Wednesday, December 30, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 30: Coverage/Reaction to Wolf #PABudget statement

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 30, 2015:
Coverage/Reaction to Wolf #PABudget statement

Video of Governor's Budget Statement: Governor Wolf Rejects Republican Plan to Cut Education; Releases Emergency Funding
Governor Tom Wolf Published on Dec 29, 2015 youtube video runtime: 4:52

Read the full-text of Gov. Wolf’s budget statements
abc27 news By Myles Snyder Published: December 29, 2015, 3:53 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Gov. Tom Wolf says he’s vetoing parts of a $30.3 billion budget that legislators approved before their holiday vacation, but he’s releasing more than $23.3 billion in emergency funding so schools and human services agencies can stay open.
The following are remarks as prepared given by Wolf at a news conference in Harrisburg:

"Blue-lined" Budget Per Governor Wolf December 29, 2015
The fourth column shows how the budget lines were funded today by the governor. The yellow highlighting indicates amounts that are different, or blue-lined, from the pared-down state House version of the budget, which is the third column.
General Fund Tracking Run Published by Governor Tom Wolf

Lashing out at lawmakers, Wolf sending billions to Pa. schools, social services
Gov. Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that he'll issue a line-item veto to reject major parts of the spending plan passed last week by Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled House and Senate.  When the Legislature passed a similar budget over the summer, Wolf vetoed the entire package in an attempt to leverage support for the historic funding boost he sought for public education.  Nearly six months past the budget deadline, as schools have been pushed to the brink without any state aid, the governor agreed to sign off on most of the deal, but chastised lawmakers in harsh, insulting rhetoric.  "I'm expressing the outrage that all of us should feel about the garbage the Republican legislative leaders have tried to dump on us," said Wolf, who called the Republican effort an exercise in "stupidity" and "futility."  Wolf said he will veto the main budget line for public education because it falls well short of his goal to boost funding by $350 million.

Wolf vetoes part of budget, OKs school cash
By Karen Langley & Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 29, 2015 11:38 AM
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf this morning said he would veto portions of a "garbage" Republican state budget while allowing money to flow to schools and human service agencies.  Schools will receive funding for the first six months of the fiscal year, said Mr. Wolf's budget secretary, Randy Albright. He said the governor would sign $23.399 billion of funding into law, out of the $30.26 billion budget sent to him last week. The remainder of those funds will be "bluelined" until the General Assembly comes up with an appropriate budget, the governor said.  The governor, a Democrat, said he was calling on legislators to return to Harrisburg. He said the budget before him does not balance.  "This budget is wrong for Pennsylvania, and our legislators, the folks we elected to serve us, need to own up to this," he said.

Gov. Wolf line-item vetoes budget he calls “an exercise in stupidity”
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Gov. Tom Wolf today announced his decision to line-item veto House Bill 1460—the latest General Appropriations Act to land on his desk—saying the spending plan passed largely along Republican lines is “an exercise in stupidity.”  In blue-lining what amounted to a $29.7 billion budget once the yet-to-be passed nonpreferred appropriations were taken out, the governor’s final budget number lands at around $23 billion and provides only six months' worth of funding at House Bill 1460 levels for basic education, corrections, and Medical Assistance capitation, while also moving the legislature’s appropriations back to the Corbett-slashed FY 2014-2015 amounts.  The line-item veto also zeros out a number of agricultural appropriations, but provides full House Bill 1460 funding for what was described as "about 90 percent" of all other lines.  In announcing his action Tuesday, Gov. Wolf was incensed that the legislature, having failed to pass what has been described as a five-party budget framework with a budget total of $30.788 billion, including $600 million in tax increases for the current fiscal year, instead passed a lower-totaled budget and left for the holidays.

Gov. Wolf vetoes Republican budget, will release funds for schools
Trib Live By Natasha Lindstrom and Donald Gilliland Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, 10:33 a.m.
Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday signed a $23.4 billion, line-item-vetoed spending plan that allows the state to begin pumping money to cash-strapped school districts and human service agencies for the first time in six months.  “I don't want to hold the children of Pennsylvania hostage because of the inability of people in Harrisburg to get the job done,” said Wolf, as he announced a series of line item vetoes to the budget bill sent to his desk just before Christmas.  But with no tax code, no agreement on pension reform and negotiations looming over about $8 billion in spending, the announcement signaled no imminent end to Pennsylvania's longest budget impasse in at least four decades.  Wolf, a Democrat, blasted the $30.3 billion budget bill preferred by House Republican leaders as “garbage” and an “exercise in stupidity.”  “They can throw around all the political nonsense they want, but the fact remains they ran off — pretty quickly, at that — before they finished their job, and they left us with a real holiday mess,” Wolf said.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed said Wolf's line-item vetoes were “expected.” He supported releasing money to schools and human service providers, to which the state owes more than $700 million, but accused Wolf of taking new “hostages.”

Wolf slams 'garbage' budget by GOP, announces partial veto
Gov. Wolf’s action will release about $23 billion in state money, but the fix is temporary.
Inquirer by Chris Palmer, HARRISBURG BUREAU. Updated: DEC 30, 2015 — 1:07 AM EST
HARRISBURG - Gov. Wolf on Tuesday vetoed pieces of what he called the "ridiculous" and "unconscionable" budget passed by the Republican-controlled legislature, slamming lawmakers as shortchanging schools and pressing for new talks on a final spending plan.  Acknowledging the impact of the nearly six-month stalemate, the governor agreed to release six months' worth of emergency funds for schools and more than $9 billion for human services.  "I don't want to hold the children of Pennsylvania hostage for the inability of folks here in Harrisburg to get the job done," he said. His signature means that about $23 billion in aid will flow. But the fix is temporary. Wolf used his line-item veto authority to eliminate or reduce other pieces of the $30.26 billion budget proposal, including funding for neo-natal medical assistance, student grants, and operations in the legislature.

Pa budget reset: Does the state's new stopgap budget provide relief? Yes. Closure? Not so much
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 29, 2015 at 9:16 PM, updated December 29, 2015 at 10:19 PM
In a weird way, Tuesday wasn't such a bad day for Pennsylvania.
Legislative Republicans got a form of the stopgap budget they'd been seeking since September, albeit one that came with reduced appropriations for them and a seering scolding from Gov. Tom Wolf.  It will give the state's schools, government contractors and large parts of Pennsylvania's social services network that have endured a six-month state budget impasse some badly needed fiscal breathing space.  And it means that if the almost-perfect political stalemate created by the Democratic governor and the Republican legislative leaders continues, it can do so without imminent damage to the state's most vulnerable.  Here's a few things we do know now about the state budget debacle, and a few more things that bear watching as 2015 turns to 2016.

Wolf's line-item veto 101: What went down and what it means for the Pennsylvania budget
Penn Live By Julia Hatmaker | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 29, 2015 at 8:11 PM, updated December 29, 2015 at 9:19 PM
Governor Tom Wolf declared he will line-item veto the spending bill that was before him on Dec. 29.  It's a move that changes the Pennsylvania budget game, as some organizations will now receive much needed funding -- others won't be so lucky.  If you haven't been following along on the Pennsylvania budget impasse adventures, check out the video above for a quick summary of what went down and what it means.  For more in-depth coverage of the budget, click on one of the links below:

Winners and losers in Wolf's stopgap budget
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 29, 2015 at 4:15 PM, updated December 29, 2015 at 4:41 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf's decision on Tuesday to veto parts of a $30.3 billion Republican-crafted budget resulted in lot of losers. But there were some winners in this $23.4 billion stopgap budget too, at least in some instances for the short term until a finalized budget agreement is reached.  Here is a look at some of those winners and losers. First, the winners:

Schools getting emergency funding as Wolf calls GOP-backed budget 'garbage'
Alison Burdo Digital Producer Philadelphia Business Journal Dec 29, 2015, 10:51am EST Updated Dec 29, 2015, 11:10am EST
Gov. Tom Wolf had scathing comments for the state's lawmakers Tuesday afternoon as he announced he would sign, but line-item veto, the state's budget and release $23.3 billion in emergency funds for education following a 6-month stalemate.  "There is a reason why the outside rating agencies have downgraded our debt," he said. "They are telling the world what our legislators want to ignore. Our financial house is a mess."  Accusing the state lawmakers of running out on the job, Wolf said he is vetoing the plan to cut $95 million from schools and as well as other items "they don't pay for," and releasing emergency funds for the state's education system.  "In doing this, I'm expressing the outrage that all of us should feel about the garbage the Republican legislators have tried to dump on us," he said. "This budget is wrong for Pennsylvania. And our legislators – the folks we elected to serve us – need to own up to this."

"The nearly $7 billion Wolf cut reduced the overall budget to about $23.4 billion. A lot of those cuts in the state Agriculture, Education and Health departments, among others, were tied to earmarks important to conservative GOP lawmakers, who blocked a bipartisan compromise he and the Senate had reached on a higher spending plan and a pension-reform bill."
Wolf's partial veto means budget impasse is far from over
Steve Esack Contact Reporter Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau December 29, 2015
HARRISBURG — Talking as bluntly as professorial manners allow, Gov. Tom Wolf denounced as "garbage" a $30.3 billion budget lawmakers sent him before they departed the Capitol for Christmas.  But the first-term Democratic governor said Monday he would sign pieces of the budget into law to prevent his fight with the Republican-controlled Legislature from further hurting schoolchildren and the needy.  In signing the budget, Wolf unlocked all federal tax money and some state tax money for schools, counties and social service agencies. That money had been frozen since Wolf vetoed the entire Republican-backed budget June 30.  But Wolf also vetoed certain expenditures in the budget. School districts, universities and some state agencies will not get all the money the Legislature allocated to them in the 2015-16 fiscal year that began July 1. That means the state's record-setting, 182-day budget stalemate is not over.

Statement by PA Senate Leaders on Gov. Wolf’s Decision To Release State Funding Approved by Legislature
December 29, 2015
(HARRISBURG) – Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25), Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-34), Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne (R-16) and Senate Majority Whip John Gordner (R-27) released the following statement on Governor Wolf’s decision today to release emergency funding approved by the legislature to help schools and social service agencies.
“We support the governor’s long-overdue decision to release emergency funding approved by the legislature to help schools and social service agencies. This is something we have been advocating for over many months and is exactly why we sent him a budget last week – to release money that has been collected and is being held by the state to schools and communities.  “We are glad that the Governor has acknowledged that his actions of full vetoes in the past have meant kids and community organizations have been held hostage by his refusal to release funding and that approach is no longer defensible. He could have used this line item veto months ago and avoided this crisis situation.  “This action essentially resets the clock – giving us time to work toward a fiscally responsible spending plan without jeopardizing core government services.

Reed: “That original framework has come and gone”
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Providing more insight as to where House Republicans stand in terms of the budget after Gov. Tom Wolf announced his line-item vetoes Tuesday morning, House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) reiterated his caucus’s position that if all of the broader policy considerations part of the five-party budget framework cannot be agreed to, then a pared down budget is what is necessary to get Pennsylvania through the current fiscal year.  “Two months ago now, we announced the framework of an agreement that included property tax reform, pension reform, liquor privatization, a balanced budget, and more money for education. The only thing left of that framework is higher taxes for more spending, everything else has fallen by the wayside for various reasons,” he said.  “The Senate wasn’t that thrilled about doing full privatization, the governor and House Democrats weren’t on board for pension reform, there were difficulties in finding a funding formula for property tax reductions and in the end, we as House Republicans, are just not accepting of increasing the sales tax or increasing the income tax for more spending.”

House Republicans see a tentative path forward on budget, if not pensions
Penn Live By Wallace McKelvey | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 29, 2015 at 5:32 PM, updated December 29, 2015 at 7:39 PM
State lawmakers likely won't be returning to Harrisburg this week, but Gov. Tom Wolf'sline-item veto appeared to provide a path toward putting the 2015 budget to rest.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed said he's willing to negotiate a bare-bones budget without such contentious, big-ticket items like liquor privatization or pension reform.  That is, of course, if Wolf leaves substantial tax increases off the table.  "Let's get a final budget done and we can continue to debate those items in the next budget," he said.

S&P Bulletin: Pennsylvania's Fiscal Challenges Remain Following Line-Item Veto Of Budget Bill
CHICAGO (Standard & Poor's) Dec. 29, 2015--Despite six months of deliberations, Pennsylvania's budget deliberations continue, leaving it uncertain whether legislators will act to close the state's budget gap or address its long-term pension liabilities. Our AA-/Stable general obligation (GO) rating on the Pennsylvania is still unchanged despite the political gridlock because of the state's demonstrated willingness to honor its debt obligations. We are also waiting to see how further deliberations play out as legislators have still to determine a revenue package for fiscal 2016.   On Dec. 29, 2015, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that he would line-item veto the legislature's budget while providing emergency funding to public schools and social service providers. The $30.3 billion budget passed by both the house and senate is, in our view, structurally unbalanced and does not include pension reforms negotiated in the previously agreed-upon budget framework. As proposed, the budget had a $500 million budget gap for fiscal 2016 and left a $2 billion budget gap for fiscal 2017. While we have previously stated that we could consider a negative rating action or outlook if the state fails to address its budgetary imbalance or reverses course on addressing its pension liabilities, we are waiting for further developments on a corresponding revenue package and to better understand whether a pension reform will be part of a final budget.

Six months too late, the real @AngryTomWolf finds his inner samurai: Analysis
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 29, 2015 at 4:47 PM, updated December 29, 2015 at 4:54 PM
About six months after some brave soul took to Twitter to create a fictitious "@AngryTomWolf" account, giving voice to the frustrations of Democrats everywhere, the real deal showed up Tuesday morning in the ornate Governor's Reception Room on the Capitol's second floor.  There, @RealTomWolf teed off on Republicans, accusing them of "running out of town" just before the Christmas holidays, dropping off a $30.3 billion spending plan (some $500 million out of balance) that was both "garbage" and an "exercise in stupidity."  "I am going to exercise my constitutional right to line item this ridiculous exercise in budget futility," Wolf said, adding, "... in doing this, I am expressing the outrage that all of us Pennsylvanians should feel about the garbage the Republican legislative leaders have tried to dump on us."  And, then, just because it could, the administration hauled off and smacked the House GOP for deciding to continue its Christmas break vacation through the New Year, calling on them to get back to work.

Thumbs up & down on Gov. Wolf's budget "veto"
Chambersburg Public Opinion by Jim Hook, 3:55 p.m. EST December 29, 2015
HARRISBURG – Local approval and disapproval has greeted Gov. Tom Wolf’s action on Tuesday to veto portions of the state budget.  “After all of the pain that this budget impasse has caused, Pennsylvanians deserve a budget that is worth the wait,” said Susan Spicka, Advocacy Coordinator for Education Voters of PA.  The state budget bill passed by the Pennsylvania Senate and House just before the holidays would send $1.2 million less in state funding to Franklin County school districts than an earlier compromise “framework budget” that was making its way through the legislature, she said.  The House and Senate passed H.B. 1460 after a “framework budget” (S.B. 1073) had made its way through the Senate and had bipartisan support in the House.

After Wolf's line-item veto, schools group is happy, but nervous
WITF Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Dec 29, 2015 3:42 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- Governor Tom Wolf is releasing more than $23 billion to fund schools, human services, and other state services, while vetoing other parts of the state's budget.  But one schools group is concerned what's coming in the future.  Schools will get half of their state appropriations for the year.  But the second half is held up until Governor Wolf and Republican legislative leaders can reach an agreement on a full budget.
"In a lot of cases, there's going to be that skeptical, 'Oh here we go again' response because we really haven't solved the problem, we've just put a temporary band aid on it," says Jay Himes with the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.  He says he wonders if a budget will ever get done.  "There's certainly going to be some fear that that's going to be the case - it took six months to get this far - and so maybe we'll have the state doing two budgets at once. We're in never never land in terms of this process," says Himes.

PSBA encouraged with release of some funding to schools
PSBA website December 29, 2015
In a statement today, PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains said the association is encouraged that Governor Wolf has released the federal funds as well as a portion of the state funds needed to keep Pennsylvania students in schools.  “We call on the legislature and governor to continue to work toward a budget that significantly invests in the future of Pennsylvania and provides pension reform for school districts. This crisis is far from over, but we owe it to the students of Pennsylvania to change politics as usual and find compromise.”

Wolf Vetoes Part of Budget, but Releases Cash for Schools
New York Times By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS DEC. 29, 2015, 4:57 P.M. E.S.T.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A stern-faced Gov. Tom Wolf scolded Republican legislators Tuesday as he rejected parts of a $30.3 billion GOP plan for Pennsylvania's budget but released money for schools, social services and county governments that had been stuck in a record six-month stalemate.  Using his line-item veto authority for the first time since he took office in January, the Democrat released $23.4 billion, including more than $3.5 billion for basic and special education. Among the rejected items was a proposed increase in the Legislature's appropriation.  At a Capitol news conference, Wolf said Republican lawmakers who "ran out of town" for the year-end holidays needed to "get back to the work of the people."  "In doing this, I'm expressing the outrage that all of us should feel about the garbage the Republican legislative leaders have tried to dump on us," he said of his veto. "This budget is wrong for Pennsylvania. And our legislators — the folks we elected to serve us — need to own up to this. They need to do their jobs."

Amid budget deadlock, Pa. governor releases emergency funding to keep cash-strapped schools open
Washington Post By Emma Brown December 29 at 1:10 PM  
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced Tuesday that he will partially veto the budget that the Republican-led legislature passed this month, denouncing the spending plan as an “exercise in stupidity” and calling on lawmakers to return to the State Capitol to get back to work.  But Wolf said he will release emergency funding to ensure that the state’s cash-strapped public schools can keep their doors open.  The state’s 500 school districts have been operating without state funding since July because of the budget impasse in Harrisburg, and a growing number of districts — including Philadelphia — had said that their coffers were so close to empty that they would be forced to close schools in the weeks after winter break. Others have said that they would take out loans to continue operating.

"William Penn, which receives about 40 percent of its budget from the state, has been forced to make tough decisions in the last six months, including a vote last week to take out a $9.2 million loan to pay salaries through mid-February."
Good budget news for Pa. schools - sort of by Kristen A. Graham and Caitlin McCabe, STAFF WRITERS. Updated: DECEMBER 30, 2015 — 1:07 AM EST
Philadelphia schools will remain open past Jan. 29, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said Tuesday. Beyond that, not much else is certain.  Hours after Gov. Wolf announced that he would veto parts of the state budget but allow some emergency aid to flow to schools and social-service agencies, Hite said Philadelphia School District officials were awaiting details from Harrisburg on the exact amount they will receive and how far it might take them.  School systems across the region had similar reactions.

State and local officials react to Wolf action on state budget impasse
West Chester Daily Local By Kaitlyn Foti and Eric Devlin,;, on Twitter; , @Eric_Devlin on Twitter POSTED: 12/29/15, 6:46 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
ennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement Tuesday that he was going to line-item veto the state budget and release emergency funds to schools and service agencies affected by the six-month long budget impasse came as good news to many.  State and local officials weighed in on the decision saying they were pleased to see public schools and social service agencies finally receive desperately needed funding.  Republican legislators, however, said agencies should never have been held hostage in the first place and the Democratic governor’s actions failed to address any real issues.  “It’s the same money that was back in June when he vetoed the whole budget,” said state Rep. Tom Quigley, R-148th Dist. “If he had exercised the line item veto, they would have had money for the last six months. I wonder what the governor was thinking back then, to put these groups through all this, when the dispute was on education funding.”

Local York lawmakers: Wolf 'lying' about education funding
York Dispatch by David Weissman, 505-5431/@DispatchDavid5:31 p.m. EST December 29, 2015
York legislators are happy Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is releasing emergency funding, but no one is fully satisfied.  Wolf, a Democrat, scolded Republican lawmakers on Tuesday as he rejected parts of a $30.3 billion state budget plan that’s already a record six months overdue, but he freed up more than $23 billion in emergency funding, mostly for schools and social services.  "It's better than vetoing the whole bill, but I still think it was a good bill," Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, said.  Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, was at the Capitol for the new conference and praised Wolf for "doing what is right."  "It's a positive because it ensures school districts can remain open ... and keeps pressure on the Legislature to (fully) pass a budget," he said.  Wolf said at the conference that the Republican-backed proposal falls short and lawmakers “simply left town before finishing their jobs.”

Local NE PA  legislators react to Gov. Wolf’s decision on budget bill
Times Leader By Bill O’Boyle - First Posted: 4:35 pm - December 29th, 2015
WILKES-BARREPennsylvania’s budget battle is far from over.
Gov. Tom Wolf Tuesday rejected the Republican budget that he said cuts $95 million from education and is “out-of-balance,” while directing some $23 billion in emergency funding for key services.  Wolf said Republican leaders last week walked away from a historic bipartisan budget agreement and passed “an irresponsible budget so they could return home to their districts and take holiday vacations.”  “I’m vetoing the Republican plan to cut $95 million from education, and I’m also vetoing other items that they don’t pay for,” Wolf said in a news release. “I’m calling on our legislators to get back to Harrisburg — back to the work they left unfinished last week. At the same time, I’m allowing emergency funding for our schools to get out. I’m also letting funding go out to our human service agencies and to our counties. But this is on an emergency basis only.”

Delco legislators react to Gov. Wolf’s budget moves, emergency funding
By Kathleen E. Carey, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 12/29/15, 7:14 PM EST
Most of Delaware County legislators were pleased Gov. Tom Wolf released emergency funding to schools and human services Tuesday, but they also expressed frustration with a process that still had more work to be done.  “I would have liked to have seen him sign the whole budget into law,” state Rep. Stephen Barrar, R-160, of Upper Chichester, said. “At least he addressed the most pressing needs of the commonwealth. That gives us a couple more weeks, hopefully, to get the rest of the budget cleaned up.”

Pat Cuneo: Wolf asked to sign irresponsible budget
By Pat Cuneo  814-870-1699 Erie Times-News December 29, 2015 06:28 AM
It looks like Gov. Tom Wolf's Republican foes may have won a major political fight over the embarrassingly delinquent state budget, but at what price?  For those who were left bewildered by the late maneuvers and shenanigans before the Legislature's exodus from Harrisburg last Wednesday, you shouldn't feel alone. In short, defeat was seized from the jaws of victory.  Just when it appeared that Democrats and moderate Republicans had enough votes to pass the budget that Republican leaders of the House and Senate had worked up with the Wolf administration -- a real compromise -- the House leadership buckled to pressure from its rank-and-file members and wouldn't allow a vote on the House floor.  Then, as the House members went home, the GOP-controlled Senate decided to vote not on their own bill they hatched with Wolf, but on the bill created by House conservatives. What's the big deal about that? It shortchanges the compromise bill by perhaps $300 million for education alone. Worse, it doesn't deal with the deficit, assuring another fiscal downgrade and terrible results for many, like the Erie School District and Erie taxpayers.

Editorial: Paying what we're getting
by Inquirer Editorial Board. Updated: DECEMBER 29, 2015 — 3:01 AM EST
Gov. Wolf and the legislature have dithered and bickered about the state budget for so long that in just a few weeks, it will be time for the governor to deliver a budget address - for the next fiscal year. The record-breaking six-month deadlock has deprived schools, charities, and more of state funding. With increasingly pressing needs at this late date, Wolf has to shake up the stalled negotiations.  The Democratic governor does not have to abandon his principled stand for responsible education funding, but he should increase the pressure on those who are delaying a budget that is already outrageously late. That includes a Republican-controlled legislature gripped by a radical minority.  Wolf should sign the woefully inadequate budget legislators sent him last week to allow needed state payments to proceed. But he should block spending on the legislature and governor's office until a responsible compromise budget is reached. Some officials have failed more miserably than others in this crisis, but many share the blame. Now it's time for them to share the pain.

Blogger note: Who needs vouchers?  PA's "successful tax credit programs" are very successful at diverting $150 million from the general fund to private and religious schools.
EITC/OSTC: Wolf works to save state tax credit programs that help schools
By Mary Niederberger / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 29, 2015 6:21 AM
It appears Gov. Tom Wolf is trying to save two tax credit programs -- imperiled by the state budget impasse -- that provide $150 million in scholarship money to students in grades K-12 across the state.  On Christmas Eve, the governor directed the state Department of Community and Economic Development to send conditional approval letters to companies that had applied for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs.  While companies had been applying to participate in the programs, DCED has been holding off on approving the applications, despite pressure from some legislators, because the caps on the programs are set in the annual tax code approved by the Legislature. The tax code is not approved until a final budget is adopted.  But with the Dec. 31 deadline approaching for approval on tax credit applications, the governor gave the directive to issue the conditional approvals, with the condition being that the programs are continued when the 2015 budget and tax code are approved.

This in-depth 2012 piece includes coverage of Pennsylvania's tax credit programs and is well worth the read.  Nonprofit intermediary organizations that collect and distribute the scholarships get to keep 20% of the funds in PA compared with just 3% in Florida and 10% in Arizona and Georgia.
EITC/OSTC: Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools
New York Times By STEPHANIE SAUL MAY 21, 2012
When the Georgia legislature passed a private school scholarship program in 2008, lawmakers promoted it as a way to give poor children the same education choices as the wealthy.  The program would be supported by donations to nonprofit scholarship groups, and Georgians who contributed would receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits, up to $2,500 a couple. The intent was that money otherwise due to the Georgia treasury — about $50 million a year — would be used instead to help needy students escape struggling public schools.  That was the idea, at least. But parents meeting at Gwinnett Christian Academy got a completely different story last year.  “A very small percentage of that money will be set aside for a needs-based scholarship fund,” Wyatt Bozeman, an administrator at the school near Atlanta, said during an informational session. “The rest of the money will be channeled to the family that raised it.”  A handout circulated at the meeting instructed families to donate, qualify for a tax credit and then apply for a scholarship for their own children, many of whom were already attending the school.

Blogger note: the principals at the Susquehanna International Group have contributed millions to support school choice candidates in Pennsylvania

"Another prominent donor is Mr. Yass, who helps run a trading firm called the Susquehanna International Group. He donated $100,000 to the Club for Growth Action fund in September. Mr. Yass serves on the board of the libertarian Cato Institute and, like Mr. Mercer, appears to subscribe to limited-government views that partly motivate his political spending.  But he may also have more than a passing interest in creating a political environment that undermines the I.R.S. Susquehanna is currently challenging a proposed I.R.S. determination that an affiliate of the firm effectively repatriated more than $375 million in income from subsidiaries located in Ireland and the Cayman Islands in 2007, creating a large tax liability. (The affiliate brought the money back to the United States in later years and paid dividend taxes on it; the I.R.S. asserts that it should have paid the ordinary income tax rate, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars more.)
In June, Mr. Yass donated more than $2 million to three super PACs aligned with Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has called for taxing all income at a flat rate of 14.5 percent. That change in itself would save wealthy supporters like Mr. Yass millions of dollars."
For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions
The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income.
New York Times By NOAM SCHEIBER and PATRICIA COHEN DEC. 29, 2015
WASHINGTON — The hedge fund magnates Daniel S. Loeb, Louis Moore Bacon and Steven A. Cohen have much in common. They have managed billions of dollars in capital, earning vast fortunes. They have invested large sums in art — and millions more in political candidates.  Moreover, each has exploited an esoteric tax loophole that saved them millions in taxes. The trick? Route the money to Bermuda and back.  With inequality at its highest levels in nearly a century and public debate rising over whether the government should respond to it through higher taxes on the wealthy, the very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes. Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

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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