Friday, December 23, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 23: Property Tax Reform: who will pay more to replace the 1/4th of all property tax revenue paid by businesses?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 23, 2016
Property Tax Reform: who will pay more to replace the 1/4th of all property tax revenue paid by businesses?

In 1974 the PA legislature provided 54%of education funding. Now it provides just 37%, exacerbating local property tax burden.

“Under current provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution, any plan to eliminate property taxes must eliminate them for businesses as well as homeowners. Then the question becomes: What taxes will be raised to offset the lost revenue from property taxes? Who will make up the difference?  A lot of people are thrilled when they hear that the Legislature is considering a bill that would eliminate school property taxes. They often overlook the other half of the legislation: Because the need for public school money doesn't disappear, who will pay more to replace the one-fourth of all property tax revenue paid by businesses?”
Lieutenant governor: Plan to eliminate property taxes falls short
Reading Eagle By Lt. Gov. Mike Stack Thursday December 22, 2016 12:01 AM
As we think about tax fairness, think about all the large companies in your community. Consider the big-box national chain stores, the shopping malls owned by developers, the car dealerships, the industrial sites. And consider office complexes in the suburbs, and office towers sitting on expensive real estate in downtown areas, many of them probably owned by out-of-state investment groups. Think about similar businesses all over the state.  Then ask yourself: How would you like to pick up the tab once all those big companies stop paying property taxes?  Under a so-called property tax reform plan that came before the Legislature last year, and which probably will surface again in the next legislative session, that's exactly what you would end up doing. And it's a sizable tab. According to the Pennsylvania Economy League, commercial and industrial real estate account for 25.6 percent of assessed property in Pennsylvania (as of 2015).  The property tax is a perpetual issue in Pennsylvania, going back at least to the 1980s. And before I go any further, allow me to state this plainly: Property taxes in Pennsylvania are too high and too unfair. The Wolf administration, and I personally, want to do something about that. In fact, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a plan to dramatically reduce property taxes with his first budget.
As important as it is to reduce property taxes, however, it is just as important to do it in a way that does not give enormous tax breaks to big corporations and stick average folks with the bill. In an America where income inequality is already too great, we must not make that problem worse.

Don’t attack charter schools; act to improve education
Post-Gazette Letter by ROBERT FAYFICH, Executive Director Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools King of Prussia, Pa. December 23, 2016 12:00 AM
As the solicitor for the Pittsburgh Public Schools, Ira Weiss knows that most of the allegations he made against charter schools in his Dec. 14 letter (“Charter Schools Aren’t a Real Option for Many Families”), if true, are illegal. Yet he fails to provide any substantiation of his claims or to make those same claims in a forum where such statements are subject to independent verification. Why? Because it is easier to attack with innuendo than it is to change.  Ignored in Mr. Weiss’ letter is the existence of Academy Charter School, which is populated 100 percent by children who are truant from the Pittsburgh school district, and the Hill House Passport Academy Charter School, which exists solely to give children a second chance at an education. The district is not working to keep those children in school, but those charter schools are.  Ignored is the fact that the Pittsburgh school district has one of the highest per-pupil costs in the state and is still among the lowest-performing districts in the state.  Ignored is the fact that the court recently overturned an action by the district to cripple four good charter schools by attempting to impose illegal one-year renewals.

Shining a light on the SRC
A court settlement between an activist group and the School Reform Commission aims for more transparency and opportunity for public input.
The notebook by Darryl Murphy December 22, 2016 — 11:29am
Thanks to the School Reform Commission, Lisa Haver and other members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools now have a daily habit: reading the newspaper's classified section.  Haver and five other members of the advocacy group were among the few people present on the morning of Monday, Oct. 6, 2014, at a quietly announced SRC meeting. The announcement of the meeting was made only in an ad placed in the classified section of the previous day’s Philadelphia Inquirer.  The purpose of the proceeding, as many suspected, was to cancel the School District’s contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.  Haver said she didn’t know about the meeting until another APPS member, Karel Kilimnik, called and asked her about it.  “Since then,” said Haver, “we have one member of APPS who, every single day, goes and looks at the classifieds to see if the SRC or the District is putting in these tiny notices that they don’t want people to know about.”  After a settlement with the SRC this fall, that kind of stealthy notice may be a thing of the past.

SRC evaluates Hite, citing him for his 'strong leadership'
One area in which he "needs improvement," commissioners said, was human resources management.
The notebook by Darryl Murphy December 22, 2016 — 4:39pm
The School Reform Commission released the results of Superintendent William Hite’s performance evaluation for the 2015-16 school year, and they seem to like how he is doing. 
“The 2015-16 school year saw tremendous uncertainty due to a nine-month budget stalemate. Under Dr. Hite’s leadership, the School District of Philadelphia not only weathered the budget storm but came out in a stronger position,” said Joyce Wilkerson, chair of the SRC and its newest member.  The evaluation was broken down into six categories: student growth and achievement, systems leadership, district operations and financial management, communication and community relations, human resources management, and professionalism. Performance in each category could be judged distinguished, proficient, needs improvement, or failing.   Hite was rated as "proficient" in most categories, except district operations and financial management, where he was marked as "distinguished." In a statement, Wilkerson praised Hite for his five-year, $440 million investment plan and his handling of the District’s substitute teacher crisis, which has apparently stabilized after a disastrous 2015-16, the first year of outsourcing the service of finding substitutes.

Ambridge strike to stretch into new year
Beaver County Times By Katherine Schaeffer December 22, 2016
AMBRIDGE -- As the Ambridge Area School District teachers strike stretches into its second week, neither side has plans to resume contract negotiations anytime soon.  The state Department of Education has ordered the teachers to return to work Jan. 5, and neither party says it has plans to return to the bargaining table before then.  The teachers strike began Dec. 13 after a bargaining session the previous evening failed to produce a contract. The union, which represents 189 teachers, has been working under the terms of an expired contract since June 30, 2015.  The two groups have been bargaining since January 2015 and have so far been unable to come to a consensus on salary increases and health insurance costs.

“Now two comprehensive studies put the lie to the “Money don’t matter” mantra. The National Bureau of Economic Research published one of the research studies in July 2016. It was conducted by the economists from the University of California at Berkeley and Northwestern. The researchers examined student test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in twenty-six states that increased funding for poorer school districts since 1990 and compared these results with student scores in twenty-three states that did not changed their funding formulas. Research uncovered a consistent pattern: States that send additional money to their lowest-income school districts see significantly more academic improvement in those districts than states that don’t.”
In Education, Money Matters!
Huffington Post by Alan Singer Social studies educator, Hofstra University, my opinions, of   course, are my own 12/22/2016 06:45 am ET | Updated 22 hours ago
In May 2016, the Texas Supreme Court upheld the state’s inequitable public school funding system as constitutional, while urging the state to implement system reform. It called the funding formula “undeniably imperfect,” although it satisfied Texas’ “minimum constitutional requirements.” Two-thirds of Texas’ school districts had sued the state over unequal education funding. In defense of the system, the assistant solicitor general told the judges “Money isn’t pixie dust.“ Changing the funding system would be “no guarantee of better student outcomes.” The court called the Texas system Byzantine, an apt description for school funding in the entire country. In the 2013-2014 school year average per pupil spending in the United States was $10,700, but it ranged from $6,555 in Utah to $19,818 in New York. Some of the lowest paying states like Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas also have some of the nation’s worst performing schools

Why opening a charter school is like opening your own business
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 22 at 4:04 PM 
The “school choice” movement in the United States is bound to get a huge boost from President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of Betsy DeVos, a Michigan billionaire and choice advocate, as his secretary of education. If she is approved by the Senate, as expected, DeVos will push to expand a range of choice programs that use public funds for schools not part of traditional public systems.  DeVos has called the public education system in the country — which many see as the United States’ most important civic institution — as a “dead end” and a government-run “monopoly.” That’s why public-education advocates are worried about her impending leadership at the Education Department.  [To Trump’s education pick, the U.S. public school system is a ‘dead end’]One of the pieces in DeVos’s constellation of choice programs is charter schools, which are publicly funded but operated independently from traditional systems, sometimes by nonprofit organizations and sometimes by for-profit companies. Nationwide, the charter-school sector has grown over the past few decades amid a debate about its virtues and drawbacks — and even over whether the publicly funded schools are public or private entities. Some charters are excellent. But as the sector has grown, so have problems that have gone unaddressed.

Trump's Pick to Lead Budget Office Has Backed School Choice, Anti-NCLB Bills
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on December 22, 2016 8:01 AM
President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget, South Carolina GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney, could have a significant impact on federal public school policy in a few ways. So what K-12 bills has he supported since his election to Congress in 2010? First we should point out that Mulvaney, who has the reputation of being a budget hawk and supports a federal Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, would help lead the development of federal budgets under Trump. As the head of OMB, Mulvaney would also oversee agency performance and review federal regulations.   Mulvaney doesn't have an extensive record when it comes to education legislation in Congress. And on his official website, he doesn't list education on his "Issues" page. But here are a few bills he's gotten behind:

The NPE Toolkit: Stop Betsy DeVos
Networkk for Public Education December 16, 2016 by admin
The more we learn, the more we are certain that Betsy DeVos is bad for public schools and for kids.
When De Vos has to choose between quality schools and “the free market,” she chooses “the free market” of privatized choice every time. The best interests of children take a back seat. And we know the DeVos endgame–shut down our neighborhood public schools, and replace them with a patchwork of charters, private schools and online learning.  We can’t let that happen and we need your help. Present and future generations of children are depending on us to act now.  We now know that some Senators have grave doubts. It is our job to make those doubts grow into active resistance to DeVos. Our senators are in district offices from 12/17 – 1/2.
Here are our three toolkits to help you do your part.
Toolkit 1. Call your senators’ offices. The toolkit with numbers and a phone script can be found here. It includes a link to phone numbers.
Toolkit 2. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can find a model here.
Toolkit 3. Visit your senators’ offices. If you cannot get an appointment, hand deliver a letter. Our toolkit, which you can find here has a model to use, and directions to find local offices. If you cannot hand deliver it, send your letter in the mail.

Blogger note: Have an opinion about the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education?  Call these three senators today.
1. Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Washington, D.C. Phone:(202) 224-4944
2. Senator Toomey's Offices
Washington, D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4254
Senator Casey is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
3. Senator Casey’s Offices
Washington, D.C. Phone: (202) 224-6324
Toll Free: (866) 802-2833

PHLpreK Now Enrolling!
Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Education
Did you know that quality early childhood education sets our children up for success? It reduces the need for special education, raises graduation rates, and narrows the achievement gap. These benefits ripple throughout our schools, neighborhoods, and local economy. That’s why the City of Philadelphia is expanding free, quality pre-K for 6,500 three- and four-year-olds over the next five years. In fact, the first 2,000 pre-K seats are available now. Families should act fast because classes begin on January 4th at more than 80 locations. Please help us spread the word. Parents/caregivers can call 844-PHL-PREK (844-745-7735) to speak with a trained professional who will help them apply and locate quality pre-K programs nearby.  For more information, visit

Pennsylvania Every Student Succeeds Act Public Tour
The Department of Education (PDE) is holding a series of public events to engage the public on important education topics in Pennsylvania.  The primary focus of these events will be the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law signed by President Barack Obama in late 2015. A senior leader from the department will provide background on the law, and discuss the ongoing development of Pennsylvania’s State Plan for its implementation, which will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in 2017.  Feedback is important to PDE; to provide the best avenue for public comment as well as provide an opportunity for those who cannot attend an event, members of the community are encouraged to review materials and offer comments at
Upcoming Public Events:
Wednesday, January 4- Quakertown- 5:30 pm- Bucks County Free Library
Bucks County Free Library Quakertown Branch
401 West Mill Street Quakertown, PA  18951
Tuesday, January 10- Scranton- 4:00 pm- Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County
Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County
3201 Rockwell Avenue Scranton, PA  18508

“The “Success Starts Here” campaign is a multi-year statewide effort to share the positive news about public education through advertising, web, social media, traditional media and word-of-mouth with the goal of raising understanding of the value of public education in Pennsylvania. The campaign is led by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, but relies on the support of a wide variety of participating organizations.”
Share Your School’s Story: Success Starts Here Needs You!
Success Starts Here needs you! Show your support by sharing stories, using social media and applying window clings to all of your school buildings. Below are some links to resources to help you help us.
Not sure where to start? This simple tool kit will provide to you everything you need to get involved in the campaign, including ways to work with the media, social media tips, a campaign article to post, downloadable campaign logos, and photo release forms.
We know you have great stories, and it’s easy to share them! Just use our simple form to send your success story to be featured on our website. Help spread the word about how Success Starts Here in today’s public schools.
All school entities have been sent a supply of window clings for school building entrances. Need more? No problem! Just complete the online order form and more will quickly be on their way to you.

PASBO is seeking eager leaders! Ready to serve on the board? Deadline for intent letter is 12/31.
PASBO members who desire to seek election as Director or Vice President should send a letter of intent with a current resume and picture to the Immediate Past President Wanda M. Erb, PRSBA, who is chair of the PASBO Nominations and Elections Committee.

PSBA Virtual New School Director Training, Part 1
JAN 4, 2017 • 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
The job of a school board director is challenging.  Changing laws, policies, and pressures from your community make serving on your school board demanding, yet rewarding at the same time.  Most school directors – even those with many years of experience – say that PSBA training is one of the most important and valuable things they have done in order to understand their roles and responsibilities.  If you are a new school board director and didn’t have the opportunity to attend one of PSBA’s live New School Director Training events, you can now attend via your computer, either by yourself from your home or office, or with a group of other school directors.
This is the same New School Director Training content we offer in a live classroom format, but adjusted for virtual training.
Part 1
·         Role and responsibilities of the school board director.
·         How to work with PSBA’s member services team.
·         Your role as an advocate for public education.
·         The school board’s role in policy.
(See also: Part 2, Jan. 11Part 3, Jan. 18)
Fee: $149 per person includes all three programs. Materials may be downloaded free, or $25 for materials to be mailed to your home (log in to the Members Area and purchase through the Store/Registration link).
Register online:

PSBA Third Annual Board Presidents Day
JAN 28, 2017 • 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM Nine Locations Statewide
Jan. 28, 2017 (Snow date: Feb. 11, 2017)
Calling all school board presidents, vice-presidents, and superintendents — Join us for the 3rd Annual PSBA Board Presidents Day held at nine convenient locations around the state.
This is a day of meeting fellow board members from your area and taking part in thought-provoking dialogue about the issues every board faces.  PSBA Past President Kathy Swope will start things off with an engaging presentation based on her years as board president at the Lewistown Area School District.  Bring your own scenarios to this event to gain perspective from other districts.  Cost: $109 per person – includes registration, lunch and materials. All-Access Package applies.  Register online by logging in to the Members Area (see the Store/Registration link to view open event registrations,

NSBA Advocacy Institute 2017 -- Jan. 29-31, Washington, D.C.
Join school directors around the country at the conference designed to give you the tools to advocate successfully on behalf of public education.
  • NSBA will help you develop a winning advocacy strategy to help you in Washington, D.C. and at home.
  • Attend timely and topical breakout sessions lead by NSBA’s knowledgeable staff and outside experts.
  • Expand your advocacy network by swapping best practices, challenges, and successes with other school board members from across the country.
This event is open to members of the Federal Relations Network. To find out how you can join, contact Learn more about the Advocacy Institute at

Register now for the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference 
Plan to join public education leaders for networking and learning at the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference, March 25-27 in Denver, CO. General registration is now open at A conference schedule, including pre-conference workshops, is available on the NSBA website.

SAVE THE DATE LWVPA Convention 2017 June 1-4, 2017
Join the League of Women Voters of PA for our 2017 Biennial Convention at the beautiful Inn at Pocono Manor!

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