Monday, December 14, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 14: #PABudget: House to Senate: Show me the money

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 14, 2015:
#PABudget: House to Senate: Show me the money

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"In last week's press release, Grell said "These past five years of large increases in the employer contribution rate have been extremely difficult budgetary years for school employers and the Commonwealth. While difficult budgetary issues remain for school employers and the Commonwealth, the employer contribution rates have reached a plateau that will slowly begin to pay down the principal on the existing pension debt and begin to improve the funding ratio over the next few years."
School pension bill to hit 30 percent of employee salaries next year
Bucks County Courier Times By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Monday, December 14, 2015 5:30 am
For years, school districts have griped about the escalating costs of employee pensions swallowing bigger pieces of their budgets.  Turns out, the funding for the Public School Employees' Retirement System should have been more.  The executive director of PSERS said as much in a press release that pointed to an increase in the annual employer contribution rate to 30.03 percent for the 2016-2017 school year.  "For the first time in 15 years, the employer contribution rate provides 100 percent of the actuarially required rate based on sound actuarial practices and principles," said PSERS' Glen Grell.  Various pieces of pension legislation, Grell said, have artificially suppressed the employer contributions paid to PSERS by the school employers and the state, which picks up half of the cost. As a result, the $48.8 billion fund that pays the pensions of nearly 220,000 retirees is underfunded by $37.3 billion.

PA House Finance Chm Bernie O’Neill Proposes Writing Special Ed Funding Formula Into PA School Code
Mark Miller's Blog Monday, December 14th, 2015 by admin
Thirty months after Gov Corbett signed PA Act 3 into law on the stage of William Tennent High School in Centennial School District, PA House Finance Chair Bernie O’Neill is still trying to fix the broken process by which public school districts pay charter school operators for the special education services they claim to provide. This is not new territory for Chm O’Neill, himself a former special education teacher at WTHS. He’s been fighting this up(capitol)hill battle for more than a decade.  Spearheaded by Representative O’Neill and Senator Pat Browne, the Special Education Funding Commission authorized by Act 3 of 2013, brought forth a new formula that was fair to both public school districts and charter school operators. HB2138 was overwhelmingly approved in the House. Unfortunately, when the Senate approved the bill, it was weighted down by a seventeen year phase in period to take the wind out of its sails.  Now Rep O’Neill is pushing to have the Special Education Funding Formula written into the PA School Code. I think that is a great idea, as long as it applies to both Public School Districts and Publicly Funded Charter/Cyber Charter Schools alike.

"But both Republicans and Democrats, along with Wolf's office, are still raising problems with elements of the Senate legislation that, among other things, overhauls public pension benefits, smashes state control over the sale of wine and advances the cause of charter schools."
Lawmakers prepare for new fight in 5-month budget showdown
AP State Wire by MARC LEVY December 13, 9:30 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The House of Representatives began leaving its imprint on the Senate's expansive package of budget-related legislation Sunday night, signaling the start of a contentious new week and another new showdown over how to end the state government's five-month-old budget stalemate.  Pressure to resolve the fight has ratcheted up amid layoffs and closings by a social services sector increasingly crippled without billions in state aid and mounting borrowing by school districts and counties that could exceed $1 billion soon, if it has not already.  
On Sunday night, Gov. Tom Wolf's office and House leaders said they were still sorting through hundreds of pages of legislation sent by the Republican-controlled Senate last week in a weeklong sprint to advance a $30.8 billion budget plan.  House leaders stressed that they hoped to wrap up a budget deal this week. After a brief Sunday night session, the House will return Monday.

End to Pa. budget impasse a step closer
by Chris Palmer, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau. Updated: DECEMBER 13, 2015 — 9:36 PM EST
HARRISBURG - Following a two-day break, House members returned to the Capitol Sunday night and began positioning several budget-related bills for a full chamber vote, a step toward potentially ending the five-month-old budget stalemate.  Still, significant questions remained about issues that have loomed large throughout the impasse, including which taxes might be raised to fund a $30.8 billion budget proposed by Gov. Wolf and Senate Republicans, and how $350 million in new school funding would be distributed as part of that plan.  House leaders "have been working through the weekend to try to go through any tweaks or changes we may want to make to any of these proposals," said Majority Leader Dave Reed (R., Indiana).  Reed spoke Sunday night after a key House committee approved the state's Administrative Code and Welfare Code, both of which must be passed by the full chamber to enact a budget.  The Senate has already approved those bills and a series of others that Wolf has said he will sign to bring the state's historic impasse to an end.  Still, the House would have to agree to the Senate's version of the bills, or propose changes that the other sides would accept, to strike a final agreement.  And in an otherwise mundane Sunday night, there was new evidence showing just how difficult that might be.

House to Senate: Show me the money
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Sunday, December 13, 2015
With the House in a rare Sunday evening voting session, budget bills slowly started making their way through that chamber as legislators are hopeful of getting a budget done by week’s end.  However, one question is still nagging members of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives: Where will the revenue come from to support the budget plan?  When noting the Senate has said it has done its job in sending budget bills over to the House before recessing and going on six-hour call last week, members of both parties of the House asked where the money is to support the $30.8 billion spending plan currently in their chamber.  “We have two tax code bills sitting over in the Senate, so if they were serious about sending everything over they would have loaded the taxes to pay for their funding and send it over,” said Rep. Seth Grove (R-York). “The fact that the two House tax code bills are still sitting in Senate Finance Committee, I would have to say you’ve got to pay for what you spend.”  Going further, Rep. Grove speculated that the whole crux of the budget impasse has been whether tax votes exist in the legislature.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 13: Could this be the week for #PABudget?

Fell Charter principal proud of students, staff in budget crisis
Scranton Times-Tribune KATHLEEN BOLUS, STAFF WRITER Published: December 14, 2015
In the month since Fell Charter Elementary School students started a condensed schedule and teachers began working without pay to save money, Principal Mary Jo Walsh is losing hope for any state subsidies.  She is, however, proud of how her students and staff have handled the adjustments caused by the six-month state budget stalemate.  “They’ve done an awesome job,” she said of her staff and students.  Fell Charter administrators, staff and 25 teachers implemented the changes on Nov. 2. Students also began arriving in class at 7:45 a.m., with a 2:15 p.m. dismissal and Fridays off. The school board approved the changes on Oct. 26 . The school calendar was also altered — Fell is closing Dec. 21 through Jan. 1 for Christmas break.  Ms. Walsh said students understand the severity of the situation and have not slacked off on school work, even finishing assignments on Fridays while out of school.
Many teachers, staff and administrators, including Ms. Walsh, have picked up part-time jobs at local retail shops.  “The thing that is killing me, not only are my teachers doing double time at their teaching jobs but also doing double time at part-time jobs,” she said.

"Revised Legislative Schedule: Senate is now on a 6-hour call until further notice.  House scheduled to be in session Dec. 13, 14, 15, 16."
Monday PA Capitol Digest NewsClips
Crisci Associates December 14, 2015
Update: Sunday evening the House Rules Committee amended both the Senate-passed Administrative Code-- House Bill 941 (Regan-R-Cumberland)-- and Welfare Code-- House Bill 1322 (Kaufer-R-Luzerne)-- bills and reported them to the full House.
The Administrative Code bill was amended to remove language related to ride-sharing, added a section to study the regulation of fantasy sports and made other changes.
The Welfare Code bill was amended to add fraud prevention and recovery provisions and changed the name of the Welfare Code to the Human Service Code.
The Committee also adopted a House rule change to temporarily waive the 15 day calendar requirement to consider the General Appropriations bill.

Tweet 8 Education Questions to #CNNGOPDebate Hosts
Network for Public Education by npeaaction |  posted in: Decision 2016NPE Actions |  0
On Tuesday, December 15th, CNN will host a GOP debate in Las Vegas, Nevada. To date, there has been little to no mention of K-12 education policy in the presidential campaign, from either Republican or Democratic candidates. Even the passage of ESSA has elicited little response from candidates:  Two GOP presidential candidates, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz, opposed the bill’s passage. (Cruz put out a statement, Paul voted against it.) Sen.Bernie Sanders, who is running for the Democratic nomination, missed the vote, as did Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican candidate. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, gave the bill a thumbs up, and even said something nice about its provisions for charter schools.  We must continue to push the candidates to address the K-12 Education issues that are important to the teachers, parents, and students in our nation’s public schools. Back in October NPE Action president Diane Ravitch wrote a piece for Salon that outlined the eight questions we want candidates to answer.

Truth For America: TFA Alumni Speak
Network for Public Education December 8, 2015 by NPE Board Member Julian Vasquez Heilig by npeaaction |  posted in: NPE ActionsTeach For America |  0
For the first time since it’s inception in 1989, Teach for America is having a hard time filling it’s slots. As a result,training offices are closing, and disgruntled alumni are starting to speak out en masse.  TFA corps members are given only 5 weeks of summer training, and then sent out to high stress areas. Several states have cut back funding, and TFA has revealed that they are short of their lofty recruiting goals that were set when they received $50 million from Arne Duncan in 2010.  Many in this generation of Teach For America alumni have become more and more vocal about the detriments of the organization.  In a January 2014 Policy Brief titled, Teach for America: A Return to the Evidence NPE Action Board Member Julian Vasquez Heilig and co-author Su Jin Jez noted that TFA alumni were starting to speak out in increasing numbers.

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
Remaining Locations:
  • 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
  • Delaware Co. IU 25 — Feb. 1
  • Scranton area — Feb. 6 Abington Heights SD, Clarks Summit
  • North Central area —Feb. 13 Mansfield University, Mansfield

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

The Network for Public Education 3rd Annual National Conference April 16-17, 2016 Raleigh, North Carolina.
The Network for Public Education is thrilled to announce the location for our 3rd Annual National Conference. On April 16 and 17, 2016 public education advocates from across the country will gather in Raleigh, North Carolina.  We chose Raleigh to highlight the tremendous activist movement that is flourishing in North Carolina. No one exemplifies that movement better than the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, who will be the conference keynote speaker. Rev. Barber is the current president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, the National NAACP chair of the Legislative Political Action Committee, and the founder of Moral Mondays.

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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