Thursday, December 24, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 24: No Merry XMAS, No Wise Men in Hbgh; House goes home; Senate Recycles #PABudget Vetoed in June

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 24, 2015:
No Merry XMAS, No Wise Men in Hbgh; House goes home; Senate Recycles #PABudget Vetoed in June

Blogger commentary:  Happy Holidays PA ed policy wonks!
Looks like coal in our #PABudget stockings.  A reasonable person might ask just what the hell our state legislators have been doing for the past six months…

Last-ditch budget bill passes, Wolf's bipartisan deal stalls
Morning Call by MARC LEVY and MARK SCOLFORO (AP) December 23 8:26 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's budget impasse is breaking the state's record for futility, after the Senate sent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf a last-ditch spending bill Wednesday without the tax increase he wanted to deliver a record boost in public school aid and close a long-term deficit.  The end of the 6-month-old stalemate remained up in the air. Wolf's office said a decision on whether to sign or veto the bill could take days.  The pared-down spending bill emerged Wednesday when it became clear that an eleventh-hour effort to revive the Senate GOP's legislation to restructure public pension benefits had stalled in the House.  As a result, leaders of the Senate Republican majority pulled their support from a bipartisan deal with Wolf that called for $30.8 billion in spending, along with a $1 billion-plus tax increase.  Instead, Senate Republicans turned to the smaller spending plan approved two weeks ago by the House, when the chamber's huge Republican majority revolted against the prospect of the tax increase.

Surprise budget hits governor’s desk, but it faces an uncertain future
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Once all hope was lost Wednesday after the House abruptly adjourned to send their members on six-hour call while they awaited a pension and tax plan to support a $30.788 billion budget their chamber was ready to pass, the Senate surprised onlookers by taking up a previously-passed House budget ringing in at $30.25 billion and sent it to the governor for his consideration.  Without yet-to-be passed nonpreferred appropriations included in the final spend number, the bill sent to the governor’s desk rings in at around $29.7 billion, which was said by senators Wednesday to meet available funds.  Regardless of whether the governor signs, vetoes, or line-item vetoes the bill, both sides in the Senate conceded Wednesday that the passage of the bill does not represent the five-party agreement reached before Thanksgiving and still marks a beginning point for reaching agreement on a pension reform and revenue bill that can support the $30.788 billion budget plan.

Budget blues: A broken record by Angela Couloumbis and Chris Palmer, HARRISBURG BUREAU. Updated: DECEMBER 24, 2015 — 1:07 AM EST
HARRISBURG - For the last six months, the word record has seeped into nearly every budget conversation in the Capitol.
Record funding for public education.
Record relief for pained property taxpayers statewide.
Record overhaul of a state liquor system that dates to Prohibition.
But on Wednesday, the only record that Gov. Wolf and the Republican-controlled legislature set was solidifying the longest budget impasse in modern state history.  As legislators headed home for Christmas without a solution for their deep divisions, political veterans struggled to recall when there last was such paralysis and straight-up dysfunction in the Capitol.  Even during prolonged budget battles under another Democrat, Gov. Ed Rendell - he, like Wolf, faced a GOP-dominated legislature, and did so for much of his two terms - the sides worked around ideological differences (and, some would say, egos) to deliver deals.

Capitol empties as Pa. budget deal collapses
by Chris Palmer and Angela Couloumbis, HARRISBURG BUREAU. Updated: DECEMBER 24, 2015 — 1:07 AM EST
HARRISBURG - For two whirlwind days, lawmakers tried a flurry of last-ditch maneuvers to end the historic budget gridlock and enact some version of a state spending plan.  But by Wednesday night, the Capitol had emptied, presumably for the holiday weekend, with no clear resolution in sight.  Again.  Earlier in the day, the Senate unexpectedly broke from its agreement with Gov. Wolf to back a $30.8 billion spending plan that included an unprecedented infusion of money for schools. Senators instead approved a scaled-down House budget proposal that their leaders had once rejected, and sent it to Wolf's desk.  The governor vetoed a similar plan in June. As Wednesday ended, it remained unclear whether he would do so again, which could extend the impasse that has left many schools, nonprofits, and county governments on the brink of running out of cash. Wolf has 10 days to act.  "We must continue our fight for historic education funding," he said in a statement while offering no clues to his next step. 

"It seems that the Republican Legislature is intent on continuing the Harrisburg status quo and getting out of town to go on vacation instead of continuing the hard work to move Pennsylvania forward," the governor stated.  "Change is difficult ... but we must continue our fight for historic education funding that will begin to restore the cuts from five years ago, and a budget that is balanced, paid for, and fixes our deficit."
Is this the end to prolonged state budget impasse? We'll see
By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 23, 2015 at 7:11 PM, updated December 23, 2015 at 10:31 PM
For the third time in six months, the GOP-controlled General Assembly has sent a budget to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk for enactment.  And like the first two that he vetoed, this is not the budget he wanted. What he will do with this latest plan is not yet known.  However, a statement issued moments after the Senate voted 33-17 on Wednesday afternoon to pass the $30.3 billion budget bill made the prospects of him signing it sound dim.

Pennsylvania House leaders, in the absence of a budget deal, send lawmakers home
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 23, 2015 at 1:56 PM, updated December 23, 2015 at 8:44 PM
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has adjourned for the day, and most members are leaving town for the Christmas holiday, subject to a return to session on a six-hour call.
House Republican leaders announced that decision after a Wednesday morning meeting with Senate Republican leaders produced no movement in an interlocking stand-off over taxes, spending levels and public pension reform.

'We can do this': House Democratic leaders urge budget vote after Republicans call for a recess
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 23, 2015 at 2:03 PM, updated December 23, 2015 at 4:37 PM
Democratic leaders are urging Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives tocome back into session and vote to end the six-month budget impasse.  On Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Turzai said no more votes would be taken and place members on six-hour call. Democrats were upset by the decisions because it delayed any consideration of a $30.8 billion budget proposal.  Republicans have said they will not vote on the Senate-passed budget bill until it is accompanied with a tax plan. GOP members said they want to know how the state plans to pay for what's contained in the budget.

Budget Heads to Governor’s Desk: Includes Record School Funding, Fully Supports Human Service Agencies and Keeps Government Operating
Speaker Turzai's website 12/23/2015
Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) and House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana County) today responded to Senate passage of House Bill 1460, a $30.3 billion spending proposal which would provide an immediate end to the state budget impasse and increase funding for PreK-12 education by $405 million.
"We are convinced the public truly appreciates the work of the Senate to take up the House legislation we passed Dec. 8. By passing the House General Appropriations Bill, House Bill 1460, we now have a responsible budget that lives within our means while still amply providing for core state budget priorities.  “We look forward to working with House Democrats, Senate Republicans and Democrats, and the governor to ensure revenues are in place in a timely fashion.  It’s time to bring this budget impasse to a conclusion in a manner which respects our taxpayers.
“It is long past time to get money out to our school districts and human service agencies and keep government operating. We urge the governor to sign this bill when it gets to his desk.”
Representative Mike Turzai, Speaker
Representative Dave Reed, Majority Leader
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Governor Wolf Statement on Senate’s Passage of a Budget
Governor Wolf's website December 23, 2015
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Wolf released the following statement regarding the Senate passage of a budget:  “It was only one day ago that the House displayed a historic show of bipartisanship that bucked Speaker Turzai and the tea party. Yesterday, the House advanced a responsible budget with historic education funding and placed it on the verge of passage. It is deeply disappointing that today the Senate has caved to those same House leaders and extreme interests to continue the failed status quo and harm our schools and children by denying them these critical additional funds.  “A historic compromise budget that included the largest increase in education funding in history, reforms in public pensions, and a reduction in the deficit was within reach. It seems that the Republican legislature is intent on continuing the Harrisburg status quo and getting out of town to go on vacation instead of continuing the hard work to move Pennsylvania forward.  “Change is difficult, and clearly more so given this legislature, but we must continue our fight for historic education funding that will begin to restore the cuts from five years ago, and a budget that is balanced, paid for, and fixes our deficit.”

Pa. House, Senate send Gov. Wolf lower-cost state budget bill
By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau December 24, 2015 12:19 AM
HARRISBURG — In another twist in the state’s ongoing budget stalemate, the state Senate Wednesday passed a House version of a budget it had previously gutted in committee and appeared to reject.  In a mostly party-line vote, Senators approved the $30.26 billion spending plan, sending it to the desk of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.  “This is not an agreed-to budget,” said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said the plan was “the only way we can get a budget to the governor’s desk.” The governor did not say if he would veto it outright.  “A historic compromise budget that included the largest increase in education funding in history, reforms in public pensions, and a reduction in the deficit was within reach. It seems that the Republican legislature is intent on continuing the Harrisburg status quo and getting out of town to go on vacation instead of continuing the hard work to move Pennsylvania forward,” said a statement from Mr. Wolf’s office.

Senate sends $30.3B budget to Wolf as record-setting impasse looms
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, 10:42 a.m.
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf has 10 days to sign a $30.3 billion House-passed budget the Senate sent to him Wednesday or the measure becomes law without his signature.  The Senate voted 33-17 to send the bill to the governor in the 176th day of a budget impasse, putting the onus on Wolf as Pennsylvania was about to set a record Thursday for the longest budget stalemate in at least 40 years.  The budget would increase spending by 3.7 percent but not raise state taxes.  Wolf, a Democrat, did not say whether he would sign or veto the bill.  He expressed disappointment and blasted House Republicans for scuttling a deal he had cut with both Senate caucuses and House Democrats for a $30.8 billion budget that would raise taxes but boost funding for public schools by $350 million, reform public pensions and make liquor system changes. It would have increased spending 6 percent.

LNP Editorial: If Pa. only had a state budget
The LNP Editorial Board December 23, 2015
THE ISSUE: The previous modern-day Pennsylvania budget impasse lasted until a deal was reached Dec. 23, 2003. Asked Tuesday if a deal was possible, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said: “This is all on the House Republicans at this point.” House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin put chances of a deal being reached Tuesday at “zero.”  With acknowledgment that a fictional plot — spinning house in the tornado and all — is actually more believable than what’s happening in Harrisburg these days, Pennsylvania’s state budget is beginning to resemble  “The Wizard of Oz.”  Like Dorothy, our poor state budget is wandering in search of its home.  “There’s no place like the governor’s desk,” our protagonist might be saying, clicking its ink-red heels without result.  Playing the part of the Wicked Witch of the West is any lawmaker who leaves Harrisburg for Christmas without demanding at least a vote on a full-year budget.  House Republican leaders, alas, seem to be playing the parts of the Scarecrow (“If I only had a brain, I’d not keep scuttling deals that would get this done”) and the Lion (“If I only had some nerve, I’d at least permit a vote on the deal that passes muster with the Senate and the governor”).  They also are playing the pretend-wizard, the man behind the curtain, who has no real answers — only illusions.

Five more Tweets that explain what's happening with the #PaBudget: Wednesday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 23, 2015 at 8:15 AM, updated December 23, 2015 at 8:18 AM
Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Now that Tuesday's parliamentary drama in the state House is out of the way, today is for all the marbles.  Insurgent Republicans, joined by Democrats, will try to get a #PaBudget bill onto Gov. Tom Wolf's desk, thus ending the state's longest-ever budget stand-off.  But, you ask, what of pensions? What of booze? What of taxes? What of the fiscal code and lobbyists hung by the chimney with care?  Well on, Turzai! On Reed! On Corman and Wagner! On Christiana! On Evankovich, On Metcalfe and Vereb!  Assuming today's push is successful, it can go one of two ways: Lawmakers might well press on with all those items ...  ...Or ... they might wait until after Christmas, arguing that the approval of a general fund budget bill gives Wolf the authority to release money to schools and nonprofits and then come back and deal with all of it after the holiday.  At least that's the impression we were left with after some conversations we had last night.  So to bring you up to speed, here are the five (or so) Tweets that explain where things are with the budget on this 23rd day of December.

Auditor General DePasquale Reopens Audit of Fell Charter School in Lackawanna County to Obtain Tuition Billing Records
Files writ in county court to compel compliance by charter school, former management company
Auditor General DePasquale's website December 21, 2015
SCRANTON (Dec. 21, 2015) – Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today said he has reopened an audit released earlier this month of Fell Charter School, Lackawanna County, and filed a writ in county court to obtain tuition, enrollment, and principal certification documentation unavailable to auditors during the recent audit.  “It is infuriating that Fell Charter School has not produced sufficient documentation to justify tuition bills it sent to local school districts,” DePasquale said. “The public has a right to know whether these tuition charges are justified. On behalf of the taxpayers, today I will file a writ in Lackawanna County Court to compel this charter school and/or its former management company to once and for all completely comply with our requests for these public records.”   A writ is an order from a higher court that directs a lower court or a government official to take some kind of action. Writs are generally similar to subpoenas. 
Despite a contractual relationship with a management company, charter schools, like other public schools, are required to retain records for a period of not less than six years pursuant to the Public School Code.  In addition, as schools organized as public, nonprofit corporations, charter schools are subject to other document retention requirements.  DePasquale said the reopened audit also will seek information on the certification of the school’s principal who, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, has not held the required principal certification since the 2009-10 school year, yet has continued to function as the charter school’s principal. 

Blogger note: if these programs were funded by businesses making charitable contributions instead of diverting tax dollars this would not be an issue.

"As it stands as I write this piece, the tax credits for this year will all disappear by Dec. 31, with no budging from the governor."
Wolf, lawmakers must reauthorize school tax credit program for needy kids: Kirk Hallett
PennLive Op-Ed  By Kirk Hallett on December 23, 2015 at 10:00 AM, updated December 23, 2015 at 10:04 AM
Kirk Hallett is founder and director of The Joshua Group in Harrisburg's Allison Hill neighborhood. 
The Joshua Group is a nonprofit organization operating a Learning and Resource Center on the 1400 block of Allison Hill in Harrisburg. Our mission is focused on the education of the youth in this city. We espouse that education is the anti-poverty program that works.  Our center is located right in the middle of the worst poverty situations, offering a variety of educational programs to help kids from the city get the most out of their academic experience. It might be all they have to change the way things are.  To that end, several years ago, we started providing early childhood classes at the center for any child on the waiting list of Head Start. 

"But the unprecedented federal intervention that resulted didn't do nearly enough to address all the non-academic challenges that low-performing students bring to the classroom. The federal scheme simply punished schools that aren't full of students who show up ready and eager to learn. Teachers who took on the challenge of educating those students were browbeaten for not being miracle workers."
Inky Editorial: Leaving no child behind
by Inquirer Editorial Board. Updated: DECEMBER 23, 2015 — 3:01 AM EST
President Obama and Congress gave students and teachers across America a welcome holiday present by completely revamping the well-intentioned but hopelessly flawed No Child Left Behind education funding law.  President George W. Bush's signature domestic achievement, which was enacted 14 years ago, forced schools to become academic pressure cookers and turned students into "test-taking robots," as some critics put it.  The "extras" that make a well-rounded education and encourage the joy of lifelong learning - art, music, physical education, critical thinking, civic participation - became afterthoughts, or were sacrificed altogether.  No Child Left Behind was an understandable response to what Bush called "the soft bigotry of low expectations." For too long, the poor education many schools delivered to disadvantaged students had been tolerated as just a grim fact of life.

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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