Monday, December 7, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 7: House Republicans won't back #PAbudget deal

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 7, 2015:
House Republicans won't back #PAbudget deal



Campaign for Fair Education Funding: PA Lawmakers need to deliver a #PABudget that meets the needs of every child.  Ask them to at:

Today might be a good day to reach out to your House members.  Phone numbers are here:



Pennsylvania should change the way it judges schools
Post Gazette Opinion By Mark Duffy, Della Jenkins & Adam Schott December 6, 2015 12:00 AM
Mark Duffy, Della Jenkins and Adam Schott are researchers at Research for Action, an independent, Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization that focuses on education research and evaluation.
In a rare example of bipartisan agreement, the U.S. House of Representatives has just advanced a comprehensive update of No Child Left Behind — one that could greatly reduce the pressure states and districts feel to rate and intervene in public schools on the basis of standardized test scores.  This action follows a steady drumbeat of public concern with a key facet of the law — annual standardized testing in core academic subjects. A recent Gallup Poll, for instance, found that nearly two-thirds of Americans think there is too much emphasis on standardized testing in education. The same poll asked respondents to choose which of five possible measures are most important in gauging school effectiveness; standardized testing came in last.  This test fatigue can also be seen in rising numbers of students opting out of standardized tests. In 2015, more than 200,000 third- through eighth-grade New York State students sought exemption from standardized tests — quadruple the 2014 tally. Districts in the Colorado Springs area have also seen increased opt-out rates; in one school, 90 percent of eligible students opted out of the second round of testing by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Here in Pennsylvania, the numbers are far lower, but with opt-outs increasing from just over 1,000 in 2014 to about 3,200 in 2015, the trend is clear.

"As you would expect in any compromise, it is by no means perfect. But it does empower parents and puts more control of our kids' education back into the hands of our states and school districts. It has earned the support of, among many others, the National Parent-Teacher Association, the National Education Association, and the National School Board Association."
With education reform, Congress shows it can act
Philly.com Opinion by Congressman Pat Meehan Updated on DECEMBER 6, 2015 3:01 AM EST
Pat Meehan is a Republican representing Pennsylvania's Seventh Congressional District
Don't look now, but there's good news out of Washington. And it's good news for students, teachers, parents, and taxpayers.  First, some history. In 1965, Congress enacted the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, groundbreaking legislation that authorized the federal government to support our kids and teachers in the classroom. Congress made periodic changes to the law every few years, updating it to meet the changing needs of our states and school districts.  The bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law in 2002, introduced more accountability into our education system by mandating regular testing to measure student achievement. Though well-intentioned, No Child Left Behind has proven unworkable and has had unintended consequences that have set back student learning.  But after No Child Left Behind, Washington gridlock brought the debate over federal support for K-12 education to a halt. It has been almost 15 years since the last time we've made changes to the law, and the 2002 measure lapsed seven years ago.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 6: #PABudget: Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water….

Senate loads budget and pension bills that face uncertain future
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Sunday, December 6, 2015
Moving right along with the once-touted five-party budget framework agreement, the Senate Appropriations Committee sent a General Appropriations bill and pension reform proposal to the full Senate floor in accordance with the agreement.  However, their fate in the House remains anything but certain.  The budget bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee included a total spend number of $30.788 billion budget.  That number is over $500 million above an amount the House Republican caucus said it would be willing to support after contentious caucus meetings Friday and Saturday.  The lone negative vote on the budget bill, Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) said he was uncomfortable with some of the increases in the different lines.  “The increase in school funding is an issue with me because we aren’t doing anything with prevailing wage increases, we aren’t doing anything to cap salary increases, we’re not doing anything for healthcare costs,” he said. “We need to do something on the costs side.”

"I hope they pass it," said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County."This is what we have votes for in the Senate and this is what the governor will sign. This is what can bring this whole saga to an end."
Senate to proceed with voting on $30.8 billion budget despite House GOP's opposition
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 06, 2015 at 11:40 PM, updated December 06, 2015 at 11:41 PM
The latest development in Pennsylvania's seemingly never-ending 2015-16 state budgetsaga took what the Senate considers a step forward by positioning a $30.8 billion spending plan for a vote as early as Monday.  The Senate Appropriations Committee on Sunday voted 25-1 to approve the 2015-16 spending bill that holds to the budget framework agreed to by leaders of the GOP-controlled House and Senate and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf last month.  That plan, however, faces an uncertain future in the House where many members in that chamber's fractured GOP caucus declared on Saturday they could not support the necessary tax increases that the plan requires.

State House GOP adopts own fiscal plan, jeopardizing budget deal
By Karen Langley and Kate Giammarise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 6, 2015 10:54 PM
HARRISBURG -- The Pennsylva­nia Senate on Sunday began to move ahead with a state budget supported by Gov. Tom Wolf despite move­ment by House Republicans to craft their own lower-spending bill.  The Senate arrived at the Capitol for a rare Sun­day night session and proceeded to vote through committee a budget bill that Jennifer Kocher, spokeswoman for Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said was agreed to by Mr. Wolf and all legislative caucuses except House Republicans.  “The governor and Senate Republicans are in agreement on the budget,” said Jeffrey Sheridan, spokesman for Mr. Wolf, a Democrat. “That was made very clear.”  Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, said Sunday evening that the apparent disarray in the House complicates the Senate's task.  "I don't have a lot of confidence they're going to sign off on it," Mr. White said of the budget and pensions and liquor reform bills he said the Senate ultimately intends to pass and send to the House.  "I'm a Republican. I don't like to raise taxes," Mr. White said during a break from a private meeting with other Senate Republicans. But he said that speaking for himself, he believes the liquor and pension reforms are worth the potential tax increases that are part of a budget deal.

Pennsylvania budget endgame unclear as House Republicans balk, cancel Sunday session
Morning Call by Mark Scolforo Of The Associated Press December 6, 2015
Who's to blame for Pennsylvania budget stalemate?
HARRISBURG — Efforts to end Pennsylvania's state budget standoff are on shaky ground after House Republicans balked at negotiations and then canceled a Sunday session where their alternate approach might have been considered.  The Capitol was quiet after the House session was called off, although senators were still expected to convene in the evening to take up a budget package supported by their Republican leaders and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.  A House Republican spokesman says they decided they need more time to prepare their own budget.  Spokesman Steve Miskin says the Appropriations Committee is working up a proposal that needs less in new taxes.  He says it won't include privatized liquor sales or significant changes to the state's public sector pension systems.
Pennsylvania's been without a state budget since July 1.

Meeting of House leaders leads to no discernible budget game plan
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Sunday, December 6, 2015
A closed-door meeting between top House Republican and Democratic lawmakers Sunday evening left no discernible game plan as to how the two sides will move along with passing a budget in the coming days and weeks.  The meeting came after a Saturday announcement by House Republicans that they would run a pared-down budget bill with $600 million less revenue than agreed to as part of a previously negotiated budget framework.  Sunday meetings in the House Appropriations Committee and the House Rules Committee were cancelled, as sources close to the issue told The PLS Reporter that Republican legislators needed more time to consider that bare-bones $30.2 billion budget and “cool off” after a two days of contentious caucus meetings.  The discussion that took the place of those two committee voting meetings did not seem to leave leaders on either side of the aisle feeling like there was much resolution to many of the outstanding questions in terms of how to move forward.


"The tentative budget agreement calls for spending an additional $350 million on public schools, $60 million on early childhood education, and $50 million on special education. The deal also would make changes to the state's pension and liquor systems.  Republicans who control the House said Saturday they could not muster enough support for the deal - this after leaders had agreed to it in the budget negotiating room.  A House committee had scheduled a vote on a scaled-down - and competing - spending plan Sunday, but abruptly canceled the vote.
House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin said House members still were working on the details in the plan. He said he expects a vote on it as early as Monday."
Pa. Senate in late Sunday-night session on budget
by Angela Couloumbis, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau. Updated on DECEMBER 7, 2015 1:08 AM EST
HARRISBURG - The state Senate returned to the Capitol Sunday night to begin considering portions of the budget agreement with Gov. Wolf, even though the deal still appeared to be near collapse.  A key Senate committee voted Sunday evening to approve the $30.8 billion deal Wolf has struck with the Republican-controlled legislature - despite the House's unexpected admission Saturday that there were not enough votes in that chamber to pass it.  The political curve ball draped the Capitol in uncertainty - some even called it chaos - but senators nonetheless plowed forward with their intention to vote on the deal with the governor in the hopes that it can quickly resolve differences with the House.  "This has been a tough year, and there is not a perfect solution to this," Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) told reporters Sunday.  "But I think we got to a place where we got something good done," Corman said, adding of his House colleagues: "I hope they see  that."  Corman said a final vote on the deal on the floor of the Senate could happen as early as Tuesday.

Pension reform proposal would make new plan optional for sitting lawmakers
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 07, 2015 at 1:15 AM, updated December 07, 2015 at 1:16 AM
A proposed reform to the state's two major public pension systems that could receive a vote in the state Senate as early as Monday would give sitting lawmakers the choice of staying in the current system upon standing for re-election.  But any newly elected lawmaker would be forced into a new system that would combine a lower guaranteed-benefit plan with a 401(k)-style plan just like any other state government employee hired after Jan. 1, 2018, or school employee hired after July 1, 2017.  That single point in the 195-page bill became the sole focus of debate in Sunday's Senate Appropriations Committee on a pension reform plan, which won the committee's approval by a 21-5 vote. It now is positioned to receive consideration by the full Senate as early as Monday.

House Republicans won't back budget deal
Morning Call by Marc Levy Of The Associated Press December 6, 2015 10:17 am
 Pennsylvania House Republicans revolted Saturday against the latest plan between Gov. Tom Wolf and top lawmakers to break a five-month budget stalemate, leaving two competing plans and any resolution in doubt.  House Republicans emerged from a lengthy closed-door meeting in the Capitol to say that the majority caucus would not support a multi-faceted budget plan their leadership had helped negotiate in the prior weeks.  Instead, House Republicans said, consensus had emerged around a smaller spending plan and a smaller tax increase.  "It's much closer to what the caucus has been looking for in a budget," said Rep. Seth Grove, R-York.  Rep. Kate Harper, R-Montgomery, said she expected a Monday floor vote on the plan. House Republican leaders remained in the ongoing meeting during an unusual weekend session for lawmakers.  Both Wolf and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said Saturday they remained committed to a deal that revolved around a $30.7 billion spending plan with a $350 million boost for public schools, each a 6 percent increase.

Political Winners & Losers: The budget just imploded - now what?
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 06, 2015 at 9:00 AM, updated December 06, 2015 at 10:54 AM
Good Sunday Morning, Everyone.
Well it looks like the budget framework we've all been hearing so much about is probably going to be blown to flinders when the House and Senate convene today. So we're going to have a tough time finding any winners this Sunday morning. But let's get to it, shall we?
The Budget, The Budget, The Budget: House Republicans dynamited the budget framework on Saturday after an hours-long caucus revealed that GOP bosses didn't have the votes for the $2 billion in taxes needed to pay for the spending plan. As PennLive's Charlie Thompson reports, the House GOP says it'll start work Sunday on a smaller $30.3 billion plan, that cuts a projected increase in funding for public schools from $350 million to $150 million, and contains no changes to the state sales or income taxes. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, say they'll start voting Sunday evening on the bills associated with the framework, setting up a bizarre scenario that will see the two chambers proceeding along two separate, but parallel tracks, to try to resolve the six-month-old impasse.

Governor Wolf Statement on Budget and Education Funding
Governor Wolf website December 05, 2015
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Wolf released the following statement on the budget and education funding:
“The most important thing we can do to lay a foundation for long-term economic growth in Pennsylvania and prepare our children to compete in a 21st century economy is to make historic investments in education to reverse the devastating cuts from five years ago.
“Nearly one month ago, Republican leaders agreed to a budget with me that includes the largest increase in education funding – at all levels – in the history of Pennsylvania. It is long past time for the legislature to move ahead with this agreement and end this impasse.
“This agreement, that Republican leaders stood outside my office twice to announce, includes an additional $60 million for early childhood education, which will create 14,000 new slots for children, it invests $400 million new dollars into K through 12 education, a hugely important first step in restoring the cuts made to school funding, and the agreement increases higher education funding by 5 percent.
“I urge the legislature to come together and pass the budget with this historic education funding and begin to move the commonwealth forward.”

Pa. sales tax can be expanded in an equitable way
WHYY Newsworks COMMENTARY  BY MARC STIER DECEMBER 7, 2015 ESSAYWORKS
Marc Stier is the director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.
It appears that legislators have decided to raise new — and necessary — revenue by expanding the sales tax base to include more goods and services instead of increasing the sales tax rate. This would be a good way to raise revenue if it is done in ways that make the tax more equitable. Still a broader sales tax will fall more heavily on low-income families. Legislators can limit the burden on those least able to bear it by coupling the sales tax expansion with a new, refundable sales tax credit.
The inequity of the sales tax
The original budget framework increased the state's sales tax rate from 7 percent to 8.25 percent (and from 8 percent to 9.25 percent in Philadelphia). This proposal was opposed by many legislators. Some opposed any tax increase. Others worried that businesses near our borders with other states would lose sales.  A third group was rightly concerned that the sales tax places too much of a burden on those with low incomes. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the lowest-income 20 percent of Pennsylvania families pay an average of 5.8 percent of their income in sales tax. The top 20 percent, by contrast, pay less than 2.3 percent of their income in sales tax. And families in the top 1 percent pay only 0.6 percent of their incomes in sales tax.  A recent Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) report demonstrated that an increase in the personal income tax raises revenue in a far more equitable way than an increase in the sales tax.

Pottsgrove school taxes will not rise above 3.1%
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 12/02/15, 2:01 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
LOWER POTTSGROVE >> No matter what else happens with the next Pottsgrove school budget, taxes will not be able to rise above 3.1 percent.  That’s the result of a unanimous vote by the new Pottsgrove School Board which adopted a resolution keeping any potential tax hike within the Act 1 index.  But the board was not quite ready to commit to a budget that does not raise taxes at all.  Exceeding the 3.1 percent, which the state has set as Pottsgrove’s limit, would require approval by voters in the spring primary, something the school board has never pursued.  Because the Act 1 budget process is tied to the spring election cycle, it requires that districts prepare their budgets inordinately early, usually before many financial factors that will affect the final budget are known.  Making things more complicated is the fact that because 2016 is a presidential election year — and Pennsylvania leaders are eager to have the state play a more prominent role in the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries — the state’s spring primary has been moved back to April.


The disturbing provisions about teacher preparation in No Child Left Behind rewrite
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 5  
There has been loud applause in the education world for the new Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor to No Child Left Behind that has passed the House and is expected to become federal law soon. It has been hailed as a fix-it to the broken NCLB law, and it does indeed moderate some of NCLB’s biggest problems. But, perhaps because the legislation was only made public a few days before the House voted, there has been little time to look at the details in the bill.  In this post, Kenneth Zeichner, a professor of teacher education at the University of Washington at Seattle, does just that in regard to how the bill approaches teacher preparation programs — and he reveals some deep concerns. For example:
* Provisions in the legislation for the establishment of teacher preparation academies are written to primarily support non-traditional, non-university programs such as those funded by venture philanthropists.
* The legislation “oversteps the authority of the federal government” in several ways, including by declaring that
the completion of a program in an academy run by an organization other than a university results in a certificate of completion that may be recognized by states as “at least the equivalent of a master’s degree in education for the purpose of hiring, retention, compensation, and promotion in the state.”  The federal government absolutely has no business in suggesting what should and what should not count as the equivalent of a master’s degree in individual states.
* The legislation seeks to mandate “definitions of the content of teacher education programs and methods of program approval that are state responsibilities.” As a result, it lowers “standards for teacher education programs that prepare teachers for high-poverty schools … by exempting teacher preparation academies from what are referred to as ‘unnecessary restrictions on the methods of the academy.’ ”
Here’s the piece by Zeichner, who is a member of the National Academy of Education and professor emeritus in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and who has done extensive research on teaching and teacher education.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – S.1177 Transition Timetable and Frequently Asked Questions: A Local School Board Primer
NSBA Prepared December 1, 2015

Check out The Network for Public Education's new Website
The Network for Public Education was founded in 2013 by Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody. We are an advocacy group whose mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools for both current and future generations of students.  The goal of NPE is to connect all those who are passionate about our schools – students, parents, teachers and citizens. We share information and research on vital issues that concern the future of public education at a time when they are under attack.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 12-7-15


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
Nine locations for your convenience:
  • Philadelphia area — Nov. 21 William Tennent HS, Warminster (note: location changed from IU23 Norristown)
  • Pittsburgh area — Dec. 5 Allegheny IU3, Homestead
  • South Central PA and Erie areas (joint program)— Dec. 12 Northwest Tri-County IU5, Edinboro and PSBA, Mechanicsburg
  • 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
  • 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.

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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