Education Week State Ed Watch blog By Andrew Ujifusa on June 18, 2015 3:25 PM
Pennsylvania is poised to dramatically change the way it funds schools.
On June 18 the state's Basic Education Funding Commission released a proposed K-12 finance system in the Keystone State, which has been tagged by experts as the only state not using a coherent, consistent formula to fund public schools. The formula would provide additional funding for individual students from low-income backgrounds, as well as for students in districts with large concentrations of poverty.  The proposed system was released at time when the majority of school districts are reportedly planning to increase their property tax rates to shore up their budgets.  Below are some details about the proposed Basic Education Funding (BEF) formula. The weights referred to below are the proportion of base per-student funding that would be added to a base of 1.0. So for example, the weight of "0.6 for students in deep poverty" would mean the per-pupil funding for that student would be 1.6 times the base per-pupil level.

Survey finds 70 percent of school districts plan property tax hike: Thursday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 18, 2015 at 8:08 AM, updated June 18, 2015 at 8:12 AM
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
You probably saw this one coming -- Even though Gov. Tom Wolf is looking for more state support for public education, seven in 10 Pennsylvania school districts say they plan to raise local property taxes.  That's the conclusion of a new survey by thePennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, or PASBO, which included the finding in its annual canvass on a variety of budgetary issues.  You'll probably also not be surprised to learn that rising pension costs were the single cost-driver for districts, followed by health care costs, the survey found:

Phila. School District to outsource substitute teachers
WHILE STUDENTS headed home for the summer yesterday, the School Reform Commission approved the first of two staff outsourcing plans with the intent to cut costs and staff empty classrooms.  The SRC voted unanimously to give Source4Teachers, based in Cherry Hill, N.J., a $34 million contract to manage substitute staffing services for two years.  Chairwoman Marjorie Neff and Commissioner Sylvia Simms missed the meeting but cast their votes in a conference call.  "The vendor was able to commit to us to provide high quality substitutes at a 90 percent fill rate by January of next year," said Naomi Wyatt, the district's head of human resources. "They have extensive experience in Pennsylvania and in the mid-Atlantic."

Council raises taxes, readies $70M for schools - with asterisk
City Council passed a package of tax increases Thursday that will hit a wide swath of the city's taxpayers while taking in an additional $70 million for the Philadelphia School District.  Under the biggest piece of the plan - a 4.5 percent property-tax increase - the owners of a house assessed at $150,000 would see their tax bill go up $72 per year.  Mayor Nutter signed the tax increases, as well as the city's annual operating budget, soon after Council approved them. He said the additional school funding was badly needed but still did not fill the district's deficit, leaving the burden to Harrisburg.   "Council has done its part. I'll sign those bills," Nutter said. "And now we need to see what the second part is, which is the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

Palmyra School Board passes final budget with 2.23 percent tax increase
By Monica Von Dobeneck | Special to PennLive  n June 18, 2015 at 8:53 PM, updated June 18, 2015 at 8:58 PM
The Palmyra Area School Board passed its final budget Thursday which will raise taxes 2.23 percent to 13.52 mills.  The $44.8 million budget has undergone several changes since it was first introduced. An agreement with the teachers' union over a fact finders' report enabled the district to lower the amount of the tax increase from the 2.5 percent proposed in the preliminary budget in May.  While the board and the union have not yet signed the final contract, both sides have agreed to accept the report from the state Labor Relations Board.  Many teachers and parents filled the auditorium in April because they feared budget cuts after the board instructed the administration to cut another $400,000.

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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