Tuesday, December 22, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 22: "Dysfunctional government has a price in terms of widening credit spreads."

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 22, 2015:
"Dysfunctional government has a price in terms of widening credit spreads."

"The budget impasse is hurting state credit quality," he said. "Dysfunctional government has a price in terms of widening credit spreads."
Still No Budget Deal in Pennsylvania
The Bond Buyer BY PAUL BURTON DEC 21, 2015 9:36am ET
HARRISBURG, Pa. – An emphatic weekend rejection by Pennsylvania's House of Representatives of a pension-overhaul bill -- seen as pivotal to a budget compromise -- has forced legislative leaders to regroup in an effort to break a six-month-old stalemate over a fiscal 2016 spending plan.  House GOP leaders said Sunday night they would attempt to introduce a stopgap budget on Tuesday, one day before the commonwealth would break its own dubious record by reaching 176 days without a signed budget.  The existing mark came in 2003, when school districts threatened to remain closed after the holiday break. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is a first-year governor as was Ed Rendell in 2003. Wolf and the Republican legislature have been at odds over the budget all year.  Wolf already vetoed a stopgap budget in September. "This is not over. We still need a [full] budget. And we need it now," he said Saturday night.  The state's dysfunction is coming under the glare of bond analysts and rating agencies.

What Does Pennsylvania’s Delayed Budget Mean for Municipal Credit?
PNC Budget Daily August 12, 2015
State budgets are not always approved on a timely basis. In fact, delays occur more often than some think. Sometimes late budget agreements reflect divided governments. Other times delayed budget plans are reactions to strained economic circumstances. In the past, late budgets offered nothing more than political theatre for municipal bond market investors. We see this dynamic shifting. Political grandstanding should no longer be considered simply political theatre. There will be an impact on Pennsylvania state, local, and related credits as a result of the fiscal choices being debated in Harrisburg. It is too soon to determine whether the effect will be positive or negative. Upon closer examination the delayed budget agreement could be considered an encouraging indicator to municipal bond investors. We use the word "encouraging" because the holdup may illustrate that political actors understand the importance of their upcoming decisions as they relate to the future fiscal status of the commonwealth. Pennsylvania’s budget is a little over a month late now. Parties in Harrisburg are still nowhere closer to a spending plan than they were in June. As of now it is difficult to handicap the sentiments of those involved to figure out when the delay of 2015 will be resolved in comparison to past budget battles.

Norwin superintendent, board eye district shutdown until state budget is passed
Westmoreland County school district leaders set to meet in early January
WTAE.com by Ashlie Hardway UPDATED 5:36 PM EST Dec 21, 2015
NORTH HUNTINGDON, Pa. —Norwin's superintendent isn't giving the Pennsylvania legislature and governor any more time to come up with a budget. His message is simple: pass a budget or we will lock our doors.  As the state budget impasse closes in on six months, organizations in Westmoreland County are looking at locking their doors after the holidays.  The decision to cancel district operations until a budget is in place isn't one Dr. William Kerr takes lightly.  "I must say it's not an option we want to follow-through with, but we must send a strong message to Harrisburg," Kerr said. "In all due respect, we were hopeful the state legislature would surely come through. At this point, we're 60 days past that discussion."  Kerr said Norwin only has two options come January: take out loans with interest that will have to be repaid by taxpayer dollars or district cuts, or close school until a budget is in place.  "I don't want to cause any alarm or panic, but we want to make sure that we create this leverage that we need at this point in time," Kerr said. "If we have to pay interest, that's less money or less resources that meets our children in the classroom."

"Along with Illinois, Pennsylvania is one of just two states still fighting over a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.  Pennsylvania, an anomaly among states for its late budgets and long stalemates, is close to breaking its modern-day record — Wednesday, Dec. 23 — for a budget fight, set in 2003 by another first-year Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, and a Republican-controlled Legislature."
Lawmakers eye options amid Pennsylvania budget deal's defeat
Education Week by Associated Press Published Online: December 21, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Top Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania met in the quiet and dark Capitol on Sunday night as they sorted through the wreckage of a deal with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to end Pennsylvania's nearly six-month budget stalemate that is days from shattering the state's modern-day record.  House Republican majority leaders announced a plan for a Tuesday vote on a short-term emergency spending bill, but could give no details about the duration or dollar amount. They said little after they left a meeting with leaders of the Senate's Republican majority.  "We're negotiating," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware. "We'll be here awhile."  The meeting came a day after the huge House Republican majority swatted away yet another facet of six-week-old budget deal — legislation to restructure benefits in the state's two mammoth, debt-ridden public pension systems.

Divisions deepen over state budget impasse
By Kate Giammarise/ Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau December 21, 2015 11:11 PM
HARRISBURG — The fissure that opened over the weekend in the plan to end the Pennsylvania budget impasse seemed to deepen Monday, as House Republicans began to advance a partial-year spending plan that Gov. Tom Wolf promised to veto.  A sense of optimism that state officials could finally produce a budget had dissolved Saturday, when House Democrats and numerous Republicans joined forces to topple a pension bill that was part of an agreement among legislators and the administration. Senate Republicans said they would not raise taxes, as the budget supported by Mr. Wolf would require, without the reduction in the pension guaranteed to future state and school workers.  House Republican leaders insisted Monday that with the defeat of the pension bill it was time to find another way to deliver money to schools and social service providers, some of whom found their state funding cut off after the last budget ended June 30.
“I’m ready to get back to the table and negotiate,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware. “But in the meantime, I don’t want one school to close. I don’t want one social service agency to close.”  But Mr. Wolf, a Democrat, said through a spokesman that he would veto a partial-year budget.

Office of Governor Tom Wolf Statement on Stopgap Budget
December 21, 2015
Harrisburg, PA – The Office of Governor Tom Wolf released the following statement:
“A stopgap budget does not solve Pennsylvania’s problems, and if the legislature sends a stopgap to Governor Wolf, he will veto the entire bill. A stopgap budget does not change the status quo that Harrisburg has accepted for too long. It does not restore funding to our schools, and it does not begin to fix our deficit. The governor reached a five-party agreement on a full-year budget that makes historic investments in our schools, and everyone needs to get back to work to get this done now.”

"If Pennsylvania’s budget situation can be compared to an airplane wildly careening toward a mountain, then Monday it appeared that the House of Representatives—particularly the House Republican caucus—began fruitlessly pulling up on the controls by moving along an emergency stopgap funding bill that would provide 11 months’ worth of funding for most government functions"
House moves along emergency funding measure amid governor’s promised veto
The PLS Reporter Monday, December 21, 2015/Author: Jason Gottesman
If Pennsylvania’s budget situation can be compared to an airplane wildly careening toward a mountain, then Monday it appeared that the House of Representatives—particularly the House Republican caucus—began fruitlessly pulling up on the controls by moving along an emergency stopgap funding bill that would provide 11 months’ worth of funding for most government functions.  While the Senate has said they are still waiting on the details of the funding bill before they decide to call their members back to consider the legislation, Gov. Tom Wolf has said if the measure lands on his desk, he will veto the legislation in its entirety.

VIDEO: Reed on stopgap budget: "This at least gets money out to those folks who need it"
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Monday, December 21, 2015 Video runtime 2:06
House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) answers questions about a stopgap budget proposal after Monday's Rules Committee meeting. 

"Wise Men, clearly, were in short supply."
With the holidays coming, the House stages its own #PaBudget Christmas pantomime: Analysis
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 21, 2015 at 3:39 PM, updated December 21, 2015 at 3:48 PM
On Monday, with little else to do, and a budget deadlock that's marching toward an interminable six months, the House Appropriations Committee held a little holiday pageant of its own.  The end result was enough to make you want to yell the name  --  and not in a good way --  of the main character of the actual Christmas Story over and over and over again.  On a 22-15 party-line vote, the Republican-controlled committee amended the Senate-approved "budget framework," slapping in an 11-month, $28.1 billion stopgap funding package in its place.  The bill could go to the full House as soon as Tuesday, and then head to an aggressively indifferent Senate. If it survives there, it faces a guaranteed gubernatorial veto.

"The state House Appropriations Committee on Monday approved a $28.2 billion emergency funding bill that would get state government and agencies that depend on state support through to mid-May without requiring any new taxes. The full House is expected to vote on that measure on Wednesday."
Six months without a budget, House GOP leader sees stopgap budget as "the right thing to do"
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 21, 2015 at 6:27 PM, updated December 21, 2015 at 7:29 PM
The state House has positioned itself to apply a Band-Aid on the gaping wounds that a nearly six-month state budget impasse has inflicted.    It is expected to vote on Wednesday on a $28.2 billion emergency funding bill that would get state government and agencies that depend on state support through to mid-May without requiring any new taxes.  On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee approved by a 22-15 party-line vote to amend a Senate-passed full-year budget bill to put the partial-year budget on track for consideration by the full House.  Whether that measure would go anywhere if it passed the House remained in question on Monday afternoon.

A closer look at the Pennsylvania House Republicans' latest stopgap funding plan
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 21, 2015 at 6:28 PM, updated December 21, 2015 at 10:29 PM
The Pennsylvania House Republicans' latest stopgap budget proposal is designed as an 11-month funding plan, with a few exceptions, and then anticipates further negotiations intended at producing a final, 2015-16 budget.  It would preserve all state tax rates at current levels, for now.  But that's also a reason why the emergency funding bill can't be for 12 months: Carrying all current costs forward for a full year will likely require at least some increases in revenue, even if far less than the $700 million in new taxes envisioned by Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed "framework" budget.  The stopgap is based on a budget built and passed by the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate in late June, and then vetoed by Wolf as unbalanced and falling short of needed investment levels in education and human services.  Here are the exceptions to the new, 11-month formula introduced Monday that applies equally to almost all funding lines in the stopgap budget, and a few other highlights:

House Republicans and Democrats unlikely allies in state pension battle
By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau December 22, 2015 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — Call it a case of strange bedfellows, courtesy of Pennsylvania’s prolonged budget stalemate.  A recent House vote on a proposed overhaul of the state’s pension systems for state and public school employees had groups that usually oppose each other — public sector unions and conservative organizations that favor less government spending — working on the same side, but for opposite reasons.  With the pension bill under attack from both the left and the right, it went down in flames in a 149-52 vote, with all Democrats and more than half of the Republicans in the House opposing the bill. The proposal would have created a “side-by-side” hybrid plan with new state and school employees in both a reduced version of the current defined benefit plan, with an additional 401(k)-style component. Current employees — including legislators — could remain in their current pension plan or join the new one.  The bill’s defeat threw into question an entire framework for ending the state’s nearly six-month budget impasse. The framework had included the pension reforms sought by Senate Republicans as well as a budget that would have the higher education funding sought by Democratic Governor Tom Wolf.
In the wake of the pension bill’s defeat Saturday, each side has pointed the finger at the other. Republicans have accused Democrats of abandoning their governor, and Democrats have said Republicans were not able to pass a bill that for years has been a stated Republican priority.  Drew Crompton, the top lawyer for Senate Republicans, said there’s enough blame for both sides.

Philly parents push state to intervene in four academically lacking schools
In what's being celebrated as a major victory for parents, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has validated their claims of deficient curricula in four Philadelphia public schools. The department has ordered corrective action within 45 days.  After state budget cuts stripped schools of resources districtwide, academic programming was found lacking at Bodine High School of International Affairs; the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts; the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush; and C.W. Henry Elementary.  The department's ruling comes in response to 825 complaints filed in 2013 by parents from 75 schools through a coordinated effort organized by Parents United for Public Education.  Under the direction of former state education secretary Carolyn Dumaresq, an appointee of former Gov. Tom Corbett, the department did not investigate those claims.  In response to the inaction, seven parents along with Parents United filed a lawsuit against the department in 2014 with the help of the Public Interest Law Center.

Pa.: Four Phila. schools offer deficient curricula
Philly.com by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer. Updated: DECEMBER 22, 2015 — 1:08 AM EST
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has declared deficient curricula at four Philadelphia schools where parents complained after budget cuts forced sharp program reductions.  It is a "significant victory" for parents, education activists said, a signal that the state Department of Education is taking seriously its responsibility to monitor city schools' curricula and take action when necessary.  Parents from 75 Philadelphia School District schools filed 825 complaints detailing problems caused by budget cuts two years ago, issues ranging from a lack of arts and physical education to the absence of gifted programs. Initially, the state declined to act, saying it was a local matter. Seven parents then filed a lawsuit, forcing an investigation.  The suit continues, but the state's finding means that the district must create and implement corrective action plans at four schools - Bodine High, High School for Creative and Performing Arts, the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush, and C.W. Henry Elementary - by mid-January.

William Penn hears about potential new charter school
Delco Times By Nick Tricome, Times Correspondent POSTED: 12/21/15, 7:29 PM EST 
LANSDOWNE >> The William Penn school board held the first hearing for what could potentially be the second charter school in the district.  Sharon Council, the founder of what would be named “Super Kids Super Schools,” along with a handful of other founding board members who were there in support, presented the initial case for their idea of a new charter school.  Council, a resident and council president of Yeadon borough, read off the mission statement of the charter school at Monday night’s meeting as a place to “provide a rigorous and comprehensive academic program designed to facilitate the greatest opportunity for student success.”  “It is our obligation to promote an educational environment that reflects the high academic standards, growth in character and civic standards for all students,” Council said.  One of the initial questions at the hearing revolved around potential locations for the school. Council had an initial recommendation for a property in Darby, then proposed recommendations for two alternative properties in Aldan.  Another question regarded the school’s capability for taking on special-ed students. In a packet of information given to the board prior to the meeting, there was an estimate that special-ed students would make up 10 percent of the charter school’s total population. The number caught the attention of the board’s vice president Rafi Cave, who mentioned that special-ed students make up 18-20 percent of the school district’s student population, and asked if there would be a cap on the number the charter school can take.

Nutter's chief education officer to join Temple
Philly.com by Susan Snyder Updated: DECEMBER 21, 2015 — 6:23 PM EST
Lori Shorr, Mayor Nutter’s chief education officer, will leave City Hall in January - but not education.  She will join Temple University as an associate professor of urban education.
“I will teach and advise the next generation of education leaders as well as advise the university in its work in the North Philadelphia community and schools,” Shorr wrote in an email Monday.  Shorr has been Nutter’s education point person during his eight years in office. South Philadelphia High School Principal Otis Hackney will become the new city education chief under Mayor Elect Jim Kenney.  It will be Shorr’s second tour at Temple. Earlier in her career, she had been director of schools and community partnerships for the university and oversaw programs in which Temple partnered with the school district. She also had taught there.

‘Beyond Measure: Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation’
In the thought-provoking “Beyond Measure,” Vicki Abeles offers a compelling set of arguments for reconsidering how we define success in American education and for radically altering the approach we’ve taken to get there. High grades, high test scores and admission to one of the nation’s elite colleges have long been embraced as symbols of excellence and, by extension, successful parenting. Abeles suggests that pursuit of this narrow form of success is actually harming children and families, and distorting our educational institutions. Her book is bound to be controversial, particularly to the education establishment — university presidents, the testing industry and the policy makers who support them. For many of them, “Beyond Measure” is likely to be regarded as a threat, if not downright subversive.  Unlike others who have written on this topic, Abeles is not primarily focused on the politics driving America’s approach to education. Instead, she writes as a parent who questions the value of the ­sacrifices made by her own daughters when her family became “enslaved to achievement.” She is a keen observer who has spoken to researchers, educators and parents throughout the country about the toll that such competition has taken on our children. 

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 12-22-15

SpaceX Successfully Lands Rocket After Launch of Satellites Into Orbit
People living along the central Atlantic coast of Florida have for decades enjoyed the spectacle of rockets headed for space. On Monday night, they were treated to a new sight that may become common: a rocket coming back down to a gentle landing.  “It really felt like it was right on top of us,” Elon Musk, the chief executive of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation of Hawthorne, Calif., or SpaceX for short, said during a telephone news conference afterward.n  With the rush of sound from the rocket engines, Mr. Musk, who was at the launch site in Florida, said he initially thought the landing was a failure, ending with an explosion. But then he heard from mission control that the booster was standing, in one piece.

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 www.nsba.org/advocacyinstitute 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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