Wednesday, November 11, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov 11: American Public Ed: 54 million students, 100K schools; 6.2 million jobs; no Presidential debate questions

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup November 11, 2015:
American Public Education: 54 million students, 100K schools; 6.2 million jobs; no Presidential debate questions

Register for PSBA Budget Action Day on Monday, Nov. 16 — Join us!
Capitol Building, Harrisburg NOV 16, 2015 • 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM

""Mandated state costs like pensions, special education and charter school tuition drive school property taxes," Himes said. "Given the escalating cost of these mandates we believe schools have done a tremendous job in managing the parts of the budget where there is local control."  As proof, he released an analysis that showed that PSERS and charter school expenses alone rose between 25 and 29 percent between 2011-12 and 2013-14 while all other expenses were basically flat.  Himes said New Jersey and New York both require voter approval for tax hikes, but those states also provide more funding to districts than Pennsylvania does.  According to analysis, New York provides about $3,000 more per student while New Jersey gives about $1,800 more.  But even with more state help and a back-end referendum, the analysis shows that taxpayers in those states pay more local school taxes than those in Pennsylvania — $3,000 more in New York and $2,200 in New Jersey."
School districts: Proposal to require voter approval of tax hikes would be 'prescription for disaster'
Jacqueline Palochko Contact ReporterOf The Morning Call November 10, 2015
School districts: Proposal to require voter approval of tax hikes 'a prescription for disaster'
One potential piece of a deal in the works to end Pennsylvania's budget stalemate would require school districts to seek voter approval for every new real estate tax increase, and school districts are not happy with the idea — or Gov. Tom Wolf.  District Superintendent Joseph Roy on Monday said a so-called back-end referendum would be a "prescription for disaster" for Bethlehem Area and other districts across the state.  "The disturbing part of the referendum is that it is coming from Gov. [Tom] Wolf, not the Legislature," board President Michael Faccinetto said during Monday night's Finance Committee meeting.  District officials and other school officials from across the state believe the governor offered the referendum in exchange for a one-time infusion of cash for public education and operations.  Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature say they are close to a budget deal that would provide $350 million in new money for public schools for the current fiscal year that began July 1.

Proposal worries Pa. school advocates
York Daily Record Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com2:53 p.m. EST November 10, 2015
State education advocacy groups are raising the alarm about the possibility of a budget deal including a "back end referendum" requiring school districts to go to the voters for approval of any tax increase.  According to a story from WITF, the framework for a potential state budget deal includes increases in education funding. But advocacy groups are worried about the possibility of a proposal being included to require all tax increases go before a local voter referendum.  The Campaign for Fair Education Funding sent a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf and legislators Monday, urging them not to consider a backend referendum as part of a budget deal. The possibility would stop districts from raising taxes even up to the "limited inflationary index" or from seeking exceptions to raise taxes to cover major cost drivers beyond their control, the letter says.  "The Campaign strongly urges you to abandon any discussions related to mandatory backend referendum and the elimination of the Act 1 index and exceptions," the letter says.  If that change were implemented, and voters didn't approve a referendum, a school district would have to cut programs to cover increased mandatory costs, the letter says, and it would worsen funding inequities among districts across the state.

Editorial: Restore lost school funds
Scranton Times Tribune BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD Published: November 9, 2015
The refusal of state-level politicians to take on more responsibility for school funding has left Pennsylvania with the nation’s worst funding disparities between affluent and poor school districts.  In Pennsylvania, the state government’s share of public school funding is far below that in most other states, leaving it to local property taxation to provide 60 percent or more of local school district budgets.  Because of the widely variable health of local property tax bases, there are wide disparities in the quality of facilities, teacher compensation, benefits and spending-per-student — even though the state subsidy system is weighted toward low-income districts.  Now, with the state government mired in the fifth month of a budget impasse, there appears to be consensus that the state should restore some of the school funding that was cut by the Legislature and the Corbett administration in the 2011-2012 state budget. The sticking point is the exact means of generating the revenue.  A theme of the Corbett administration was that how districts used whatever funding they had was more important than the amount of revenue they had. And there are, indeed, several low-income districts in the state with good records of achievement.  But those districts are exceptional. Funding generally makes a significant difference. As the Rendell administration raised the state’s percentage of school funding over its second four years, test scores generally increased. Those scores fell for three consecutive years after the funding cuts, which also fell most heavily on the least-affluent districts.  Unfortunately, simply restoring some state funding is not enough because that alone will not end the inherent disparities in over-reliance on local property taxation.  The administration and legislative Republicans have proposed tax shifts — reducing local property taxes and replacing the money with state revenue from increases in state taxes — that should be the basis of compromise. Lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf should not abandon true property tax reform for the sake of expediting a long-overdue state budget.

Gov. Tom Wolf clarifies education spending number; budget talks are back on
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on November 10, 2015 at 6:28 PM, updated November 10, 2015 at 9:29 PM
Crisis over.  A wrinkle in Monday's announced state budget framework was ironed out at the highest levels Tuesday, setting the stage for a resumption of talks on the final, and much harder, details left in the far-flung package.  The crisis popped up late Monday, when Gov. Tom Wolf's Press Secretary Jeff Sheridan touted what he said was an historic, two-year increase in the state's major funding lines for public schools totalling $750 million annually.  Senate Republican leaders, who said they had only agreed to the 2015-16 increases that Sheridan cited, demanded a retraction and all budget-related meetings scheduled for Tuesday were abruptly called off.
At 5 p.m. Tuesday evening, peace had been restored.

State budget negotiations stay on track
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau November 11, 2015 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — After a tentative framework for a deal to end the Pennsylvania budget impasse was thrown into question Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican and Democratic legislative leaders appeared together to affirm that they are working toward a deal.  Late Monday, the House and Senate Republican leaders said that they and the Wolf administration had agreed on elements of a deal that would increase education funding, raise the state sales tax and provide relief from local property taxes. A spokesman for Mr. Wolf confirmed there was a tentative budget framework, and said Republicans had agreed to particular funding levels for education in this and the following year’s budgets.

Gov. Wolf, legislative leaders reaffirm commitment to budget framework
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders from all four caucuses held a joint press gaggle Tuesday evening to reaffirm their commitment to work toward the final passage of what is being called a tentative budget framework.  While the governor and legislative leaders said that many of the more concrete details—like an overall final spend number and the specifics of what revenue comes from where—need to be ironed out, all agreed that when the final budget is agreed to, that will have been a day worth waiting for.  One part of the framework that was discussed was a side-by-side pension reform plan that the governor has committed to signing.  Also detailed was a $350 million increase for K-12 education funding with $50 million for special education funding. That deal was not said to be agreed to for a two-year commitment of increased funding at those levels.

Pennsylvania sales tax could become 2nd highest in nation
Morning Call by Marc Levy Associated Press November 10, 2015
Budget deal would make Pa.'s sales tax second highest in nation.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's natural gas industry has fended off higher taxes for yet another year, while a potential deal to end a budget stalemate now in its fifth month would make the state's sales tax the nation's second highest.  Gov. Tom Wolf's top priority has been a record increase in education funding, and an agreement by top Republican lawmakers on that issue was enough for the first-term Democrat, his press secretary, Jeff Sheridan, said Tuesday.  In a brief statement to reporters, Wolf acknowledged that many details in the proposed budget remain unsettled, and his ambitious hope is to have work on it finished and through the Legislature by Thanksgiving.  Some Democrats are restless over the tax trade-off.  House Democratic Whip Mike Hanna, D-Clinton, said it may be hard for Democrats to support a deal in which companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. — a major gas-exploration company — will not pay more, but every resident will when they buy everything from a car to an outdoor grill.

Budget deal near with higher sales tax, more school funding
Education Week by AP Published Online: November 10, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A potential deal to break Pennsylvania's budget stalemate in its fifth month includes a state sales tax increase, expanded school property tax cuts and hundreds of millions of new dollars for public schools, top state lawmakers said Monday.  Gov. Tom Wolf's office said the new money for public schools amounted to a record increase, a major priority of his, even if the first-term Democrat had made major concessions in other areas, such as losing his fight to impose a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production.  It also appeared that Wolf would get at least a portion of the multibillion-dollar state tax increase that he had sought to help correct a long-term deficit and transform a school funding system that harbors huge disparities between rich and poor districts.  Meanwhile, the Legislature's huge Republican majorities made headway on their goal of imposing major pension changes for future state and school employees, while plans to privatize some or all of the state-controlled wine and liquor system remained up in the air.  Many other crucial details were unresolved Monday and negotiators said a final agreement would not be in place until all of its elements get settled.

Final work on Pennsylvania's state budget stumbles out of the gate
A new hiccup has arisen over the terms of an "agreement" in the state budget talks.
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 10, 2015 at 1:18 PM, updated November 10, 2015 at 4:30 PM
Hey Pennsylvania.  That final round of negotiations and legislative detailing that could see us, at long last, to a new state budget?  Umm... They're off. We kid you not.  Important note: This is not to suggest that things are irretrievably broken or that the $30 billion framework unveiled Monday has broken apart. Think of it more like a pop-up thunderstorm that could pass by this evening.  But it is, for the moment, a storm and the issue at hand is the Wolf Administration's enthusiastic declaration Monday that it has secured commitments from Republican legislative leaders to raise basic education funding by $750 million annually over the next two years.  The problem?  House and Senate Republican leaders assert that the only thing they committed to was a year one increase totaling, so far, $400 million, with a final, pre-k piece to be negotiated.  And that, apparently, is what they told the members of the their majority caucuses in briefings Monday afternoon.

'We do not have an agreement' on the #PaBudget, Corman says in radio interview
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 10, 2015 at 1:35 PM, updated November 10, 2015 at 2:49 PM
That didn't take long.  In an interview with a Pittsburgh radio station Tuesday, the state Senate's top Republican appeared to have scuttled an emerging framework that many hoped would end Pennsylvania's five-month-old budget stalemate.  Accusing the Democratic Wolf administration of "mischaracterizing" the contents of the framework, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman told KDKA-AM in Pittsburgh that "We do not have an agreement ... We thought we were working toward one ... but there is no deal in place right now."  The Wolf administration, meanwhile, claimed the agreement announced late Monday, (which includes boosting the state's sales tax from 6 percent in most parts of the state to 7.25 percent) was still in place.

Is there a $50m time bomb at the heart of the new #PaBudget framework?: Tuesday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on November 10, 2015 at 8:22 AM, updated November 10, 2015 at 8:26 AM
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
So, first, the good news:
Early Monday evening, Republican legislative leaders rolled out a framework for a 2015-16 state budget that could deliver property tax relief to homeownerscourtesy of a nearly 21 percent increase (from 6 percent to 7.25 percent) to Pennsylvania's sales tax.  More good news: Pennsylvania's public schools are in line for a $350 million increase in the state's basic education subsidy, which is the largest chunk of state support for public education.  But now the bad news: Senate Republicans and the Democratic Wolf administration offered differing accounts Monday of both the extent of the agreement and of exactly how much new assistance would be delivered to schools, specifically pre-school programs.  Late Monday, Jeffrey Sheridan, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf, boasted that the emerging framework included a two-year commitment to boost pre-school and basic education line items by $750 million.  Included in the administration's $750 million calculation, apparently, is $50 million in new money for pre-kindergarten programs.  But Senate Republicans, through spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher, quickly pushed back, insisting that no such agreement on Pre-K programs had been reached -- nor was there an agreement for funding for fiscal 2016-17.

Pittsburgh Public Schools' budget plan decreases deficit spending, holds steady on taxes
By Clarece Polke / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette November 10, 2015 4:15 PM
A preliminary budget for Pittsburgh Public Schools released Tuesday includes a decrease in deficit spending and holds the line on taxes.  The $567.9 million budget has a 2 percent increase from last year's adopted budget and includes a long-term deficit of $21.8 million, a $5.1 million drop from the previous year.  Chief Operations Officer Ronald Joseph said the decrease in deficit spending is due in large part to increased earned income tax revenue, decreases in salaries, medical insurance and debt service payments. The district is projected to end the year with an operating surplus of $900,000.  The proposed budget would keep property taxes at 9.84 mills for the second consecutive year. One mill equals $1 of tax on each $1,000 of assessed property value. The budget does not include any large-scale faculty or staff reductions.

Sen. Pat Browne in first-offender program on drunken-driving charge
Laurie Mason Schroeder Contact ReporterOf The Morning Call November 10, 2015
State Sen. Pat Browne on Tuesday was accepted into a program for first-time offenders.
State Sen. Pat Browne on Tuesday told a Lehigh County judge that he had become "complacent" in his fight to stay sober, and relapsed shortly before crashing his motorcycle in May and getting arrested for drunken driving.  "I was not fully engaged, as I should have been," he said.  Although the May 2 crash was Browne's third drunken-driving offense, he was accepted into a program for first-time offenders that will allow him to walk away with a clean record if he completes certain conditions.  Browne, 51, of Allentown qualified for the accelerated rehabilitative disposition program because his last drunken-driving arrest was 16 years ago. Under a 2004 change in the law, any drunken-driving arrest outside of a 10-year window is considered a first offense.

Education Continues to Struggle for Airtime in GOP Debates
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog  By Alyson Klein on November 10, 2015 11:17 PM
So far, if the 2016 campaign were a third grade class, K-12 education would be the kid in the back who never gets called on. There was barely a whisper on education in the fourth Republican debate, held Tuesday in Milwaukee.   In fact, it didn't even get a mention as something the federal government should stay out of.

Hillary Clinton rebukes charter schools
The decades-long proponent of charters criticizes the schools for cherry-picking kids.
Politico By KIMBERLY HEFLING 11/09/15 07:02 PM EST
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounded less like a decades-long supporter of charter schools over the weekend and more like a teachers union president when she argued that most of these schools “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them.”  Her comments in South Carolina came straight from charter school critics’ playbook and distanced her from the legacies of her husband, former President Bill Clinton — credited with creating a federal stream of money to launch charters around the country — and President Barack Obama, whose administration has dangled federal incentives to push states to become more charter friendly.  The change in tone on charter schools mirrors other moves Clinton has made to nail down the support of liberal blocs in the face of the progressive challenge of Bernie Sanders, including her recent decision to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And like her reservations about free trade, her new rebuke of charter schools suggests she’ll be less willing to challenge core Democratic constituencies than either her husband or Obama.

Report: Quarter-million more students now graduate from H.S. each year
 Greg Toppo, USATODAY 4:29 p.m. EST November 10, 2015
About a quarter-million more students graduated from high school in 2012 than four years earlier, new research shows, with the number of "dropout factories" — high schools that persistently graduate fewer than 60% of students — cut in half since 2008.  U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan welcomed the findings, saying that poorly performing high schools have been "failing generations of students."  Duncan earlier this year released figures showing that the USA's high school graduation rate had risen to 81% in the 2012-13 school year, the highest ever since states adopted a new, uniform way of calculating graduation rates.

Testing Reform Victories 2015: Growing Grassroots Movement Rolls Back Testing Overkill
Fairtest Submitted by fairtest on November 8, 2015 - 2:42pm 
Pressure from parents, students, teachers, school officials and community leaders began turning the tide against standardized exam overuse and misuse during the 2014-2015 school year, according to a new report released today. “Testing Reform Victories 2015: Growing Grassroots Movement Rolls Back Testing Overkill” shows that many states reduced testing mandates, eliminated score-based consequences, and implemented better assessments. The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), a leader of the U.S. assessment reform movement, released the study.  Lisa Guisbond, the report’s author, explained, “Public pressure has forced policy makers to respond to the many harms resulting from the fixation on high-stakes exams. Even President Obama now concedes that testing has gone too far. Opinion polls show a sharp shift against overreliance on test-and-punish policies in favor of assessments based on multiple measures.”  Among the concrete assessment reform victories documented in the new FairTest report:

PSBA New School Director Training
School boards who will welcome new directors after the election should plan to attend PSBA training to help everyone feel more confident right from the start. This one-day event is targeted to help members learn the basics of their new roles and responsibilities. Meet the friendly, knowledgeable PSBA team and bring everyone on your “team of 10” to get on the same page fast.
  • $150 per registrant (No charge if your district has a LEARN PassNote: All-Access members also have LEARN Pass.)
  • One-hour lunch on your own — bring your lunch, go to lunch, or we’ll bring a box lunch to you; coffee/tea provided all day
  • Course materials available online or we’ll bring a printed copy to you for an additional $25
  • Registrants receive one month of 100-level online courses for each registrant, after the live class
Nine locations for your convenience:
  • Philadelphia area — Nov. 21 William Tennent HS, Warminster (note: location changed from IU23 Norristown)
  • Pittsburgh area — Dec. 5 Allegheny IU3, Homestead
  • South Central PA and Erie areas (joint program)— Dec. 12 Northwest Tri-County IU5, Edinboro and PSBA, Mechanicsburg
  • Butler area — Jan. 9 Midwestern IU 4, Grove City (note: location changed from Penn State New Kensington)
  • Allentown area — Jan. 16 Lehigh Career & Technical Institute, Schnecksville
  • Central PA — Jan. 30 Nittany Lion Inn, State College
  • Scranton area — Feb. 6 Abington Heights SD, Clarks Summit
  • North Central area —Feb. 13 Mansfield University, Mansfield

Register for PSBA Budget Action Day on Monday, Nov. 16 — Join us!
Capitol Building, Harrisburg NOV 16, 2015 • 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
For more than four months Pennsylvanians have gone without a state budget, and school districts are feeling the pain.  As the budget stalemate continues, many school districts across the state are depleting savings or borrowing to meet expenses. In addition to loan interest payments and fees, schools are taking many other steps to curtail spending and keep school doors open.
PSBA is asking you to join us at the Harrisburg Capitol on Monday, Nov. 16 to take action. Let our legislators know that a state budget is critical to the education of our public school children in Pennsylvania.  Budget Action Day, Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA; Monday, Nov. 16, 2015; 9 a.m.-1 p.m.  Meet at 9 a.m. in the Majority Caucus Room, Room 140, to hear from legislators on top issues that are affecting the budget stalemate and receive packets for your legislative visits. 

Register now for the 2015 PASCD 65th Annual Conference, Leading and Achieving in an Interconnected World, to be held November 15-17, 2015 at Pittsburgh Monroeville Convention Center.
The Conference will Feature Keynote Speakers: Meenoo Rami – Teacher and Author “Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching,”  Mr. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, Heidi Hayes-Jacobs – Founder and President of Curriculum Design, Inc. and David Griffith – ASCD Senior Director of Public Policy.  This annual conference features small group sessions focused on: Curriculum and Supervision, Personalized and Individualized Learning, Innovation, and Blended and Online Learning. The PASCD Conference is a great opportunity to stay connected to the latest approaches for innovative change in your school or district.  Join us forPASCD 2015!  Online registration is available by visiting <>

NSBA Advocacy Institute 2016; January 24 - 26 in Washington, D.C.
Housing and meeting registration is open for Advocacy Institute 2016.  The theme, “Election Year Politics & Public Schools,” celebrates the exciting year ahead for school board advocacy.  Strong legislative programming will be paramount at this year’s conference in January.  Visit for more information.

PASBO 61st Annual Conference and Exhibits March 8 - 11, 2016
Hershey Lodge and Convention Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500

Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

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