Sunday, December 27, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 27: PA Legislature left town; Wolf's big decision: sign or veto bill in 6-month impasse

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 27, 2015:
PA Legislature left town; Wolf's big decision: sign or veto bill in 6-month impasse

"Now a bare-bones spending plan that does none of the things Wolf envisioned is sitting on his desk. He could sign it, let it become law after 10 days without his signature, veto it or eliminate spending lines individually. So far the governor isn’t saying what his plan – or what’s left of it – is.  But across the state, many people are talking, and the message is loud and clear.  Change is needed in Harrisburg. The kind of change that will assure that this kind of debacle – with early learning and pre-K centers closing their doors, and social service agencies cutting services – is never repeated.  It remains to be seen if it’s the kind of convulsive change that followed that secret pay deal that cost several legislators their jobs a few years back."
Editorial: Change is needed in disgraceful Harrisburg
Delco Times POSTED: 12/26/15, 7:57 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Now it’s come down to this.  The William Penn School Board this week voted to borrow $9 million. It isn’t looking to make any swank upgrades to its football field. It isn’t bankrolling a trip to some pricey conference for executives. It’s just trying to keep the doors open.  Welcome to Pennsylvania in December 2015.  Just days before the arrival of 2016, the state still does not have a budget in place. Yes, that very same spending plan that state law mandates be approved by the Legislature back on July 1.  The scope of Harrisburg’s dysfunction is mind-boggling. But this fiscal faceoff is having real effects on a lot of people in the state, people who live and work in the real world, not the surreal, politicized world of ineptness that passes for what happens in our state capital.  Actually William Penn is in better shape than some other hard-pressed school districts. Several in the western part of the state have already indicated they will not open their doors after the winter holiday break unless a new state budget is in place.

Editorial: Budget solution: just leave town
Bucks County Courier Times Editorial Posted: Sunday, December 27, 2015 12:15 am
In this season of good will toward men (and women), we find it impossible to extend even a smidgen of good will toward members of the state Legislature, who for the past six months have given us a display of government ineptitude that rivals anything we’ve seen in recent memory.  The Republican-dominated House and the GOP-controlled Senate have for months been trying to come up with a state budget acceptable to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. They talked and debated in the weeks leading up to the June 30 budget deadline, then talked and debated some more as summer turned to fall and fall turned to winter. Still no budget, but there was this: increasing animosity and rancor, not between the Republicans and Wolf, but among the Republicans themselves.  The Senate and the governor finally came together on a so-called framework agreement. But the House balked over changes to the state pension system and what new taxes would be enacted to fund Wolf’s desire for higher education spending and a solution to Pennsylvania’s debt. The House said it wouldn’t act until the Senate and the governor say what the new tax structure will be. (Many in the House say higher taxes aren’t necessary in any case.) In return, the Senate leadership said it wouldn’t move until the House indicated it would approve pension reform legislation, which conservatives in the House claim doesn’t go far enough.

"The inadequate budget just passed by the Pennsylvania Senate walks away from our moral and legal obligations to our children and doesn’t reflect our state’s values. It reinforces unacceptable inequities in our schools and continues to shortchange children. The Governor should veto it."
Release: Education Law Center Issues Statement on Budget Impasse
Education Law Center Issues Statement on Budget Impasse
Education Law Center Press Release December 23, 2015
Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director of the Education Law Center-PA, issued the following statement concerning the current budget impasse:
“The children of Pennsylvania deserve a budget that invests in them and their future. We are disappointed that the Pennsylvania House deserted the previously agreed to budget framework that would have invested critical new dollars in schools across Pennsylvania. The inadequate budget just passed by the Pennsylvania Senate walks away from our moral and legal obligations to our children and doesn’t reflect our state’s values. It reinforces unacceptable inequities in our schools and continues to shortchange children. The Governor should veto it. Every student deserves access to a nurse, a librarian, updated textbooks, and school counselors. This budget doesn’t provide hundreds of thousands of children with even these basics. We call on the House and Senate to return immediately to Harrisburg and pass a budget that restores cuts to our schools and provides every child with the opportunity to learn and reach their full potential. Children across our Commonwealth are waiting for real solutions and must no longer be held hostage by gridlock in Harrisburg.”

"As long as they still get their paychecks, they clearly don't care about the rest of us. When will they teach our children about compromise? About non-partisan politics? About how to get along with your co-workers?  When on earth will we, the voters, finally say enough is enough?"
For Pa. Legislature, enough is enough: PennLive letters
Penn LIve Letters to the Editor  by  HEATHER MAGRECKI, Mount Joy   on December 24, 2015 at 3:00 PM, updated December 24, 2015 at 5:11 PM
What is wrong with the state Legislature? It seems increasingly clear that their agenda is this and only this – to prove that Republicans hate Democrats and Democrats hate Republicans. What a wonderful lesson to teach my children about politics these days.  When will our senators, congressmen/women, and governor choose to act like adults and take into account the people who elected them? The people they have left holding the bag.  When will they acknowledge the damage they are doing to the schools that have closed (or are about to) because they are running out of funding? Or acknowledge the further financial burdens placed upon us, the taxpayers, who will have to repay the loans taken out by our school districts just to keep the doors open for our children. 

In 2014, the 229 lawmakers who came into or left the House charged taxpayers 5 percent more than they did the year before, according to records The Morning Call obtained through the Right to Know Law.
State lawmakers' expenses up — again
Steve Esack and Eugene Tauber Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call December 26, 2015
How much tax money did your local PA lawmaker spend for expenses in 2014? The Morning Call has the answers
HARRISBURG — During the long, contentious state budget stalemate now in its sixth month, members of the state House of Representatives fashioned themselves the watchdogs of taxpayer money. But they haven't monitored their own spending so closely, a Morning Call analysis shows.  In 2014, the 229 lawmakers who came into or left the House charged taxpayers 5 percent more than they did the year before, according to records The Morning Call obtained through the Right to Know Law. Lawmakers spent $10.7 million for office rents, supplies, furniture, electronics, food, travel, lodging and other job-related expenses, the records show. That jump came as then-Gov. Tom Corbett cut the combined House and Senate budget by $65 million in the fiscal year that started July 1, 2014.  By comparison, the 50-member Senate reduced its expenses by 14 percent to $3.1 million.  Overall, the Legislature spent $13.8 million on expenses from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2014, which was nearly the same amount spent in 2013. The total does not include salaries and capital purchases.

Wolf's big decision: to sign or veto bill in 6-month impasse
AP State Wire By MARC LEVY December 26, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - After butting heads with Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled Legislature, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf faces perhaps the biggest decision of his short tenure: sign a budget that falls short of everything's he sought, or risk more damage to the schools and social services he wants to help.  Wolf's office said it did not expect a decision before Monday, and the governor has options. What he does could set the tone for how the Legislature deals with him for the three years left in his first term.  He could sign the bill. He could let it become law without his signature. He could sign it while eliminating any number of the individual spending items in it. Or he could veto the whole thing and indefinitely extend the state government's six-month budget impasse.

Third state budget lands on Gov. Wolf's desk, but will he sign it to end the 6-month impasse?
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 24, 2015 at 10:42 AM, updated December 24, 2015 at 10:41 PM
As long as Gov. Tom Wolf can accept defeat, the six-month state budget impasse could soon be over.  On Thursday, Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai signed off on a $30.3 billion budget bill that was passed by the Senate on Wednesday. It heads to the governor's desk, but it's not the budget he wants to sign.  After months of negotiating, a budget framework was in place. It was agreed to by the governor, Republican and Democratic Senate caucuses and the Democratic House caucus. But the Republican House caucus could not sign off on it.  House GOP members were against raising taxes, which is what the $30.8 budget framework would have had to do. The governor was convinced he had the votes for the framework, but Turzai would not put it up for a vote.  So, the Senate voted 33 to 17 in favor of the Republican House budget. Democratic lawmakers were livid, and took to social media to express their dismay.  And now the governor has the budget. But it seems unlikely that he will sign it.

Gov. Wolf has 4 budget options
Gov. Tom Wolf has four options: Sign it, veto it, partially veto it and do nothing
York Daily Record by  Flint L. McColgan, fmccolgan@ydr.com5:05 p.m. EST December 24, 2015
The summery weather outside on Thursdaysuggested that Pennsylvania could have its budget for fiscal year 2015-2016 on time — but it wasn't July 1, the start of the fiscal year, it was Christmas Eve, and the budget remains uncertain.  The Pennsylvania Senate passed a budget bill Wednesday that it previously opposed when it was delivered by the state House about two weeks earlier. It wasn't the "compromise bill" that Senate leadership had negotiated with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that was turned down by the Republican-controlled House.

William Penn School District borrows $9M to keep the doors open
Delco Times By Nick Tricome, Times Correspondent POSTED: 12/25/15, 10:08 PM EST
LANSDOWNE >> With state budget talks in Harrisburg falling apart again this past week, the William Penn School Board voted to take out a loan in order to keep the school district running.  At its monthly business meeting Monday night, the board approved a Tax and Revenue Anticipation Note from Univest Bank and Trust Co. that is worth $9.2 million. A loan was put out as an option to keep the doors open when the board authorized the ability for district administration to look into offers from competing banks back at October’s meeting.  At November’s meeting, the board reiterated its plan to pursue a loan should there have been no state budget by December. Pennsylvania’s budget impasse is now closing in on six months past its June 30 deadline, with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the GOP-controlled state Legislature unable to agree on a tax and spending plan. The school district has been trying to operate without the around $38 million in funding it usually receives from the state in the time since the crisis began.

Blogger note: some of the low-income families receiving diverted tax dollars under these programs have family incomes in excess of $80K…  In 2013-2014 $100 million was appropriated for EITC/OSTC programs and therefore not available in budget discussions for funding of state mandated public education.
Governor Wolf Gifts Some Hope to Low-Income Families; Orders Release of EITC & OSTC Approval Letters
PA Family Council website DECEMBER 25, 2015
Helping to make Christmas this year a little brighter for children in low-income families, Governor Wolf has just ordered the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to release the approval letters to all businesses for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC).  These approval letters notify a business will receive a tax credit on their donation into this scholarship program. Every year, 40,000 scholarships are provided to low-income families to allow their children to attend a private or Christian school; often due to living in a low-performing public school district.

Pennsylvania at Modern Record for Its Longest Budget Impasse
Bloomberg Business by Elizabeth Campbell and Brian Chappatta December 23, 2015 — 11:09 AM EST Updated on December 24, 2015 — 9:40 AM EST
Pennsylvania broke the record for the longest budget impasse in modern state history on Thursday, now at 177 days, after lawmakers advanced a scaled-down spending plan that Governor Tom Wolf is signaling he will veto.  The longest budget standoff had previously been in 2003, when lawmakers passed a spending plan on Dec. 23, said Mike Stoll, a spokesman for the House appropriations committee. The current impasse is dragging on as Wolf, a first-term Democrat, and the Republican-led legislature can’t agree on a spending plan for the year that began in July. The delay is threatening Pennsylvania’s credit rating and has investors demanding higher yields on its debt.  The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday put aside a stop-gap budget that Wolf’s office has said he will veto and instead advanced a complete spending plan that the state Senate passed this month, a sign that a deal could be close. Yet the Senate didn’t send that budget to Wolf, opting rather to seek approval for a smaller version that has less funding for education than the governor wants.

Unless we're careful, the new 'No Child' may still leave some behind: Deborah Gordon Klehr and Jackie Perlow
PennLive Op-Ed   By Deborah Gordon Klehr and Jackie Perlow on December 24, 2015 at 12:00 PM, updated December 24, 2015 at 5:03 PM
Deborah Gordon Klehr is the Executive Director of the Education Law Center. Jackie Perlow, Esq. is the Kaufman Legal Fellow at the Education Law Center.
Earlier this month President Barack Obama signed into law a comprehensive overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), previously known as No Child Left Behind.  First passed by Lyndon Johnson in 1965, the mission of this federal law is "to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education."  While past iterations of ESEA have failed to fulfill this promise, this month's reauthorization offers states like Pennsylvania an opportunity to reaffirm ESEA's central mission to advance educational equity and protect the civil rights of vulnerable students.  In several ways this reauthorization, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), represents an improvement over existing legislation.

Letter to the Editor: Say thanks to a school board member today
Delco Times Letter by Maria Edelberg, Ed.D., Executive Director, Delaware County Intermediate Unit, Morton POSTED: 12/26/15, 7:59 PM EST
To the Times:
January is School Director Recognition Month, a recognition that honors members of local boards of education for their commitment to provide quality public education for Pennsylvania’s school children.  On behalf of the Delaware County Intermediate Unit, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize not only our board of directors, which is comprised of one elected board member from each of our 15 school districts, but all school directors throughout Delaware County.  School directors volunteer, on average, 20 hours a month to help run the schools in our community. They vote on multi-million dollar budgets, hire staff, select textbooks, review bus schedules and curriculum, to name a few.  They spend countless hours each year on their school-related duties and responsibilities — all without pay! They establish policies that provide the framework for our public schools.  They represent their local communities and attend sometimes lengthy, challenging and even boisterous meetings, as well as conferences and institutes for professional learning and understanding of public education.  They are forced to make difficult decisions about programs and services, especially during challenging times such as the recent budget impasse in Pennsylvania.  This is all done for the benefit of the children and families they serve.

Turnaround: A Year Inside a Strawberry Mansion Elementary School
WHYY Newsworks by Kevin McCorry
In this three-part series, NewsWorks/WHYY education reporter Kevin McCorry documents a year he spent tracking the progress of the chronically low-performing James G. Blaine Elementary School in the Strawberry Mansion section of North Philadelphia. With dozens of interviews and many hours of observation at the school, he grapples with a pivotal question: Can the school district find a path to revitalize its neediest schools in the midst of an ongoing budget crisis?

The Common Core of Goodwill
Living in Dialogue By Michelle Gunderson. Posted onSaturday, December 26, 2015 7:50 am  
One of the things you learn as an elementary teacher in the Chicago Public Schools is to always have materials available and an extra desk or space for new students. You learn to expect the unexpected and that a child can show up on your doorstep at any minute of any day.  And usually it is not an easy matter. Many times children who come to us after the first weeks of school are displaced or have parents who are seeking a school that can help their troubled child.  These were the thoughts on my mind when a little boy appeared at my classroom door in the second week of school this fall, an hour after school had started, without an adult accompanying him to the class. I took a deep breath and tried to talk myself into a place of calm. There was so much on my teaching plate already, and I did not know if I was going to be able to embrace one more Herculean task.  And I was right. The child who was given into my care needed me in countless ways.

As Graduation Rates Rise, Experts Fear Diplomas Come Up Short
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH DEC. 26, 2015
GREENVILLE, S.C. — A sign in a classroom here at Berea High School, northwest of downtown in the largest urban district in the state, sends this powerful message: “Failure Is Not an Option. You Will Pass. You Will Learn. You Will Succeed.”  By one measure, Berea, with more than 1,000 pupils, is helping more students succeed than ever: The graduation rate, below 65 percent just four years ago, has jumped to more than 80 percent.  But that does not necessarily mean that all of Berea’s graduates, many of whom come from poor families, are ready for college — or even for the working world. According to college entrance exams administered to every 11th grader in the state last spring, only one in 10 Berea students were ready for college-level work in reading, and about one in 14 were ready for entry-level college math. And on a separate test of skills needed to succeed in most jobs, little more than half of the students demonstrated that they could handle the math they would need.  It is a pattern repeated in other school districts across the state and country — urban, suburban and rural — where the number of students earning high school diplomas has risen to historic peaks, yet measures of academic readiness for college or jobs are much lower. This has led educators to question the real value of a high school diploma and whether graduation requirements are too easy.

These Charter Schools Tried to Turn Public Education Into Big Business. They Failed.
Slate By Jessica HusemanDecember 17, 2015
More and more these days, Americans think about schools using the language of business. Superintendents are “CEOs.” Districts manage “portfolios” of schools. And pundits talk obsessively about American schools’ “competitiveness.”  But we don’t always like them to act like businesses, particularly when it comes to having an overt profit motive. Partly as a result, for-profit public charter schools—at least the brick-and-mortar variety—are slowly dying in some states. Once touted as a model that would reduce inefficiencies in public education and achieve economies of scales by operating schools in multiple states, for-profit charters have fallen out of fashion. Charter schools in general are becoming more popular across the country, but since the early 2000s, for-profit charter operators have lost ground to their nonprofit peers. And their failure, in large part, has been the result of bad business plans—something the companies themselves freely admit.   Edison Schools—once the biggest name in the for-profit charter industry—partnered with 130 schools (some noncharter) in the early 2000s and fully managed 80. It now manages only five. In 2000, Advantage Schools, another for-profit chain, enrolled more than 10,000 children across the country. Today it enrolls zero. New Orleans hired several for-profit companies to manage some new charter schools after Hurricane Katrina. But by 2013 all of them had disappeared, their schools taken over by nonprofit operators. In recent years, lawmakers in MississippiOhio, andTennessee have all taken steps to curb the growth of for-profit charters or ban them outright.

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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