Tuesday, January 12, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 12: Fiscal Code battle lines drawn over school funding formula

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup January 12, 2016:
Fiscal Code battle lines drawn over school funding formula

"The lawsuit says that inconsistency is arbitrary and illegal, and it asks Commonwealth Court to order the state to release a full year’s funding, both state dollars and federal money that is funneled to schools through the state’s bureaucracy. In addition, the organization said local school districts deserve to be compensated for the cost of borrowing they have had to undertake and the value of investments lost because of the lack of a full 2015-16 budget — a position with which we agree."
Harmful impasse: How can the state pick and choose what to fund?
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board January 12, 2016 12:00 AM
A lawsuit filed last week by the state’s school boards essentially asks how state government has been able to pick and choose which programs it is funding and which it isn’t during the seven-month budget stalemate. Good question.  The claim in Commonwealth Court represents another low-water mark for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature, who are named as defendants, along with state Treasurer Timothy Reese and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera.  During the political impasse over a complete 2015-16 budget, the state has said it can legally continue to fund many of the state’s operations, which the administrators have defined as “areas that affect the health, safety and protection of Pennsylvanians” or those required by federal law, state court decisions or the state Constitution.  The Pennsylvania School Boards Association argues that the state’s 500 local school districts fit that definition, too, yet their funding was delayed and now only a portion of it is to be released under the spending plan passed by the Legislature but line-item vetoed by the governor.

Fiscal Code battle lines drawn over school funding formula
Author: Jason Gottesman/Monday, January 11, 2016/Categories: News and Views
Battle lines in the House have been drawn over a school funding distribution formula inserted into budget-related legislation Monday afternoon by the House Rules Committee.  While other changes to the bill matched the language of the legislation to the budget partially vetoed by Gov. Wolf, a substantive change in committee inserted language providing the distribution formula as recommended by the Basic Education Funding Commission last summer for any new money a district would receive above last year’s appropriation.  While Republicans have couched the change as one that was agreed-to by all parties following its recommendation by the commission, Democrats in the House have said the change is one that—with the current state of the budget—will unfairly discriminate against funding in Philadelphia and Allegheny counties until the funding cuts made during the Corbett administration are fully restored.

"Their amendment, approved at a House Rules Committee meeting on a party-line vote, would require that any basic education subsidies up to 2014-15 levels would be distributed according to that years' formula.  Any aid that is over and above 2014-15 levels would distributed based on a new formula crafted by a special bipartisan school funding commission last year."
Budget disagreements over public school funding, other issues show in Pennsylvania's fiscal code bill
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 11, 2016 at 9:35 PM, updated January 11, 2016 at 9:36 PM
Pennsylvania's House Republican leaders formalized opposition Monday to distribution formulas for state aid to public schools that they say Gov. Tom Wolf has unilaterally and improperly implemented with the partial 2015-16 budget enacted last month.  The GOP made its move in the form of an amendment to an already contested fiscal code bill - sometimes called the budget's operator's manual - that would impose different formulas for the state school subsidies.  Republicans have expressed outrage over Wolf's use of formulas based upon his March 2015 budget proposal, which they say is causing a disproportionate amount of the state funding to go to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

VIDEO: Reed discusses changes to fiscal code
The PLS Reporter  Author: Alanna Koll/Monday, January 11, 2016 Video Runtime 3:21
House Majority Leader Dave Reed discusses changes to the fiscal code after Monday's Rules Committee meeting. 

"Schools and nonprofit organizations had struggled for months without state aid, but Wolf's partial veto freed billions for cash-strapped districts and human service agencies.  Officials on both sides of the aisle said privately Monday that budget discussions since then had lacked the urgency that existed around Christmas, when schools were on the verge of running out of cash.  But Wolf's spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, said Monday that the governor wanted legislators to return to the negotiating table sooner rather than later and seal a final deal.  "They have not finished their job," Sheridan said.  The House was expected to have a light voting day Tuesday before recessing until late January. The Senate has no voting session scheduled until next week."
In Pa., new year, same old budget stalemate
Inquirer by Chris Palmer, HARRISBURG BUREAU. Updated: JANUARY 12, 2016 1:08 AM EST
HARRISBURG - Signaling that a permanent resolution to the budget stalemate is a long way away, the House on Monday, in its first voting session of the new year, rejected funding bills for five state-related universities.  The bills called for more than $578 million to be released to the schools, including Pennsylvania State, Temple, and Lincoln Universities, a 5 percent increase over last fiscal year.  But House Democrats, who led the charge against the measures, said distributing money to universities without cementing details on the rest of a final budget package - including a revenue plan - could force the state to run out of money by May.  "We can't afford it," said Rep. Joseph Markosek (D., Allegheny), minority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "The money is not there."  Gov. Wolf last month approved portions of a Republican-backed $30.26 billion budget. But he vetoed $7 billion in proposed spending to try to force negotiators to continue working on other elements of a final accord.

"Democrats balked at offering any significant votes Monday, arguing it does not make sense for them to release funding for colleges and universities before essential funding lines for k-12 education across the state are finalized."
Pennsylvania's budget problems persist: State aid to major public universities is blocked by House Democrats
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 11, 2016 at 6:58 PM, updated January 11, 2016 at 8:25 PM
This post was updated at 8:24 p.m. with a comment from the Wolf administration.
House Democrats blocked an effort Monday to check another item off of Pennsylvania's 2015-16 budget checklist.  The House's 82-member minority rose up in near-unison Monday to stop approval of nearly $600 million in state aid earmarked to help cover operating costs at Penn State, Pitt, Temple and three other schools.  The so-called "non-preferred appropriations" to Pennsylvania's flagship public universities requires a two-thirds vote for passage.  If the appropriations had been passed, they could have been ripe for Gov. Tom Wolf's approval.

BLOG: Statement from Office of Governor Wolf on State-Related Universities
January 11, 2016 By: Jeff Sheridan, Governor Wolf's Press Secretary
We need a real budget – one that is balanced, fixes the deficit and invests in education at all levels. Unfortunately, House Republican leaders are still not serious about the budget.
Today, they tried to enact new funding for the state-related universities without paying for it. This comes on the heels of their budget that was $500 million out of balance, would grow the deficit to over $2.3 billion and would have cut funding to K through 12 education by $95 million.  Investing in higher education is important and Governor Wolf has been fighting to restore the cuts made by Republicans to education at all levels, including our state-related universities. The reality is that the Republican math does not add up.  The time for political posturing is long over – it is time for House Republicans to pass a balanced budget that fixes the deficit and truly funds education.

Do recent legislative retirements herald a more polarized General Assembly?: Monday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 11, 2016 at 8:26 AM, updated January 11, 2016 at 8:47 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
It may be too early to look for patterns, but some retirement announcements in the state House and Senate may be an early herald of a continued ideological shift to the extremes in the two chambers.  Rep. Nick Kotik, D-Allegheny, a fiscal conservative and the de facto chair of theHouse Democrats' Blue Dog Caucus is set to announce his retirement on Monday, The Tribune-Review reports.  He joins Rep. Julie Harhart, a veteran Lehigh Democrat, who is similarly moderate, on the path back to the private sector.  "I think I was a voice of reason and moderation [in the House Democratic Caucus] during my tenure," Kotik told the newspaper. "I looked out for what was best for my constituents' concerns."

"Kenney wants 25 community schools opened during his term. In November, he led a delegation to Cincinnati, which is converting all 55 of its public schools into community schools. Starting about a decade ago, that city invested $1 billion in state and local funds in the effort, and officials say administration costs $65,000 per building. New York City also plans to create some community schools, and other urban districts are experimenting with the concept.  If business, which rushed to support Kenney when it was clear he would win, and labor, which sponsored his candidacy early on, want the administration to succeed, they should lend a hand to this promising project."
Community Schools - Inky Editorial: City Hall goes to school
by Inquirer Editorial Board. Updated: JANUARY 11, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
Mayor Kenney used plain language to describe his vision for Philadelphia's government during his inauguration last week: City services will be effective and efficient. One tangible element of his strategy is to use existing school buildings to deliver social services - such as adult English-language instruction, health care, and homeless assistance - to neighborhoods, making them available to people where they live and sparing those who don't have the time or ability to trek to Center City for help.  "The vision that will guide my administration is that city government should first and foremost deliver efficient, effective services to all Philadelphians," Kenney said in his inaugural address at the gilded Academy of Music. "That may sound like a 'back to basics' approach. But in reality, it is as large and as difficult a goal as has ever been announced on this stage."  The reality can indeed be daunting. Consider the idea of using existing school buildings to bring services into neighborhoods. While the School District may be amenable, it is not capable of helping much. It has been so stripped down by a state government unwilling to meet its constitutional obligation to properly fund public education that many schools don't provide adequate nursing, counseling, or academic services.  Kenney's City Hall would ideally fill some of those gaps, providing students with services like health care and day care at school. That could allow teachers to concentrate more on academics.

East Penn School Board OKs 4.82 percent tax hike for 2016-17
Morning Call by Andrew Wagaman January 11, 2016
Preliminary school district budgets are rife with unknowns every year. But crafting a 2016-17 budget requires an unusual amount of conjecture, given that Pennsylvania still does not have a 2015-16 budget.  "Every second that goes by, we set a new record," East Penn School Director Charles Ballard said Monday night, looking at his watch. "It's been 194 days, 21 hours, 11 minutes and 27 seconds since the budget should have been passed."  Noting the inconvenience the state budget impasse has caused, the East Penn board adopted a $145 million preliminary budget with a 4.82 percent property tax hike.

Hite endorses handing two Philly schools to charters — changes course on Wister
Philadelphia School District superintendent William Hite has selected two charter school operators to take over operations at two district elementary schools through the Renaissance initiative.  Hite's recommendation matches West Philadelphia's Huey Elementary with Global Leadership Academy and Logan's Cooke Elementary with the Great Oaks Foundation.  Hite originally pitched converting Wister Elementary in Germantown as well. Mastery Charter applied to operate the school. Monday, in a surprising reversal, Hite recommended the school remain under district control.  The School Reform Commission will make final determination on Cooke and Huey at a Jan. 21 meeting.  Of the four charter organizations that applied for consideration this year, only Mastery has a track record doing neighborhood-based conversions in Philadelphia.
Hite said each of his decisions were influenced by community input, as well as last week's release of School Progress Report data.

Phila. School District to turn Cooke and Huey Elementary Schools over to charters
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, STAFF WRITER. Updated: JANUARY 11, 2016 5:43 PM EST
The fate of two Philadelphia public schools seems sealed: Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. Monday recommended that Cooke Elementary in Logan and Huey Elementary in West Philadelphia be given to charter companies to run.  But, in a surprise move, a third elementary Hite had previously recommended for charter conversion will remain a traditional Philadelphia School District school.  Wister Elementary has successfully staved off becoming a charter - thanks not so much to the outcry of the community, Hite said in an interview, but to new data that showed new signs of growth for the Germantown school.

Lenfest donates newspapers, website to new media institute
Inquirer by Jeff Gammage, Staff Writer. Updated: JANUARY 12, 2016 — 1:07 AM EST
The owner of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com has donated the news organizations to a newly created media institute, the core of a complicated transaction designed to ensure that quality journalism endures in Philadelphia for generations.  The move places the region's dominant news-gatherers under the auspices of the nonprofit Philadelphia Foundation.  "Of all the things I've done, this is the most important," said H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest, sole owner of Philadelphia Media Network, which runs the newspapers and website. "Because of the journalism."  The new alignment - while unique and untested - sets out mechanisms by which public-interest reporting can be preserved and enhanced while new electronic distribution methods are developed.  To evolve in an increasingly online future, Lenfest said, the news company must meet readers where they choose to read - and find fresh ways for advertisers to engage that audience.

Philadelphia Newspapers Donated to Nonprofit Foundation
Owner Gerry Lenfest starts philanthropic foundation with $20 million endowment
Wall Street Journal By LUKAS I. ALPERT  Jan. 12, 2016 1:00 a.m. ET
The long-running ownership saga of Philadelphia’s newspapers is taking yet another turn.
Less than two years after last being on the auction block, control of the Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com, is being donated to a newly created philanthropic foundation.  The nonprofit organization, called the Institution for Journalism in New Media, will start with a $20 million endowment funded by the papers’ current owner H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest.  “I have thought more and more about what the city would do without the Inquirer and the Daily News, so it became a quest to find a structure that would ensure the permanence of journalism in Philadelphia. This is the best solution,” the 84-year-old Mr. Lenfest said.  The hope is that the foundation will help steady the ownership of the papers, which have changed hands numerous times in the past decade, endured a bankruptcy and the death of one owner in a plane crash. The structure is also designed to help stabilize a newsroom that has diminished to 1,300 staffers among the three news organization from 1,800 in 2012, amid a steep fall in advertising revenue.

Teachers' Unions Get Cold Reception at U.S. Supreme Court
Education Week By Mark Walsh on January 11, 2016 2:29 PM
Washington - Teachers' unions were on the defensive in the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday as conservative justices appeared open to overruling a key precedent that authorizes public-employee unions to collect fees from non-members for collective bargaining.  "The union basically is making these teachers compelled riders for issues on which they strongly disagree," said Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, putting a twist on the idea that non-union members are "free riders" unless they are required to pay for the union's bargaining efforts.  "Many teachers think that they are devoted to the future of America, to the future of our young people, and that the union is equally devoted to that, but that the union is absolutely wrong in some of its positions," Kennedy added during oral arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (Case No. 14-915). "And agency fees ... require that employees and teachers who disagree with those positions must nevertheless subsidize the union on those very points."  Justice Antonin Scalia, who has expressed concerns about the free-rider problem and thus was perhaps one of the unions' best hopes for getting a fifth vote to join the court's four liberals to preserve the 1977 precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, did not give the unions much reason for optimism.

Save the Date | PBPC Budget Summit March 3rd
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center
The 2015-2016 budget remains in a state of limbo. But it's time to start thinking about the 2016-17 budget. The Governor will propose his budget for next year in early February.
The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will hold our annual Budget Summit on March 3rd. Save the date and join us for an in-depth look at the Governor's 2016-17 budget proposal, including what it means for education, health and human services, the environment and local communities.  And, of course, if the 2015-2016 budget is not complete by then, we will also be talking about the various alternatives still under consideration.
As in year's past, this year's summit will be at the Hilton Harrisburg.  Register today!

Remaining Locations:
  • 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
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

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.

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.

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:

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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