Sunday, December 20, 2015

PA Ed Policy Roundup December 20, 2015: #PABudget? Bah… Humbug!

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup December 20, 2015:
#PABudget? Bah… Humbug!

Pa. House kills pension bill, leaving budget deal in tatters
Delco Times By Mark Scolforo, The Associated Press POSTED: 12/20/15, 5:19 AM EST
HARRISBURG, Pa. >> A proposal to revamp Pennsylvania’s two large public-sector pension systems was defeated overwhelmingly Saturday in the state House, collapsing a deal to solve the state’s 6-month-old budget impasse.  The House voted 149-52 against a bill that would have forced newly hired teachers and state workers into a hybrid system made up of a traditional pension alongside a 401(k)-style benefit. Every Democrat voted against the bill, along with a majority of Republicans.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, who argued strongly for the bill, said the next move will be to advance a stopgap budget. He said the pension changes were needed to address costs that have been increasing for school districts and state government.  “If that’s not possible, then new revenue is off the table as well, and we’re going to have to plan accordingly,” Reed told reporters after the vote. “It just went down pretty resoundingly.”  A stopgap may be a tough sell in the Senate. Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said the next move should be for the House to send over a full-year budget without any tax increases.  Layoffs in state government could soon occur, Corman said, warning that a deadline is also approaching for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program that funds private school scholarships.  “This is real — there’s consequences to not being able to get things done,” Corman said.  Gov. Tom Wolf, a first-term Democrat, called a news conference to urge negotiators to return to work.  “A stopgap is not the answer,” Wolf said. “We need a full-year budget.”

Budget framework’s foundation crumbles; next steps continue to evolve
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Saturday, December 19, 2015
The budget framework that seemed so close to passing now now seems a lot like Elvis: after suffering a very public and unflattering death Saturday after its lynchpin—public pension reform—failed in the House by an overwhelming 52-149 margin, some still think it might be alive.  Public pension reform—as many had suspected—was going to be the deciding factor Saturday as to whether the optimism about a budget being completed in short order was more reality than wishful thinking.  Asked about the still uncertain revenue package that was being worked on to support the $30.788 spending plan as part of the framework, House Majority Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) noted the importance of the vote on public pension reform.  “I think this pension bill is a very important piece of what we’re trying to accomplish here and I’ll be able to discuss where we’re going with the other parts of the agreement after this bill is debated and, hopefully, passes the House,” he said.  The bill, however, did not pass the House. All House Democrats and 66 Republicans voted against the bill.

Editorial: Passage of Pa. budget would be a great Christmas gift
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 12/19/15, 9:22 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Ebenezer Scrooge had nothing on the folks out in Harrisburg.  Bah, Humbug indeed.
In other words, we still don’t have a state budget in place, a full five months and change after one was supposed to be in place July 1.  Gov. Tom Wolf and Republicans in the House and Senate are not exactly exchanging holiday cheer. They remain at odds over spending and taxes, with the GOP still digging in its heels on the tax hike needed to fund Wolf’s pledge to restore education cuts and cut into the state’s long-term budget deficit.  The latest volley, not exactly what we would call a Christmas carol, came Thursday, when Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai offered something of a holiday ultimatum, telling the governor he had until 12:30 p.m. to come up with the votes to pass his $1 billion-plus tax hike. Since Republicans hold solid majorities in both the House and Senate, that was about as likely as a White Christmas in this winter season of the El Nino. Then on Friday, lo and behold what should appear? No, not Wolf being pulled in a sleigh by reindeer. But the governor was saying he had the necessary votes for his tax package.
Then talks collapsed again Saturday.  In the meantime, schools and social-service agencies across the commonwealth continue to find coal in their stockings, courtesy of this marathon budget impasse.

The Pennsylvania state budget mess: How it came to this
A polarized capital, with completely divergent visions of what government and a budget should do
By Kate Giammarise / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau December 20, 2015 12:40 AM
HARRISBURG — Everybody here is getting ready for the holidays.
There’s a Christmas tree in the Capitol. Garlands and wreaths hang in the Rotunda. Groups of holiday carolers sing daily, surrounded by lobbyists and legislators hurrying past.
Everything is in readiness — except a spending plan for the state. The budget season that was supposed to be over June 30 has dragged, month by month, into the holiday season. Human service agencies around the state have laid off staff, and some school districts are threatening not to reopen after their Christmas break.  Political analysts, legislators and Capitol staffers point to a number of factors — among them increasing political polarization, a potential contentious tax hike, a 2009 court decision from the last lengthy impasse — as having dragged the current stalemate to nearly the six-month mark.  On June 30, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a Republican-crafted budget sent to him by the Legislature; the two sides have been wrangling over a budget since. Mr. Wolf has favored additional funds for education, and Republicans have resisted higher taxes to pay for it.  There’s one primary factor — divided government, in the form of a Democratic governor, and a House and Senate controlled by Republican majorities. But the two sides arguably aren’t just from different parties — they have completely divergent visions of what state government and a state budget should do.

Impasse proves shake-up need
Times Tribune BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD Published: December 20, 2015
There is nothing in the unfolding state budget agreement that is unique to December. All of it could have and should been passed before the July 1 start of the fiscal year. The nearly six-month budget impasse is a testament to legislative dysfunction and a cry for long overdue reforms of the bloated, overpaid Legislature.  House Republicans took full ownership of that dysfunction last week when they recoiled from a compromise that had been reached by Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate Republican leaders. Yet again, they dredged up matters that they could have resolved to their advantage at any time during Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s term. Instead, they preserved issues ranging from pension reform to privatizing the state liquor monopoly to use a political leverage against a Democratic governor. That’s not governance. It’s just politics.  Possibilities for reform are open-ended because the Legislature’s ineffectiveness is open-ended. They range from the processes under which the vast majority of the 253 legislators have no say in what happens, rendering them mere props, to the very structure of the state government.  Pennsylvania has the nation’s largest full-time Legislature yet it is controlled by a handful of caucus leaders. Most legislators stand by until it’s time to vote, and then simply do the caucus leaders’ bidding. (See the Robert Swift column today on Page D5, “Caucus power thrives as impasse lingers.”)  Legislators from gerrymandered districts passively stand by or actively obstruct solutions without fear of electoral challenge because they have selected their own voters.

PBPC statement about the failure of the pension reform bill in the PA House and the announcement of a vote tomorrow on a stop gap budget
Stop gap budget will only prolong unacceptable stalemate and freeze funding for education and human services at inadequate levels
PA Budget and Policy Center Press Release December 19, 2015
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Dec. 19, 2015) – Marc Stier, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, made the following statement in response to the failure of the pension reform bill in the state House of Representatives and Majority Leader Dave Reed’s announcement that the House will vote tomorrow on a stop gap budget:  "Pensions are one thing, and a responsible budget is another. Passing a pension reform bill, especially one that has serious problems, should never have been a prerequisite for resolution of the five-month long budget impasse. It does not produce any savings for the Commonwealth this year, and very little savings over the long term.  "So, the defeat of the pension bill is no reason for House leadership to fail to bring appropriations and tax bills to the floor that carry out the bipartisan budget agreement. The Senate-passed appropriations bill provides much needed funding for education and human services. The House should pass it. The tax bill under discussion in the House would provide the revenues needed to pay for that funding. It’s time for the House to pass it and send it to the Senate.   "A stop gap budget will only prolong this unacceptable stalemate and freeze funding for education and human services at inadequate levels. House leaders should stop this nonsense tomorrow and do what they keep promising to do -- pass a responsible budget and tax plan."

VIDEO: Gov. Wolf: "We still have a budget plan"
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Saturday, December 19, 2015 Video runtime: 3:07
Gov. Wolf gives a budget update after the pension reform proposal fails in the House. 

VIDEO: Reed: "It would be our intention to work on a stopgap proposal" after pension reform fails on the House floor
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Saturday, December 19, 2015 Video runtime: 3:54
House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) discusses with reporters his intentions to try and move forward with a stopgap budget proposal after a pension reform bill fails on the House floor 149-52.

VIDEO: Adolph: "I don’t think anyone really knows what the tax package is going to be"
The PLS Reporter  Author: Alanna Koll/Saturday, December 19, 2015 Video runtime: 1:39
House Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph (R-Delaware) gives a budget update after Saturday's committee meeting. 

VIDEO: Markosek: "Our caucus has never been in agreement with pensions" as part of the budget framework
The PLS Reporter  Author: Alanna Koll/Saturday, December 19, 2015 Video runtime 3:11
House Appropriations Minority Chairman Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny) speaks about how the pension reform bill recently passed out of the committee was not agreed to by his caucus as part of the overall budget framework. 

Pennsylvania House kills pension bill, putting budget deal in limbo
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau December 20, 2015 12:23 AM
HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania House on Saturday torpedoed a Republican-proposed pension bill and with it an apparent path to the end of the budget impasse that has gripped the Capitol for nearly six months.  The vote was 149-52, with all Democrats and more than half of the Republicans opposing the bill, a priority of Republican leadership that would have reduced the traditional pensions of new state and public school employees while enrolling them in accompanying 401(k)-style defined-contribution plans.  Minutes after that vote, House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said that without the pensions bill, the House would not vote to raise taxes, a step needed for either the $30.78 billion budget supported by the Senate and Gov. Tom Wolf or for the $30.26 billion plan favored by House Republicans. Instead, he said, the House will work to authorize state spending for some period of less than the 12 months that began July 1.  “It does not seem like the majority of the folks in this body want to do a full-year budget, so we’re not really left with a whole lot of other choices right now,” he said.  But both Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, and Mr. Wolf, a Democrat, said the state needs a full budget.

What's next? Hard to tell as Pennsylvania budget impasse turns to spaghetti
Penn Live By Charles Thompson |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 19, 2015 at 9:00 PM, updated December 19, 2015 at 9:47 PM
The leaders of Pennsylvania's politically divided state government struggled Saturday to answer what comes next in the state's six-month budget impasse.  In fact, the way forward after Saturday's 149-52 defeat of a signature pension reform bill at the heart of the so-called budget framework package seemed about as ordered as a plate of spaghetti.  There were a lot of ideas floated - the best seeming to be a decision to call off scheduled voting sessions in the state House and Senate to give rank-and-file lawmakers a day for cooling off while their leaders consulted.

Pension reform's defeat in House draws disappointment from leaders
Penn Live By Jan Murphy |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on December 19, 2015 at 6:18 PM, updated December 19, 2015 at 7:22 PM
By Jan Murphy & Charles Thompson
Pennsylvania enters Day 173 without a budget, and the way the House of Representatives left matters on Saturday that count will continue to rise at least for a few more days.  After soundly rejecting a pension reform billby a 149-52 vote, the House blew out of the water the only reason the Senate Republicans agreed to support a $700 million tax increase to fund a $30.8 billion budget for 2015-16.  Only 52 Republicans supported the bill while 66 of their caucus colleagues joined 83 Democrats in opposing it.

Pa. budget deal slips with pension reform defeat in the House; stopgap plan comes new possibility
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on December 19, 2015 at 3:36 PM, updated December 20, 2015 at 7:06 AM
With a public pension employee reform bill resoundingly defeated in the state House Saturday, House Majority Leader David Reed, R-Indiana County, conceded the proposed "framework" budget is likely off-track.  Reed said one leading option to try to get some resolution to Pennsylvania's six-month state budget impasse before Christmas would be a renewed effort to pass a stopgap funding bill.  A stopgap measure would be designed to drive out some portion of state aid to school districts, counties and other their parties that have been forced to scrape by without it since the current fiscal year began July 1.  But any interim funding measure would likely contain a lower spending number for schools and human services agencies than the $30.8 billion "framework" budget Gov. Tom Wolf had been lobbying for this week.  Reed said that's because both his leadership team and Senate Republican leaders have insisted on significant action on the state's major cost driver - swollen pension liabilities - in exchange for imposing new taxes on Pennsylvanians.

Budget agreement careens toward collapse by Angela Couloumbis, HARRISBURG BUREAU. Updated: DECEMBER 20, 2015 1:07 AM
HARRISBURG - The tentative budget agreement between Gov. Wolf and the Republican-controlled legislature veered toward collapse Saturday, leaving the state in fiscal limbo and with no clear way out.  The breakdown occurred after the House of Representatives resoundingly defeated a proposal to rein in the skyrocketing cost of the state's two pension funds. As lobbyists on both sides of the issue worked the hallways in the Capitol, the House voted 149-52 against a plan that would have placed new state workers and public school employees into a hybrid pension system.  The bill was considered a key piece of the $30.8 billion deal, and without it, the rest of the agreement crumbled.  A visibly frustrated Wolf, speaking shortly after the vote, said he still believes the deal can be salvaged. He did not say how.  "It is a compromise and it is the product of a lot of good people working across the aisle to get it done," the Democratic governor said in a brief news conference. "This is not over. We still need a budget. And we need it now."
House Republicans, however, had a different plan for how to proceed, further spiking the sense of political chaos in the Capitol.

Pennsylvania House tosses pension overhaul bill as budget impasse wears on
Trib Live By Brad Bumsted Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, 2:51 p.m.
HARRISBURG — The Republican-controlled House on Saturday dealt a severe blow to the budget “framework” agreement with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, a move that lowered the odds of approving a substantial tax increase.  On the 172nd day of a budget impasse, the House voted 149-52 to shoot down a much-touted pension system bill sought by Senate Republican leaders and Wolf as part of a deal struck in early November to secure a $30.8 billion spending plan, hundreds of millions of dollars more for school districts, liquor system reforms and higher taxes. All Democrats voted against the bill along with 66 Republicans.  Asked if the framework is dead, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said, “As long as pensions doesn't pass, yes.”

No Child Left Behind overhaul: Educators are glad the law is gone, but classroom impact in Pa. is unknown
Lancaster Online by Kara Newhouse Staff Writer December 20, 2015
Call it a Christmas present to schools.
The contentious federal law No Child Left Behind is a thing of the past, and many educators across the nation are celebrating its demise.  But will the policy change ring in a new era of less test-focused schooling in Pennsylvania?  That’s up to the state lawmakers.  "I would hope this allows for a little more common sense," said Calvin Esh, the teachers union president at Lampeter-Strasburg School District, "But time will tell."  Earlier this month, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, a bipartisan bill that diminishes the federal government's role in school oversight.  It replaces the No Child Left Behind law of 2002, which required schools to test students each year in grades 3 to 8 and once in high school. No Child Left Behind also created a national system for judging schools based on the results. It imposed penalties for those that didn't measure up.  Every Student Succeeds still requires annual testing but allows each state to decide how to evaluate schools and teachers.  Speaking to LNP last week, local educators and the state's top education official welcomed the change, even as its real impact on classrooms is undetermined.

Ed. Dept. Sketches Out Transition to ESSA From NCLB, Previews Regulation
Education Week Politics K-12 Blog By Alyson Klein on December 18, 2015 9:00 AM
The Every Student Succeeds Act is just over a week old, but the U.S. Department of Education wasted no time in getting out initial guidance to states on how the transition process will work from the No Child Left Behind Act and the waivers (which expire on Aug. 1, 2016) to this new law (which kicks in fully in the 2017-18 school year, when a new president and education secretary will be in place).  The department also gave a preliminary picture of how it would like to proceed on regulation.Bottom line: It's in the market for input from state schools chiefs, teachers' unions, the civil rights community, etc. There will be two public meetings next month, one in Washington and one in Los Angeles for input.    And the department seems to want as smooth a transition process as possible.  It's focusing the final months of NCLB waivers on the pieces that most closely resemble where states will go under ESSA (school improvement, and standards and assessments) while stepping back on federal enforcement in a big way when it comes to teacher evaluation through student outcomes, which won't be required under the new law.

Gulen Linked Charter Schools in Pennsylvania
Charter School Scandals Blog by Sharon Higgins
Vision Academy Charter School, Lansdowne 2015
Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School, State College  2005
Young Scholars of McKeesport 2015
Young Scholars of Western Pennsylvania Charter School Pittsburgh 2011
Truebright Science Academy, Philadelphia closed in 2015; Non-renewal of charter; remained open for three years during multiple appeals

60 MInutes 2012: U.S. charter schools tied to powerful Turkish imam Fethullah Gulen
© CBS 2012. 60 Minutes. No copyright infringement intended Published on May 13, 2012
U.S. charter schools tied to powerful Turkish imam Fethullah Gulen

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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