Friday, June 10, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 10: What drives costs? Here are the Big Five

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PA Ed Policy Roundup June 10, 2016:
What drives costs? Here are the Big Five

Everything you wanted to know about Pennsylvania’s new education formula but were too afraid to ask

“pensions, health care, charter payments, special education costs, and debt”
What drives costs? Here are the Big Five
The notebook by Bill Hangley Jr. June 9, 2016 — 11:06am
Each year, before any dollars from a Pennsylvania district’s budget make it into classrooms, these Big Five expenses get their share: pensions, health care, charter payments, special education costs, and debt.  Exactly how much the Big Five get varies from district to district. A small district might send just a handful of students to charters, for example, while Philadelphia sends about a third of its students. But pension and health-care costs are more consistent statewide, representing what Jeff Ammerman of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) called “the biggest cost drivers” facing districts today.  What unites these budget demands, Ammerman said, is that “most all of them are going to be difficult to change.” Benefit packages can be renegotiated and state reimbursement laws adjusted, but this basic set of costs is here to stay. Districts must pay them – and then serve their students with what’s left.
Here’s a quick look at the Big Five:

Temple University Center on Regional Politics (CORP) June 2016

Legislators and officials meet over Erie schools
By Nico Salvatori  814-870-1714  Erie Times-News June 10, 2016 05:31 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- In a rare moment of solidarity, Erie's state legislators gathered Thursday to discuss a single issue: the financial woes of the Erie School District.  Among the results was a pledge by state Sen. Sean Wiley to introduce legislation that would serve as a short-term fix to the Erie School District's financial woes.  But the bill was just one topic of conversation at the afternoon meeting between Erie County legislators and school and county officials. It was closed to the public.  Wiley, of Millcreek Township, D-49th Dist., said he spent part of the meeting trying to build support for the bill among Erie County lawmakers, all of whom were either present at the meeting or represented.  The bill would provide a one-time emergency supplemental payment from a $150 million appropriation to 13 struggling school districts across the state, including the Erie School District.  The Erie School District recently passed a 2016-17 budget with a $4.3 million deficit. Superintendent Jay Badams has said the district might have to close its four high schools because of chronic underfunding from the state.

“With 63 percent of Panther Valley’s students eligible for free or reduced school lunch, one would think the school would get a funding boost from the state. But Pennsylvania’s school funding tilts heavily to local taxes, leading to stark inequities between rich neighborhoods and poor ones.  By one key measure, Pennsylvania has the most unequal school funding in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Last year the DOE calculated that states on average spend 15.6 percent less in the poorest quartile of school districts than they do in the wealthiest. Pennsylvania stood out with a 33 percent difference.”
The impact of giving less money to already poor schools
By Eric Schulzke, Deseret News National Edition Published: June 9 2016 6:00 a.m. MDT
Between districts and within districts, from administration to curriculum, poorer schools struggle to get by while wealthier schools coast.
This story is part of the Deseret News National Edition, which focuses on the issues that resonate with American families.
One day in May, principal Lisa Mace stepped into the hallway on her way to a formal observation in one of 26 classrooms she supervises.  It was 9:57 a.m. at Panther Valley Middle School in Lansford, Pennsylvania. As the bell rang and classrooms emptied into halls, a sixth-grader insulted a fourth-grader — something about being “fat,” — which led to a fight and both were marched off to Mace’s office. She canceled the classroom visit and spent the next few hours reviewing closed circuit video of the fight, talking with the combatants and filling out forms.  “It’s a good thing there wasn’t a police report,” Mace said. “That would have taken most of a day.”  Mace would normally have referred the fight to an assistant principal, allowing her to focus on her primary job of overseeing teaching quality. But Panther Valley can’t afford an assistant principal — or even the cheaper “disciplinarian” to which some schools resort.  “Our budget is very small,” Mace said, “and the area doesn’t have much of a tax base. Our students struggle, and it’s hard to find the resources we need.”

PA School Funding Formula: Just a First Step
Public News Service - PA | June 2016 | Download audio June 10, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. - The state's largest union for teachers says passing the school-funding formula is a step in the right direction, but schools still need more money from the state.   The new funding formula means districts with higher needs will get a bigger share of the education money.   But Jerry Oleksiak, president of thePennsylvania State Education Association, says without an increase in funding, that only means poor districts are getting a bigger slice of a pie that is still much too small.  "Pennsylvania right now ranks 46th in the nation as far as its level of state support for K-to-12 education," he says. "And when you look at equity, districts that really need it we rank 50th, dead last."

Magazine gives high rankings to Bucks and Montgomery high schools
Bucks County Courier Times By Freda R. Savana, staff writer Posted: Thursday, June 9, 2016 6:30 pm | Updated: 6:47 pm, Thu Jun 9, 2016.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Bucks and Montgomery county high schools among the best in the state in its annual review.  Nineteen public high schools in the two counties were ranked among the best 63 in Pennsylvania, with New Hope-Solebury and Lower Merion, ranking at number two and number five, respectively. Both earned a gold medal for their performances on state assessments and college preparation.  According to the magazine's report, 24 percent of the top 50 schools in the state are located in Bucks and Montgomery counties and all of them earned silver medals. In total, the survey reviewed 676 public high schools across the state.

“The big question is obvious: What are the implications of charter-school growth for the city? Is this transformation to charters leading to the public education "system" we want? Can the historically democratizing purposes of public schools be sustained in a balkanized system with little central oversight?  In my view, these questions have everything to do with the city's future. For that reason, I'd urge the mayor, City Council, the SRC, and state and federal legislators to initiate a dialogue with parent and public-interest organizations on the future of public schooling in Philadelphia.”
Commentary: As charters grow, Phila. should rethink future of schools
Inquirer Commentary By James H. Lytle Updated: JUNE 10, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
James H. "Torch" Lytle is an adjunct practice professor of educational leadership at the Graduate School of Education of the University of Pennsylvania and a former superintendent of the Trenton public schools.
Given the frequent and considered attention to the challenges and prospects of public schooling in Philadelphia, it may help to have a clearer understanding of why the city's district schools are having such difficulty competing with charter schools.  Although this is a simplification, it's reasonably straightforward to explain why charter schools have a substantial advantage. Imagine a charter school with 700 students. It receives approximately $10,000 per student each year from a combination of state, federal, and local government allocations; its 100 special-needs students get an additional $10,000 per year, adding $1 million to the school's annual budget of $8 million a year.  The school needs 35 teachers to have class sizes of 25 or less. Assume average salaries of $50,000, plus a 20 percent benefit cost, for a total cost per teacher of $60,000. So the core cost of instruction is $60,000 multiplied by 35, or $2.1 million. That pays for a longer school day and school year than district schools, which are important for students and parents, and for teacher planning and professional development time.

Start over, city schools: The Pittsburgh Public Schools cannot function with Anthony Hamlet as superintendent
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board June 10, 2016 12:00 AM
Anthony Hamlet has some of the qualities that Pittsburgh requires in its next superintendent of schools, including a drive to turn around low-performing schools and the realization that alternatives to suspension are needed to address discipline issues. Mr. Hamlet, however, also has qualities that the Pittsburgh Public Schools does not need at this delicate stage. They include a slippery relationship with facts, a willingness to plagiarize and an overly defensive attitude. He must not become the next superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools.  The process was flawed from the start. To conduct the search, the school board in November 2015 hired the consulting firm of Brian Perkins, who runs the urban education program at Columbia University’s Teachers College but who had never conducted a national search for the superintendent of a major city. Board members Regina Holley (now president) and Thomas Sumpter met him at a conference, and liked his experience.   They did not issue the common request for proposals from other firms, with experience in this specialized field, to take on the job. Nor did they check Mr. Perkins’ references. Red flags were raised at the time (we said the board “demonstrated stupefying naivete”), but the elected school board stood by its decision to hire Mr. Perkins’ group for up to $100,000.

“Board members blamed the tax increase on rising pension costs.  “This monster of a financial impact on our budget and every other district budget is getting to the point where it is impacting our ability to get these budgets straight,” board president Ed Wielgus said. “Our state government has to get its act together.”  Mr. Wielgus noted that the district’s overall pension obligation, to be paid over several years, is $98 million – which is more than one year’s budget.”
Tax hike approved for North Hills school district
Post Gazette By Sandy Trozzo June 10, 2016 12:00 AM
Taxpayers in Ross and West View will see their school taxes increase this year.  The North Hills school board last week approved a $77.57 million budget that increases the property tax rate by 0.4 mill to 17.80 mills. Each mill in the district is estimated to be worth $2.5 million.  That means the owner of a median home in the district, valued at $135,300, will pay about $4.50 more per month, or $54 per year.

“He said the three biggest areas of expense in the budget are charter school tuition at $3.875 million; an estimated $3.8 million in payments to the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System pension fund; and about $13 million in employee salaries and benefits.”
Steel Valley explains need for tax hike
Post Gazette By Anne Cloonan June 10, 2016 12:00 AM
Steel Valley School District business manager John Zenone on Monday outlined a $34.8 million final budget for the 2016-2017 school year that would raise real estate taxes by 0.7 mills.  District superintendent Ed Wehrer said that tax increase would add $70 per year to the bill of an owner of a home of an assessed valuation of $100,000.  The meeting, held to explain the budget to residents, attracted only seven people.  Information distributed at the meeting lists expected revenues of $32,643,794 and expected expenses of $34,890,297.  The district will use part of its fund balance to pay the difference. After bills from the coming school year are paid, the district’s fund balance will be $4,291,941, Mr. Zenone said.

Gateway cuts teaching positions
Post Gazette By Deana Carpenter June 10, 2016 12:00 AM
Five teacher positions and one school nurse position will be eliminated in the Gateway School District effective June 30. Additionally, 10 part-time teacher aide positions will be cut effective Aug. 23, following a vote by the school board Tuesday.  The district cited a significant decrease in its student population as the reason for the elimination of the staff positions. The student population has gone from 4,304 in 2005-06 to 3,367 for the 2015-16 school year.  The board also blamed stagnant tax revenue and ”declining state support for public education.”  The teacher positions to be cut are a math teacher, an elementary teacher, two physical education teachers and an English teacher.

Bald Eagle Area school board approves final budget
Spending plan includes 3.29 percent tax increase
62 percent of budget goes toward salaries, benefits
Health insurance costs rise 6 percent
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO JUNE 9, 2016 10:48 PM
In a unanimous vote Thursday night, the Bald Eagle Area school board approved a final 2016-17 budget that calls for a 3.29 percent tax increase — up 1.74 mills to 54.63 mills, according to a report from the school district.  Three board members were absent.  Of the $31,555,434 budget, 62 percent will go toward salaries and benefits.  That’s specifically $11,633,649 to salaries, and $8,002,803 for benefits, district business manger Craig Livergood said.  A report from the district said teacher salaries increased for next school year by 3.37 percent, while maintenance and custodial salaries increased by 3.31 percent, and all other staff salary increases were 3 percent.
Health insurance costs also increased by 6 percent.  The average homeowner in the Bald Eagle Area School District can expect to pay $26.08 more a year toward district taxes, Livergood said.

No change in number of proposed job cuts; library positions saved
Titusville Herald By Stella Ruggiero |0 comments Posted: Friday, June 10, 2016 12:23 am | Updated: 12:24 am, Fri Jun 10, 2016.
>> District still figuring out where cuts will be made
>> A budget meeting is set for June 30, the day a spending plan must be finished
SAEGERTOWN — An overflowing room of community members at PENNCREST’s school board meeting on Thursday night learned that the school system’s librarians would not be cut in the 2016-17 budget.  This was the only announcement made at the meeting regarding what content areas would experience reductions in the proposed spending plan.  After the meeting, Superintendent Michael Healey told the newspaper that the number of proposed cuts remains the same at this time, with 28 1/2 professional staff positions and 7 support staff positions still hanging in the balance. The school system includes Maplewood, Cambridge Springs, and Saegertown schools.

Novel Strategy Puts Big Soda Tax Within Philadelphia’s Reach
The New York Times by Margot Sanger-Katz @sangerkatz JUNE 8, 2016
Philadelphia is poised to become the first large American city to pass a soda tax.
If the measure passes a final vote next week, as it is expected to do, it will impose a tax of 1.5 cents for every ounce that includes sugar or artificial sweeteners — about 30 cents for a 20-ounce drink or $2.16 for a 12-pack. On Wednesday night, it was passed on a voice vote by the City Council’s “committee of the whole,” which includes the entire council.  Soda taxes have usually been proposed as public health measures to discourage people from drinking sugary beverages, which have been linked to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. They have been introduced in cities around the country, including twice before in Philadelphia, but repeatedly failed. Berkeley, Calif., is the only American city with a tax on sugary drinks; the Philadelphia tax would be considerably higher.  Mayor Jim Kenney’s original proposal was to tax sugary drinks at 3 cents an ounce, a rate that would have doubled the price of many sodas. Aware of the political challenges, he tried a novel strategy to promote his tax. Instead of selling it as a nanny state measure meant to make the city healthier, he presented it as a big untapped source of revenue that could be used to pay for popular initiatives, including expanded prekindergarten, and renovations of city libraries and recreation centers.

State Rep. Jim Christiana's bill would abolish all property taxes
Beaver County Times by By J.D. Prose  June 10, 2016
Spurred to take action by the plight of a widow who nearly lost her house over an original $6 bill, state Rep. Jim Christiana introduced legislation Thursday to abolish all property taxes in Pennsylvania.  Under House Bill 2145, property taxes would be eliminated on July 1, 2017, said Christiana, R-15, Brighton Township.  “Since being elected, I’ve had dozens of families in tears in my office because they are about to lose their home because of out-of-control property taxes,” Christiana said. “We cannot allow this onerous, anti-American tax to burden families any longer.”  Christiana did not have an estimate on how much money could be attributed to county, local and school district property taxes, saying that would be determined as the bill goes through the legislative process. It has been referred to the House Finance Committee.  Once the bill is signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, he and the Legislature “will be forced to come up with a replacement mechanism by reducing expenses, streamlining state government and finding fair alternatives,” Christiana said.  Christiana said the “two-step approach” of decisively ending property taxes then determining a replacement model is a better solution than previous legislative attempts that tried to address the two issues in single bills that inevitably failed.

Charter schools’ dire lesson: Deregulation invariably leads to disaster
Moneyed interests have turned learning laboratories into just another racket, plagued by questions of transparency BOBBI MURRAY, CAPITAL & MAIN SUNDAY, JUN 5, 2016 11:00 AM EDT
This article originally appeared at Capital & Main.
The original concept of charter schools emerged nationally more than two decades ago and was intended to support community efforts to open up education. Albert Shanker, then president of the American Federation of Teachers union, lauded the charter idea in 1988 as way to propel social mobility for working class kids and to give teachers more decision-making power.  “There was a sense from the start that they would develop models for the broader system,” John Rogers tells Capital & Main. Rogers, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles’ Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, is director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access. He adds that charter schools were to be laboratories where parents and educators would work together to craft the best possible learning environment and to serve as engines of innovation and social equity.  But critics of today’s market-based charter movement say monied interests have turned those learning labs into models for capital capture in the Golden State and beyond–“the charter school gravy train,” as Forbes describes it. Charters are publicly funded but privately managed and, like most privately run businesses, the schools prefer to avoid transparency in their operations.

Common Core isn’t preparing students very well for college or career, new report says
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss June 9 at 4:59 PM 
A new report that surveys curriculum nationally and reaches thousands of K-12 and college instructors as well as workplace supervisors and employees has some bad news about the Common Core State Standards: Many people in education and the workplace don’t think some of the English Language Arts and math standards — which are being used in most states — are what students and workers need to be successful in college and career.  The report, issued by ACT Inc., finds:
• There are gaps between some Core standards and what college instructors consider important for students to succeed — especially in the area of writing. For example, middle- and high-school teachers say that they have been emphasizing analyzing source texts and summarizing other authors’ ideas as required by the Core, but college instructors say they value this much less than the “ability to generate sound ideas — a skill applicable across much broader contexts.”
• Many elementary school teachers continue to teach math concepts that are not included in the Core standards for their grades but that they think are important.
• While some teachers have changed their instruction significantly to align with the Core, many haven’t.
• Though the Core standards were designed to prepare students for college and career, the survey found that many workplace supervisors and employees believe skills necessary for success are not part of the Core. Specifically, they say that the No. 1 skill that ensures success is “conscientiousness.”

America Needs More Black Men Leading Its Classrooms
They represent just 2 percent of teachers. A handful of programs are trying to fix that. by Dani McClain June 9, 2016
PITTSBURGH— Ron Porter Jr. had a rude awakening during his senior year at Millersville University in central Pennsylvania more than two decades ago. A student-athlete at the central Pennsylvania college, Porter thought that a bachelor’s degree in history was all he needed to become a teacher. He hadn’t consulted an academic adviser and didn’t realize he also needed to take other steps, such as completing classes in education theory and fulfilling student-teaching requirements. It wasn't until a friend and classmate mentioned his own student-teaching plans that Porter realized his mistake.  By that point, it was too late. Porter, now 46, is hard on himself looking back. “Dummy, dummy, dummy,” he said of himself as a younger man. “No excuse. I could have done it 20 years ago.”  He can also do it now—Porter recently received a second chance to pursue his dream profession. He happened to be looking for a way into education at exactly the moment Point Park University, in his native Pittsburgh, was looking for people like him: black men who want to teach.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 6/9/2016

Apply Now! EPLC’s 2016-2017 Pennsylvania Education Policy Fellowship Program

EPLC's 2016 Report:  High School Career and Technical Education: Serving Pennsylvania's Workforce and Student Needs
Allegheny Intermediate Unit - 475 East Waterfront Dr., Homestead, PA 15120
Coffee and Networking - 9:30 a.m.  Program - 10:00 a.m. to Noon   
 RSVP by clicking here. There is no fee, but a RSVP is required. Please feel free to share this invitation with your staff and network. Similar forums will be held later in the Philadelphia area and Harrisburg. 
An Overview of the EPLC Report on High School CTE will be presented by:
Ron Cowell, President, The Education Policy and Leadership Center
Statewide and Regional Perspectives Will Be Provided By
Dr. Lee Burket, Director, Bureau of Career & Technical Education, PA Department of Education
Jackie Cullen, Executive Director, PA Association of Career & Technical Administrators
Dr. William Kerr, Superintendent, Norwin School District
Laura Fisher, Senior Vice President - Workforce & Special Projects, Allegheny Conference on Community Development
James Denova, Vice President, Benedum Foundation

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:

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