Wednesday, December 9, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 9: Senate scuttles House-passed #PAbudget bill, recommits to framework agreement

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 9, 2015:
Senate scuttles House-passed #PAbudget bill, recommits to framework agreement

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 an excellent day to reach out to your House members.  Phone numbers are here:

Campaign for Fair Education Funding advocates for state Senate budget framework
Alternative budget proposal offered by House Republicans comes up short $200 million for public schools
HARRISBURG (December 8, 2015) – The Campaign for Fair Education Funding is urging lawmakers to end the budget impasse by adopting the budget framework passed by the Senate yesterday, which would increase basic education funding by $350 million.
During a press conference today, the Campaign asked lawmakers to reject the alternative budget proposal offered by House Republicans because it does not live up to the agreed-upon framework for basic education and comes up short $200 million for public schools.
“We are here today to urge enactment of a long overdue state budget that puts Pennsylvania on a better path to fund our public schools,” said Joan L. Benso, President and CEO, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. “The Campaign members joining me today know the importance of getting this done and not letting the budget framework agreed to by the Governor and three of the four legislative caucuses fall apart at this urgent hour.”

"The state budget stalemate took a turn on Tuesday with the House passing a $30.3 billion spending plan for 2015-16 only to have that plan gutted from the bill and replaced with the Senate's $30.8 billion budget plan in the Senate Appropriations Committee."
Senate committee guts House budget, amends with budget framework plan
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 08, 2015 at 7:30 PM, updated December 08, 2015 at 8:37 PM
The House's $30.3 billion budget plan didn't live long in the Senate on Tuesday.
About three hours after the House voted 115-86 to pass its 2015-16 state spending plan, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 25-1 to amend its own $30.8 billion spending plan passed on Monday into the House budget bill.  Senate GOP Leader Jake Corman Discusses Warring Budget Bills In The House And SenateCorman, R-Centre County, said he is open to looking at a budget bill the House sends over to the Senate but is confident the budget bill and pension reform bill the Senate passed on Monday can gain Gov. Tom Wolf's signature.
Committee Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh County, said the Senate-passed budget plan, unlike the House-passed version, is one that holds to the framework agreed to last month by legislative leaders and Gov. Tom Wolf .  He said there is no plan for a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the chambers. Instead, he indicated they will try to resolve them through private negotiations.

Senate scuttles House-passed budget bill, recommits to framework agreement
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Just hours after the House of Representatives passed what has been called a scaled-down budget bill of $30.2 billion, the Senate scuttled the plan by amending into the legislation the $30.8 billion framework agreement that they sent over to the House on Monday.  The House passed their budget plan by a 115-86 vote with four Republicans—Representatives Martina White (R-Philadelphia), John Taylor (R-Philadelphia), John McGinnis (R-Blair), and Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon)—joining Democrats in opposing the plan.  “It’s a fiscally responsible budget,” House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) told reporters in defense of the plan.  In particular, he touted increased education spending levels of their plan—including what he said is $100 million more in basic education funding—as well as increased spending for social service programs and research initiatives.  “It’s a budget that takes care of the citizens of Pennsylvania in very significant fashion,” he added.  The Senate was determined, however, to keep their work moving forward on the one-time five-party budget framework agreement.

Turzai on Senate: “Sending back a budget bill is not really responsible governance”
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, December 8, 2015
House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) gathered members of the press together Tuesday night to give a full-throated defense of the House-passed budget plan that comes in about $600 million less than the framework budget that the Senate, House Democrats, and Gov. Tom Wolf are supporting.  “How are you paying for it,” he questioned. “That’s what I’d like to know.”  He said the framework agreement would essentially provide for a $3 billion tax increase, including $600 million this fiscal year and $2.2 billion in the next fiscal year to support promised increases in education spending and cost-to-carry.  “Who is voting for the $3 billion and what’s the tax package look like? We’d be glad to look at it and if they want to run it and send it over here, we can always put it up for a vote and see if we have the votes for it,” Speaker Turzai added. “Sending back a budget bill is not really responsible governance. Tell us how you’re paying for it.”
He said the votes in the House do not exist for that large of a revenue package.

"House Republicans said they would bring in another $309 million this year and $627 million next year to pay for their budget through taxes on cigarette and tobacco products and on online gambling."
House GOP goes its own route in approving a state budget
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau December 8, 2015 3:03 PM
HARRISBURG  House Republicans this afternoon approved a state budget that differs from the higher-spending plan supported by Gov. Tom Wolf, Senate Republicans and legislative Democrats.  The House and Senate now have before them competing budget plans approved by the other chamber.  The vote for the $30.26 billion plan was 115-86, with four Republicans joining all voting Democrats in opposition.  It came one day after the Senate by a 43-7 vote advanced a $30.8 billion budget supported by Mr. Wolf. That budget would require a $1.2 billion increase in revenue over a full year, according to Senate Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said today that the details of the necessary revenue package were still being worked out. 

Pa. House passes budget, sets up Senate showdown
by Chris Palmer, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau. Updated on DECEMBER 8, 2015 — 2:44 PM EST
HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a budget plan that starkly contrasts with the one being promoted by the Senate and Gov. Wolf, setting the stage for the latest showdown over how to end the state's budget impasse.  The proposal, developed by Republican House members this weekend and passed almost entirely along party lines, abandoned many of the concepts GOP legislative leaders and Gov. Wolf had agreed to last month, and instead closely mirrored a plan Wolf had vetoed in June.  It stood almost no chance of being approved by the governor or the Republican-controlled Senate, which on Monday started passing pieces of its own budget bill.  Still, House Republicans said their 115-86 vote showed that members had no appetite for the tax increases that would be required under the $30.8 billion framework touted by Wolf and Senate leaders.

"On Monday, many lawmakers were left wondering how this latest impasse will end, given the significant differences in the Senate and House proposals. As they argue among themselves, each day without a resolution adds to the hardship counties, school districts and nonprofit agencies have been feeling for weeks and months in the absence of state funding."
Editorial: Two plans but no budget
Bucks County Courier Times Editorial December 9, 2015
Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 12:15 am | Updated: 1:19 am, Wed Dec 9, 2015.
The sad saga of Pennsylvania’s nonexistent budget ebbs and flows. For most of the last five months and eight days, the news was ... well, there wasn’t much news. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has had his agenda — much more spending for education and whatever tax increases are necessary to pay for it — and Republican legislative leaders, particularly in the House, have had theirs — less emphasis on education and more on pension and liquor reforms.  Those basic positions hadn’t changed a great deal since the budget stalemate began on July 1 until just before Thanksgiving, when there were reports of progress and positive comments on both sides about a so-called framework agreement. Wolf challenged lawmakers to have a budget to him by last Friday, a deadline that proved to be so much wishful thinking.  Now, a settlement apparently has drifted out of easy reach, and not because Wolf and the Republicans have again dug in their heels. This time, the conflict is among the Republicans themselves in the form of competing Senate and House proposals.

PPG Editorial: Gridlock, Pa.-style: Harrisburg has now become Washington
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board December 9, 2015 12:00 AM
It happens every year. In February or March, the governor proposes a new budget, replete with hundreds of pages of details on how state dollars will be spent.  This year was no different. Gov. Tom Wolf presented the first budget of his administration on March 3, more than 900 pages of revenue estimates and projected outlays to school districts, universities, social service agencies, municipal governments, you name it. The would-be recipients of those dollars started digging through the proposal as they tried to make their own financial plans.  Then came the partisan wrangling. That’s where Pennsylvanians still are today, nine months after his proposal was issued, five months after a budget was supposed to have been enacted.  Yes, Pennsylvania has divided government, with a Democratic governor and the GOP in control of the Legislature, so concocting a budget was not going to be easy. In a major step forward, legislative leaders in both chambers put together a $30.8 billion plan with the governor, it passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote Monday and Mr. Wolf said he would sign it.  Then House Republicans pulled the rug out from under it and instead passed a plan that is $500 million lower, would mean less money for education and probably has no chance of being enacted.

Looking for someone to blame for a protracted budget nightmare? Try House Republicans: Analysis
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 08, 2015 at 4:21 PM, updated December 08, 2015 at 4:24 PM
Would the adults in the room please stand up?  Not so fast, House Republicans.
With an end to Pennsylvania's six-month-old spending plan stalemate in sight, GOP lawmakers who control the lower chamber just threw a serious wrench into the works and made a New Year's Eve budget debate a real possibility.
On Tuesday, the House voted 115-86, almost entirely along party lines, to approve a $30.3 billion budget that both the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf have declared dead-on-arrival.   The House vote came just a day after the Senate voted 43-7  (which is bipartisan, you'll note) to approve a $30.8 billion framework that had the support of both Wolf and legislative Democrats.  Over the weekend, House Republicans trashed the month-old framework and announced they were going their own way. Any budget-associated optimism then shattered on the Capitol's tiled floors.  "This budget focuses on the art of possible," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Adolph, R-Delaware said Tuesday. "At the end of this game, we have to move forward to bring this standoff to a close."  The problem is, the game isn't anywhere near over. And Adolph knows it.

'Political gamesmanship': Pa. House passes a budget bill without support from Senate Republicans, Gov. Tom Wolf
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 08, 2015 at 3:25 PM, updated December 08, 2015 at 4:16 PM
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a GOP-crafted budget bill Tuesday that is not being supported by their fellow Republicans in the Senate or Gov. Tom Wolf.  The House voted 115 to 86 to pass a $30.3 billion budget bill that was created by House Republicans. The House budget bill was created in response to the $30.8 billion budget bill that was developed out of negotiations between Wolf and Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the Senate.  The House budget bill will now head to the Senate for its approval. 

Pennsylvania's largest retirement system balks at Senate's pension payment collars
Pennsylvania's largest retirement system is slamming a state Senate-approved pension overhaul that would further reduce, or "collar," state payments into its pension funds.  "Typically the retirement system does not take positions on legislative proposals," said Glen Grell, executive director of the Public School Employees' Retirement System on Tuesday.  "But we as fiduciaries are concerned about collaring the rate, which is another word for underfunding the plan."  The state's two pension systems together are underfunded by more than $50 billion, a debt fueled in part by legislative actions to reduce what the state contributes to the plans.  A Senate proposal passed by the chamber on Monday would reduce the state's payments by $170 million, a short-term boon that will cost more to pay back.

Blogger note: Meanwhile, school boards who were required by law to vote on their budgets by June 30th, have begun work on NEXT YEAR'S budgets….

"The Monday night vote, taken several weeks earlier than usual, was necessitated by the 2016-17 budget schedule that has been established by Pennsylvania's property tax relief law known as Act 1, officials said. The Act 1 decision has to be made a few weeks sooner than usual because Pennsylvania's Primary Election is in April, instead of May, so state voters can play a role in deciding the 2016 Presidential Election candidates, officials said."
Neshaminy school board approves 'first look' 2016-17 preliminary budget
Bucks County Courier Times by Joan Hellyer, staff writer Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 4:30 am
The Neshaminy school board voted unanimously this week to approve a 'first look' $182.4 million preliminary budget for 2016-17 that would require a 20-mill tax increase, although expenses are expected to be reduced during the budget process.  Early budget estimations suggest Neshaminy's board would have to raise property taxes 20 mills to cover all the expenses in the 'first look' financial plan for next school year because projected revenues are expected to amount to just more than $167 million. The board would need the additional property tax funding to help cover an estimated $15 million revenue shortfall  The budget is about $7 million more than the current financial plan and includes everything on the "wish lists" from district schools, board President Scott Congdon said after the vote. The projected expenses are expected to be pared down in the coming months, he said.   The board will take another vote on a 2016-17 preliminary budget on Jan. 26, according to a timeline handed out at Monday's meeting. The final budget needs to be adopted by June 30.

Mechanicsburg Area School Board approves resolution to limit 2016-17 tax increase to state inflation index
Penn Live By Roger Quigley | Special to PennLive Email the author on December 08, 2015 at 9:02 PM, updated December 08, 2015 at 9:06 PM
MECHANICSBURG - The Mechanicsburg Area School Board again has taken a pledge to hold a tax increase for the 2016-17 budget to the percentage allowed by a state inflation index.  Although a tax increase is not good news for taxpayers, the resolution approved Tuesday night establishes the maximum hike that taxpayers could face.  For the 2016-17 budget the Act 1 index for Mechanicsburg is 2.8 percent.  Districts must agree to follow the Act 1 index or seek approval for a larger increase either through the state Department of Education or a voter referendum.
This is the eighth straight year that the Mechanicsburg board has agreed to hold tax increases to the inflation index maximum.

So far, 23 educators have been disciplined by the state for test cheating
Three years ago, Pa. officials said 140 educators faced discipline in the investigations launched in 2011. The new administration says it cannot report how many cases are still in process.
the notebook By Dale Mezzacappa and Paul Socolar on Dec 8, 2015 01:41 PM
The state Department of Education (PDE) has provided a list showing that 23 educators statewide have so far been disciplined in connection with adult cheating on the PSSA tests as a result of investigations that started in 2011.  Philadelphia educators make up just over half of those sanctioned, and they have faced the harshest penalties.
Officials will not say how many more cheating cases are still in the pipeline.
While details about the state's inquiry into cheating are still sparse, PDE has also clarified the process that triggered its ongoing scrutiny of nine Pennsylvania districts where testing irregularities were found. These include two charter schools in this area: Chester Community and Imhotep Institute Charter Schools.  Of the 23 sanctioned educators, 12 were from Philadelphia District schools. One other had worked in Philadelphia Electrical & Technology Charter School in Center City.  Another, as reported by the Notebook last month, was a nine-year employee of Chester Community Charter School who, state databases show, served as a teacher, testing coordinator, assistant principal, and principal.

Charter school teacher who encouraged Allentown student walkouts is fired
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call December 8, 2015
CATASAUQUA — The Medical Academy Charter School teacher who encouraged students to walk out of Allentown schools and is charged with corrupting minors has been fired by the charter's board of trustees.  Despite the pleas of many students who said Frassetto is a teacher who understands them, the trustees unanimously decided Tuesday night to terminate Frassetto from his teaching position because of his behavior the past few months. Board Chairman Craig Haytmanek said Frassetto is an "excellent classroom teacher" who "lacked judgment."

No Child Left Behind rewrite nears final approval by JENNIFER C. KERR, The Associated Press. Updated on DECEMBER 8, 2015 — 5:53 PM EST
WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation is on the verge of a sweeping shift in education, with states poised to gain greater control over school accountability and the ways testing is used to evaluate teachers, schools and student progress.  Although the federally mandated reading and math exams in grades three to eight and in high school continue, legislation expected to be voted on by the Senate on Wednesday encourages states to set caps on overall testing.  Senate approval would send the bill to the White House, where President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.

Yong Zhao and Pasi Sahlberg: Why Andreas Schleicher Is Wrong About Testing in the US
Diane Ravitch's Blog By dianeravitch December 8, 2015 //
Andreas Schleicher is the director of that section of the OECD in charge of international testing. He recently claimed that Americans are not over tested. He can’t understand why parents and teachers are complaining so much, when students in other nations take many more tests than American students.  Since this seemed counter-intuitive, I called on two great international experts–Pasi Sahlberg and Yong Zhao– who work with OECD data frequently. Both responded promptly.  Here are their comments on Schleicher’s claim that American students are not over tested:

Building a Stronger, More Effective Assessment Reform Movement under ESSA
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on December 4, 2015 - 7:17pm 
Congress will likely soon pass and President Obama sign the “Every Student Achieves Act” (ESSA).  This bill is the latest version of the long-standing Elementary and Secondary Education Act and replaces the universally despised “No Child Left Behind.” The new law presents both opportunities and dangers for the testing resistance and reform movement.  How can the movement use the opportunities, counter the risks, and win greater assessment reform victories? The first task is to continue to build resistance to high-stakes standardized exams in every state in the nation, especially by expanding the already large numbers of test refusals. Next is to transform this movement strength into concrete victories by winning state legislation and local regulations to cut back testing, end high stakes, and implement high-quality assessments.  ESSA pushes decision-making power about most aspects of accountability from federal education officials to the states and localities. It will take strong and savvy organizing to win needed changes. Here are some ways activists can bring positive change and avoid the law’s dangers.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: December 2 - 8, 2015
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on December 8, 2015 - 12:51pm 
With passage of legislation to eliminate many of the worst federal test-and-punish mandates in "No Child Left Behind" and Arne Duncan's waivers extremely likely, a new FairTest fact sheet offers recommendations on how grassroots activists can transform assessment reform opportunities in the new "Every Student Succeeds Act" into state and local policy victories.

“I’ve never thought loud, obnoxious, simple solutions to complex problems were the kind of qualities we want in a president,” the former governor said."
Ridge: 'Not a chance' he'd vote for Trump
by Thomas Fitzgerald, Inquirer Politics Writer.    @tomfitzgerald Updated on DECEMBER 8, 2015 — 9:52 PM EST
Tom Ridge, the first homeland security secretary and a former Pennsylvania governor, said Tuesday there was “no chance” he’d vote for Donald Trump if the real-estate tycoon were somehow to become the Republican nominee for president.  “I think he’s an embarrassment to the party, I think he’s an embarrassment to the country,” Ridge told Chuck Todd on MTP Daily on MSNBC. Trump’s suggestion that there should be a complete ban on Muslims entering the U.S., either as immigrants or visitors, “plays into the hands of ISIS,” Ridge said.

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 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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