Thursday, June 23, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 23: Pension reform bill provides zero short term relief to school districts and taxpayers

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup June 23, 2016:
Pension reform bill provides zero short term relief to school districts and taxpayers



Coverage here includes special ed, charter reform, cybers, cost drivers
Notebook Series: Pennsylvania's School Funding Crisis
Series coverage by the notebook June 2016



Blogger Comment: Here are just a few of today’s examples of the impact of rising PSERS costs on school districts and taxpayers; the “pension reform” bill noted below would have absolutely no impact on these short term cost increases.  According to PSBA, the single largest cost driver in school district budgets is mandated pension costs. Each year the costs continue to climb, taking larger portions of local budgets.

·         Quaker Valley will pay about $912,000 into the Pennsylvania State Education Retirement System, known as PSERS.”

·         In the 2011-12 fiscal year, school districts contributed 8.65 percent to the state pension. In 2015-16, the contribution rate was 25.84 percent. Carlynton officials budgeted $3 million in 2015-16 for the retirement fund. For the 2016-17 year, the rate is 30.03 percent, meaning Carlynton officials estimate the district's contribution will be $3.6 million.”

·         “The 2.26-mill increase planned in May would have generated $1.2 million. In May, Norwin board president Bob Perkins said the entire $1.2 million would be eaten up by a one-year increase in contributions to the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System.”

·         “Upper St. Clair Superintendent Patrick O’Toole said the biggest budget driver was the $950,000 increase in the district’s state-mandated pension costs, which will absorb a large portion of the $2.7 million generated by the tax increase.”

·         “A major increase in expenditures comes from what the district must contribute to the Public School Employees' Retirement System. Districts contribute a percentage based on salaries. This year's rate is 30.03 percent, meaning South Fayette must contribute $6,448,105 million to the pension fund, an increase of $883,743 from last year.”

Senate To Take Up Pension Reform Bill Today
Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates June 23, 2016
The Senate Rules and Executive Nominations Committee is scheduled to consider Senate Bill 1071 (Browne-R-Lehigh), the House-passed pension reform bill that moves school and state employees from defined benefit to defined contribution plans, in a meeting TODAY off the floor.  The Senate is set to reconvene today at 1:00. The Committee meeting will occur sometime after that.    A House Fiscal Note and summary is available.

MEMO: Governor Wolf Makes Significant Compromises to Reach Agreement on 2016-2017 Budget
June 22, 2016
To: Interested Parties
From: Jeff Sheridan, Press Secretary
Subject: MEMO: Governor Wolf Makes Significant Compromises to Reach Agreement on 2016-2017 Budget
Date: June 22, 2016
Four months after his budget address, and after talking with Republicans and Democrats about how to achieve a responsible budget, Governor Wolf has compromised on issues ranging from taxes to liquor reform while making it clear that we need to invest in education,fight the opioid crisis, and truly balance the budget with sustainable revenue. These are bipartisan goals – shared by Republicans and Democrats – and we need to finalize a compromise budget that includes these priorities.

Wolf scales back his education funding request
The notebook/WHYY Newsworks by Kevin McCorry June 22, 2016 — 10:52am
Gov. Wolf says he now believes a 2016-17 budget deal can be reached without hiking state sales or income taxes.  This comes as Wolf scales back his public education funding proposals.  Wolf made this statement Tuesday morning on KDKA-AM, a commercial radio station in Pittsburgh: "We need a balanced budget that is truly balanced. I want $250 million for basic education, an increase, and I want $34 million for the heroin overdose problem, which is really a big problem in Pennsylvania. And I think all this can be done without a broad-based tax increase."  Wolf had been seeking $350 million in basic education funding this year — $100 million more than what he's now asking for the state's main pot of public school cash.  In his first budget proposal in March 2015, he called for a $2 billion boost to all K-12 budget lines over four years.  If this new proposal goes through, Wolf would end year two only about a quarter of the way toward that goal.  "We still have a long way to go," said Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan in a telephone interview. "But we are working with a legislature that is controlled by a different party, and we're trying to find common ground and reach compromise with them."

The story of Pennsylvania's per-pupil school funding in two maps and a chart
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY JUNE 23, 2016
Although Pennsylvania has adopted a new school funding formula, the state's distribution of dollars still largely disregards the actual needs of students.  When dividing its largest pot of education cash, Pennsylvania provides the most funding (per pupil) to districts where enrollment has steeply declined over the past 25 years.  Of the top 25 districts in terms of per-pupil state funding, all but one has seen enrollment drop since 1991, when the state implemented a "hold harmless" policy.  Under that rule, the state stopped counting actual students when deciding how to allocate dollars. So districts that shrank did not see corresponding decreases in state aid, and, therefore, per-pupil funding increased.  Each of the top five districts by state per-pupil funding have seen enrollment drops of at least 30 percent.  As the interactive map above shows, many of the districts that receive the most per-pupil funding from the state are clustered in the rural western and central parts of the commonwealth — where population declines have been steep.

Pa. Business Leaders: We Need More Money for Pre-K
Businesses reckoning with an unskilled workforce want to start training future workers early. They’re calling for $90m more in pre-K funding from the state.
PhillyMag BY ESTHER YOON  |  JUNE 22, 2016 AT 7:15 AM
While the soda tax battle finally ended on Monday when Mayor Jim Kenney signed the long-contested sugary drinks tax into law, local business leaders are saying more needs to be done.  They’re calling on the state to to pump an additional $90 million into funding for high-quality pre-K, the Philadelphia Business Journal reports.  Representatives from the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Main Line Chamber of Commerce, the African American Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. military say the investment would bridge the STEM workforce skills gap beginning in the formative pre-K years. The money would expand pre-K access for 7,400 more children and extend the school year for 6,200 students, CBS Philly reports.  To back this position up, the leaders have cited STEM and Early Childhood — When Skills Take Root, a report released on Friday by Mission:Readiness, an education advocacy organization run by retired military leaders and Washington D.C.-based education advocacy group, ReadyNation.

Pa. education secretary visits Baldwin-Whitehall School District
Trib Live BY STEPHANIE HACKE  | Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 5:51 p.m.
The room erupted with high-fives and cheers as a group of middle school boys solved a math problem correctly, saving them from failing a mission on the life-sized video-game style simulator.  Seeing what gets students motivated to learn — like the most modern technology — and hearing first-hand about the financial struggles of school districts across Pennsylvania has prompted Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera's “Schools that Teach” tour, which stopped at J.E. Harrison Middle School in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District Wednesday.  “Whenever you can accomplish that, hands-down, we know why we do what we do,” said Rivera, who has met with nearly 100 educators in the last month.  A panel of Baldwin-Whitehall administrators, teachers and board members shared with Rivera the successes and struggles of their suburban South Hills district, with 4,100 students.

Columbia and Elanco school districts adopt 'innovative' plan to share superintendent
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer June 22, 2016
Columbia Borough and Eastern Lancaster County school districts sealed the deal this week on a shared leadership agreement that is unique in the region.  Under a $165,000 contract, Elanco Superintendent Bob Hollister will also be Columbia’s superintendent for the 2016- 17 school year.  While Hollister will perform duties such as evaluating administrators for which a superintendent’s certificate is required, a director of operations will be hired to oversee Columbia school district’s daily functions.  The joint leadership model sprang from Columbia’s financial challenges and difficulty attracting talented leadership, but officials hope it will offer lessons for other districts.  State Sen. Ryan Aument called the plan innovative, with potential to be replicated across the state. School leaders also expect the plan to bring educational benefits to both districts.

Commentary: Long-term budget issues plague states
Inquirer By Dan White Updated: JUNE 21, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Dan White is a senior economist at Moody's Analytics in West Chester.
Less than two weeks to go in the fiscal year, and Pennsylvania is still without a new budget. This is usually the time to start complaining about partisan gridlock and assign blame. That's easy to do from afar, but it is much more difficult to sit in Harrisburg and reconcile competing interests. So let's first take stock of how things stand elsewhere in the country.  All but four states begin their new fiscal years in July, and of those, 10 still do not have a budget in place. Is this contagion from gridlock in Pennsylvania and Illinois? No, it's one of many symptoms of a new fiscal reality taking hold among state and local governments nationwide.

New report focuses on school mandates
Bucks County Courier Times By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 6:00 pm
State mandates are eating into school district budgets and taxpayer wallets, according to a newly-releasedreport by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.  While the pension issue has been front and center as districts finalize their 2016-17 budgets before the June 30 deadline, public schools are required to comply with hundreds of mandates that determine what districts "are required to do, how they do it and, ultimately, how much will be spent in order to get it done," according to the report, School District Mandates: Their Impact on Public Education.  "We're hoping this report brings to light that there are multiple ways to help school districts," said PSBA spokesman Steve Robinson. "While funding is always the most direct route, there's a flip side that would help if schools were allowed to opt out of some unfunded mandates if they need to."  The 56-page report released Wednesday calls upon the General Assembly to lift unnecessary, cumbersome mandates and allow districts to apply for waivers in some cases.  While the report cites pensions and charter schools as the two biggest money eaters, accounting for 14 cents of every dollar spent by schools in 2014-15, dozens of other mandates include:

PSBA special report highlights school mandates and makes recommendations to stretch school funding
PSBA Press release June 22, 2016
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) has released a special report on the impact of mandates on school finances and makes recommendations for relieving the burden and redirecting money and resources back into the classroom.  “PSBA believes that mandate relief is an integral part of reforming the system of funding public education,” said PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains. “Relief from burdensome mandate requirements can help save school districts and taxpayers money and result in more efficient operations.”  Public schools are required to comply with hundreds of mandates that have the effect of determining what school districts are required to do, how they must do it and, ultimately, how much will be spent in order to get it done. While not providing an exhaustive list, the report highlights dozens of the most costly and/or time-consuming mandates, including:
·         Pension contributions
·         Charter/cyber charter tuition payments
·         Paying prevailing wage costs on school construction projects above $25,000
·         Transportation of charter and private students to schools within a 10-mile radius of the district border, even if that school is out of state
·         Legal advertising of public meetings
·         Homestead/farmstead exclusion notifications sent by first-class mail
Other mandates may not add much additional cost, but require inordinate amounts of staff time to compile data and report to the state or federal agencies. These mandates pull precious resources away from classrooms and educating students.
“Say what you will about the state of public education, but these kids learned more about the nature of American bureaucracy than those who attend the most well funded schools in Pennsylvania.”
Erie At Large: The education money can’t buy
Erie Reader BY JIM WERTZ Published in: Vol. 6, No. 13 WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22ND, 2016 AT 1:15 PM
Amid the dark cloud of education funding that looms over Erie’s Public Schools, there may be a silver lining. By actively engaging in the legislative budget process, the students who take to the halls and sit in the classrooms of city schools each day have received the best civics education public money can buy.  There are 47 academic standards developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for eighth grade civics and government. Most standards concern systems of government and their (dys)function. However, others relate explicitly to the civic engagement of an informed citizenry.  Meeting grade level objectives regarding civic engagement is a difficult task in most classrooms. Students read about engaging the political process; they learn about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; and they come to understand what makes competent and responsible citizens. But their activities are routinely passive. And everything they typically learn about political leadership and public service can be boiled down to idealized half-truths that don’t reflect the realities of partisan politics in a constitutional republic.
That is, until now.

Erie School Board weighs options as budget deadline nears
By Gerry Weiss  814-870-1884 Erie Times-News June 23, 2016 05:34 AM
ERIE, Pa. -- The next seven days will be critical in determining how the Erie School Board attempts to erase a $5.5 million budget deficit.  On Wednesday, the board is scheduled to vote on the final 2016-17 school year budget at its 6 p.m. meeting at East High School.  The Pennsylvania School Code requires the district to adopt a complete, balanced final budget by June 30, the same day Pennsylvania's fiscal year ends. Failing to comply could result in costly, daily fines by the state.  Erie School Board members know the clock is ticking.  "There's so much uncertainty between now and next week when the board votes on this," Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams said Wednesday night, during a break in the School Board's committee of the whole meeting. "We wait. We watch. Things come into sharper focus as the week goes by and we get closer to the deadline in terms of how much money we'll be receiving (from the state)."

Wilkinsburg will furlough 20 teachers
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 22, 2016 4:41 PM
The Wilkinsburg school board voted unanimously Tuesday to furlough 20 teachers as part of the official closing of the district’s high and middle schools.   Substitute superintendent John Frombach said the board, in a special voting meeting, approved formally closing those schools, thereby eliminating the academic programs there. Some teachers from both schools will move into positions at Turner or Kelly elementary schools.   “There were some elementary teachers who received furlough notices because they’re being bumped by a high school teacher with more seniority because that high school teacher also has elementary certification,” he said.   The breakdown of furloughed teachers by school was not immediately available.   About 270 Wilkinsburg middle and high schools students will move to Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12 on a tuition basis starting next school year, making Wilkinsburg a pre-K-6 school district this fall. The last class of Wilkinsburg High School graduated June 3.

Pittsburgh Public Schools board approves policy to protect transgender students
Trib Live BY NATASHA LINDSTROM  | Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 11:03 p.m.
The Pittsburgh Public Schools board enacted on Wednesday its first districtwide policy outlining the rights, protections and support systems each school must provide for transgender students.  “We're moving forward on the right side of law and history,” said board member Moira Kaleida, who urged the district to consider such a policy this past fall after principals and legal experts alerted her to the need for one.  Teacher Devin Browne at Brashear High School in Beechview, which put in place a nearly identical policy two years ago, said the move protects “the most vulnerable kids in the whole district” from discrimination.

Dunmore school board approves new budget with tax increase
Times Tribune by CLAYTON OVER, STAFF WRITER / PUBLISHED: JUNE 23, 2016
DUNMORE — The Dunmore School Board unanimously passed the budget for the 2016-2017 school year, which includes a tax increase, at its Wednesday night meeting.  The budget weighs in at $20,326,966 and the increase, of about 7.25 mills, bumps the school tax rate in the borough up to about 112.88 mills. A mill is a $1 tax on each $1,000 of assessed value. The median home value in Dunmore is assessed at $11,000 and a homeowner living there will pay $1,241.68, or about $80 more a year than under the previous tax rate.

“Superintendent Patrick O’Toole said the biggest budget driver was the $950,000 increase in the district’s state-mandated pension costs, which will absorb a large portion of the $2.7 million generated by the tax increase.”
Upper St. Clair School District approves budget with tax increase
Includes staffing cuts through attrition
By Margaret Smykla June 22, 2016 1:50 PM
The Upper St. Clair School Board unanimously adopted a $76.21 million final budget Tuesday night that raises taxes slightly more than 1 mill.  The new tax rate of 24.3388 mills reflects a 1.3033-mill increase. For homeowners, the increase represents $261 more in taxes for every $200,000 in assessed property value.  Superintendent Patrick O’Toole said the biggest budget driver was the $950,000 increase in the district’s state-mandated pension costs, which will absorb a large portion of the $2.7 million generated by the tax increase.

“The 2.26-mill increase planned in May would have generated $1.2 million. In May, board president Bob Perkins said the entire $1.2 million would be eaten up by a one-year increase in contributions to the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System.”
Norwin school board passes budget that contains tax hike
Post Gazette By Anne Cloonan June 22, 2016 10:47 PM
The Norwin school board passed a $67.4 million final budget tonight that will raise school real estate taxes by 2.25 mills.  Total real estate tax millage for Norwin residents in Westmoreland County will be 75.20 mills during the coming school year.  In May, when district officials thought they would raise taxes by 2.26 mills, they estimated that would increase the school real estate taxes of a home of median assessed value of $21,630 by $48.88 per year.  The Norwin School District also serves between 10 and 20 households in either South Versailles or White Oak in Allegheny County. The current school tax rate for Allegheny County families in the district is 9.99 mills, and will rise to 11.68 mills during the 2016-2017 school year.

“A major increase in expenditures comes from what the district must contribute to the Public School Employees' Retirement System. Districts contribute a percentage based on salaries. This year's rate is 30.03 percent, meaning South Fayette must contribute $6,448,105 million to the pension fund, an increase of $883,743 from last year.”
2 of South Fayette school board's 3 options for budget include tax increase
Trib Live BY JIM SPEZIALETTI | Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 3:30 p.m.
South Fayette school board members will have three options when voting on the $52.7 million proposed final budget at their June 28 meeting.  They are, according to finance Director Brian Tony: no property tax increase while using $2.47 million of the district's fund balance; a 0.5-mill increase while using $1.85 million of the fund balance; and raising the millage up to the index allowed by the state, which is 0.8357 mills, and taking $1.4 million from the fund balance.

“The largest expenditures are salaries and benefits. The district also has seen its contribution to the Public School Employees' Retirement System dramatically increase over the past six years. Contributions are based on district salaries.
In the 2011-12 fiscal year, school districts contributed 8.65 percent to the state pension. In 2015-16, the contribution rate was 25.84 percent. Carlynton officials budgeted $3 million in 2015-16 for the retirement fund. For the 2016-17 year, the rate is 30.03 percent, meaning Carlynton officials estimate the district's contribution will be $3.6 million.”
Carlynton tax increase could signal more tough times
BY JIM SPEZIALETTI | Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 4:12 p.m.
Carlynton School Board members felt uneasy when they approved a property tax increase for 2016-17, but they fear the worst is yet to come.  The board approved a $27.3 million budget, which includes a property tax increase of 0.98 mills. The new tax rate will be 21.564. Residents who own property valued at $100,000 will pay an extra $98 in real estate taxes, totaling $2,156 for the year.  Expenditures are up $227,000 from the 2015-16 budget. Officials were able to keep expenses in check by eliminating five positions, reducing travel costs and purchasing less equipment and supplies.

“The largest chunk of the budget — more than 65 percent of it — stems from salaries and benefits totalling about $31 million, school leaders said.  Quaker Valley will pay about $912,000 into the Pennsylvania State Education Retirement System, known as PSERS.”
Quaker Valley board approves tax hike for '16-17
BY VINCE RUSSO | Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 2:39 p.m.
Quaker Valley property owners will see an increase in taxes as school board members Tuesday night approved the district's 2016-17 budget worth $47.5 million.  The increase — approved 8-1 with board member Marianne Wagner dissenting — means a homeowner whose property is valued at $200,000 would see a tax bill of about $3,548 — up about $84 over the 2015-16 budget. Board members set the tax rate at 17.7389 mills.  The budget again sets aside $515,000 to the Sewickley Public Library.

North Allegheny board approves $151M budget
BY THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 9:09 p.m.
The North Allegheny School Board on Wednesday unanimously approved a budget for the 2016-17 school year that will not require an increase in property taxes.  The $151.1 million spending plan keeps the real estate tax rate at 18.0011 mills, which means the owner of a property valued at $271,350 — an average of the median assessed home values in the four communities comprising the district — will pay $4,885 a year in property tax.  The original budget presented in January contained a $3.8 million deficit that would have required a 3.5 percent tax increase or corresponding cuts in spending.


The 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book
#DataBook State Trends in Child Well-Being
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Project June 21, 2016
READ OR DOWNLOAD THE REPORT (56 PG PDF)
The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book finds today's youth — Generation Z — are healthier and completing high school on time despite mounting economic inequality and increasingly unaffordable college tuition. Aided by smart policies and investments in prevention, a record number of teens are making positive choices. This year, the annual report focuses on key trends in child well-being in the post-recession years and offers recommendations for how policymakers can ensure all children are prepared for the future, based on the country’s shared values of opportunity, responsibility and security.

“The three winning Pennsylvania schools demonstrate how environmental stewardship, sustainability and wellness go hand-in-hand,” McDonnell said. “These schools not only create better places for students to learn, but also healthier places for people to work which benefits the entire community.”
Pennsylvania Schools Named U.S. Department of Education’s 2016 Green Ribbon Schools
PDE Press Release 06/22/2016
Harrisburg, PA - Environmental and education advocates gathered at the State Capitol Building today to honor three Pennsylvania schools that were named 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS). The School District of Jenkintown, Park Forest Elementary School (State College, PA), and Slippery Rock University were celebrated for receiving the prestigious, national honor at a press conference.  “Being named a Green Ribbon School is an honored distinction, and these schools should be proud of their achievements,” said Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera. “Providing students with an education that includes lessons in environmental stewardship and civic responsibility will ensure a healthy, thriving environment for generations to come. Additionally, offering an array of educational pathways to students during their school years will create a diverse and engaged workforce.”

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 6/22/2016


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

Nominations now open for PSBA Allwein Awards (deadline July 16)
PSBA Website POSTED ON MAY 16, 2016 IN PSBA NEWS
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.

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:

PA Supreme Court sets Sept. 13 argument date for fair education funding lawsuit in Philly
Thorough and Efficient Blog JUNE 16, 2016 BARBGRIMALDI LEAVE A COMMENT

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