Saturday, December 19, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 19: House tax vote could end budget impasse; Bill Greene: School Code changes would make ensuring charter accountability impossible

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 19, 2015:
House tax vote could end budget impasse; Bill Greene: School Code changes would make ensuring charter accountability impossible

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:

VIDEO: Adolph on passing the budget: "You never know about votes until you see them on the scoreboard"
The PLS Alanna Koll/Friday, December 18, 2015 Video runtime: 2:20
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) and Minority Chairman Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny) give a brief budget update after Friday's meeting. 

House tax vote could produce state budget deal
By Karen Langley and Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau December 18, 2015 10:53 PM
HARRISBURG — The House is planning a tax vote this weekend that could lead to the end of Pennsylvania’s nearly half-year budget impasse, but details of the proposed changes are being kept under wraps.  “It’ll either be tomorrow or Sunday, but there will be a tax vote, yes,” House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said during a brief interview Friday in a Capitol hallway. House Republican leaders had charged Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, with rallying support in their chamber for a revenue package that would pay for the $30.78 billion one-year spending plan passed by the Senate and supported by Mr. Wolf.  “We are confident we have the support to pass that and the votes to pass that,” Jeffrey Sheridan, spokesman for the governor, said Friday when asked about a revenue package.

Pa. House plans tax vote that may end budget fight
Morning Call Mark Scolforo Of The Associated Press December 18, 2015
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf's office said Friday that it had secured the support necessary to pass major tax legislation in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in a crucial step toward ending a five-month budget stalemate that has crippled some social service agencies.  Wolf's press secretary, Jeff Sheridan, told The Associated Press on Friday morning that the office was confident that forthcoming tax legislation will pass the House. A vote was possible as early as Saturday, and could cap Wolf's quest for a record increase in public school aid and money to close a long-term budget deficit.  The details of the deal have not been made public and remained unsettled Friday evening. House lawmakers briefed by the governor's office said it revolved around an increase in the personal income tax — from 3.07 percent to 3.3 percent. Republican senators said the details were not settled, and they continued to prefer a sales tax increase — from 6 percent to 6.5 percent.  "We are confident that we have the votes to pass this," Sheridan said. "We look forward to this impasse coming to an end so we can move Pennsylvania forward."

Budget impasse could maybe, possibly, perhaps be over this weekend
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Friday, December 18, 2015
Hopes were higher than ever among some at Pennsylvania’s Capitol Friday with the news that Gov. Tom Wolf secured enough votes in both chambers to pass a revenue package that will fund the $30.8 billion budget plan agreed-to as part of the framework announced just before Thanksgiving.  "We are confident we have the votes to pass a revenue package," said Gov. Wolf's press secretary Jeff Sheridan. "We look forward to bringing this impasse to an end so we can fund our schools, balance the budget, begin to fix our deficit and move Pennsylvania forward."  Sheridan could not confirm the number of Republican or Democratic votes in the House—the chamber with the largest question mark in terms of tax increase support—that will be used to get a majority in the chamber.  Neither could House Democratic spokesperson Bill Patton.  “We won’t know that until the vote’s taken,” he said. “We’re very hopeful, but it’s going to take some time.”  Not knowing about the number of votes was a theme oft-repeated throughout the morning in the halls of the Capitol.  Confirming that a vote on the tax package will occur either Saturday or Sunday, House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) said nobody will know the exact makeup of the votes until they are on the board after the vote is taken.

"Mr. Wolf’s office has not named names of House Republicans who are willing to cross their leadership. To pass, it will need 102 votes in the 203-member chamber. Top Democrats say that at least 73 out of 83 Democrats will support it, meaning close to 30 out of 119 Republican votes are necessary to pass it."
Pa. budget deal may increase state income tax
House plans tax vote Saturday that may end months-long budget impasse
Post Gazette By Mark Scolforo and Marc Levy / Associated Press December 18, 2015 10:28 AM
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said today that it had secured the support necessary to pass major tax legislation in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in a crucial step toward ending a state government budget stalemate in its sixth month that has crippled some social service agencies.  Mr. Wolf’s press secretary, Jeff Sheridan, told The Associated Press this morning that the office was confident that forthcoming tax legislation will pass the House and cap Mr. Wolf’s quest for a record increase in public school aid and money to close a long-term budget deficit.  The details of the deal have not been made public, but lawmakers briefed by the governor’s office said it revolved around an increase in the personal income tax, from 3.07 to 3.3 percent.  Mr. Sheridan spoke shortly after the Republican floor leader of the Pennsylvania House told the AP that he planned a Saturday tax vote that is pitting House conservatives against Mr. Wolf, the Senate and Democratic lawmakers.  “We are confident that we have the votes to pass this,” Mr. Sheridan said. “We look forward to this impasse coming to an end so we can move Pennsylvania forward.”  A flurry of activity by the governor’s office, including telephone calls and meetings with Mr. Wolf, came after House Republicans leaders turned against the outlines of a budget deal they helped negotiate with Mr. Wolf and the Senate.

What's in the tax package to support $30.8 billion budget? Good question
Penn Live By Jan Murphy |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 18, 2015 at 1:51 PM, updated December 18, 2015 at 2:44 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is confident the governor has the votes needed to pass a tax package to support a $30.8 billion spending plan, said his spokesman. But as of Friday afternoon, no one knew quite sure what tax increases or new taxes would be in it.  Most shared they heard it would include the first increase in the state's 3.07 percent personal income tax since 2004.  Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Red Lion, said he heard it was an increase in that tax rate to 3.3 percent. Others said they heard it was an increase to 3.27 percent, along with a myriad of other taxes that likely included an increase in the tax on cigarettes and new taxes on other tobacco products.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, and a top-level Senate Republican staffer said some final changes were still being made to the tax package and neither would share details.  Reed said he expected the House to be voting on it over the weekend, depending on how quickly the legislation detailing the budget agreement is drafted.

"The income tax increase under consideration would bring in about $700 million to $800 million a year. It would be the first change in that tax rate since 2004, when a 10 percent increase helped end a nearly six-month stalemate between Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and a Republican-controlled Legislature."
Wolf claims he has support for state income tax increase in GOP-led House
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, 10:48 a.m.
HARRISBURG — On the 171st day of a state budget stalemate, lawmakers are considering a proposal to raise the Pennsylvania income tax from 3.07 percent to 3.3 percent, Republican and Democratic legislative sources said Friday.  Gov. Tom Wolf's office said it secured the votes to pass tax legislation in the GOP-controlled House, a crucial step toward ending the impasse.  “We are confident that we have the votes to pass this,” Wolf's spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan told The Associated Press.  The tax vote planned for Saturday could pit House conservatives against Wolf, the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic lawmakers.  Wolf and his allies in the legislature back a $30.8 billion spending plan and accompanying $1 billion-plus tax plan.  An income tax hike was part of Wolf's budget plan in March but has been in and out of various plans since.

Another day, another deadline and still no #PaBudget: Friday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 18, 2015 at 8:28 AM, updated December 18, 2015 at 8:30 AM
Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
We're seriously late and way behind schedule on this 18th day of December, so let's run down the five things we know about the state of budget talks.  1. Oh That Deadline: The Thursday, 12:30 p.m. deadline that House Republicans set forGov. Tom Wolf to round up GOP support for a tax vote came and went without any fanfare. There were no trumpets, no alarums, no rending of garments and tearing of garments. The administration told the Inky the ultimatum was "ridiculous."  But as our friends at the PLS Reporter duly note, there was a fair amount of gnashing of teeth by Republican lawmakers who were upset that Wolf didn't play by their preposterous ground rules.

School Code changes would make ensuring charter accountability impossible
the notebook Commentary by Bill Green December 18, 2015
Bill Green is a member of the School Reform Commission and a former member of City Council.
At the Dec. 17 School Reform Commission meeting, Commissioner Bill Green expressed his concerns about proposed new provisions in the Pennsylvania School Code regarding charter schools that were introduced in the legislature as part of the ongoing Harrisburg budget negotiations. Specifically, he pointed to provisions that weaken charter accountability and a district’s ability to manage charter growth.  The following has been adapted from his remarks.

Education Law Center Analysis of Senate School Code Bill
Education Law Center December 11, 2015:
Pennsylvania’s public school funding crisis cannot be resolved by legislating new costs that will eventually exceed new revenues. Unfortunately, the School Code bill recently passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and under consideration in the House of Representatives would do just that. Revenues provided under a bipartisan budget deal would be swallowed up by the new costs associated with rapid charter school expansion. Statewide, charter schools would be permitted to open new buildings, add new grades, and expand their enrollment with almost no limitations. In Philadelphia, where the district is already under state control and over a third of students already attend charter schools, the legislation would place numerous schools under a different state operator, this time the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and convert many of them into charter schools – all still without ensuring those schools have adequate funding.

Statement of Education Voters: Comment on proposed School Code language As adopted by the Senate on December 10th, 2015
Education Voters Posted on December 14, 2015 by EDVOPA
We are troubled that during this protracted budget stalemate the Senate has chosen to pass a bill that contains what is essentially a state takeover and charter school conversion model that is only for Philadelphia, and that provides language that could limit any community’s ability to place reasonable enrollment limits in their contracts with charter vendors. Communities must retain authority over the contracts they are obligated to pay for.  We support the establishment of a commission to study the issue of charter school funding but believe that the charter sector should be limited to informing the process rather than being provided with seats on the voting body.

School districts must budget despite impasse
York Daily Record by Angie Mason, amason@ydr.com12 p.m. EST December 18, 2015
School districts in York County and around Pennsylvania must start making decisions about their 2016-17 budgets, despite not knowing how the state budget will end up affecting finances for their current school year.  The state Act 1 index sets limits on how much school districts are allowed to raise taxes for the following school year. There's a January deadline by which school boards must either agree to keep any potential tax increase below that limit, or decide to ask the state for exceptions to go above that limit if necessary. The exceptions might be allowed for certain reasons such as retirement or special education costs.  This year, districts say they have to make that decision based on very little information. With the 2015-16 state budget still looming unfinished, officials aren't sure what state funding to expect for this year, much less next year.

Special Education: Area school districts navigate the funding formula
Jake Austin The Sentinel December 19, 2015
The Pennsylvania state budget is now six months late, and many school districts in the state are beginning to face their own budget crises.  Part of the issue is the status of Pennsylvania special education programs, which remain operational, but have felt the impasse’s weight nonetheless.  “There are several (special education) grants out there from PA that districts can apply for based on needs and programs,” said Big Spring High School Special Education Department Chair and Transition Coordinator Ashley Gleeson. “We have not heard if we have gotten grants yet because of the (state) budget situation. We are crossing our fingers that the budget goes through soon because (one of the grants) is very competitive.”  But funding issues for special education programs have existed long before this current budget debate.

Illinois and Pa. are 170 days overdue on their budgets
CNN Money by Heather Long   @byHeatherLong December 18, 2015: 3:31 PM ET
Illinois and Pennsylvania are rivals for the title of "most dysfunctional state in America."
States are required to pass budgets each year. Most got their budgets done by the July 1 deadline. But not Illinois and Pennsylvania. They are now 170 days overdue.
"I've been doing this for 25 years and I can't recall ever seeing two states enter December without adopting a budget for the fiscal year," says Arturo Perez, a fiscal analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Both states have the same problem: Republicans and Democrats who can't work together.  Illinois has a brand new Republican governor who is fighting a state legislature controlled by Democrats.  Pennsylvania has the reverse: a new Democratic governor battling a Republican-led legislature.  Unlike the federal government, states are required by law to pass balanced budgets. That's where the problems arise. Both the states are largely stuck over how to close budget shortfalls: by raising taxes or making cuts?
It also comes at a time when there's increasingly loud calls to transfer power away from the federal government to the state level.

"Standardized testing — especially when it’s done to every child every year, and when bribes and threats are employed to coerce better results — was nevernecessary to tell us which schools were failing. Heck, you could just drive by them and make a reasonable guess. (The eminent educator Nel Noddings once called that “the windshield test.”) For years, I’ve been challenging NCLB’s defenders to name a single school anywhere in the country whose inadequacy was a secret until students were subjected to yet another wave of standardized tests.  But testing isn’t just superfluous; it was, and remains, immensely damaging — to low-income students most of all. As I argued 15 years ago, standardized exams measure what matters least about learning and serve mostly to make dreadful forms of teaching appear successful. Pressure to raise scores has driven out many of our best teachers and many of our most vulnerable students. It has taken second-rate schools and turned them into third-rate test-prep factories."
What ‘No Child Left Behind’ Left Behind
Blog By Alfie Kohn December 2015
The metamorphosis of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) from No Child Left Behind (NCLB) into the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is being hailed as a historic triumph of bipartisan compromise (HTBC). Why, we haven’t seen such lopsided approval votes in Congress since . . . well, since Democrats and Republicans put aside their petty differences and agreed by overwhelming margins to let Bush invade Iraq.  All right, fine. I’m not suggesting the new education law is analogous to that — or even that it merely trades one Orwellian legislative label for another. ESSA does represent a substantive shift: It returns a fair amount of control over education policy to the states. This has led to celebration in some quarters and worry in others. I believe both reactions are misconceived, or at least overstated.  Let’s start with those who are worried. Their argument is that NCLB put equity on the agenda, calling our attention to the inexcusable inadequacy of the schools attended by most poor kids of color and forcing states to do something about it. That federal oversight is now being dialed back.  To which I’d respond: While the inadequacy and inequity certainly were (and are) inexcusable, NCLB was never a reasonable response. Indeed, as many of us predicted at the start, it did far more harm than good — in general, and with respect to addressing disparities between black and white, rich and poor, in particular.

Illinois: Gulen Schools Under Investigation for Fraud of Millions
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that federal investigators are probing the finances of politically-connected Gulen schools in Illinois.  “A clout-heavy charter-school firm that operates four taxpayer-funded schools in Chicago is suspected of defrauding the government by funneling more than $5 million in federal grants to insiders and “away from the charter schools,” according to court records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.  “No criminal charges have been filed in the ongoing investigation of Des Plaines-based Concept Schools, which has built a network of powerful supporters, including Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.  “According to the newly obtained court documents filed by law-enforcement authorities, the company, its contractors and “many” of its privately run, taxpayer-financed charter schools across the Midwest “engaged in a scheme to defraud a federal program….

Gulen Linked Charter Schools in Pennsylvania
Charter School Scandals Blog by Sharon Higgins
Vision Academy Charter School, Lansdowne 2015
Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School, State College  2005
Young Scholars of McKeesport 2015
Young Scholars of Western Pennsylvania Charter School Pittsburgh 2011
Truebright Science Academy, Philadelphia closed in 2015; Non-renewal of charter; remained open for three years during multiple appeals

Couple Of Beltway Outlets Accurately Reported How ESSA “Sausage” Got Made, Says Hill Insider
Washington Monthly Grade Point Blog By Alexander Russo December 18, 2015 12:41 PM
Over the past week, there have been at least two in-depth attempts to explain what went on behind the scenes leading up to last week’s somewhat unanticipated bill-signing ceremony:
In Morning Consult, Fawn Johnson reported How Old-School Legislating Brought an Education Bill to the Finish Line.  At Politico, Maggie Severns wrote How Congress finally killed No Child Left Behind.  Stories like these can be important because they help advocates, educators, and the public understand how things work — when they work — on Capitol Hill, and what factors shaped the final result. They are doing what all journalism aims to do, to some extent, which is to explain how the sausage gets made.

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.

Save the Dates for These 2016 Annual EPLC Regional State Budget Education Policy Forums
Sponsored by The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Thursday, February 11 - 8:30-11:00 a.m. - Harrisburg
Wednesday, February 17 - 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. - Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania)
Thursday, February 25 - 8:30-11:00 a.m. - Pittsburgh
Invitation and more details in January

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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