Friday, July 15, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 15: PA now diverts $175M in tax $ per year to unaccountable private and religious schools

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

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup July 15, 2016:
PA now diverts $175M in tax dollars per year to unaccountable private and religious schools

Apply Now for EPLC's 2016-2017 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program!

Gov. Tom Wolf: Good news from Harrisburg
The timely passage of a strong budget bodes well for Pa.
Post Gazette By Gov. Tom Wolf July 15, 2016 12:00 AM
After months of negotiations and compromise, Pennsylvania has secured a 2016-2017 state budget that increases funding for schools, devotes resources to battle the opioid-abuse epidemic and reduces the deficit. As has been said by Republicans and Democrats alike, this is a budget Pennsylvania can be proud of, and it puts us on a path to fiscal responsibility and a sustainable future.  Funding our schools has always been a top priority for me. This budget provides an additional $200 million in basic education funding, a $30 million increase for early childhood education, a $20 million increase for special education, a $10 million increase for early intervention and a nearly $40 million increase for higher education. As a result, historic increases in education funding have been enacted in less than two years — a total of $415 million in basic funding alone.

Pedro A. Rivera: New state budget invests in Wilkes-Barre Area students, and boosts Pennsylvania’s prospects
Times Leader by Pedro A. Rivera - Guest columnist JULY 14TH, 2016 - 11:48 AM - UPDATED: JULY 14TH, 2016 - 6:04 PM.
Pedro A. Rivera is secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Education.
The 2016-17 budget provides a significant step forward for Pennsylvania schools.
It will help promote student success, and improve access to a high-quality education – regardless of a child’s ZIP code. Working with our partners in the Legislature, we are moving Pennsylvania forward by investing in our children.  Over the past two years, Gov. Tom Wolf has championed our schools, fighting for increased education funding. As a result of his advocacy, this budget provides an additional $200 million in basic education funding.  The spending plan also includes a $30 million increase for early childhood education to preserve the number of slots in proven early learning programs such as Pre-K Counts and Head Start, a $20 million increase for special education, and a more than $10 million increase for early intervention. This funding will help restore even more districts from the deep funding reductions of 2011.  The new education funding included in this budget will be distributed using the bipartisan “fair funding formula,” which was signed into law in early June. Prior to the passing of this bill, Pennsylvania was one of only three states that did not have such a formula in place, contributing to massive inequities in schools and hitting the most vulnerable students the hardest.

“A few other white whales remain at large. The state's nearly 20-year-old charter law, widely considered outdated, was kept intact.  A revision that traditional advocates felt was too charter-friendly had serious momentum going into the final days of larger negotiations.  Lawmakers decided to put it on the shelf so as not to threaten the fragile coalition of votes that got the revenue deal across the finish line.  "Nobody wanted to hold up a final budget product to wait for those differences ironed out," said House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana.
Key to pushing the bill to the sidelines was advocacy by the School District of Philadelphia, which believed the bill would be a net negative for the city's children — a third of whom are already in charter schools.”
Pa. budget deal with education funding boost hinged on compromise, avoiding controversy
The dust has settled on the 2016-17 Pennsylvania budget, and, as usual, debates over education funding and policy dominated much of the negotiations.  Last year this time, Democrats and Republicans were still miles apart on budget talks, and it took until March to come to resolution.  This year, a final deal was hashed out a mere 13 days late.  So how, in sharply divided government, do you get a deal done — almost on time?  By compromising, and punting on the most controversial elements.  "We made marginal gains this year, but it's progress nonetheless," said Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, minority chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "We don't seem to have the capacity to address major issues and come up with very significant solutions. We're inching along."  Gov. Tom Wolf had initially sought a $577 million boost to the state's main pot of public school cash this year, but he was willing to settle for $200 million to avoid another fight over proposals to hike sales or income taxes.

Pennsylvania Constitution § 15.  Public school money not available to sectarian schools.
No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.

Blogger note: the school code bill HB1606 included a $25 million increase in the EITC program which diverts tax dollars to unaccountable private and religious schools.  For FY16-17 a total of $175 million will be diverted to the EITC and OSTC programs.  The scholarship organizations that administer the funds get to keep up to 20% for their services; substantially more than comparable programs in other states. The following is an email from the Reach Foundation, a leading proponent of tax credit programs.

“We especially thank and acknowledge Keystone Christian Education Association, Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools, Children's Scholarship Fund of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, Association of Christian Schools International, Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners, REACH Advisory Board and all members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate who continue to ensure that all children throughout the Commonwealth of PA have access to a quality education.”
House Bill 1606 Together, we did it!
Email from the Reach Foundation July 14, 2016 
Dear School Choice friends and family,
We thank Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) for his leadership, along with all Republican and Democratic legislative leaders and members in the passage of House Bill 1606, which in part would continue to expand the supply of opportunity scholarships to meet the growing demand of Pennsylvania students and parents. The bill passed with a vote of 172-18.  House Bill 1606 would increase the amount of tax credits available in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program by $25 million, providing a total of $175 million in both the EITC and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs. 
The new tax credits would be allocated in the same proportions as outlined in current law. Scholarship Organization (SO) credits would increase by $15 million to $75 million. Educational Improvement Organization (EIO) credits would increase by $7.5 million to $37.5 million. Pre-kindergarten Scholarship Organization (PKSO) credits would increase by $2.5 million to $12.5 million.For more information, please visit the webpage of PA Speaker of the House Mike Turzai
We especially thank and acknowledge Keystone Christian Education Association, Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools, Children's Scholarship Fund of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, Association of Christian Schools International, Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners, REACH Advisory Board and all members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate who continue to ensure that all children throughout the Commonwealth of PA have access to a quality education.
 In case you missed it, the following link is the press conference held on June, 29th at the Dauphin County Library with REACH Executive Director, Otto V. Banks, and House Speaker, Mike Turzai, requesting an increase of $25 million in the EITC program. You can see it on our YouTube Channel

“The financial industry suggests that a government unassigned fund balance should be between 5% and 10% of total operating expenditures, while the Pennsylvania School Code (24 PS §6-688) limits the amount of unassigned fund balance to 8% for a district whose expenditures exceed $20 million if it is going to raise taxes. The Government Finance Officers Association recommends minimum unassigned reserves between 5% and 15% of total expenditures. The data show that many districts are not meeting these minimum recommendations. Instead, 35 districts have negative or zero unassigned fund balances, while 262 have positive fund balances below 8%.  On average, the brief notes, school districts have unassigned fund balances just above the minimum recommendation of 5%.”
PA School Districts’ Fund Balances: An Update
Temple University Center on Regional Politics July 6, 2016
A policy brief published by the Center on Regional Politics in July 2016 provides data on the status of fund balances for Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts at the close of fiscal year 2014-15. The data shows that total reserve funds for districts, charter schools and technical schools have increased by about $400 million since 2012-2013, from $4.3 billion to $4.7 billion. But only six of the 500 school districts have unassigned fund balances equal to or larger than their state subsidy.  The brief summarizes aggregate trends for districts, as well as charters and technical schools, while data on specific districts’ reserve funds have been made available through the CORP website. The brief explains the four types of fund balances under government accounting standards and the restrictions on unassigned balances under state law. Districts may use “committed” fund balances to save for capital improvement projects in order to avoid borrowing. Meanwhile, “unassigned” balances are available for use without restrictions and serve as a hedge against economic and budgetary uncertainty. For example, districts with unassigned funds used these to sustain their operations during delays in state subsidy payments in the 2015-16 state budget impasse.

Why we can't all get along in Harrisburg (or Washington)
When I to give talks on Pennsylvania budget issues, the question I always get is, "Why can't they agree in Harrisburg?"  In some ways, it is a naïve question. Politics is always full of disagreements. But in other ways, it points to a deep way in which politics is broken, not just in Pennsylvania but in America. It is harder for government officials to reach agreements now than in the past. And it is important to understand why.
People who work in local communities around the state by and large still find agreement and compromise possible. And that's because business people, labor leaders, and non-profit leaders in local communities still accept the basic premises of the American political economy circa 1965.  They believe that prosperity requires both a vigorous and innovative private sector and a vigorous and innovative public sector.  They believe that shared prosperity is rooted, in part, in our market economy, the spirit of our entrepreneurs, and the innovations of our scientist and technologists.
But they also understand that a market economy requires a vibrant public sector that provides or supports the infrastructure that makes commerce possible; the long-term research that is undertaken without any immediate hope of commercial return; the human services that are critical to giving every child a chance to make the best use of his or her talents; the educated and trained workers whose skills develop and provide innovative products and services to consumers; and, at times, the critical financial support needed by advanced industries whose success creates far-reaching benefits for the economy as a whole.

‘A step forward for education’: Schools benefit from state budget
Tribune Democrat By David Hurst July 14, 2016
One budget year will make a difference – and for some schools a noticeable one – as  Pennsylvania’s latest spending plan goes into effect.  Last year area school administrators were awaiting news on a budget that wouldn’t arrive for nine more months.  This year public schools are receiving word that checks will soon be on the way – and for most area schools it will mean 1 to 4 percent funding increases.  “I think this is a step forward for education,” said Rick Huffman, Northern Cambria’s newly hired superintendent. “It seems like a sign that the focus is going back onto the children again in Pennsylvania.”  Northern Cambria’s $123,679 increase is similar to many others across the state.  Huffman noted that it covers less than half of the district’s increased state pension obligations for the coming year.  But given that Northern Cambria’s school board budgeted to see 2016-17 revenue stay flat this fall, “that money is going to be productive for us.”  Greater Johnstown School District is slated to receive a more than 4 percent boost – approximately $754,510 – in basic education funding for the upcoming school year, according to Department of Education figures.  “Combined with the increases secured under the first 2015-16 budget, the district has received a total increase of $1.6 million for basic and special education in two years,” state Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera told The Tribune-Democrat.

“The district also avoided enactment of any provisions from a bill, HB530, that would have revised the state’s two-decade-old charter school law. That law, which became the subject of fierce lobbying from all sides in the charter debate as the negotiations came down to the wire, would have, among other things, made it easier for charters to increase enrollment and add grades. It would also have given districts less autonomy in creating their own charter applications and setting their own standards for charter approvals and renewals.”  … He plans to nominate a committee that includes both district and charter representatives to suggest revisions to the law, which hasn't been changed significantly since 1997, and make recommendations to the governor and legislature.”
Philly school district notches revenue wins in state budget
The revenue plan passed Wednesday by the Pennsylvania General Assembly contained a series of political wins for the School District of Philadelphia — wins that could help the chronically under-resourced district find some measure of financial stability.  “We’re more stabilized than we’ve been since I’ve been here,” said superintendent William Hite. “I do think it’s nice to have conversations about critical investments in schools that provide resources for children and materials for educators and building leaders.”  Hite was especially relieved to see the state budget settled in July, unlike last year, when a nine-month delay made it difficult to plan and exacerbated the district’s chronic fiscal woes by forcing it to borrow money. And he noted that this district budget is also the first in several years that is not dominated by austerity and cuts.  "We can plan for a full year," he said. "That is important. The other thing is stabilization. That allows us to have a different conversation, which is about making investments versus what must we remove, take away, or close."  The district will get about $50 million more from the state than it received last year, $6 million shy of original projections. District officials, however, say the shortfall is manageable and won't change the district's plans to add counselors, nurses, and other staff.

Philly school officials upbeat on state budget funding
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: JULY 15, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
The Philadelphia School District will receive an additional $50 million in state funds this fiscal year under the spending plan approved Wednesday in Harrisburg, district officials said.  While that's $6 million less than expected, officials said the shortfall was manageable and could be partially offset by the district's share of funds collected from ride-sharing services in the city.  "I do think that it is important to acknowledge the governor, the leaders of both parties, and the Philadelphia delegation," Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said during a short news briefing on the budget Thursday.  "All of those groups worked hard to help craft an agreement that brought in an additional $50 million for the School District," he said. "And it is equally important it is July and not February."  The $2.8 billion budget that the School Reform Commission adopted in late May anticipated $1.4 billion from the state, including $56 million more than last year in basic education and special education funds. The spending plan the legislature approved trimmed that amount to $50 million.

Inquirer editorial: What made this Pa. budget better
Inquirer Editorial Updated: JULY 15, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
The Pennsylvania budget passed a mere 13 days late this week. That's a lot better than nine months overdue, a record that Gov. Wolf and the legislature seared into the books in vitriol earlier this year.  This time, the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled legislature beat low expectations by working together to pass a budget that, though defective, qualifies as both a spending and a revenue plan.  For the revenue, they tapped a few untested and even dubious sources, including a loan from the state malpractice-insurance fund. They also extended the income tax to state lottery winners, authorized a tax amnesty program, guessed that allowing consumers to buy wine in supermarkets would generate additional revenue, and banked on unreliable proceeds from expanded gambling.

Charter school left public in dark about meetings, audit finds
By Sara K. Satullo | For  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on July 14, 2016 at 3:47 PM, updated July 14, 2016 at 9:33 PM
The board at a Salisbury Township charter school failed to properly file financial disclosure forms and didn't inform the public of special board meetings, a state audit has found.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced Thursday that over the three-year audit the Arts Academy Charter School largely complied but the review turned up two violations.  Members of the charter school's board of trustees and an administrator did not file, filed later or filed incomplete statements of financial interest.

ESSA Timeline, School Ratings, Standards Issues Dominate Senate Hearing
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on July 14, 2016 2:44 PM
If you thought critiques from Congress and the education community were fading over the U.S. Department of Education's proposed accountability regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act, including the timeline for implementing it and its proposals on standards and school ratings, think again.  Those three core criticisms dominated discussion at a hearing Thursday examining state and local feedback on ESSA implementation, after Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee and an ESSA architect teed them all up in his opening statement. 

House Panel Backs K-12 Spending Bill Targeting Obama Transgender Guidance
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on July 14, 2016 10:55 AM
The House appropriations committee approved an education spending bill for fiscal 2017 that increases federal spending on special education grants and a new block grant created under the Every Student Succeeds Act, but makes cuts to, or eliminates, several other education programs. The vote on Thursday was 31-19.   The full appropriations committee didn't alter the bill that was approved last week by a House subcommittee that deals with K-12 spending. As we reported last week, the Education Department's overall budget of $68 billion would be cut by $1.3 billion in the spending bill.   "This is a tough bill to write. It's a tough bill in tough economic times to write," said Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. the chairman of the House appropriations committee.   The spending bill would also prohibit any federal funds from being used to withhold money from schools based on the guidance regarding transgender students issued by the Education Department and U.S. Department of Justice in May. (See Section 313 on page 147 of the spending bill.)

Why the movement to privatize public education is a very bad idea
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss July 14 at 5:37 PM 
Samuel E. Abrams is the director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He has written a new book, “Education and the Commercial Mindset,” that details how and why market forces have come to rise in public education and become important in corporate school reform.  Renowned progressive educator Deborah Meier wrote an interesting review of the book on her blog. She wrote in part:  This is a book that you should rush out and buy/read. The author, Samuel E. Abrams,  is currently the director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Teachers College, Columbia. When I first saw the title and the source, I did not think it would be a book I would be enthusiastic about.  However, I discovered immediately that the author taught for a number of years at NYC’s Beacon High School, which I know and respect. So I decided maybe my biases were unfair. Indeed I was wrong to be wary. Chapter One should be a must for all those who want (or should want) to understand the period we are in and the issues confronting us. If you can’t imagine reading the whole book — start there. Then decide.

GOP platform encourages teaching about the Bible in public schools
Washington Post By Emma Brown July 14 at 12:30 PM 
Members of the GOP this week debated and ultimately embraced an addition to the party’s platform that encourages public high schools to teach elective courses about the Bible, one of several moves that contributed to Republicans’ broad shift to the right.  Several GOP delegates said that they aren’t seeking to inculcate schools with Christianity, but they are trying to make sure that young people are acquainted with a document that has played a significant role in shaping Western culture.  “This is not designed to teach religion in the schools as a means of proselytizing,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group, and a GOP delegate from Louisiana who supported the Bible-in-schools provision. “You can’t really fully understand the American form of government and society without some understanding of the Bible.”

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 7/14/2016

Apply Now for EPLC's 2016-2017 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program!
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Applications are available now for the 2016-2017 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP). The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). Click here for the program calendar of sessions.  With nearly 500 graduates in its first seventeen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.  Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders. Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.
The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 15-16, 2016 and continues to graduation in June 2017. Click here to read more about the Education Policy Fellowship Program, or here to see the 2016-2017 program calendar.
Applications are being accepted now.

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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