Monday, July 6, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 6: SB6: Editorial - New layer of bureaucracy is not answer to quandary of Pa.'s lowest performing schools

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for July 6, 2015:
SB6: Editorial - New layer of bureaucracy is not answer to quandary of Pa.'s lowest performing schools

SB6: Editorial - New layer of bureaucracy is not answer to quandary of Pa.'s lowest performing schools
The LNP Editorial Board | Posted Yesterday
THE ISSUE: A bill aimed at turning around underperforming schools passed in the state Senate last week by a vote of 27-22. Senate Bill 6, the Educational Opportunity and Accountability Act, would transfer the lowest-performing schools to a new statewide entity called the Achievement School District. The ASD could manage a school directly or contract with other educational organizations — including for-profit companies — to do so. The bill’s primary sponsor was state Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a Lancaster County Republican.  First of all, we have to say this: Sen. Smucker has proven himself to be a champion of education in the commonwealth, and we laud his concern for the students trapped in underperforming schools.  Smucker has been tenacious in working on behalf of our kids, both as a rank-and-file lawmaker and as chairman of the Senate Education Committee. He’s earned the respect he gets from people in this county.
But in this instance, on this bill, we disagree with Smucker.

SB6: Unintended consequences mar school accountability bill
Lancaster Online Opinion by Martin Hudacs Posted: Wednesday, July 1, 2015 6:00 am
Martin Hudacs, Ed.D, is the former superintendent of Solanco School District. He retired in June 2014.
To paraphrase a famous saying, “The road to unintended consequences is paved with good intentions.”  Many well-intended legislative actions have created costly and unwieldy consequences for school systems.  For example, to improve student success, the Keystone Exams were implemented. To improve teacher and principal accountability, the Teacher Effectiveness Evaluation System was implemented. To improve scrutiny of volunteers, clearance requirements were extended. All of these intentions are worthy of support and action. All of the implemented actions, however, are presently being reconsidered because they not only did not achieve their purpose, but they were also extremely costly for school districts in both money and manpower.  I’m afraid we are going to see the same thing with Senate Bill 6, The Educational Opportunity and Accountability Act that is being considered in Harrisburg.  The bill’s primary sponsor is Lancaster County Sen. Lloyd Smucker, chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

"We understand charter schools give parents options when it comes to their children's education, and in general we support school choice — as long as charter schools are held to the same standards as traditional schools."
EDITORIAL: Reform charter school laws
York Dispatch Editorial POSTED:   07/02/2015 10:54:08 AM EDT
The results of a state audit of York City's Helen Thackston Charter School paint a picture of education in disarray and highlight the urgent need to reform Pennsylvania's charter school laws.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale — who once represented York City in the state House — summed it up this way:  "In the Thackston charter school's case, there is no way to account for every dollar, or to know if the school operated as intended, because of a breakdown of internal controls," DePasquale said. "The lack of documentation makes it nearly impossible to draw any sound conclusion."  The routine review, which looked at Thackston's operations from 2010 to 2013, found a general lack of accountability and transparency, an insufficient number of certified teachers, and a failure to keep proper financial and health records.  It also exposed potential ethics violation, concerns about reimbursements and double-billing for tuition reimbursements from local school districts, according to DePasquale.

State budget talks restart today
Scranton Times-Tribune BY ROBERT SWIFT, HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF July 6, 2015
HARRISBURGPennsylvania’s budget standoff is nearly a week old and the first substantive talks to resolve it are scheduled today.  With state agencies operating and state employees getting paid through existing state tax revenue, there is little sense of a crisis atmosphere in Harrisburg considering state government lacks the full authority to spend money without a bipartisan budget deal.  Today’s talks are to involve top aides to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders of both parties. The Legislature is in recess. The impasse started last Tuesday when Mr. Wolf vetoed a $30 billion Republican budget bill sent to him hours before a passage deadline.  The veto punctuated a partisan war of words as Mr. Wolf and the GOP-controlled Legislature clashed over taxes, spending priorities, linked issues such as property tax relief, privatizing liquor sales and conflicting mandates from voters last November.  Mr. Wolf and legislative leaders appeared together the following day to announce the restart of budget talks while acknowledging major differences stand in the way of a compromise.

Expectation of veto aided GOP’s legislative wins in Pennsylvania, some say
Pottstown Mercury By Marc Levy, The Associated Press POSTED: 07/04/15, 1:46 PM EDT 
HARRISBURG >> After three years of futility, Republicans finally used their majorities in Pennsylvania’s state House and Senate to pass their top agenda items: ending the traditional pension benefit in the state’s public employee retirement systems and privatizing its government-controlled wine and liquor store system.  But the GOP’s victories are expected to be short-lived — and that may help explain why they passed.  Practically every lawmaker believed that the pension and liquor bills were destined for the veto pen of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. That made it easier for some to drop misgivings, or outright opposition, and fall in line by voting “yes,” some lawmakers said. Sen. Don White is one of the lawmakers who voted for the wine and liquor bill despite concerns that he wanted addressed.  “I think we all did,” said White, R-Indiana.

Fiscal year revenues almost seven percent higher than previous year
The PLS Reporter Eye Opener email July 10, 2015
The Independent Fiscal Office released its revenue trends report for June last week, indicating that the close of the fiscal year saw state revenues increase almost seven percent over the previous fiscal year.  Excepting out a large inheritance collection and certain one-time revenue transfers, revenue still increased 5.8 percent over FY 2013-2014.  For the fiscal year, total revenue collections were $30.59 billion.

Wolf vetoes bills on liquor privatization, school funding by Mark Scolforo  Associated Press UPDATED 10:20 PM EDT Jul 02, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. —Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a Republican-backed bill to privatize the state-controlled sales of wine and liquor on Thursday as well as two budget-related bills, two days after he rejected the main budget bill.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders agreed Wednesday to restart budget talks after Wolf vetoed a Republican-crafted spending plan that every Democrat legislator voted against.  Wolf, a Democrat in his first year, said in a news release that selling off the liquor system was not a good business decision.  "We can support and bolster consumer convenience without selling an asset and risking higher prices and less selection for consumers," Wolf said. "I am open to options for expanding the availability of wine and beer in more locations, including supermarkets."  He also vetoed a public schools bill that contained a new formula to distribute state aid to districts, and a bill that guides how money from the budget is spent. All three bills passed the Legislature without a single "yes" vote from a Democrat, as did the main budget bill he vetoed late Tuesday night.

Pennsylvania budget stalemate draws comment from across the spectrum
Wilkes-Barre Times Leader By Jerry Lynott -  July 6th, 2015
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLNews
Although the flash and bang of the Fourth’s fireworks are no more than memories and the long holiday weekend is over, Harrisburg could be noisy place this week as budget talks are set to resume.  The June 30 deadline passed without a new spending plan in place for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Last week Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed the $30.1 billion budget submitted by Republican lawmakers who make up the majority in the General Assembly. The governor dismissed it for failing to address the issues of adequately funding public education through the passage of severance tax on the natural gas industry, property tax reform and erasing a structural deficit of more than $1 billion.  The standstill drew responses from a number of groups, urging the administration and lawmakers to put aside partisan differences and negotiate with the interests of the citizens and the future of the Commonwealth at heart.

Our view: GOP's Pa. budget invited Wolf veto Editorial July 2, 2015 01:04 AM
Pennsylvania's Republican lawmakers stuck together; so did the Democrats. So this is what the commonwealth's citizens ended up with: a plan to privatize the state liquor system, a way to move most new state employees into 401(k)-style retirement accounts, and a stalemate on the 2015-16 budget.  Instead of working to compromise with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, the Republican-controlled House and Senate passed their own bills on liquor and pension reforms without Democratic support. The GOP-approved budget also omits the key elements of Wolf's plan to reduce property taxes and boost education funding.  On Tuesday evening, Wolf vetoed the budget bill, but said he will review the pension and liquor bills, even though he has held firm in his opposition to Republican ideas on both of those issues. Might his promise to review these two Republican-backed pieces of legislation offer hope for compromise on the budget?

Hey, Gov. Wolf - pass pension reform, don't raise taxes: Charlie Gerow
PennLive Op-Ed  By Charlie Gerow on July 05, 2015 at 11:30 AM
For the first time in nearly half a century a Pennsylvania governor has vetoed a balanced budget. By using his veto pen Gov. Tom Wolf has set the stage for a protracted stalemate.  The 253 members of the General Assembly did their jobs. They passed a balanced budget, without raising taxes, before the midnight June 30 constitutional deadline.  In addition to the general appropriations bill (the budget) they also sent along two companion pieces. One was liquor reform (which has since been vetoed), the other pension reform.  At the heart of the process is the looming pension crisis. Denied by candidate Tom Wolf during the campaign, the whopping pension debt is something he hasn't been able to sidestep once it came time to confront the realities of governing.

Gov. Wolf’s budget addresses real problems
Post-Gazette Letter by BARNEY OURSLER, Executive Director, Pittsburgh United July 5, 2015 12:00 AM
Gov. Tom Wolf’s priorities are simple: fix the state’s structural deficit, bring property relief to homeowners and significantly restore education funding. I support Gov. Wolf’s full veto of the Republican budget plan that ignores those important points and is packed with folly and an anti-people agenda (“Pennsylvania’s Governor, Legislators Plan New Round of Budget Talks,” July 2).  Last year we voted Tom Corbett out of office because we had enough of Mr. Corbett’s cuts to public schools, his corporate loopholes and handouts to gas drillers, but Republican legislators insist on playing politics with a budget that is a Corbett-era redo and doesn’t address the real problems of Pennsylvanians.

Column: Republicans' budget reflects taxpayers' priorities
Reading Eagle Opinion By Sen. David Argall  Sunday July 5, 2015 12:01 AM
On June 30, after months of debate and public hearings, the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives passed a balanced budget that reflects the fiscal realities of the state and the taxpayers. Unlike our federal counterparts, we must pass a balanced budget every year.  The residents of Berks and Schuylkill counties have told me loud and clear that they would rather see the state use its current revenues before we turn to the taxpayers and ask them for more money. The Senate- and House-passed budget reflects those demands.
The state budget boosts spending for education by $370 million, including an additional $100 million for basic education, $20 million for special education and $30 million for early childhood programs.  The budget drives out money to public schools based on a new formula that was developed by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission. The commission's recommendations were praised by Gov. Tom Wolf. The budget plan also includes a much-needed initiative to provide school districts with reimbursements for construction projects.  Because the governor vetoed the entire state budget - for the first time in over 40 years - critical state programs and services are now at risk.

Pa. schools could soon have new funding formula, but officials aren't banking on it yet
A proposal would change the way the state gives money to school districts
York Daily Record By Angie Mason @angiemason1 on Twitter UPDATED:   07/04/2015
Some local school officials say a proposed new school funding formula is looking at the right factors, but it remains to be seen whether that formula will be used to dole out additional classroom funds for 2015-16.  After about a year of work, a bipartisan state commission recently recommended a funding formula that takes into account factors such as a district's average three-year student enrollment, poverty — with greater emphasis on those with a lot of students in severe poverty — English language learners, charter school enrollment, and local tax effort.  Pennsylvania has been criticized for having no formula and basing districts' funding on decades-old enrollment estimates.

With hundreds of volunteers, school districts scrambling to comply with background check law
Legislation brings clarification to state law requiring volunteer background checks
By Christina Tatu Of The Morning Call July 6, 2015
School districts across the Lehigh Valley are plodding ahead to comply with a new background check law that has been mired in confusion over who, among the hundreds of volunteers, requires clearances.  A bill that passed the Legislature last month is supposed to bring clarity to the requirements that cover anyone who works with children. But even with the changes, educators say the new mandate is a major undertaking.  The deadline for new volunteers to obtain their clearances has been extended from July 1 to Aug. 25.  "I think we've gotten a better understanding of who needs to get the clearances and who doesn't. It's still a significant expansion of what's required before people can be volunteers," Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy said.  Updates contained in House Bill 1276 specifically clarify background check requirements that were part of a package of child-protection laws adopted in 2013 in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State.

The Inevitable, Indispensable Property Tax
New York Times By JOSH BARRO JULY 4, 2015
If you’re a homeowner, you probably don’t like paying property taxes. But economists like property taxes for the same reason taxpayers hate them: They’re hard to avoid.
A 2008 study by researchers at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development looked at a number of countries and found that taxes on real property caused the least drag on gross domestic product per dollar of revenue raised. Next came sales taxes, personal income taxes and corporate income taxes. In other words, property taxes were the best way to collect revenue without hurting the economy too much.  As the economist Greg Mankiw wrote in this space three years ago, “A good rule of thumb is that when you tax something, you get less of it.” That idea helps explain why property taxes do relatively little economic damage.

 “Below are 14 pieces, most including a podcast, that NewsWorks and the Notebook put together for Multiple Choices, a series that explains the major aspects of the state's complex, puzzling, and unequal education funding system.”
Brush up on your knowledge of school funding in Pa.
By the Notebook on Jul 2, 2015 01:50 PM
The ongoing budget stalemate in Harrisburg has left school districts across Pennsylvania in the dark about how much state money they'll be getting.  With a new governor, a new proposed funding formula, and constant disagreement about how schools should be funded, lots of changes are afoot in Pennsylvania's education system. 

Storify for #FairFundingPA Chat - June 2015
Pennsylvania's major education leadership organizations meet on Twitter at 8 p.m. the last Tuesday of each month to discuss the need for a basic education funding formula and other issues.  Here's a link to the Storify recap of last Tuesday evening's twitter chat on Basic Education  Funding

Finally, Congress to start debate on No Child Left Behind rewrite
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss July 6 at 4:00 AM  
Congress is finally supposed to be turning its attention to the No Child Left Behind law, the education law that passed in the administration of president George W. Bush, and was supposed to be rewritten in 2007. There are bills in both the House and Senate, both of which would make significant changes to education policy today, as explained in this post. It was written by Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as  FairTest, a nonprofit organization that works to end the misuses of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, educators and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally sound.

NCLB Rewrite: New tune for piano-playing senator: Revised education policy by LAURIE KELLMAN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS July 4, 2015, 7:46 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) - How does a musician-senator fill the time during yet another partisan Senate stalemate?  In Sen. Lamar Alexander's case, he sits down at a borrowed piano in his Capitol Hill office and, with a grin, bangs out "The Memphis Blues."  He's been blending music and politics his whole life. And this coming week, the three-term Tennessee Republican hopes Democrats and the GOP harmonize as the Senate becomes Alexander's stage.  The son of a school teacher and principal, this former federal education secretary and onetime university president will be shepherding a bill he's been working on for seven years: a rewrite of the contentious No Child Left Behind law.

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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