Wednesday, January 6, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 6: Wolf administration makes down-payment on education funding, favoring districts hurt by cuts

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup January 6 2016:
Wolf administration makes down-payment on education funding, favoring districts hurt by cuts

New Year, Same Budget Squabble
WESA By MARY WILSON   January 5, 2016
Governor Tom Wolf looked determined to start the New Year off on the right foot.  
His first Monday of 2016 was packed with public events – the inauguration of Philadelphia’s new mayor, followed by two business tours nearby.  But Wolf couldn’t outrun the unfinished business of yesteryear.   After touring a cold storage and processing facility in Chester County, he was peppered with questions about the state budget.    “Yeah, we need one,” Wolf said in response. “We still need one.”  The Democrat partially vetoed a spending plan last week, so the state’s budget impasse isn’t over. Wolf said he’s holding out for more education funding. He called the plan sent to him by the Republican-controlled Legislature before Christmas a “sham.”  “It didn’t invest in the things like education that we need to invest in,” Wolf said on Monday. “That’s a bad habit.”

"Wolf is scheduled to deliver his 2016-17 budget address on Feb. 9, five weeks from Tuesday.  Depending upon how those talks progress over the next month, he may earn the dubious distinction of becoming the first Pennsylvania governor to unveil his second budget plan before his first is fully completed."
New year, old issues: Pennsylvania legislative leaders pow-wow on budget Tuesday
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 05, 2016 at 7:17 PM
Legislative leaders were back in Harrisburg Tuesday to recalibrate their positions on the final pieces of the state's budget puzzle.  But after multiple sets of meetings, there were no real breakthroughs on the last big logjam: finalizing increases in state aid to schools and public universities, and the likely tax hikes needed to support it.   Nor was there the sense of imminent crisis at the Capitol that swirled through the building in the week before Christmas.

Pennsylvania lawmakers to reconvene, budget status unclear
Delco Times By The Associated Press POSTED: 01/05/16, 11:22 AM EST 
HARRISBURG >> Pennsylvania lawmakers are going back to work for the first time since budget negotiations collapsed just before Christmas.  The Senate is holding a regular session day Tuesday and the House is in a non-voting session.  Officials say leaders of both parties plan to discuss stalled state budget talks now in their seventh month. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s spokesman says he has no immediate plans to participate.  Last week, Wolf approved most of the $30.3 billion Republican spending plan enacted Dec. 23, releasing billions in overdue payments for schools and social services while vetoing other items that he called “garbage.” He sharply criticized the GOP for not approving new spending for public schools and deficit reduction in a $30.8 billion bipartisan deal that called for a $1 billion-plus tax increase.

Legislators return to Harrisburg with budget tasks still unfinished
By Karen Langley / Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau January 6, 2016 12:00 AM
HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania House and Senate were back in session Tuesday, but not to finish the state budget.  The state Constitution requires the General Assembly to meet at noon on the first Tuesday of January, and so both legislative chambers held brief sessions. But the topic around the Capitol remained the state budget, after Gov. Tom Wolf last week signed into law $23.39 billion of spending, striking the rest of what had been a $30.26 billion Republican-crafted budget through line-item vetoes.  The governor’s signature means that after six months of impasse, money is finally flowing to Pennsylvania schools. But Mr. Wolf, while calling for legislators to return to the Capitol, vetoed critical portions of the budget, including significant portions of the funding for education and state prisons.  Legislative leaders agreed Tuesday that the budget isn’t done, but their plan for solving the puzzle of choices on spending, taxes and overhauls of the state pension and liquor systems came down to a sense of willingness and more talks. House and Senate Republicans said they had met, as did House Republicans and Democrats.  “The four caucuses and the governor need to sit down and decide we want to pass a budget together,” said House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont.

With stopgap, Wolf guaranteed a 2016 budget and primary season collision: Analysis
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 05, 2016 at 2:16 PM, updated January 05, 2016 at 4:59 PM
So here's one from The Big Book of Unintended Consequences.  When Gov. Tom Wolf signed an 11-month-stopgap budget into law last month, he freed up some badly needed cash for school districts and nonprofits that had been struggling to keep the lights on and the programs running.
That's the good news.  Now the bad news.
With the stroke of the First Pen, the York Democrat may also have guaranteed that, come spring, the administration and Republicans who control the General Assembly will be squabbling over not one, but two, spending plans.  For that, you can thank a messy collision between the political and policy calendars.  Here's why.

"But lest you think the issue is exclusively the province of tax-and-spend liberals, a dozen Republican governors were among those who proposed tax hikes, the research found."
For state governments - tax hikes a 'necessary evil,' new report finds: Tuesday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 05, 2016 at 8:25 AM, updated January 05, 2016 at 8:41 AM
Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
If state lawmakers can take one solace from Pennsylvania's hyper-extended budget debate, it's this one: When it comes with wrestling over whether to raise taxes, they're hardly alone.
Lawmakers in state Houses from Nashua to Sacramento, who raised taxes in the current fiscal year, are also looking at ways to raise revenue as 2016 dawns, according to a new report by Congressional Quarterly. 

Republicans point budget blame finger back at Wolf
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, January 5, 2016
In their first big face-to-face pow-wow following the governor’s line-item veto of a budget proposal they sent him before Christmas, Pennsylvania’s legislative Republican leaders emerged with a short-term budget game plan and a common enemy in an old foe: Gov. Tom Wolf.  Starting with the short-term, House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R-Indiana) said his chamber plans to reconvene next week to finish what he called “about 90 percent” of the other budget-related legislative hurdles by passing a Fiscal Code bill and nonpreferred appropriations bills: namely funding for Penn State, Pitt, Lincoln, and Temple universities.  For the university funding bills, Rep. Reed said they would include the five percent increase agreed to with the Wolf administration, but need two-thirds support in the House meaning Democrats would have to be on board with passing the bills.  House Democratic caucus spokesperson Bill Patton said whether Democrats will support the nonpreferreds depends on whether or not the Commonwealth has the available funds to support the appropriations.

VIDEO: Scarnati gives budget update
The PLS Reporter Author: Alanna Koll/Tuesday, January 5, 2016 Video runtime: 1:43
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati gave a budget update after meeting with Republican leaders.

PA Senate Session Schedule, Governor's Budget Address, Senate Budget Hearing Dates
PA Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates JANUARY 5, 2016
The Senate Tuesday released its voting session schedule through June 30.  The schedule also confirms the Governor's budget address will be on February 9 and sets budget hearing dates for the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The schedule is--
January 19, 20, 25, 26, 27
February 8, 9, 10
Budget Hearings: Feb. 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, March 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 (no voting session during hearings)
March 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23
April 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13
May 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18
June 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

Wolf administration makes down-payment on education funding, favoring districts hurt by cuts
the notebook by Paul Socolar January 5, 2016
Following up on Gov. Wolf’s line item veto of a Republican budget package last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has released its plan for distributing six months’ worth of education aid to school districts across the state and has started sending out the dollars – $2.8 billion of them.  Philadelphia is getting $518 million.  The governor is holding back on the rest of the year’s education aid, hoping to force the legislature back to the table to reconsider his proposal for a major increase in school funding.  The state’s emergency education allocations announced this week are based on the total dollars approved by the legislature in the budget Wolf rejected. The administration is sending school districts 45 percent of their projected basic education funding for the year and 100 percent of their funding from a separate education block grant program.

State funding starts to trickle into Franklin Co. schools, groups
Herald Mail Media by Jennifer Fitch Posted: Tuesday, January 5, 2016 10:25 pm
WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Based on the six months-late partial spending plan approved last week by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, the Pennsylvania Treasury said it has processed $3.3 billion in payments to schools, counties and human-services organizations.  Eric Holtzman, business administrator for the Waynesboro Area School District, found $9.6 million had been electronically deposited for the school district when he arrived at work Tuesday morning.  The figure represents 44 percent of the fiscal year's anticipated state funding for Waynesboro’s public schools.  “It doesn’t bring us current, but it’s headed in that direction,” Holtzman said.  Some $1.4 million will be spent immediately on pensions within the Public School Employees' Retirement System, he said.  Last week, Wolf approved most of the $30.3 billion Republican spending plan enacted Dec. 23, releasing billions in overdue payments for schools and social-services agencies while vetoing other items that he called "garbage."  Wolf, a Democrat, sharply criticized the GOP for not approving new spending for public schools and deficit reduction in a deal that called for a $1 billion-plus tax increase.

Schools watch their accounts as state funding pours in
WITF Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 5, 2016 6:06 PM
Hundreds of school district bookkeepers are breathing a sigh of relief this week.
The governor's partial approval of a state spending plan last week means billions of dollars stoppered up by political gridlock are landing in school bank accounts. The state treasury has expedited the payment of $3.3 billion dollars to schools, as well as county governments and social services organizations. Additional late payments are expected to follow in the next week or so.  "People were even on the phone trying to anticipate exactly when they would have access to the funds -- not by the day, but by the hour," said Jay Himes, director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. "Because, literally, their local dollars were running out."  From July to December, the funding drought caused by the state budget impasse had forced schools to borrow nearly $900 million.

Pa. charter schools cry foul over funding cut
The warm, fuzzy feelings didn't last long.  As Pennsylvania expedited billions of dollars in overdue payments to schools, counties, and social services, charter schools condemned the Wolf administration's decision to reroute some of their money in the absence of a Legislature-approved funding formula.  When lawmakers passed a budget right before the New Year, they neglected to approve other related items that act as a roadmap for spending decisions. A "school code" bill setting an education funding formula never passed.  Without a set plan for doling out education dollars, the governor's office was able redirect $8 million  that went to charter schools last year. Wolf's office sent the money to school districts instead.

Governor Wolf Unilaterally Cuts $8 million from Charter School Children
PA Coalition of Public Charter Schools website January 05, 2016
January 5, 2016 – With no legal authority, Governor Wolf has unilaterally decided to pass through $58 million in Ready to Learn Block Grants (RTL) to districts, which includes $8 million that is being diverted from RTL grants that were due to be sent to the charter schools. The Governor’s office also took the liberty of re-naming this diversion as restoration of the “charter reimbursement” when, in fact, it is not. Charter reimbursement was specifically appropriated money provided by the General Assembly to districts that were losing students to charter schools to provide a financial cushion for those districts to adjust to the needs of a smaller student population over time, and it was not money diverted from charters.  “This move by the Governor of simultaneously cutting funding to charter schools and changing definitions is merely the most recent step in his clear agenda to kill the charter school option in Pennsylvania,” according to Bob Fayfich, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS). “It’s time Governor Wolf starts treating ALL public school children equally and not try to go out of his way to undermine the education of students whose families have chosen an alternative PUBLIC school, said Fayfich.”

"Charter schools have been the newest and shiniest educational enticement. As with all allurements, there is a price to pay, and the children in the traditional public schools are the ones paying for the historic and dangerous lack of resources."
Gambling fever  - Why does the Philly School District keep betting on charter schools?
the notebook by Eileen DiFranco COMMENTARYJanuary 5 — 3:16pm
Eileen M. DiFranco, R.N., is a certified school nurse who has proudly served the schoolchildren of Philadelphia for 25 years. She is a lifelong resident of Philadelphia.
In the Twilight Zone episode called "The Fever," a staid and sober family man becomes addicted to a slot machine during a visit to Las Vegas. He sinks deeper and deeper into his addiction, recognizing its inhumanity and destructive power. And yet he can't stop himself.  Throughout the last 40 years, American school districts have had a bad habit of latching onto shiny new educational ideas that promise all sorts of wonderful things. The bigger and faster that the promise of success is – like a neon sign flashing in Vegas –the more willing that school districts like Philadelphia's seem to be to plunk taxpayer money down on the table, thinking that they are going to hit it really big this time.   The zing of sugarcoated promises gives them the rush they need to keep pushing their magical thinking upon an unsuspecting public. The evidence of their educational failures fills the basement of 440 N. Broad St. They can’t stop themselves. Perhaps they don’t want to. As long as they get their fix, they must feel as though they are doing good. It's the rest of us who can’t sleep at night.

"The elimination of the tax undoubtedly is good news for business — and, if the tax’s critics are right, Pennsylvania’s competitive position among other states — but its demise deepens by $240 million the hole that must be filled in the state’s 2015-16 General Fund.  That’s how much the tax raised in fiscal 2014-15, so its end is problematic at a time when Mr. Wolf is demanding at least $350 million more for education than the Republican-controlled Legislature has agreed to provide and is insisting that the $30.26 billion budget that reached his desk was vastly underfunded".
PPG Editorial: Patience taxed: Pennsylvanians deserve a complete budget — now
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board January 6, 2016 12:00 AM
Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement that one of Pennsylvania’s reviled business taxes died at the end of 2015 is overshadowed by the uncertainty that persists over the state’s budget and tax plans.  The 171-year-old capital stock and franchise tax had been assessed against businesses based on what the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce characterized as “how much a particular business is determined to be theoretically worth in a given year,” on top of any corporate net income taxes the firm might pay. Its phase-out was started in 2000 by former Gov. Tom Ridge, with an expected expiration date of 2008. Tight budgets since then have led governors and lawmakers to delay the end, until now.

GoErie Editorial: Our view: Get back to work on Pa. budget
GoErie Editorial January 6, 2016 01:15 AM
Several take-aways from the latest development in the state budget fiasco that, at six months and counting, seems endless:
Gov. Tom Wolf's decision to sign a $30.3 million budget, but then line-item veto major sections was a smart move. His $23.4 billion stopgap budget kept school districts open, allowed social service agencies to stop hemorrhaging and prevented what appears to have been an actual cut in education funding.  Wolf's scolding of lawmakers for leaving town was also appropriate. They need to get back to work because this stopgap budget has more holes in it than a doughnut factory.  Could Wolf's maneuver last week had been done earlier and saved some of the turmoil, as many Republican House members have complained? Yes, but Wolf's earlier vetoes of other spending plans held together hope that several reforms could take place, such as more money for education, a pension deal, addressing the structural deficit, allowing wine sales in markets and adopting a serious shift away from property taxes. Those are all off the table for the moment, along with a higher sales tax to help make it all work.  As the stalemate continues, the Reading Eagle put it this way: "The House won't vote on the spending plan unless the Senate produces a tax plan. The Senate won't vote on a tax plan unless the House approves the pension reform plan."  Well, guess what? The Republican leadership of the state House and Senate and Wolf's administration must get back to the bargaining table immediately because not doing so fails all Pennsylvanians.

John Baer: Hating Harrisburg
by John Baer, Daily News Political Columnist.  Updated: JANUARY 5, 2016 — 9:21 AM EST
Not that Pennsylvania citizens/taxpayers really need more reasons to hate Harrisburg, but a member of the state House -- the place where budgets languish and good ideas go to die -- has just offered us another one.  State Rep. Daniel McNeill, D-Lehigh County, is reintroducing a bill to prevent lawmakers and administration leaders from being paid or perked when they fail to pass a timely state budget.  You may be aware that Pennsylvania has no budget even though one was due last June 30.  And you may be thinking, well, heck, this guy's on to something, not paying for no work is really a good idea.  But here's the thing. It's not a new idea. AND it's never going to happen.  McNeill, in a press release, notes that when he first introduced his measure last June he was able to collect only two co-sponsors. Two out of 203. Two.  This gives you some idea of how anxious our electeds are to dock themselves their $85,000-plus pay and their $160 a-day expenses when they don't do their jobs.

5 things to look for in the Erie School District in 2016 by Erica Erwin     January 5, 2016 9:47 am
If you’re reading this, you’ve survived the holidays and the kids are back in school. Congratulations!  In the spirit of celebration and my obsessive love of lists, I give you five things to look for in 2016, Erie School District parents:
With Gov. Wolf releasing emergency funds to help struggling school districts as the state budget impasse continues, the Erie School District won’t likely have to borrow the $47 million administrators said it needed to keep schools operating through March. The district is expected to receive an emergency disbursement by today, Laura Guncheon, spokeswoman for state Sen. Sean Wiley of Millcreek Township, D-49th Dist.  The emergency money will keep the doors open and teachers paid — two things that weren’t always certainties — but how basic education funding will be distributed once the state budget is passed remains to be seen. Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams is among the many educators calling for the implementation of a fair funding formula that would change the way state funding is allocated.
Charter schools
Charter schools will remain a major focus of the district as it continues to grapple with charter school tuition bills that will exceed $20 million in 2016-17. On a statewide level, charter law remains a hot-button issue. Two bills — HB 530 and SB 856 — that would drastically change the law remain in the pipeline.

Pittsburgh school board maintains property tax rate for 2016
By The Tribune-Review Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, 7:24 p.m.
The Pittsburgh Public Schools board held the line on property taxes Tuesday by maintaining the tax rate of 9.84 mills for 2016.  This marks the second straight year the board has not raised property taxes, according to district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh.  Last month, the board adopted a 2016 general fund budget of $570.4 million, which represents a spending increase of 2.4 percent from 2015.  The budget anticipates an operating deficit of $23.6 million.

Site: Chesco Tredyffrin-Easttown school district No. 1 in U.S.
Inquirer by Justine McDaniel Updated: JANUARY 5, 2016 — 11:05 AM EST
A Chester County school district was ranked No. 1 in the country in an annual listing from the school-review site  Tredyffrin-Easttown School District got the top honors in a ranking based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and student and parent reviews in areas including academics, teacher quality, student life and school resources.  The district, which comprises eight schools, including Conestoga High School, received an A+ in every category, save for an A in sports and fitness and a B in student culture and diversity.  It has an average graduation rate of 99 percent and SAT scores well above the national average, according to Niche. It also spends $4,000 more per student than the average American school. Three-quarters of students are white."I loved my experience at Conestoga. Such a great school," read one of the 215 reviews of the district.  The study ranked 10,488 school districts. One other in Pennsylvania made it in the top 10: North Allegheny School District in Allegheny County.

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
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 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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