Thursday, July 7, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 7: Moody's: Balance PA budget or we'll boost your borrowing costs

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PA Ed Policy Roundup July 7, 2016:
Moody's: Balance PA budget or we'll boost your borrowing costs



Blogger note: 4500 locally elected volunteer school directors are responsible for raising revenue and setting policy for our 500 school districts.  HB 530 proposes to establish a new 14-member Charter School Funding Advisory Commission without including a single school director.

In spite of the fact that over 90% of our students are educated in district run schools, HB 530 also proposes to stack the State Charter School Appeals Board, expanding it from 7 to 10 members by adding 2 representatives from the charter sector and just one district principal.

HB 530 does not include any provisions that would require any financial transparency or accountability whatsoever from for-profit charter school management companies.

Call your State Rep’s office and ask them to oppose HB530

Call your State Senator’s office and ask them to oppose HB530

More info on HB530 here:



"The coming months will be crucial. If the Commonwealth is able to balance the budget, either through revenue increases or expenditure decreases or a blend of each, its credit could stabilize at the current level.  "If not, further budget deterioration" will likely mean a lower credit rating and higher financing costs. Pennsylvanians pay around half a percentage point extra to borrow, compared to AAA-rated, budget-balanced states like Delaware and Maryland.  That drains Pennsylvania taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars a  year. New Jersey and Illinois are the only states with worse credit ratings than Pennsylvania.”
Moody's to Pa.: Balance your budget or we'll boost your borrowing costs
Inquirer by Joseph N. DiStefano, Staff Writer  @PhillyJoeD Updated: JULY 5, 2016 4:02 PM EDT
In advance of Pennsylvania's plan to borrow another $1.2 billion in a July 19 general-obligation bond issue, Moody's has slapped Pennsylvania with another Aa3 bond rating, among the lowest of any state -- and warned it may cut the rating another notch.  The rating recognizes that Pennsylvania is rich enough to raise taxes to pay its bills, and also to "fully fund its pension liabilities," Moody's analyst Dan Seymour wrote.  So what's the problem? "The Commonwealth is fundamentally capable of solving its problems, but the lengthy political stalemate that delayed the passage of a full-year budget until nine months into fiscal 2016 suggests practical difficulties regaining its footing," and state officials (Gov. Wolf and GOP leaders) are reluctant to put spending programs in balance with tax revenues.  Moody's "Negative Outlook" warning "reflects the likelihood that the Commonwealth's credit challenges are likely to worsen in the near term absent political compromise," along with the state's usual slow economic growth, Moody's added.

“In fact, 14 percent of Pennsylvania school districts had to borrow money last year, according to a report by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.  The organization's executive director, Jim Buckheit, said another delay could raise that number to 34 percent.  "Following on the heels of last year's nine-month budget stalemate, districts are not in a position to again keep schools operating without a state budget," he said.”
Lack of Pa. budget deal makes education officials nervous
WHYY Newsworks BY KATIE MEYER JULY 6, 2016
With little news of progress on the 2017 state budget coming out of Harrisburg, education advocates around the state are crossing their fingers a resolution comes soon.  If not, Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, said state-funded institutions will be in bad shape come fall.  Schools used up a lot of resources during last year's nine-month budget impasse, he said.  "Many of them have had their credit ratings downgraded as part of the budget impasse, which either doesn't allow them to borrow money, or sets up a very high interest rate," he said. 

Capitol quiet as revenue talks languish
The PLS Reporter July 6, 2016 (paywall)
The Capitol for the first Wednesday in July was left largely to tourists and legislative staffers as leadership continued working on gaining support for some sort of revenue agreement enough to fully fund the $31.6 billion budget passed by the General Assembly just under a week ago.   In their quest to find what would amount to around $1.3 billion in funds to bridge a gap in next year’s anticipated revenues, negotiators on Wednesday still seemed to be getting closer to a final plan, but remained between $100 million and $300 million apart, according to those with knowledge of the ongoing discussions.  While legislative leaders largely left Harrisburg Tuesday to continue discussions from the cover of their respective legislative districts with the insistence that talks remain positive and constructive, a new deadline of July 11—the final day for the governor’s action on the spending plan—has some questioning whether there is any reality behind the described forward momentum on attaining the supporting funds.
Read more from The PLS Reporter HERE.

Clock ticks down to another budget decision day for Wolf
AP State Wire By MARC LEVY July 6, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - The clock kept ticking toward decision day for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on budget legislation that lacks the money to finance it as negotiators stayed quiet Wednesday about their private discussions.  The Capitol was empty, Pennsylvania's Republican-controlled Legislature wasn't in session again and few, if any, lawmakers were in the building.  
Wolf stayed out of sight, while his press secretary said there is still time and hope to reach an agreement with lawmakers on a revenue package that can fill a $1 billion-plus hole in the state's deficit-riddled budget plan.  "I still think we have time to reach agreement and that is our hope," press secretary Jeff Sheridan said Wednesday.  Under discussion are higher taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products, a huge expansion of casino-style gambling, increasing taxes on banks and extending the state's 6 percent sales tax to digital downloads.  Wednesday was the sixth day without state spending authorization in place for the 2016-17 fiscal year, and Wolf could be left with the decision to veto hundreds of millions of dollars in spending items before signing budget legislation.

Watch Governor Wolf’s Budget Update (VIDEO)
July 05, 2016 By: The Office of Governor Tom Wolf Video Runtime : 00:23
Watch Governor Wolf’s ‪budget update and find out how the governor is continuing to work with the legislature to achieve his three budget priorities: funding our schools, fighting the opioid crisis, and balancing the budget.

Yet another five things to know about the #PaBudget: Wednesday Morning Coffee
By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 06, 2016 at 8:01 AM
THE MORNING COFFEE
Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
We are under-caffeinated and seriously behind this morning, so we're going to dispense with the pleasantries and get right into it.  With a new week well underway and no final state budget deal in sight, here's your clip-and-save guide to where things stand with the fiscal 2016-17 spending plan.

Pa House Republican lawmakers eye injured workers to help balance $31.6 billion budget
Morning Call by Steve Esack Contact Reporter Call Harrisburg Bureau July 6, 2016
Pa House Republican lawmakers eye injured workers to help balance $31.6 billion budget
HARRISBURG — Legislative leaders in the Republican-controlled House are eyeing another revenue source to help balance the state's $31.6 billion budget without a tax increase: injured workers.  The idea calls for the state to take out a loan from a deficit-laden workers compensation insurance fund the state owns and manages on behalf of companies that cannot get private insurance due to the high-risk nature of their industries or a poor track record of claims.  The State Workers Insurance Fund dates to 1915. It is a government-sanctioned insurer of last resort and falls under the auspices of the Department of Labor & Industry.  "It would be a temporary loan from that fund," said Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana.  No exact loan details have been released. Still, the concept is drawing a cool-to-lukewarm response because of the fund's unfunded liability.

Pennsylvania back in budget limbo
Citizens Voice BY ROBERT SWIFT, HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF JULY 6, 2016
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania returns to budget limbo, a familiar situation in recent years as fiscal and political pressures continue to collide.  The state budget for fiscal 2016-17 is not finished or on time because lawmakers have sent only a $31.5 billion spending bill to Gov. Tom Wolf for signing. The four legislative caucuses and Wolf have yet to reach agreement and find the votes to pass the equally important revenue bills to support all the spending.  Wolf has until midnight Monday to take action on the spending bill, but the governor can’t sign the bill as is because it’s not balanced between spending and revenues as required by state law, said spokesman Jeff Sheridan Tuesday.  The governor could veto spending items to bring it in balance if there’s no revenue agreement by then.

One holiday weekend later, it's back to the drawing board in Pennsylvania tax talks
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 06, 2016 at 6:30 AM, updated July 06, 2016 at 7:46 AM
Negotiators got back to the hard business of trying to close out a negotiated, election-year package of tax and revenue increases at the state Capitol Tuesday, with an eye toward a new, July 11 deadline.  That's the date for Gov. Tom Wolf to decide to sign or veto the $31.5 billion spending plan the General Assembly sent him on June 30.  Unlike last year, Democrat Wolf has said that he is fine with this spending plan, the product of bipartisan talks with the Republican-controlled General Assembly.  But the governor has also said he would not sign it without a revenue package that he is sure will bring in enough new income to pay for its large increases in aid to public schools and in mandatory public employee pension obligations.  With no breakthroughs on that front Tuesday, there were still no solid plans to bring House and Senate members back into voting session as of Tuesday night.

Time to consider a 2-year budget cycle
Citizens Voice BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD / PUBLISHED: JULY 6, 2016
What about next year? Even though the Legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf have failed for the second straight year to adopt a budget on time, it’s not too soon to ponder the fiscal year 2018 budget. Because legislators passed the spending portion of the budget without agreeing to a tax bill to cover a $1 billion deficit, they have created the prospect of the same problem next year.  Also for the second straight year, the problem resides primarily in the House Republican caucus. It wants to increase spending, as reflected in the $31.5 billion budget bill, without increasing or shifting any taxes — or, at least, raising or shifting any taxes for which it would have to claim political responsibility.  Instead, that chamber favors yet more gambling and other indirect and unguaranteed sources of income such as an increase in money from the Liquor Control Board possibly to be generated from supermarket wine sales.  Such annual budgetary acrobatics have helped to create and preserve the systemic $1 billion budget deficit.  Rather than engaging in the exercise every year, the commonwealth should join 20 other states in adopting a two-year budget cycle. 

Marple Newtown holds the line on taxes in new budget
Delco Times By Leslie Krowchenko, Times Correspondent POSTED: 07/06/16, 10:41 PM EDT
NEWTOWN >> Matching the fiscal success of two years ago, the Marple Newtown School Board voted unanimously to adopt the 2016-2017 final budget and zero-percent tax increase. The $78.6 million budget will maintain the current rate of 18.1 mills.  Based on the average assessment of about $250,000 for homes within the district, the typical tax bill will continue around $4,525. Homeowners who qualify will receive a credit on their bill through the Homestead Act.  Marple Newtown had the option of raising taxes as high as its Act 1 index of 2.4 percent and applying for exceptions to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Unlike previous years, when it asked for and received retirement exceptions, the district did not make any requests this year.

Allentown union prez caught in legal battle loses pension credits
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on July 06, 2016 at 1:49 PM, updated July 06, 2016 at 1:51 PM
The pension credits of the current and former Allentown teachers' union presidents have been revoked amid a lawsuit challenging the practice of releasing union leaders from teaching duties.  The Public School Employees' Retirement System rescinded them at the end of April. Allentown Education Association President Debra Tretter and former president Melvin Riddick are appealing the loss of credits, which are key to determining their total retirement benefits.  The appeals were revealed in a late June legal filing by PSERS, in response to a lawsuit brought in February by the Fairness Center on behalf of former school board member Scott Armstrong and city resident Steven Ramos.  The lawsuit in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court challenges the school district's practice of continuing to pay the salary and benefits of the union president while they work full-time for the union.


Obama administration proposes new rules for K-12 standardized testing
Washington Post By Emma Brown July 6 at 5:46 PM 
The nation’s new federal education law makes room for states to design and try out new and better ways to measure what kids know, because just about everyone agrees on this: Standardized tests as currently delivered in U.S. public schools leave something to be desired.  The law, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, allows seven states to design and test “innovative assessments” starting with a few districts and then scaling up to schools statewide over a period of five years.  The Education Department on Wednesday proposed draft regulations that outline in more detail how the pilot program will work, including what states will have to explain about their proposed new test when they apply to participate.  States don’t have to try to overhaul their whole testing program all at once, according to the proposed rules: They can choose one grade level to work on, or one subject area.  The draft regulations do not suggest a timeline for states to apply for the program and begin administering new tests. But it almost certainly won’t be the Obama administration that chooses the participating states, agency officials said. Because of the federal timeline for receiving comment, publishing final regulations and soliciting applications, that decision will be left to the next president and his or her education secretary.

Clinton Borrows From Bernie
In bid to snag her Democratic opponent's supporters, presumptive nominee adapts previous college plan by embracing free public college tuition for those with incomes up to $125,000.
Inside Higher Ed By Doug Lederman July 7, 2016
As she heads into the general election campaign versus Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton might be expected to tack to the center as Democratic candidates typically do. But on Wednesday, the presumptive presidential nominee revamped her higher education affordability proposal in ways designed to tap into the liberal (and youthful) support of the opponent she vanquished in the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders.  Throughout the Democratic campaign, Clinton and Sanders clashed over their competing plans to bolster college going and remake higher education financing. Sanders proposed an aggressive push to make public college tuition free for all Americans, while Clinton focused -- in ways that many college officials and financial aid experts applauded -- on ensuring that more Americans could emerge from college without student debt.  But in reframing her higher education plan on Wednesday, Clinton made two major adjustments, both of which put her squarely in Sanders territory, programmatically and rhetorically.

Hillary Clinton affirms support for (“not for-profit”) charter schools
RedefinEd By TRAVIS PILLOW On JULY 6, 2016
Last fall, when Hillary Clinton made statements criticizing charter schools, some Democratic education reformers expressed concerns, but also counseled patience. The former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State had supported charters since the ’90s, they said, and would likely continue to do so.  Some observers noted she hadn’t indicated a major shift in position. it seems they were vindicated yesterday, as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee made seemingly pro-charter comments at the National Education Association’s annual convention. The country’s largest teachers union was quick to support Clinton in her party’s primary, and The 74 reports that, but for the bit about charters, the room full of educators received her warmly.

For HRC: Profit Vs. Non-Profit Charters
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Tuesday, July 5, 2016
So this is how we're going to play it.
As all the interwebs now know, Hillary Clinton got herself booed at the NEA conference today by mentioning charter schools (she also drew jeers for GOP dumpster-fire/candidate Donald Trump). But in language mimicked by the many folks who read Politico, Politico said
The presidential hopeful won back the crowd by making a distinction between charter schools in general, and those schools run by for-profit companies. Clinton said people on the outside are pushing “for-profit charter schools on our kids.”
This mirrors a plank in the Democratic Platform Draft, which also directs its disapproval fully and only at those nasty For Profit charters. The theory here is that it's just those for-profits that are trying to make a bundle by privatizing education and redirecting public tax dollars into private pockets. This is a distinction without a difference.  Let's consider all the ways that private companies and individuals profit from non-profit charter schools.

Digging Deeper Into That New, Bipartisan Career and Tech. Ed. Bill in Congress
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on July 6, 2016 12:09 PM
Could we see not one, but two reauthorizations of major federal education laws inside of one year?  If President Barack Obama gives his thumbs-up to a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act before mid-December, we'll have two such bill signings inside of 365 days—remember, Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act on Dec. 10, 2015. But what's in the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act?   Late last month, I touched on some of the general themes and intentions of the legislation, which was introduced by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa. But I rang up a couple of observers to see what else in the bill caught their attention, in advance of a House education committee markup on the legislation scheduled for Thursday.

Rules Proposed for ESSA's Innovative Assessment Pilot
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on July 6, 2016 8:15 AM
The Every Student Succeeds Act was supposed to help states move on from the No Child Left Behind Act, in part by offering fewer and better tests. And to help states with the "better" part of that equation, the new law allows them to try out competency based assessments and performance tasks through an Innovative Assessment pilot. The goal is to experiment with new forms of testing on a small scale that can eventually be used statewide.   So how exactly will that pilot, which is open to up to seven states, work initially?    The U.S. Department of Education Wednesday sketched some preliminary rules of the road("draft regulations," in federal speak) on that subject. They address, among other things, what states need to do to be ready to apply for the pilot, and how states can figure out if these brand-new tests are "comparable" to their state assessments. (Fact sheet on all this here, and more on the specifics below). 


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)
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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