Thursday, December 17, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 17: Turzai: 12:30 pm deadline today for Gov to show he has the votes to move budget tax package through the House

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 17, 2015:
Turzai: 12:30 pm deadline today for Gov to show he has the votes to move budget tax package through the House

Campaign for Fair Education Funding: PA Lawmakers need to deliver a #PABudget that meets the needs of every child.  Ask them to at:

Reach out to your House members this morning.  Phone numbers are here:

Rep. Bob Godshall (R-Montgomery) posted this poem on his office door in the Capitol found by PLS:
Christmas Ode To Our Legislators
by Duke Daminski, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin
From the General Assembly Legislative Journal, page 6204, December 13, 1951.

Like a ship without a rudder,
Like a bird with half a wing,
There is nothing now before us,
That you could not have done last Spring.

You have played around all Summer,
Raced your motors all through Fall,
And soon it will be Winter
And you’re still not on the ball.

You have maddened your constituents,
Sapped our strength and left us weak,
Fellows, all we want for christmas
Is to get you home next week.

Downingtown board member comments on state budget delay
Daily Local By Ginger Dunbar, Daily Local News POSTED: 12/15/15, 5:09 PM EST
EAST CALN >> A Downingtown Area school board member last week commented about the delay in the state budget adoption when the board members were prepared to vote on approving payments to the state.  School board member Robert Yorczyk asked that two checks be removed from the consent agenda and voted on separately. The two checks to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue totaled nearly $209,772.  “The reason I asked to have this pulled is that it represents over $200,000 that we have collected for the state and are sending to them which is our responsibility,” Yorczyk said in a prepared statement. “We and the state were supposed to have a budget by July 1. We did and they didn’t.”  Yorczyk had a rhetorical question about this.
“How is it that those of us who are not paid to do a job can do it on time and those who are paid can’t get the job done?” Yorczyk asked.

Erie School Board to consider $47M loan
16 Dec 2015 — Erie Times-News
The Erie School Board will meet in special session Monday to consider authorizing Erie School District administrators to borrow up to $47 million as the state budget impasse continues.  The School Board in September authorized district administrators to borrow $30 million to keep schools open, if needed. A vote to expand that to $47 million was on the board agenda in November but pulled after a review of district finances and when budget talks looked to be progressing. The district has not taken out any loan yet.  "Based on the on-again, off-again budget negotiations that are happening in Harrisburg, we thought it would be prudent to make this recommendation to give us more borrowing flexibility," Brian Polito, the district's chief financial officer, said Tuesday. "We also currently owe vendors $27 million. A $30 million loan would only be enough to pay our vendors and cover two weeks of payroll."

Scranton schools may borrow millions, raise taxes in 'unprecedented' fiscal crisis
Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL Published: December 16, 2015
Calling the Scranton School District’s financial problems “unprecedented,” directors may raise taxes and borrow millions to balance the 2016 budget.  The district is also still looking for $31.2 million to avoid default at the end of the year.  During a budget and finance committee meeting Tuesday, officials blamed the state budget impasse for the district’s fiscal issues and presented a balanced spending plan for 2016. The district is only one of two in the state with a calendar year budget. With the preliminary budget including an $18 million deficit, the $146.5 million budget now includes:

Northwest Area may close schools over state budget stalemate
HARRISBURG — Northwest Area School District faces the hard choice of borrowing money or closing schools at the end of January if lawmakers don’t pass a state budget or stopgap budget soon, officials said during a Capitol visit Tuesday.  The rural district in Luzerne County will face a decision in mid-January on voting to borrow $1.5 million or close schools at month’s end if a six-month budget deadlock isn’t broken, said school board President Randy Tomasacci. He and other school board members came to the Capitol to sound an alarm about the impact of the stalemate on students and parents. They began the day meeting with Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, Butler Twp., and planned to make their case to as many lawmakers as possible.  “We are asking you to stop this insanity and come to some type of agreement,” wrote district officials in an open letter to lawmakers.  “This (stalemate) has to end and end quickly,” said Mr. Tomasacci.

Philly schools: no cash after Jan. 29?
by Kristen Graham, Inquirer Staff Writer.  @newskag DECEMBER 16, 2015 — 7:37 AM EST
With an ongoing stalemate over the state budget (deadline: June 30) in Harrisburg, finances remain precarious for many agencies that depend on the commonwealth for funding.
The cash-flow situation is particularly dire for the Philadelphia School District, which educates about 130,000 students. In a letter sent to staff Tuesday night, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said the school system could run out of money on January 29 without a new state budget.  "After that date," Hite write, "our ability to keep schools open, issue paychecks and pay bills is uncertain. The prospect of running out of operating funds is dire."  The School Reform Commission took out a short-term loan of $250 million recently to keep the lights on temporarily, but with struggling districts and state agencies around Pennsylvania in similar binds, it's not clear whether the school system would be able to borrow more money if the budget impasse continues.

Philly schools chief says cash will run out by end of January
The Philadelphia School District may not be able to pay its employees or its bills after January 29, 2016.  Superintendent William Hite sent a letter to employees Tuesday evening explaining this would be the consequence of Pennsylvania's ongoing state budget impasse.  The district – which relies on the state for about half of its funding – has not received any money from Harrisburg for this school year.  To make up for that loss, the district has borrowed more than half a billion dollars to date — saddling the cash-strapped district with $2.5 million in additional debt obligations.  District officials say there's additional costs as well — counting the toll that chronically under-resourced classrooms take on students, teachers and public perception.  The Erie School District has threatened to close its doors because of the budget impasse. The Bethlehem School District, among others, has cut payments to charter schools. Districts far and wide who haven't yet needed to borrow have dwindled their rainy day reserves.

A look at the budget plan in the Pennsylvania Legislature
Ap State Wire By The Associated Press Published: Today
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, the Senate and House Democrats have largely agreed on a budget package to end the state government's 5½-month stalemate. Leaders of the House's Republican majority have made clear that they now oppose some elements. Here is a look at the highlights:

Gov. Wolf, allies test House GOP resolve against tax increase
WITF Written by The Associated Press | Dec 17, 2015 2:31 AM
 (Harrisburg) -- Governor Tom Wolf's administration and its allies are working to sway enough rank-and-file House Republicans behind a $1 billion-plus tax increase to override opposition from House GOP leaders and end the five-and-a-half month budget stalemate.   House Speaker Mike Turzai set a 12:30 p.m. deadline today for the Democratic governor to show he could assemble enough votes to move the tax package through the chamber.   Wolf and House Democratic leader Frank Dermody are downplaying Turzai's 24-hour ultimatum, but rank-and-file House Republicans say it'll be a challenge to persuade 20 or 30 of them to support the tax increase.   The tax plan continued to evolve Wednesday night.   Wolf wants the tax increase to undo his predecessor's funding cuts to education and human services and to narrow a long-term budget deficit.  

State budget impasse headed toward a resolution of some sort by the weekend
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 16, 2015 at 10:21 PM, updated December 16, 2015 at 10:22 PM
The scramble to get a state budget completed before the Christmas holiday intensified Wednesday, but there was still no clear end in sight.  Leaders of the House Republican majority showed their members the tax package required to support a $30.8 billion budget Wednesday, and challenged Gov. Tom Wolf to find the votes to pass both the spending and tax bills by Thursday afternoon.  In the alternative, House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said, his caucus would draft and run a long-term stopgap funding bill that could, with Wolf's buy-in, get nearly an entire year 's worth of state and federal funding flowing.  The new deadlines came as all sides hurried to complete work on a nearly six-month overdue state budget before the Christmas holiday.

Leaders: Pa. budget could get a vote this week
by Chris Palmer, HARRISBURG BUREAU. Updated: DECEMBER 16, 2015 — 2:50 PM EST
HARRISBURG - Legislative leaders emerged from a closed-door meeting with Gov. Wolf on Wednesday to say they could pass a budget by as soon as this weekend, ending their five-month stalemate and paving the way for hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding for schools.  After talks over the past day, Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate said that starting Wednesday afternoon, they would work to determine if there was enough support in both chambers to pass new taxes necessary to fund a $30.8 billion budget plan. If there was, they said, a vote would follow, and the spending plan might be able to reach Wolf's desk this weekend.  "In 24 hours, we're going to find out whether the tax votes are actually there in the House," said Majority Leader Dave Reed (R., Indiana).  Neither he nor the other leaders who emerged from the talks - including Wolf, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) - would specify which taxes might be raised or imposed to fund the so-called framework agreement.  A centerpiece of that deal calls for $350 million in new education funding.

Budget impasse to enter its most critical 24-hour period
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, December 16, 2015
While nobody’s called Jack Bauer quite yet, Pennsylvania’s budget impasse is going to be entering its most critical 24-hour period as leaders from all four legislative caucuses and the governor will await the outcome of vote whipping and closed-door negotiations to see if majorities exist in both chambers to pass the tax revenue needed to support the $30.788 billion spending plan as part of the budget framework agreement announced before Thanksgiving.  Who will be doing the vote getting?  House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) said after a five-party meeting Wednesday that the effort will largely be left up to the Wolf administration.  “I think it’s very clear we’ve gone through this process for a number of months now, we’re down to a 24-hour time period where either the administration has the votes—102 in the House, 26 in the Senate—to pass a Tax Code bill,” he said.  “We’ve talked and just making sure that the administration had access to all House Republicans—and House Democrats as well—to make sure there are 102 votes. Once we know there are 102 votes there, we’ll go to the floor and wrap everything up by Saturday.”

In their words: Governor, legislative leaders want a full budget, not a stopgap
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 16, 2015 at 2:50 PM, updated December 16, 2015 at 2:51 PM
Legislative leaders and Gov. Tom Wolf left a series of short meetings on Wednesday saying that the next 24 hours or so could determine if an end to the budget impasse is close at hand.  A tax package to support a $30.8 billion spending plan is still taking shape and  it remains uncertain whether the votes can be found in both chambers to support whatever form that package takes to raise the $600 million in new revenue needed.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, made it clear that the focus right now is on finalizing a state budget and not moving forward with a stopgap plan. The state has been operating without a budget since July 1.  Other leaders echoed that sentiment.

Pa. House Republicans want to know what taxes Gov. Wolf would raise
By Kate Giammarise and Karen Langley/ Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau December 17, 2015 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — With pressure on the House now that the Senate and Gov. Tom Wolf are united on a plan to end the Pennsylvania state budget impasse, House Republican leaders on Wednesday made a new demand: that Mr. Wolf by today raise the votes to pass a tax bill through their chamber.  While the Senate has approved a budget bill supported by Mr. Wolf, legislators and the administration have continued to negotiate over what taxes they would increase to provide what Senate Republicans have said would be $1.2 billion in new revenue over a full year.  “We’ve gone through this process for a number of months now. We’re down to a 24-hour time period where either the administration has the votes — 102 in the House and 26 in the Senate — to pass a tax code bill,” said House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, as he left a meeting with Mr. Wolf and the other legislative leaders.

House GOP members have “significant concerns” with budget framework revenue package
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, December 16, 2015
House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) doubled down on their earlier statements that they’re leaving it to the Wolf administration to woe 102 members of the House to vote for a revenue plan to support the $30.788 billion spending plan as part of the on again, off again agreed-to budget framework.  “The governor, we all know, has to come up with the 102 tax votes if he wants this budget passed,” said Rep. Turzai in a brief press availability Wednesday evening following a closed-door Republican caucus on the revenue plan. “The hold out for all these days has been, really, what is the tax component and where are these tax votes and does he have enough in our chamber.”  He noted that the governor has “significant influence” in the Democratic caucus and “has the opportunity talk to any Republican he wants to” in his effort to gain a majority of votes.  After the news of the 24-hour period to see if the governor can round up the 102 votes in the House, Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokesperson Jeff Sheridan was quick to point out that Republicans have had significant time since the budget framework was agreed to by all five parties multiple times to get the votes to support the framework.

Pennsylvania House Republican eyes interim budget if $1B tax plan lacks support
Morning Call by Marc Levy Of The Associated Press December 16, 2015
Pennsylvania House Republican leaders say they'll seek an interim spending plan this week.
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania House Republican leaders say they'll seek an interim spending plan this week to end the state government's five-and-a-half month budget stalemate if there's not enough support to pass a forthcoming plan for a $1 billion-plus tax increase.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed told reporters Wednesday he wants to hold final votes this weekend.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, the Republican-controlled Senate and House Democrats are lining up behind a 6 percent spending increase and an accompanying $1 billion-plus tax plan that's still under wraps. The huge House Republican majority has battled for smaller spending and tax increases.  Wolf wants the money to deliver a record boost in public school aid and narrow a long-term budget deficit. Senate Republicans signed on as a tradeoff for Wolf's support for legislation they've long sought to overhaul public pension benefits.

Pennsylvania House, Senate tussle over pension payments
Keystone Crossroads/Newsworks BY MARY WILSON DECEMBER 15, 2015
Pennsylvania House and Senate Republicans are at odds over how much the commonwealth should pay into its retirement systems.  Tight finances compelled the Senate to approve a plan last week that would cut roughly $170 million from scheduled state payments to its pension funds.  House Republicans have always said they would fight such a move, since the commonwealth's pension systems are already so underfunded. On Tuesday morning, a House committee reversed the Senate's proposed payment reductions (or "collars," in pension-speak).  Senate Republicans were irked by the change.  "We have concerns about the budgetary impact of that move," said Jenn Kocher, spokeswoman for the Senate GOP, in an email. "We are still reviewing that at this point."  Senate Republicans have pointed out that if the House is going to insist on meeting the scheduled payments to the pension systems, it will be that chamber's responsibility to come up with an extra $170 million.  GOP Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said delaying the payment "adds a little budget relief ... so we can fund our schools better."

Latest on York City schools' recovery plan
York Daily Record by Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com10:17 p.m. EST December 16, 2015
The York City School District has been chipping away at parts of its revised recovery plan, though the lingering state budget impasse is hampering progress in some parts.  The district used a report from Mass Insight, an education-focused nonprofit, to form the basis for the academic portion of a revised recovery plan. The financial portion has not yet been completed.  At a meeting Wednesday, Carol Saylor, the state-appointed chief recovery officer for the district, offered an update on accomplishments and work under way.

Pittsburgh Schools have large surplus, audit finds
By Mary Niederberger/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 16, 2015 11:48 AM
Despite dire warnings from Pittsburgh Public Schools officials in recent years that the district was on course to run out of money, an audit by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found the district's surplus of $129 million in 2014 was the largest in the state.  The audit covers the years ending 2010 through 2014 and shows the Pittsburgh district was able to build that surplus by reducing its outstanding debt by $142 million, reducing staff levels to align with declining enrollment and selling unused buildings for a profit of $13 million.  While the auditor general praised the district for getting its finances in line he questioned whether it was spending adequately on educational resources.  "By consistently under-budgeting, the district may not be sufficiently ensuring that necessary resources are available to meet student needs," Mr. DePasquale said in a press release that accompanied the audit report.

Cheltenham School Board commits to not exceed Act I tax index
Montgomery News By Mark D. Marotta 21st Century Media News Service Published: Wednesday, December 16, 2015
CHELTENHAM >> The school board has adopted a resolution keeping any real estate tax increase for 2016-17 below the Act 1 index of 2.4 percent.  The nine board members voted unanimously in favor of the “Accelerated Budget Opt Out Resolution” at their Dec. 8 legislative meeting.  Solicitor Kenneth Roos explained that Pennsylvania’s Act 1 of 2006 set limits on how much school districts could raise property districts, but also provided that they could apply to the state for exceptions in order to seek higher tax increases. In order to be able to qualify for exceptions under Act 1, Roos added, a district would need to go through a preliminary budget approval process.

Oxford School Board puts cap on any tax increase
Daily Local By Marcella Peyre-Ferry, For Digital First Media POSTED: 12/16/15, 4:06 PM EST
LOWER OXFORD >> The Oxford Area School Board has voted to keep any tax increase to no more than 3.3 percent for the 2016/17 school year.  The resolution, approved at the Dec. 15 board meeting affirms that the district will stay within the tax increase index allowed under the state’s Act 1 legislation. If the board had wanted to consider a larger increase a referendum would have been required. By avoiding the referendum step, the board has more time to develop the budget.  This does not mean that the district will opt to increase taxes by the full 3.3 percent amount.  “I find it fantastic we are again able to stay under those limits without going to referendum,” Board Member Joseph Teighe said.

Philly schools look to outsource two top administrators, temporarily
The Philadelphia School Reform Commission will vote Thursday night on a resolution that would temporarily outsource two upper management positions to Foundations Inc.  Foundations, a New Jersey based nonprofit, would receive a $280,500 contract to staff two assistant superintendent positions.  One would work for the "autonomy network" and another for Network 6, which comprises the district's schools in Northwest Philadelphia.  The district would interview and select candidates supplied by Foundations based on experience and qualifications.  District chief of staff Naomi Wyatt explains to the SRC in the text of the full resolution that the move is necessary because the district has been unable to find highly qualified candidates in the middle of a school year.

School Arts Advocates Cheer New Education Measure
NPR Morning Edition Audio runtime: 2:47 Updated December 16, 20152:59 PM ET Published December 16, 20155:11 AM ET
The Every Student Succeeds Act favors a well-rounded education over high-stakes testing under No Child Left Behind. It specifically includes music and art as part of the definition of well-rounded.
DAVID GREENE, HOST: In this country, President Obama signed a new education law last week. Much of the focus has been on testing and a debate over whether the law moved too far away from rigorous standards. But one group celebrating the law advocates for arts education. NPR's Elizabeth Blair explains why.

 “The idea is a bit like the ‘charterization’ of ed. schools,” he wrote, referring to publicly funded but privately run charter schools."
The Every Student Succeeds Act includes some new ideas on how to train better teachers
Hechinger Report by SARAH GARLAND December 15, 2015
The new federal education law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act could introduce new ways to prepare teachers for the classroom that bypass traditional programs.
The bill, signed by President Obama on Dec. 10, includes provisions that would allow states to set up new degree-granting academies for teachers outside of traditional higher education systems and would also encourage the creation of residency programs, in which teacher recruits are paired with veterans for a year of in-classroom training in addition to their coursework.  Alternative programs like these are already becoming more popular, especially in states with looming teacher shortages, such as California. But the new law might spur an even faster expansion, experts said.

Education Spending Slated for $1.2 Billion Boost in Congressional Budget Deal
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on December 16, 2015 9:16 AM
Title I aid for the nation's neediest students would get a $500 million boost up to approximately $14.9 billion, while state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act would rise by $415 million up to $11.9 billion, as part of an omnibus federal budget deal announced by the House appropriations committee early Wednesday.  Those and other spending increases are part of an overall budget increase for the U.S. Department of Education of $1.2 billion. The agreement is expected to move through Congress in coming days and win approval from the White House.   In addition, Head Start, which is under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, would get a $570 million increase up to $9.2 billion in fiscal 2016 under the omnibus budget, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant under HHS would also rise by $326 million up to $2.8 billion. The total increase for education spending is about 2 percent, up to about $68 billion.
"We're particularly pleased that very few programs were cut," said Joel Packer, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding.

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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