Saturday, June 27, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 27: Budget Sec'y Albright: after looking at the "fine print," the GOP budget only adds $8 million to education

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup for June 27, 2015:
Budget Sec'y Albright: after looking at the "fine print," the GOP budget only adds $8 million to education

Just a heads-up that the PA Ed Policy Roundup may be intermittent and/or late next week while some of us pretend we're on vacation

" House members were scheduled to return to the Capitol at 11 a.m. Saturday in an unusual weekend session with four days left in the state’s fiscal year."
GOP budget bill facing Wolf’s veto positioned for House vote
Pottstown Mercury By The Associated Press POSTED: 06/27/15, 6:48 AM EDT
HARRISBURG, Pa. >> An approximately $30 billion Republican budget package is nearing a House floor vote, although it faces a near-certain veto by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf as the Pennsylvania state government's fiscal year is ending.  House members were scheduled to return to the Capitol at 11 a.m. Saturday in an unusual weekend session with four days left in the state’s fiscal year.  The Republican plan would boost state spending by about $1 billion and hold the line on taxes. But Democrats say it’s packed with one-time stopgaps of more than $1.5 billion to balance and Wolf says he’ll veto it.  The GOP plan would increase spending on public schools by $100 million, one-fourth of the record increase being sought by Wolf. It also offset costs by counting proceeds from the privatization the state-run liquor and wine store system.

"After the governor spoke, Budget Sec. Randy Albright and Sec. of Policy and Planning John Hanger addressed members of the media on specifics of what they don’t like about the GOP budget proposal.  On the Authorities Rental and Sinking Fund Requirements line item, Sec. Albright said that is still money that needs to be paid, regardless of it being taken offline.  “Those are expenditures we’re obligated to make unless we come up with a way to meet those authority rental payments, but we don’t reflect that cost currently in the General Fund budget,” he said, referring to the proposal as “smoke and mirrors” that will grow the following year’s deficit.  The administration also contends, after looking at the "fine print," the GOP budget only adds $8 million to education."
GOP’s budget plan revealed; Gov. Wolf vows veto
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Friday, June 26, 2015
House and Senate Republican leaders stood united Friday afternoon unveiling the much anticipated agreed-to budget bill that they promise to have to the governor’s desk by the end of June 30th.  “In November of 2014, the people of Pennsylvania sent historic majorities of the Pennsylvania House and the Pennsylvania Senate—Republicans—to Harrisburg with a mandate to reign in state government spending and to hold the line on taxes,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre).   He said the budget put together lives up to that mandate, noting it makes significant new investments in education, grows at a rate below TABOR, as well as making investments in agriculture, services for victims of rape and domestic violence, and security for the Pope’s visit in September.

Wolf to veto GOP budget plan
HARRISBURG - Gov. Wolf said Friday that he will veto the $30.1 billion budget proposal that Republicans who control the legislature are preparing to send him.  "I refuse, as governor, to let a few willful people hold our Commonwealth hostage to a few narrow interests and the status quo," the governor told reporters just hours after Republicans unveiled their alternative to Wolf's proposed spending plan.  A veto by the governor all but ensures that the state will not have a budget in place by the July 1 start of the new fiscal year, which is Wednesday. A protracted impasse can affect the state's ability to pay its bills.  The GOP's budget would raise no new taxes and include additional money for public education, although substantially less than what the governor has proposed.

"Republicans would add $100 million to the per-pupil subsidy, the education budget's largest expense, for a total of $5.6 billion. By comparison, Wolf wants a $400 million increase for each student for a total of $6.1 billion.  Republicans would spend $20 million more for special education; Wolf wants $100 million.  Wolf also allocates $306 million for a state program, PlanCon, that partially reimburses districts for school construction costs. Republicans take all construction money out of their budget and replace it with proceeds from a future bond. Although the construction money is out of the budget, Republicans still count it as part of their total education increase, documents show."
Wolf vows to veto Republican lawmakers' $30.1 billion budget
Morning Call By Steve Esack and Sam Janesch Call Harrisburg Bureau June 26, 2015
HARRISBURG — Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vowed Friday to veto the Republican-controlled Legislature's $30.1 billion budget plan that does not raise taxes.  "I refuse, as governor, to let a few willful people hold our commonwealth hostage to a few narrow interests and a status quo that has everyday Pennsylvanians struggling with underfunded schools," Wolf said at an evening news conference.  The GOP budget plan, approved on a party line vote Friday night by the House Appropriations Committee, is nearly 11 percent lower than the $33.8 billion Wolf wants.  The full House is scheduled to vote on the budget Saturday, June 27. The Senate will vote on it next week. It is not expected to have any Democratic support. A budget must be passed by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

"It includes a $100 million increase in funding for basic education subsidies and $20 million more for special education, clears a backlog in state reimbursements for school construction, and a 3 percent increase in appropriations to the state's public universities.  Wolf's Budget Secretary Randy Albright said what the Republicans failed to take into account was their $112 million underfunding of state contributions toward school district's Social Security and pension payments, so the net increase in funding to schools is $8 million."
Wolf vows to veto GOP-crafted budget that fails to address his priorities
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 26, 2015 at 6:47 PM
Just before a House-Senate GOP-crafted budget was about to begin to moving through the legislative approval process, Gov. Tom Wolf predicted a veto was in its future.  He called the $30.1 billion spending plan nothing more than "smoke and mirrors" that relies on gimmicks to bring it into balance.  While Republicans maintain it includes no tax increases, top aides to the Democratic governor said it likely would result in higher school property taxes and higher college tuition due to the modest increases it provides for school districts and colleges.  "I refuse as governor to let a few willful people hold our commonwealth hostage to a few narrow interests and a status quo that has everyday Pennsylvanians struggling with underfunded schools. We've had numerous credit downgrades in Pennsylvania and an underperforming economy," Wolf said.

House and Senate Republicans launch a "majority-approved" budget, without agreement from Gov. Tom Wolf
By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on June 26, 2015 at 5:05 PM
Leaders of Pennsylvania's Republican House and Senate majorities announced agreement Friday on a $30.1 billion budget that they expect to pass and send to Gov. Tom Wolf in time for the new fiscal year July 1.  The legislative product is not the result of negotiations with the Democrat governor, however, and may be vetoed once it reaches his desk.  The GOP leaders said they believe Pennsylvanians can live comfortably with their plan, which they noted includes spending increases for all levels of public education, meets the state's scheduled pension payments and does not rely on any new taxes.

GOP lawmakers to send Wolf their $30.1B budget by Tuesday
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Friday, June 26, 2015, 4:54 p.m.
HARRISBURG — A House-Senate budget of $30.2 billion crafted by Republicans meets the mandate voters gave in November to GOP majorities in both chambers by “reining in spending and holding the line on taxes,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said Friday.  But Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said that it isn't a balanced budget and he'll veto it if it arrives on his desk in its current form.  The full House is expected Saturday to approve the budget that increases overall spending by 3.6 percent and boosts basic education spending by $100 million. Voting along party lines by a 21-15 margin, the House Appropriations Committee on Friday night approved the budget to tee it up for consideration by the full chamber.  With a state spending plan due by midnight Tuesday, the Senate will begin voting Sunday night and send the Republican-crafted budget to Wolf by Tuesday, said Corman of Centre County.
What new funding formula would mean for your school district (based upon a hypothetical $100 million funding increase)
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on June 26, 2015 at 12:28 PM
There's no politics to the proposed school funding formula. It simply distributes state dollars for basic education based on various factors that can add to a school district's cost of educating students.  Below is a spreadsheet shared with Republican senators that assumes basic education funding is increased by $100 million. It's a hypothetical number. The real increase in this bread-and-butter revenue stream that districts depend on from the state to help fund their operations is still the subject of negotiations between Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders.  But Senate Education Committee Chairman Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster County, said this spreadsheet shows how the weighted factors built into the formula would distribute that level of new state aid to each of the state's 500 school districts.

Otto-Eldred’s Splain campaigns for basic ed funding formula
The Bradford Era By BARB CLOSE Era Correspondent and ALEX DAVIS Era  reporter Posted: Friday, June 26, 2015 10:00 am
Otto-Eldred School District Superintendent Matt Splain represented rural Pennsylvania at the state capitol on Tuesday, joining the fight for fair education funding.  Splain rallied with hundreds of parents, students, clergy, community leaders, teachers, other educators and members of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding to encourage state legislators to put in place a basic education funding formula unveiled last week.  On June 18, the Basic Education Funding Commission recommended a formula be approved by the state General Assembly. Under the proposal, several factors would be taken into account in distributing money to the 500 school districts in the Commonwealth, such as poverty, student population, English language learners and charter school enrollment. A “sparsity size adjustment” would also be included, which is designed to adjust funding due to the “unique challenges” that small, rural school districts face.  At the Tuesday event in Harrisburg, Splain said rural districts such as his in McKean County have very little capacity to bring in local tax dollars.  “It is critical that Pennsylvania meets its obligation to adequately fund opportunities for all students through a formula,” he said.

Rally In Erie Supports Education Funding In Proposed PA Budget By Emily Matson Posted: Jun 26, 2015 5:19 PM EDT
With the state budget deadline looming in Pennsylvania, some people gather for a rally Friday afternoon, to try and encourage legislators for better school funding.  A statewide bus tour stopped in Erie Friday for a rally, it's one of 13 stops throughout the Commonwealth.  It's all to advocate for lawmakers to reinvest in Erie schools.  They want them to pass Governor Tom Wolf's proposed budget, which allots $11 Million dollars in new funding for local schools.  Lawmakers have until June 30th to pass a budget, that's next Tuesday.  And both the governor and legislators say they're willing to work over the weekend to get a budget passed.

Pa. needs funding formula
Trib Live Letter to the Editor by Nathan Mains, PSBA Executive Director June 26, 2015, 8:57 p.m.
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association believes the state Basic Education Funding Commission's proposed formula is a great step forward to adequate, equitable and fair school funding. The commonwealth is 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 finish line and pass legislation putting it into place.  A formula will go a long way to help school entities develop their annual budgets. It will help with the equitable distribution of funding to alleviate the current disparities in how state dollars are allocated.
"It is therefore doubtful that a meaningful difference in teacher performance separates the "needs improvement" educator who scored a 1.49 from the "proficient" colleague down the hall who scored a 1.5. A very small difference on any one element of the evaluation could have been the deciding factor. House Bill 805 ignores all of these concerns and requires that a district implementing furloughs lay off the 1.49 teacher before the 1.50 teacher -- even if the building principal has good reason and evidence to believe that the score is invalid or not a true reflection of differences in skill or effectiveness. "
Why ending seniority-based layoffs now is a bad idea
the notebook Commentary By Adam Schott on Jun 26, 2015 03:25 PM
Adam Schott is a former executive director of the State Board of Education.
Pennsylvania’s education workforce has declined by more than 20,000 as a result of inadequate state funding and rising state mandates. A recent budget survey found that more than 40 percent of the state's school districts plan further staff reductions in the 2015-16 fiscal year.  Rather than attack the core issue -- that the state has one of the nation’s most inadequate and chaotic school funding systems -- some Harrisburg legislators are fixated on a further hollowing-out of our public schools.   Sponsored by State Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland), House Bill 805, which passed the State House on a mainly party-line vote on Tuesday, would scrap longstanding policy that requires school districts to base furlough decisions on reverse order of teacher seniority. Instead, districts would be compelled to make personnel decisions based on teachers' most recent performance evaluations.  Reasonable people can disagree about whether seniority alone should determine furlough decisions. It's a different matter entirely to presume that Act 82, which established the state's new teacher evaluation system, is ready to inform these high-stakes decisions.

Details of House pension plan emerge
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Friday, June 26, 2015
House Republicans spent most of Friday morning and early afternoon caucusing on what is likely to be their version of pension reform, to be adopted as an amendment to Senate Bill 1 sometime in the next several days.  Rep. Mike Tobash (R-Schuylkill), one of the House GOP’s top pension minds and a member of the Public Employee Retirement Commission, spoke to The PLS Reporter about the likely contents of that plan and what was discussed in those caucus discussions.  “I think members continue to be interested in some of the goals we’ve been trying to achieve for the last number of years, namely, shifting some risk from the taxpayer and out of the hands of a legislature that has not been able to manage a defined benefit plan and develop savings and provide some kind of a benefit for new employees coming into the system,” he said.

Pa. doesn't need to spend more on schools, it needs to spend more wisely: Scott Wagner
PennLive Op-Ed  By Scott Wagner  June 26, 2015 at 9:52 AM, updated June 26, 2015 at 3:24 PM
I am writing to respond to the June 25 Op-ed from Frances Wolf, First Lady of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  It's unfortunate that nearly a half-year after his inauguration Gov. Tom Wolf remains in campaign mode, crisscrossing the state with Mrs. Wolf and others making absurd claims about education spending.  Mrs. Wolf writes that King Elementary school, part of the Lancaster Area School District, has a library filled with 30-year-old textbooks and Mrs. Wolf is quoted saying, "They don't have the funds to replace them with updated versions." She leads readers to believe it's the result of "devastating cuts" in state funding.     A quick check by my office reveals that the school district is sitting on a funding balance of $15.24 million.  And while the governor promises a windfall of new spending to help schools, he ducks action on the number one cause of school cutbacks and property tax hikes: skyrocketing pension costs.

School District of Lancaster board puts contract vote on hold
Lancaster Online By K. SCOTT KREIDER | LNP Correspondent Friday, June 26, 2015 4:37 pm
A new collective bargaining agreement for teachers in School District of Lancaster that was expected to pass this week met its first snag on Tuesday.  A vote to approve the new teachers’ contract was on the agenda for the school board’s regular meeting on Tuesday night, but board members unanimously voted to table the agreement without further discussion.  “The Lancaster City Education Association informed the district earlier this afternoon that despite prior indication the agreement had been ratified by its membership, a second vote is now necessary,’’ a district spokesperson said on Tuesday.

In Philly, ISTE 2015: Ed-tech leadership, maker education, and professional learning
By Benjamin Herold for Education Week on Jun 26, 2015 05:29 PM
The country's largest educational technology conference kicks off this weekend, with roughly 18,000 educators, vendors, and advocates set to convene here for four-plus days of swapping classroom strategies, playing with gadgets, and diving into the sweeping policy changes that are reshaping digital learning in K-12 schools.  Among the big themes: the importance of shared responsibility when it comes to effectively integrating technology into the classroom.  "I'm most excited about the increased conversation around the need to approach this as a team," said Brian Lewis, the CEO of the conference's host organization, the Washington-based International Society for Technology in Education.

Kansas: Parts of School Funding Law Unconstitutional
New York Times By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS JUNE 26, 2015
A district court panel in Kansas ruled on Friday that key parts of a new state law for financing public schools violated the state constitution. The three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court in Topeka ruled that the law failed to distribute more than $4 billion a year so all children received a suitable education. The state is expected to appeal the ruling to the Kansas Supreme Court. The new law scrapped an older per-pupil distribution formula in favor of predictable grants to the state’s 286 school districts based on the funds they received before the law changed. The law was challenged by the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City school districts. They argued that it distributed state funds in ways that harmed programs for poor and minority students. The four districts sued the state in 2010, and legislators increased aid to poor school districts last year to meet a Kansas Supreme Court mandate in the case. But the state justices returned the case to the lower-court panel to review additional legal issues — including the validity of the new law.

Report Criticizes Walton Foundation Support for Charter School Expansion
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Denisa R. Superville on June 24, 2015 2:27 PM
The American Federation of Teachers and In the Public Interest issued a report on Tuesday heavily criticizing The Walton Family Foundation's "market-driven" charter school "ideology" that they say has rapidly expanded the number of charter schools, without the accompanying transparency and accountability measures. That "unregulated" growth, they said, has resulted in fraud and mismanagement in the sector.  The report, "Brought to You by Wal-Mart? How the Walton Family Foundation's Ideological Pursuit is Damaging Charter Schooling," was accompanied by an 11-point "accountability agenda" that proposes specific steps the charter school sector should take to engender "a renewed commitment to the fundamental democratic principles of transparency, accountability, equal opportunity and stewardship of public funds."  The plan asks the Arkansas-based foundation—which has given millions to charter school start-ups and to lobbying efforts on behalf of charter schools and voucher programs—to ask schools and grantees that receive its funds to commit to certain ideals in areas of accountability, protecting neighborhood schools, protecting taxpayer funds, and ensuring high quality education for every child.  (Education Week receives support from the Walton Family Foundation for coverage of parent-empowerment issues.)

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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