Thursday, May 26, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 26: Fair Funding Formula a 'giant' step for Harrisburg; Now let’s fund it

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 26, 2016:
Fair Funding Formula a 'giant' step for Harrisburg; Now let’s fund it

Blogger Commentary:

Legislation that would make the Basic Education Funding Formula permanent has been approved with overwhelming support: last week the state Senate passed HB 1552 by a vote of 49-1; yesterday the House passed the bill by a vote of 183-3.  It now goes to the Governor, who has indicated that he plans to sign it.

Personal thanks to Rep. Bernie O’Neill, whose House Bill 1738 created the Basic Education Funding Commission, and to Senator Pat Browne and Rep. Mike Vereb who served as chairpersons for that Commission.

The formula is only as good as the funding behind it.

Pass a budget for 2016-17 that increases funding for public schools by at least $400 million.

Wolf says he detects a "very different tone" in budget negotiations
WITF Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania | May 25, 2016 5:49 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- The state's budget deadline is creeping closer.
Speaking on Radio PA's "Ask the Governor" program, Wolf says the tone is very different compared to last year.  "The tone seems to me to be very different from last year. We are, and have been engaged in conversations for some time now, and I think there is a real interest in getting this done. I don't think anybody wants to have the kind of impasse that we had last year," says Wolf.  His first round of budget negotiations stretched about nine months past the budget deadline - as his administration and Republicans fought over funding levels.  This time, he says he gets the sense no one wants to repeat last year's mess.

Pa. charter school law is nation's worst, state auditor says
By Sara K. Satullo | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 25, 2016 at 1:20 PM, updated May 25, 2016 at 1:36 PM
The Allentown School District was in a "no-win situation" as it fought the opening of a new charter school that had hired Mike Fleck as a headhunter to enroll students to show community support for the school, according to the state auditor general.   The situation highlights why Pennsylvania's charter school law is the worst in the nation and it must be reformed, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Wednesday.  It was completely legal for the charter school to pay Fleck's now-defunct consulting group $30 a head to enroll students to show community support, but that's clearly fake support, he said.

PlanCon advisory committee holds first meeting
The PLS Reporter May 26, 2016 (paywall)
The Public School Construction and Reconstruction Advisory Committee formed under this fiscal year’s Fiscal Code held its first meeting Wednesday to meet its statutory charge of hearing a presentation of the Department of Education on the PlanCon program.
While the committee met its requirement, committee member Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh)—who informally took over the meeting as chairman—said the function of the committee will not be limited to just receiving information from PDE.
Read more from The PLS Reporter HERE. 

Erie School Board passes budget with $4.3 million deficit
By Erica Erwin  814-870-1846 Erie Times-News May 26, 2016 05:55 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- The Erie School Board had two options: Massive cuts, including the elimination of arts and music programs, sports and extracurricular activities, or passing a budget that, if it stands as is, would be in violation of state law.  The School Board, voting in front of roughly 450 people in a standing-room-only auditorium at East High School, chose the latter. 
Board members Wednesday unanimously passed a $185.8 million proposed final budget for 2016-17 with no tax increase and a deficit of $4.3 million. That gap has been created by inequitable funding from the state, Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams said.

Wolf says funding schools is shared responsibility
By Nico Salvatori  814-870-1714 Erie Times-News May 26, 2016 06:07 AM
Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday that the dire financial straits in which the Erie School District finds itself is part of a broader problem with what he says is the state's inequitable funding system for education.  Wolf said that the state needs to invest more in education and distribute the money more fairly across school districts.  One way to address the latter is by signing a "fair funding" formula that is headed for his desk.  "I support the fair funding formula," Wolf said in a conference call with reporters. "That will make a big difference in school districts like Erie."  Erie School District Superintendent Jay Badams has said the formula won't do much to address the district's immediate problems. The situation is so dire that he recently proposed closing the district's four high schools as early as the 2017-18 school year.
The formula applies only to new state money beyond what the district already receives.

Fair Funding Formula a 'giant' step for Harrisburg
Delco Times Heron’s Nest Blog by Editor Phil Heron Thursday, May 26, 2016
We like to poke fun at the folks who represent us in Harrisburg in this space.
Hey, they don't call Pennsylvania - the place where our governor and Legislature butted heads over a spending plan for nine months - the "Land of Giants" for no reason.  But something very important happened yesterday in the state capital.  It's called a fair funding formula for education.  Pennsylvania, unfortunately, was one of three states in the nation, that did not utilize one in dispersing funds to local school districts.  Not anymore.
Yesterday the state House approved a measure that would make the fair funding formula that was suggested by a bi-partisan Basic Education Funding Commission permanent, part of the Pennsylvania School Code.  The new formula will take into crucial elements such as enrollment, special education needs of the district, the economic condition of the community and the capacity to raise revenue.

Joining vast majority of states, Pa. adopts school funding formula
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MAY 25, 2016
Pennsylvania will soon join the overwhelming majority of states that have a student-based formula for distributing state education funds.  Both the House passed the measure with a large majority Wednesday. The Senate did so last week.  For much of the past 25 years, the state has largely divided it's main pot of education money based on the principle that districts should never get less than the prior year.  Over time, because the state didn't track real-time changes to enrollment, poverty levels, and other factors, this has created huge inequities — favoring districts that have lost enrollment but have had to endure requisite funding decreases.  In addition to actually counting enrollment trends, the new formula — which was authored by a bipartisan commission — seeks to improve things by acknowledging that educating certain students costs more.

"One of the major points of discussion last year was, how are we going to distribute the new education dollars," said House Majority Leader Dave Reed (R., Indiana). "That part of the discussion is over. So I think it takes one item off the table that we don't have to reengage in negotiations with."  But the question of how much total money the state will send schools - one of the major points of the last budget standoff - remains.  Wolf has called for large increases in school funding, while the Republican-led legislature has resisted the tax increases the governor has said are needed to provide the education money and meet other state obligations.”
School-funding formula clears final Harrisburg hurdle
Inquirer by Karen Langley, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: MAY 26, 2016 1:08 AM EDT
HARRISBURG - Legislators on Wednesday approved taking a key school funding decision from behind closed doors and instead running increased money through a bipartisan-supported formula.  The House voted overwhelmingly to require increases in the state's main K-12 education funding line to be distributed under a formula recommended nearly a year ago by a commission of Republican and Democratic legislators and the Wolf administration.   The measure now goes to Gov. Wolf, whose spokesman said he will sign it into law.  Education groups said the law will be a welcome change from a system in which the distribution of money among Pennsylvania's 500 school districts has been decided each year in private negotiations over the state budget. This process will be fairer, they said.
"A formula goes a long way to help school entities develop their annual budgets," Nathan Mains, executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, said in a statement. "Additionally, a formula will help with the equitable distribution of school funding to alleviate the current disparities in how state dollars are allocated."
Pennsylvania has drawn national attention for the gap in spending between its poor and wealthy school districts. Last year, the U.S. secretary of education said the divide was the largest of any state's.

“However, the formula is only as good as the funding put behind it. The Campaign is asking state lawmakers to invest at least $400 million in basic education funding in the 2016-17 state budget.”
Permanent School Funding Formula Important Step in Fixing Pa.’s School Funding Crisis
Campaign for Fair Education Funding Press Release May 25, 2016
HARRISBURG (MAY 25, 2016) – The Campaign for Fair Education Funding today released the following statement following final passage of House Bill 1552, which adopts the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission’s (BEFC) funding formula:  “We applaud the General Assembly for taking this important first step toward fixing Pennsylvania’s school funding crisis.  “The Campaign and its members have been working with lawmakers to enact a new fair funding formula for the past two years, testifying before the Commission at its many hearings and working individually with lawmakers to demonstrate how a permanent funding formula truly benefits every student.  “This balanced formula removes politics from state school funding decisions, directing money to school districts based on objective factors, such as student enrollment, the needs of the student population, and school district wealth and capacity to raise local revenues.  “Its enactment demonstrates what can be achieved when both parties work together for Pennsylvania’s students.

STATEMENT: PSBA applauds passage of BEF formula and encourages Gov. Wolf to sign quickly
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) applauds the work the Basic Education Funding (BEF) Commission completed nearly a year ago and is pleased that the proposed formula developed by the group has moved to the governor’s desk for his final approval in HB 1552. The commonwealth is currently one of only three states in the nation without a funding formula for public education.  “This is a historic moment in providing adequate, equitable and fair school funding in Pennsylvania,” said PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains. “PSBA supported the use of the funding formula in distributing money through the fiscal code and is pleased that the BEF Commission formula will become permanently implemented in the School Code once Gov. Tom Wolf signs the bill.”  A formula goes a long way to help school entities develop their annual budgets. Additionally, a formula will help with the equitable distribution of school funding to alleviate the current disparities in how state dollars are allocated.”

Delco Times Editorial: Time to make fair funding formula permanent
POSTED: 05/25/16, 9:42 PM EDT | UPDATED: 45 SECS AGO
The Upper Darby School Board was good to its word.
If only that was the case in other towns. Then again, this is Pennsylvania. We should be used to this by now.  It’s every town and school district for itself. With the expected results.
Last week the Upper Darby School District rolled out a $189 million dollar budget that did something school board members are always talking about - but very rarely ever actually do.
It held the line on taxes.  After several years of hefty property tax hikes, Upper Darby this year decided to bite the bullet and not ask citizens to fork over more of their hard-earned money.  Tuesday night the school board gave preliminary approval to the plan, referred to as a “one-time opportunity” to steer clear of tax hikes. It’s a sales gimmick that would make most used car dealers blush.  The district, like so many in struggling communities in the eastern end of the county, is awash in red ink. The deficit in Upper Darby currently sits at a less-than-healthy $6.5 million. That’s a lot of red ink.  The school board will avert a tax hike – hopefully, remember this has not yet been given final approval – by tapping into the fund balance and keeping the fingers crossed that an expected uptick in revenues holds up.

“The Campaign is calling for increasing the state's investment in public schools annually over time, driven out through the fair formula, starting with an increase of $400 million in the 2016-17 budget.”
It's time to make Pa's new school funding formula permanent: Lawrence A. Feinberg
PennLive Op-Ed   By Lawrence Feinberg  on May 25, 2016 at 1:00 PM
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Pennsylvania has the largest school spending gap between wealthy & poor school districts of any state in the country.   Per-pupil spending in our poorest districts is 33 percent less than in the wealthiest; $12,529 vs $9,387 per student.  For a class of 25 students, the wealthiest districts spend $78,000 more per classroom.  In 1974, Pennsylvania funded 54 percent of public education.   For the 2012-13 school year, only 36.1 percent of public education in Pennsylvania was funded by the state — almost 10 percent lower than the national average of 45.6 percent.   For this particular school year, Pennsylvania ranked 46th in the nation for state funding, trailing only Illinois, Nebraska, New Hampshire and South Dakota.  Our state simply does not provide enough resources to educate all students to meet our state academic standards. 

GUEST COLUMNIST: Pa. schools need permanent full-funding formula
Pottstown Mercury by Lawrence A. Feinberg POSTED: 05/25/16, 4:58 PM EDT
Make the new basic education funding formula permanent and use it to increase the state’s investment in education annually, starting with an increase of $400 million in the 2016-17 budget.
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Pennsylvania has the largest school spending gap between wealthy and poor school districts of any state in the country. Per-pupil spending in our poorest districts is 33 percent less than in the wealthiest; $12,529 vs. $9,387 per student. For a class of 25 students, the wealthiest districts spend $78,000 more per classroom.  In 1974, Pennsylvania funded 54 percent of public education. For the 2012-13 school year, only 36.1 percent of public education in Pennsylvania was funded by the state — almost 10 percent lower than the national average of 45.6 percent. For this particular school year, Pennsylvania ranked 46th in the nation for state funding, trailing only Illinois, Nebraska, New Hampshire and South Dakota.

"There is no place in this world where $4 million should go to the Parking Authority ahead of schoolchildren,"
School advocates hammer PPA over Uber deal by Jason Laughlin, Staff Writer  @jasmlaughlin Updated: MAY 25, 2016 1:08 AM EDT
One speaker after another told the Philadelphia Parking Authority's board Tuesday how much even a little money could mean for the School District.  Julia R. Masterman Middle and High School sometimes lacked toilet paper and writing paper, said Siduri Beckman, a senior there.  The district could provide working drinking fountains for all its schools with about $1 million, said City Councilwoman Helen Gym.  And a parent of a daughter about to enter kindergarten, Hannah Sassaman, said she plans to join other parents at Penn Alexander School to raise donations that the district needs to supplement its budget.  They went to the PPA meeting because if the agency has its way, there isn't likely to be any school funding relief from tax revenue created when ride-share businesses start operating legally in Philadelphia.  An earlier draft of a bill in the Assembly offered the district 66 percent of tax revenue generated by ride sharing in Philadelphia, but that has been amended to guarantee at least $2.5 million, and up to $4 million, for the PPA. Under that arrangement, ride-share businesses like Uber and Lyft would likely not generate enough revenue to leave even a tax morsel for the district.

Philadelphia mayor looks to fund pre-K with controversial soda tax — by the ounce
PBS Newshour by Hari Sreenivasan May 24, 2016 at 6:35 PM EDT
When other cities have proposed a tax on sugary soft drinks, it’s often sold as a plan to fight obesity. Not in Philadelphia, where a battle is brewing over the mayor’s 3 cents-per-ounce tax plan that would be used to fund citywide pre-K. The beverage industry opposes the tax and argues that if you’re going to tax them, then why not cakes and candy? Hari Sreenivasan reports.

West Mifflin says in lawsuit it is owed $800,000 for educating Duquesne students
By Janice Crompton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette May 26, 2016 12:00 AM
After nearly three years of discussions and negotiations aimed at staving off litigation, directors in the West Mifflin Area School District said this week they had no choice but to file a lawsuit against the state Education Department and the Duquesne City School District to recoup the more than $800,000 it believes it is owed for educating students from financially distressed Duquesne.  At issue are the state reimbursements received by West Mifflin since it began educating Duquesne students in 2007, when chronically low test scores and financial distress spurred the state to close Duquesne High School.  About 65 percent — or 124 — of Duquesne’s high school students in grades 9-12 were moved to West Mifflin in 2007, while the remainder were relocated to East Allegheny School District.

Wilkes-Barre Area board’s decision to cut programs will impact future generations
Citizens Voice LETTER TO THE EDITOR by Linda Wolovich Published: May 25, 2016
I, myself, have never been a part of any band or arts program during my childhood. However, I can give a first-hand account of what its like to be a parent of two children who were involved in these programs for several years. Unless someone has experienced this, you can never fully understand or grasp the impact that it makes upon a young person’s life.  Being a part of the band or a musical program brings about a sense of belonging. It brings about strong relationships and bonds that sometimes can seem stronger than ones experienced in families. Our young people experience so much bullying and are exposed to many bad influences that we as adults today may never have had growing up.  But for those who are a part of programs like band and the arts, they know that they have peers like themselves who truly care and are there for one another during those difficult times. Relationships not only between those of your own age, but friendships develop from the seventh graders all the way up to the seniors. They have each others backs, like real brothers and sisters, and it makes going through the early years of education more easy to bear.

11 states sue over Obama's school transgender directive
Inquirer by PAUL J. WEBER, The Associated Press Updated: MAY 25, 2016 — 4:19 PM EDT
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas and 10 other states are suing the Obama administration over its directive to U.S. public schools to let transgender students use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.  The lawsuit announced Wednesday includes Oklahoma, Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana, Utah and Georgia. It asks a North Texas federal court to declare the directive unlawful in what ranks among the most coordinated and visible legal challenges by states over the socially divisive issue of bathroom rights for transgender persons.  The Obama administration has "conspired to turn workplace and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights," the lawsuit reads.

Nominations now open for PSBA Allwein Awards (deadline July 16)
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform. The 2016 Allwein Award nominations will be accepted starting today and all applications are due by July 16, 2016. The nomination form can be downloaded from the website.

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

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