Friday, April 8, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 8: State budget finished? Not hardly

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3900 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, Superintendents, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 8, 2016:
State budget finished? Not hardly

Campaign for Fair Education Funding - Rally for Public Education
Save the date: May 2nd at the Capitol

“The loss of $5.5 million in state funding to Franklin County schools, and $305 million in total reimbursements to hundreds of districts throughout the Commonwealth, represents a substantial decrease in money available to support academic programs and services for students and a sizeable shift of the state’s obligation onto the shoulders of local taxpayers.”
GOP's 'no tax' budget leaves local school districts holding the tab
Public Opinion  - Opinion by Susan Spicka 1:38 p.m. EDT April 7, 2016
Susan Spicka is a member of the Shippensburg Area school board.
While many lawmakers have been celebrating their fifth consecutive “no new tax” state budget, area school boards have been stunned to learn that this budget cut more than $5.5 million in construction reimbursement payments owed to Franklin County school districts for 2015-2016 through PlanCon, a longstanding state program that provides school districts with partial reimbursement for qualified new construction and renovation projects.  School districts are obligated to make construction payments whether or not they receive reimbursements the state owes them. School boards will be forced  to raise property taxes, draw down their reserve funds, or cut programs and services for children in order to make up for the missing $5.5 million in state funding that the state owes our schools.

Pennsylvania’s pension debt continues to mount; critics alarmed By Dennis Owens Published: April 7, 2016, 6:24 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Time, as the saying goes, is money.
Nowhere is that truer than in Pennsylvania’s mounting pension debt.
“It’s growing, if you haven’t figured it out, at $143 a second,” Barry Shutt of Lower Paxton Township said.  Shutt, a pensioned retiree himself, commissioned a pension clock similar to the national debt clock in New York City. He paid for it and positioned it just outside the Capitol cafeteria. That’s a fitting spot because pension debt has an insatiable appetite for tax dollars.  “It’s at $4.5 billion a year and it’s jeopardizing the future economic growth of Pennsylvania,” Shutt said. He is a citizen activist who has hung around the Capitol for two years trying to cajole lawmakers into focusing on the state’s pension problem.  Pensions are the elephant in the budgetary room, but both Elephants (Republicans) and Donkeys (Democrats) have mostly ignored it.

“In announcing his restoration formula, Wolf said he supports the new “fair funding” formula devised by the non-partisan commission, but that it “cannot truly be fair unless the cuts are fully restored.”  “Currently, only 4 percent of districts have seen their funding restored to 2010-11 levels and we are currently over $370 million short from fully restoring the cuts,” he said.  Wolf’s administration has also defended vetoing the provision for borrowing money to pay PlanCon money owed districts. The administration contends the budget made no effort to set up funding to pay off the new debt, and that it would be adding to a structural budget deficit that already exists.”
State budget finished? Not hardly
School districts still struggling with budgeting
Times Leader By Mark Guydish - Posted: 8:00 am - April 7th, 2016
So the state education budget is all wrapped up and school district finances back in order, right? Well, not so much, area business administrators say.  In fact unless something changes, local districts will have to wait until the 2016-17 fiscal year to get some of this year’s subsidies from Harrisburg.  “They already told us we’re not going to get our May and June Social Security reimbursements until July or August,” Hanover Area School District Business Manager Tom Cipriano said Wednesday. “That’s $90,000 for us.  Add $210,000 in annual payments the district expected to receive for construction work done more than a decade ago, and another $280,000 in transportation reimbursement that the state has yet to guarantee, and Hanover Area is still short close to $600,000 in state money.  That’s more than nine months after the state mandated June 30 deadline for all school districts to finalize their 2015-16 budget.

Our view: Bring reason, maturity to Pa. budget talks
Erie Times News Opinion April 8, 2016 12:02 AM
Crawford County state Rep. Brad Roae's misplaced digs against English majors and other ill-advised verbiage are gaining a lot of attention.  The Philadelphia Inquirer revealed the long-serving Republican state representative's budget brainstorming via e-mails that -- to be fair -- Roae likely assumed would remain part of a private exchange among like-minded colleagues.  Still, his top-of-mind budget priorities raise concern that those on both sides of the aisle are gearing for another damaging ideological standoff like the nine-month debacle just ended.  The Inquirer article stated that Roae, R-6th Dist., suggested "everything needs to be flat funded or cut," and advocated eliminating higher education grants for students studying "poetry or some other Pre Walmart major."  Roae told reporter Kevin Flowers that he will continue to support proposals that slash expenses. "Public-sector pension reform, repealing prevailing wage laws, passing right to work, privatizing the wine and liquor stores, etc., would reduce the cost of government and improve our economy," he said.  He said he was elected to cut taxes.  These sweeping goals hew to his base, but are mostly tone-deaf non-starters in a state this divided.

BLOG: How Education Funding Is Being Distributed This Year
Governor Wolf’s Blog April 06, 2016By: Megan Healey, Deputy Press Secretary
A major part of the 2015-16 budget, which became law last week without Governor Wolf’s signature, is determining how to allocate basic education funding to: 1) help to restore the devastating education cuts by the previous administration and the legislature in 2011 while, 2) making Pennsylvania’s funding for schools more equitable.  This post will walk you through how the Wolf Administration will distribute school money this year. But first, let’s take it back to 2011 when the school crisis in Pennsylvania began.
What happened to school funding beginning in 2011?
In short? Republicans cut $1 billion from education.  The effect? During that time, the state failed to fulfill its fundamental responsibility of funding our schools. This led to massive staff reductions, the elimination of academic programs, andsoaring property taxes in over 90% of districts. At the same time, student achievement levels fell across the board.  To sum it up: Republicans’ $1 billion in school cuts led to an education funding and performance crisis.
So where do we stand now?
While Governor Wolf allowed the 2015-16 budget to become law, he vetoed the accompanying fiscal code bill. He did this, in part, because it directed the commonwealth to borrow up to $2,500,000,000 (yes, billion) for reimbursements for school construction projects — that’s money that was never appropriated in the Republican budget.  They also did not include any funding to make the payments on that debt. Further, because of Pennsylvania’s growing structural deficit and Republicans’ failure to address their own fiscal gimmicks and irresponsibility, the state cannot go to the bond market to borrow because of its current status. We are tapped out!

“Fair Funding” Loses Under Governor’s Inequitable School Funding Formula

PA House Republican Caucus website April 7, 2016
While education advocates, school boards and members of the General Assembly urged implementation of the bi-partisan and fair Basic Education Funding Formula Commission formula, Gov. Tom Wolf, instead hijacked the school funding distribution to use a formula of his own making, causing further distress and uncertainty among the state’s school districts.
Once again, the governor has proven to have a total disregard for the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission formula (BEFC) that would have finally brought fairness and equity to our public schools. Instead of the fair distribution formula praised by everyone, including the governor, he has gone down the path of choosing who wins out and who loses.
By not using the BEFC formula, but using their own, newly created formula, the Wolf Administration aims to drive millions of new dollars to a few certain districts at the expense of the 423 other school districts. You read that right - 423 out of 500 school districts in Pennsylvania are losers with the Wolf Education Funding distribution.

Another Pennsylvania school funding fight emerges By Evan Grossman  /   April 6, 2016  /   News  /   2 Comments
Coming off a nine-month budget impasse, Pennsylvania appears headed for another school spending slugfest.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced his plan to unilaterally allocate basic education funding for the remainder of 2015-16, which angered Republican rivals in Harrisburg and appears to short many cash-strapped school districts. The result could lead to yet another protracted budget battle.  “Once again, the governor has proven to have a total disregard for the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission formula that would have finally brought fairness and equity to our public schools,” said House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana.

Our Opinion: Fallout from Pennsylvania budget battle continues to disrupt school finances; for shame!
Times Leader Editorial First Posted: 2:00 pm - April 7th, 2016
And thus ends Pennsylvania’s year of the fudge-it budget, not with a decisive denouement, but with the oozing of an open sore.  As an article in the Times Leader pointed out Thursday, even when a final state budget crossed the finish line, there was little final about it. Harrisburg is shelling out money while seemingly playing a shell game.  Yes, area school districts got more education money than in 2014-15. But they didn’t get transportation subsidies, and they’ve been told some reimbursements owed this fiscal year – July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016 — won’t come until next fiscal year.  Try telling the bank you’ll be making May’s mortgage payment in July.

Laurel Highlands fills posts, awaits delayed state funding
Herald Standard By Pat Cloonan pcloonan@heraldstandard.com0 comments Posted: Thursday, April 7, 2016 8:07 pm | Updated: 9:43 pm, Thu Apr 7, 2016.
Laurel Highlands and other Pennsylvania public school districts remain in a lurch over the lack of state education funding.  A state budget was allowed to become law without Gov. Tom Wolf's signature, but the governor vetoed a fiscal code that determines how basic education subsidies and other funding is distributed.  At a special school board meeting Thursday night, Laurel Highlands officials said they've received approximately $9 million so far, in the partial distribution in December, for basic needs as well as other purposes including special education, Social Security and pension reimbursements.  But a dispute continues over whether Harrisburg should use what lawmakers call a "fair funding formula" worked out by a bipartisan commission.  In a briefing to reporters on March 23, Wolf's press secretary Jeff Sheridan said the code the governor vetoed "perpetuates ... one of the most inequitable funding distribution formulas in the nation because the devastating cuts from 2010-11 are not restored."

Where is the money? Area school officials say state causing rising financial difficulties
The Bradford Area School District is among the districts in the region still facing a financial crisis, thanks to the state funding fiasco. Though there is a state budget, the amount of additional money hasn’t increased by much, if at all, school officials say.
Bradford Era By ALEX DAVIS Era Reporter |0 comments Posted: Thursday, April 7, 2016 10:00 am
The state budget is in place, and education funding is now being doled out to local school districts. And still, area school officials say financial difficulties remain.  On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the distribution formula used to allocate basic education funding totalling $50 million for the remainder of 2015-16. Broken down, districts are expected to receive $25 million for the restoration of the charter school reimbursement program; $20 million to continue to restore 2011-12 cuts; and $5 million through the new basic education fair funding formula.  “Any small, rural district is in desperate need of appropriate funding,” Otto-Eldred School District Superintendent Matthew Splain told The Era on Wednesday. “We will gladly take the new funds and fill the gaps that continue to exist. Unfortunately, if our Legislature and governor debate the distribution of the new money, that is less time and focus they will be spending on the 2016-17 budget.”

“The dichotomy of the poll results shows voters always put more blame on the governor, often allowing individual lawmakers to duck accountability for budgets and policies that filter out of Harrisburg or get bottled up in partisan gridlock.
The only time voters really held lawmakers accountable was when they voted themselves a pay raise in 2005. But no such anger erupted when lawmakers helped usher in the current pension debt crisis by granting themselves and all state workers and school employees retroactive retirement benefits in 2001.
In the upcoming elections, most legislative incumbents face no opposition.”
Wolf's poll numbers sink a la Corbett
Morning Call by Steve Esack Contact Reporter Call Harrisburg Bureau April 7, 2016
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s approval rating is tanking as his epic budget fight with the Republican-controlled Legislature has shown no sign of stopping even though the final pieces of a 2015-16 spending plan lapsed into law in March.  Wolf’s approval rating among voters dropped 6 percentage points in the last six months, according to a new Quinnipiac University Poll.  In a poll released Thursday, 35 percent of voters approved of Wolf’s job performance, 52 percent disapproved and 13 percent had no opinion.  That compares to the university’s findings in October in which 41 percent of voters gave Wolf a thumb’s up, 44 percent gave him a thumb’s down and 15 percent declined to offer a thumb.  “It didn't take long for the honeymoon to come crashing in on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf whose darling status with folks who threw out Gov. Tom Corbett has faded,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll.
The poll did not ask voters for their approval of the Legislature or any of the 203 individual lawmakers elected to work there.

Honeymoon over for Gov. Wolf, pollster says
BY THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Thursday, April 7, 2016, 6:54 p.m.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showed 52 percent of Pennsylvania voters disapprove of the job that Gov. Tom Wolf is doing, the highest percentage since he took office in January 2015.  The poll said 35 percent of voters approve of Wolf's performance, while 13 percent didn't know or didn't answer. The independent poll of 1,737 voters has a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.  “It didn't take long for the honeymoon to come crashing in on (Wolf), whose darling status with folks who threw out Gov. Tom Corbett has faded,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll.

Gov. Tom Wolf calls lawmakers' claims of retaliation "fairly ridiculous'
Penn Live By Jan Murphy |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on April 07, 2016 at 6:37 PM, updated April 07, 2016 at 6:42 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf called the idea that he is engaging in political bullying with 13 Democratic House members who broke from their caucus to support the Republican-crafted budget bill last month "fairly ridiculous."  He did not elaborate on what he meant by that statement offered in response to a question posed at the tail end of a news conference on Thursday that followed his signing non-discrimination executive orders.   But Wolf preceded that description of the lawmakers' allegation, saying, "I'm trying to do the best I can to make this administration responsive to the needs of all constituents."  That is exactly what one of the 13 House Democrats who voted with Republicans to pass the budget bill said on Thursday he is trying to do for his constituents but has recently encountered interference by the Wolf Administration in doing that.

Penn economist: Beverage industry's layoff claims exaggerated, impact will be 'tiny'
Philadelphia Business Journal Apr 7, 2016, 2:43pm EDT by Alison Burdo Digital Producer
Layoffs.  The beverage industry is claiming the Kenney Administration's proposed sugary drink tax will mean job losses among bottlers, delivery drivers, and supermarket and convenience store workers. But a University of Pennsylvania economist disagrees – calling those assertions a "red herring."  "The bottom line is the job effect is probably going to be pretty tiny," said Robert Inman, Wharton's Mellon professor of finance and public policy. "The quick and easy thing to do is to raise that as a fear. Everyone relates to jobs."

Most boilers in city schools passed inspection, but many need repairs
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa April 7, 2016 — 12:59pm
Contractors hired by the City of Philadelphia and the School District found that 98 percent of boilers passed inspection with either no repairs or minor repairs needed.  The report, which gives school-by-school breakdowns, was released Thursday. It found that 40 percent of the boilers passed inspection with no caveats, and 58 percent passed inspection, but need repairs.  Eleven boilers at 10 school facilities failed, but all of those also had working school boilers. Most buildings have more than one boiler.  The inspection was ordered after a boiler at F.S. Edmonds School in West Oak Lane exploded in January, critically injuring a school maintenance worker.  In total, 542 boilers in 268 buildings were inspected. Fifty-four boilers that were already offline were not inspected.

Lead levels in water unknown at many Pennsylvania schools
Trib Live BY AARON AUPPERLEE  | Thursday, April 7, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Schools in Western Pennsylvania likely don't know whether the water coming out of hallway drinking fountains or used to prepare lunches has high levels of lead because they likely aren't testing for it.  Several districts said they don't worry about contamination because their schools don't have lead pipes or solder, from which lead can leach.  Most districts don't test voluntarily; state and federal laws don't require most schools to.  “We want schools to get that testing to ensure that the water is safe for children,” said Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, the executive director of Women for a Healthy Environment, an East Liberty nonprofit that runs the Healthy Schools PA initiative. “But frankly, you don't know unless you test what type of problems you might have.”  Naccarati-Chapkis' organization has offered to help districts test their water for free. She said some districts in Western Pennsylvania have shown interest.

Study: High-Quality Pre-K for All Could Eliminate Reading Gaps
Education Week Early Years By Lillian Mongeau on April 7, 2016 9:07 AM
A new analysis of reading and math scores in two of the country's highest-performing public preschool programs (Tulsa and Boston) concludes that high-quality preschool could help children of all backgrounds enter kindergarten on an even playing field.   The study, commissioned by the Center for American Progress, a policy think tank, and conducted by the National Institutes for Early Education Research, determined that universal high-quality preschool could reduce the achievement gap at kindergarten entry in math by 78 percent for Hispanic students and 45 percent for African-American students. The gap in reading would be virtually eliminated for both groups, the analysis found.  Students from low-income families would also close the gap with higher-income families by 27 percent in math and 41 percent in reading.  "This research demonstrates what we are losing out on by not implementing a high-quality universal pre-K program on a national scale, and what we stand to gain if we move toward a national, public solution to pre-K," said Katie Hamm, senior director of early-childhood policy at CAP, in a statement.

Susan Spicka of Education Voters PA and PA Budget Secretary Randy Albright are guests on EPLC’s “Focus on Education” one-hour program that will be broadcast initially on PCN on Sunday, April 10, at 3:00 p.m.
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Susan Spicka is the guest for the first half of the program and discusses the work of Education Voters PA and the Campaign for Fair Education Funding and related education funding issues.
Secretary Randy Albright is the guest for the second half of the program and discusses a broad range of education funding issues, including the 2015-2016 and the 2016-2017 budgets.

PenSPRA's Annual Symposium, Friday April 8th in Shippensburg, PA
PenSPRA, or the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association, has developed a powerhouse line-up of speakers and topics for a captivating day of professional development in Shippensburg on April 8th. Learn to master data to defeat your critics, use stories to clarify your district's brand and take your social media efforts to the next level with a better understanding of metrics and the newest trends.  Join us the evening before the Symposium for a “Conversation with Colleagues” from 5 – 6 pm followed by a Networking Social Cocktail Hour from 6 – 8 pm.  Both the Symposium Friday and the social events on Thursday evening will be held at the Shippensburg University Conference Center. Snacks at the social hour, and Friday’s breakfast and lunch is included in your registration cost. $125 for PenSPRA members and $150 for non-members. Learn more about our speakers and topics and register today at this link:

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania
Join attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a briefing on:
  • the current budget impasse
  • the basics of education funding
  • the school funding lawsuit
  • the 2016-2017 proposed budget
 1.5 CLE credits available to PA licensed attorneys.  Light breakfast provided.
WHEN: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 from 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT)
WHERE: United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey - 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway 1st Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103

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.

Electing PSBA Officers – Applications Due by April 30th
All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall send applications to the attention of the chair of the Leadership Development Committee during the month of April, an Application for Nomination to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. “The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by April 30 to be considered and timely filed. If said date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, then the Application for Nomination shall be considered timely filed if marked received at PSBA headquarters or mailed and postmarked on the next business day.” (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5.E.).
Open positions are:
In addition to the application form, PSBA Governing Board Policy 302 asks that all candidates furnish with their application a recent, print quality photograph and letters of application. The application form specifies no less than two and no more than four letters of recommendation, some or all of which preferably should be from school districts in different PSBA regions as well as from community groups and other sources that can provide a description of the candidate’s involvement with and effectiveness in leadership positions. PSBA Governing Board Policy 108 also outlines the campaign procedures of candidates.
All terms of office commence January 1 following election.

Join the Pennsylvania Principals Association at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at The Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, for its second annual Principals' Lobby Day.
Pennsylvania Principals Association Monday, March 21, 2016 9:31 AM
 To register, contact Dr. Joseph Clapper at by Tuesday, June 14, 2016. If you need assistance, we will provide information about how to contact your legislators to schedule meetings.
Click here for the informational flyer, which includes important issues to discuss with your legislators.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.