Wednesday, July 13, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 13: Charter school expansion emerges as obstacle in PA #budget talks

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup July 13, 2016:
Charter school expansion emerges as obstacle in PA #budget talks

Call your State Senator’s office this morning and urge them to oppose the “charter reform” provisions in HB530/HB1606

“Browne said the talks over the charter issue had turned more divisive than negotiations on taxes - long an albatross on efforts to achieve on-time budgets.
"It's amazing," he said.”
Charter school expansion emerges as obstacle in Pa. budget talks
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis and Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITERS Updated: JULY 13, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
HARRISBURG - Negotiators inched toward an agreement Tuesday that would impose new taxes on cigarettes and digital downloads in Pennsylvania, but a proposal to loosen caps on charter-school enrollment emerged as a sticking point in striking a budget deal, top senators said.  Critics of the proposed changes say they would leave Philadelphia and other cash-strapped school districts with little say in managing the surge of charters within their borders - and the added costs they can bring.  Sen. Pat Browne (R., Lehigh), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, called the Philadelphia charter-school issue the "600-pound gorilla in this conversation," and signaled that resolving it might have to wait until the fall.  He spoke after legislators reconvened Tuesday afternoon - and then recessed only a few hours later - without announcing a firm deal on how to fund the $31.5 billion spending plan that lapsed into law at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. The chambers are expected to return Wednesday morning to begin voting on a tax package that will raise new revenue for the budget.

“Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, multiple sources identified charter school reform as the biggest sticking point that was holding up a final deal. Even Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh County, said as much at that point.  "When the education code is harder to move than a tax code, you know there are serious issues on the table," he said.
However, a few hours later, Senate Republicans announced that issue, like pension reform, got pushed off to a later date, possibly this fall.  "We were very close but that at this point, it appears at this point that we may not be able to complete that during the budget process. In either case, it is not something for which we are willing to hold up finishing the budget," said Senate GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher.  However, House Republicans were still discussing the issue, said caucus spokesman Steve Miskin. Senate Democrats said they were waiting to hear what the status of the issue was on Tuesday evening. An effort to get the Wolf administration's take on it was unsuccessful. “
Could Pennsylvania soon have a finalized state budget? Tune in Wednesday
By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 12, 2016 at 8:16 PM, updated July 12, 2016 at 10:32 PM
The day Pennsylvania shakes off the notoriety of being the only state in the nation without an enacted 2016-17 state budget could be nearing.  Budget negotiators spent a good part of Tuesday inching closer to a finalized revenue package to fund the $31.5 billion spending plan that Gov. Tom Wolf allowed to become law at midnight Monday without his signature.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, voiced cautious optimism that everything could come together in a day's time on a deal that House and Senate Republicans and Democrats could vote on as early as Wednesday.   "We are working intently with all five parties," Reed said, following a mid-afternoon meeting. "Not that there aren't some issues we still need to iron out. But that issues list is narrowing."

“A source close to negotiations says Governor Wolf has made clear he will not sign any bill that fails to allow districts like Philadelphia to hold charter growth in check.  If consensus can't be reached on some of the more controversial proposals, it's likely that lawmakers will also punt on the less contentious changes that most agree are necessary.”
Debate over Pa. charter schools gets swirled into larger state budget talks
A bill that would substantially revise Pennsylvania's charter school law for the first time since its inception nearly twenty years ago is being hotly debated in the capitol.   Charter school advocates are couching the bill as a fair compromise, while traditional school advocates say it's an unwise overreach.  Republican legislative leaders have been pushing for the bill to be included in any broader deal that would boost state revenues, Senate leaders though have said they are not willing to let it derail budget talks.  On Sunday night, Gov. Tom Wolf agreed to allow a $31.5 billion spending plan to become law without first figuring out how to pay for it.  As leaders work towards a revenue package compromise, a charter school policy debate has been swirled within the larger talks.  Two decades after its inception, there's wide agreement that the current charter law has fallen well behind the times. 

Pa. budget strategy dares lawsuit, bond downgrade
Delco Times By Marc Levy, The Associated Press POSTED: 07/12/16, 2:35 PM EDT
HARRISBURG, Pa. >> State government began operating Tuesday under a $31 billion election-year spending bill that nevertheless lacks the tax collections to sustain it for the entire fiscal year, and lawmakers say they are scrambling to fix that before it draws a lawsuit or bond downgrade.  Tuesday was expected to be crucial in determining whether the tax-averse Legislature controlled by huge Republican majorities will pass a tax increase to fully fund the spending bill and help shore up the state government’s deficit-riddled finances. Neither the House nor the Senate had returned to voting session by mid-afternoon Tuesday.  At midnight Monday, the spending bill became law after negotiations proved fruitless, and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf decided not to stand in its way. Tax collections are projected to fall hundreds of millions of dollars short of funding it, while nearly $600 million in aid to Penn State, Temple, Pitt, Lincoln and Penn remained in limbo in the House.

Inquirer editorial: Have you seen Pa. budget's missing half?
Inquirer Editorial Updated: JULY 12, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Gov. Wolf says he will allow a $31.5 billion spending bill to become law without his signature, but it can't rightly be called a state budget because the legislature hasn't decided how to pay for it. It could be described as half a budget, a spending plan to nowhere, or another mostly empty gesture from Harrisburg. But it isn't a budget, and it won't be until lawmakers agree on the taxes and other revenues that allow the state to function.  Intentionally or not, the Democratic governor has stepped out of the Republican-controlled legislature's way and is allowing it to race toward a brick wall of its own construction. Lawmakers cannot fulfill their constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget without taking responsibility for adequate funding.  Members are, of course, balking, and the conservative Commonwealth Foundation has insisted that the governor must balance the budget by cutting spending the legislature doesn't pay for. But Wolf has already offered a balanced budget. It's the legislature's turn to accept his proposal or provide a reasonable alternative. Moreover, legislators should not be eager to give the governor the power to make unilateral spending decisions by ceding their authority and duty to pass a credible budget - one that relies on sustainable, recurring revenue rather than the gimmicks of the past.

Pennsylvania lawmakers considering tax on digital downloads
Trib Live BY BRAD BUMSTED  | Tuesday, July 12, 2016, 3:48 p.m.
HARRISBURG – Applying the state sales tax to digital downloads – potentially on purchases from music to movies – is among the revenue sources legislative budget negotiators and Gov. Tom Wolf are discussing, spokespeople for House and Senate Republicans said Tuesday.  Whether extending the sales tax to downloads becomes part of a final revenue package to pay for a $31.5 billion budget remains unclear.  “It's definitely been discussed,” said Stephen Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans.  The state's use tax on items purchased out of state from Internet vendors already applies to digital downloads.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, said “a lot of progress has been made” on a revenue package, but he declined to detail what's in the package under consideration.  There's no guarantee it will be passed before lawmakers leave Harrisburg for the summer.

As Pa. budget becomes law, some legislators cry foul
WHYY Newsworks BY KATIE MEYER JULY 12, 2016
Pennsylvania officially has a budget.
The $31.5 billion spending plan is in effect as of midnight on Monday, without Gov. Tom Wolf's signature. But negotiations continue on the revenue plan to back it up.  Deadline notwithstanding, lawmakers did seem to have a productive day of talks on the spending plan.  Senate GOP spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher called the progress "encouraging." She said it seems likely a vote could come soon.  "Because of what came out of today's meeting as far as everyone feeling good about the direction of talks, we decided to keep our members around for another day," she said.
House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R- Indiana, said the next 24 hours will be crucial.  However, one conservative contingent in the House was not happy with the progress.  A group of 20 Republican members signed a letter to the governor saying he could not let the unbalanced budget slide into law.

Pa. lawmakers wrangling over how to pay for budget
Morning Call by Marc Levy, Mark Scolforo Of The Associated Press July 12, 2016 8:55 pm
HARRISBURG — State government began operating Tuesday under a $31 billion election-year spending bill that nevertheless lacks the tax collections to sustain it for the entire fiscal year, and lawmakers say they are scrambling to fix that before it draws a lawsuit or bond downgrade.  Tuesday was expected to be crucial in determining whether the tax-averse Legislature controlled by huge Republican majorities will pass a tax increase to fully fund the spending bill and help shore up the state government's deficit-riddled finances.  But Tuesday came and went with no major tax legislation unveiled, amid closed-door wrangling over hundreds of pages of budget-related legislation and open disputes about taxes and Republican efforts to pave the way for more charter school slots in the cash-strapped Philadelphia School District.  "There's still some issues out there that we're trying to work through," said House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana. "You always have issues that are still going to be out there until the moment you're ready to go."

Editorial: It’s time to pay the piper in Harrisburg
Delco Times POSTED: 07/12/16, 4:42 AM EDT | UPDATED: 18 HRS AGO
There will be no repeat of last year’s nine-month budget debacle in Pennsylvania.  That’s the good news from Harrisburg. Surprised?  If that’s the case, relax. Some things in the capital have not changed.  We still don’t know how we’re going to pay for it all.  That’s actually not a new concept in Harrisburg. These folks are quite adept at spending. Picking up the tab is another matter.  Sunday night Gov. Tom Wolf indicated he would allow the $31 billion spending plan crafted by House Republicans to become law without his signature. It’s reminiscent of his move last year to resolve a budget impasse that lasted almost a year, forcing cuts in social services and pre-school programs, while goading many counties into withholding tax payments.  But there is a big difference. While the governor said he was taking the action in order to continue the spirit of cooperation and bipartisan work that led to this budget, no one seems to know exactly if what he’s done is legal.  When he allowed the last budget to become law it was a finished product. This one is not. We know how much we’re spending, we’re just not sure how the state plans to pay for it.

Still no deal on Pennsylvania budget as another deadline passes
Lancaster Online by the LNP Editorial Board July 12, 2016
THE ISSUE: The Pennsylvania Legislature remains at an impasse over how to pay for a $31.5 billion spending bill it has already approved. Among the sticking points are a proposed tax on cigarettes and the expansion of gambling. Gov. Tom Wolf said he would not stop the spending bill from becoming law.
We knew this looked too easy — congenial press conferences, a new spirit of cooperation in the state Legislature, the relatively painless passage of a $31.5 billion spending plan with bipartisan support and before the deadline, of all things. Good stuff for sure and a marked improvement over what happened a year ago.  It was almost enough to white out the memory of last fiscal year’s nine-month, record-shattering wrestling match, which ended in an unsatisfying draw. Almost. Right up until the time when lawmakers needed to come up with the money they wanted to spend. Then, the visions of gridlock, bickering and an impotent Legislature incapable of working together hit us like a wet sponge in the face.

PlanCon advisory committee looks at flexible approach to school construction projects
The PLS Reporter July 13, 2016 PAYWALL
The Public School Building Construction & Reconstruction Advisory Committee met early Tuesday to hear an overview of the PlanCon process and discuss possible changes to the system. The advisory committee was formed under Act 25 of 2016, which was the Fiscal Code bill accompanying the FY 2015-2016 budget bill that became law without the governor’s signature in April and is tasked with examining the PlanCon program, determining its deficiencies, and how it can be improved.
Look for more on The PLS Reporter HERE.

Pittsburgh schools board to vote on 'community schools' approach
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 13, 2016 12:00 AM
The board of the Pittsburgh Public Schools discussed a cluster of policies during Anthony Hamlet’s first public meeting as superintendent Tuesday, including one that would expand a concept he has pinpointed as one of his priorities.  Members will vote on that “community schools” approach, in which school buildings serve as hubs for social-service programs for students and families, and the other proposals July 27.  The idea was raised in Pittsburgh during a 2013 “envisioning” process that explored ways to address district financial and academic challenges. Some community schools efforts are already underway: Since the 2014-15 school year, the nonprofit Homewood Children’s Village has partnered with Westinghouse 6-12, Faison K-5 and Lincoln PreK-5 to provide social services in those schools, which serve a high number of students in poverty.  School board president Regina Holley said the model was one parents and community members asked for and one children should have access to, even if they don’t attend the schools in their neighborhood.

Learning English on the job - in school
Inquirer by Janaki Chadha, Staff Writer Updated: JULY 11, 2016 — 1:06 AM EDT
When Chutong Tan, 21, came to the United States from China four years ago, she spoke just a few words of English. After her first day at Solomon Charter School in Chinatown, she was in tears, said her stepfather, Allan Wong.  Solomon offered no formal language support. Tan soon transferred to Furness High School in South Philadelphia, and things began to turn around.  At Furness, where nearly half of the students are English language learners (ELLs), Tan said, she felt much more comfortable.  After four years of high school, Tan was admitted to La Salle University for the fall. But she still worries that her English proficiency is not up to par, and wishes the language program at Furness had been more intensive.
"I am panicked," she said. "I feel like I cannot catch up."

Pine-Richland rejects temporary measures regarding transgender restroom use
Trib Live BY VINCE TOWNLEY | Monday, July 11, 2016, 11:39 p.m.
The Pine-Richland School Board failed Monday to approve two resolutions that would have temporarily set rules regarding the use of restroom and locker room facilities by transgender students until it can develop a comprehensive policy.  The board's Staff Services Committee has had five meetings regarding restroom and facility usage by transgender students, but is not prepared to recommend a comprehensive policy. The board and administrators could revisit the issue before the start of the school year.  But with that new school year approaching, board member Greg DiTullio proposed a temporary measure that would have given students the choice of using facilities that correspond to their biological sex or using unisex facilities.

Peddling literacy: Volunteers deliver free books to Lancaster children during summer
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer July 12, 2016
Nine-year-old Jaqaya Smith likes to read beneath a tree across from her house, not far from Edward Hand Middle School.  She loves books full of adventure.  “I don’t really look at the author; I just really get into reading,” she says.  This summer Jaqaya has a new stash of books to page through under the shade of a tree’s leafy branches. Her grandmother, Stephanie Smith, signed up Jaqaya and her brother for Pages on Pedals, a program that delivered free books via bicycle to 100 Lancaster children.  The Mix at Arbor Place, an after-school program, organized the book distribution in collaboration with The Common Wheel, a nonprofit bike shop, as a way to promote learning in the summer months.  Education research has shown that academic losses over the summer, known as “summer slide,” build up over consecutive years.

To pare down school costs, Pottstown votes to privatize crossing guards
Cities and school districts looking to cut costs sometimes turn to third-party providers to pare down their loads — privatizing everything from substitute teachers to cafeteria services.
This week, Pottstown Borough voted to join Manheim Borough in Lancaster County and Steelton-Highspire School District in Dauphin County in privatizing management of its crossing guard corps.  Crossing guard positions are seasonal and part time. They also require morning and afternoon commitments during the school year that bogart more time than other part-time positions, said borough manager Mark Flanders.

NEW NATIONAL POLL: Majorities Of Trump And Clinton Supporters Unite On Early Childhood Education
First Five Years Fund July 12, 2016
Washington, D.C. – In an otherwise polarized election, 90 percent of voters – including 78 percent of Trump supporters and 97 percent of Clinton supporters – agree that Congress and the next president must make quality early childhood education more accessible and affordable to low- and middle-income families. The poll released today by the First Five Years Fund (FFYF) found that by a three-to-one margin, voters prefer the next president be someone who focuses on solutions to the country’s problems, and they’ve identified investment in early childhood education as an important solution. Key voter groups want the federal government to help states and local communities improve access to quality early childhood education – this includes 85 percent of Hispanics, 79 percent of suburban women, 65 percent of moderate/liberal Republicans, and 58 percent of Republican women.
“Early childhood education isn’t a partisan issue, and today’s poll demonstrates that Americans of all political stripes are united in their demands to make quality early childhood education more accessible and affordable,” said Kris Perry, Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund. “Candidates looking to connect with voters should be hearing loud and clear that Americans see a need for quality early learning, ranking it a top priority alongside education broadly and good-paying jobs.”

Groups Say Democratic Platform Would Reverse Key Obama Testing Policies
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on July 12, 2016 12:24 PM UPDATED
Parents should have a right to opt their children out of standardized tests, without penalties for their schools, according to excerpts from a revamped version of the Democratic Party platform released by the American Federation of Teachers.  What's more, test scores shouldn't be used to "falsely and unfairly label students of color, students with disabilities and English-language learners as failing," determine which schools are closed, ordefunded, or in teacher and principal evaluations.  That portion of the platform can be seen as an almost total rejection of the Obama administration's K-12 agenda, at least for the first six years of the administration. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made dramatic school improvement strategies (based largely on test scores) and test-based teacher evaluations a cornerstone of his K-12 agenda, both through the Race to the Top grant competition and, later, waivers from parts of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Democrats make education revisions to 2016 platform — and a key reformer is furious
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss July 12 at 11:46 AM 
In an unexpected move, Democrats have revised the K-12 education section of their party’s 2016 platform in important ways, backing the right of parents to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests, qualifying support for charter schools, and opposing using test scores for high-stakes purposes to evaluate teachers and students.  Some of the changes are being welcomed by public school advocates who have been fighting corporate school reform, which includes standardized test-based accountability systems and the expansion of charter schools. Many of these activists have been worried that Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, would back corporate reform, just as the Obama administration has. While it isn’t clear exactly what she will do if she becomes president — as platform language does not necessarily translate into policy — supporters of those reforms are furious at the changes, highlighting a rift in the party over how to improve K-12 education.  One of them, Shavar Jeffries, president of the Democrats for Education Reform, an influential political action committee supported heavily by hedge fund managers favoring charter schools, merit-pay tied to test scores and related reforms, issued a statement that went so far as to say that the original draft on education was “progressive and balanced” but that the new language “threatens to roll back” President Obama’s education legacy. (See full statement below.)

Souothern Poverty Law Center July 11, 2016
Mississippi is funding its charter schools through an unconstitutional scheme that diverts public tax dollars from traditional public schools, according to a lawsuit filed today by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  The lawsuit calls for the court to strike down the funding provisions of the Mississippi Charter School Act (CSA). The Mississippi Constitution requires schools to be under the supervision of the state and local boards of education to receive public funding. But under the CSA, charter schools receive public funding even though they are exempt from the oversight of the state Board of Education, the Mississippi Department of Education, and local boards of education.  Charter schools in Mississippi are accountable to the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board, a body that receives 3 percent of the public funding that goes to charter schools.  “A school operating outside the authority of the state board of education and the local school board cannot expect to receive public taxpayer money,” said Jody Owens, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Mississippi office. “The state constitution is clear on this matter.”

Kansas Lawmakers Move Forward After Funding Showdown
Education Week State Ed Watch By Daarel Burnette II on July 11, 2016 4:33 PM
Kansas' supreme court late last month backed off its threat to shut off state funding after the legislature at the last minute figured a way to provide more than $38 million to its poorest districts.  But while that resolved the equity part of the Gannon V. Kansas case, the court is expected to rule later this year on the adequacy part of the lawsuit.    Last week, the court announced that it would hear that case Sept. 21.  That means a decision could come down before this year's November elections, when a large portion of the state's lawmakers are up for reelection.    Losing the adequacy case—in which four districts argue that the state doesn't provide all of the state's districts enough money to help students meet its own learning standards—could cost the state more than $500 million.    Meanwhile, a bipartisan committee organized by the legislature recently began vetting changes to make to the state's current funding formula. 

Privatization and the Demonization of the Public Good
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch July 11, 2016 //
The New York Times published an article about how critics of public schools now call them “government schools.” This is supposed to conjure up an image of a faceless, unaccountable bureaucracy, like the IRS, not your neighborhood public school whose teachers you know well.  I first heard this term used at the Hoover Institution. At first I didn’t know what they were talking about, then I realized that the public schools were, in their minds, “government schools,” a heinous institution that should be replaced by private schools, vouchers, religious schools, charters, home schooling, anything but those hated “government schools.” I began to wonder if they referred to highways as “government highways” and found a way to avoid them; if they referred to public parks as “government parks,” to be avoided or privatized; if they referred to public beaches as “government beaches.”

Appointment of Voting Delegates for the October 15th PSBA Delegate Assembly Meeting
PSBA Website June 27, 2016
The governing body boards of all member school entities are entitled to appoint voting delegates to participate in the PSBA Delegate Assembly to be held on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016. It is important that school boards act soon to appoint its delegate or delegates, and to notify PSBA of the appointment.
Voting members of the Delegate Assembly will:
1.     Consider and act upon proposed changes to the PSBA Bylaws.
2.     Receive reports from the PSBA president, executive director and treasurer.
3.     Receive the results of the election for officers and at-large representatives. (Voting upon candidates by school boards and electronic submission of each board’s votes will occur during the month of September 2016.)
4.     Consider proposals recommended by the PSBA Platform Committee and adopt the legislative platform for the coming year.
5.     Conduct other Association business as required or permitted in the Bylaws, policies or a duly adopted order of business.
The 2016 Delegate Assembly will meet on Saturday, Oct. 15, at the conclusion of the regularly scheduled events of the main PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference.

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.

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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