Monday, February 13, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 13: HB250 – Turzai wants to increase EITC by $50M and OSTC by $25M with no fiscal or academic performance accountability

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4000 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, school solicitors, principals, 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, Instagram and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 13, 2017
HB250 – Turzai wants to increase EITC by $50M and OSTC by $25M with no fiscal or academic performance accountability

“House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-28, Pittsburgh, said the EITC and the related opportunity scholarship tax credit don’t belong under any block grant.
He said those programs were created under an education law, not a tax law.
“I think that’s separate and distinct,” he said.  The education tax credits have a different mission than a normal business tax credit, said Turzai. They allow businesses to underwrite scholarships so more than 40,000 students can attend private schools and support educational programs at public schools, he said.
Turzai wants to increase the tax credits available under the educational improvement tax credit by $50 million and tax credits under the scholarship tax credit by $25 million in the next budget.”
State tax credits in budget crosshairs
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf wants to change state tax credits offered to businesses and other groups and slash state funding available for them by 20 percent.  A cost-savings proposal in the governor’s budget for fiscal 2017-18 would convert an array of state tax credits into a block grant. That would enable Wolf Cabinet officials to give priority to those tax credits providing the greatest opportunities for business investment, education access and community development. The state revenue available to support these tax credits would be reduced by $100 million next year from a current level of nearly $500 million if lawmakers adopt the proposal.  Department secretaries also would give priority to funding tax credits based in part on their performance in meeting goals and the demand for them, said state Budget Secretary Randy Albright. Tax credits figure into balancing the proposed $32.3 billion state budget. A business or organization pays less state tax if it obtains a tax credit for a specific purpose.

HB250: OPED: PA should prioritize public education students
York Dispatch Opinion by Eric Wolfgang, Springettsbury Township12:56 p.m. ET Feb. 9, 2017
Eric Wolfgang is president of the Central York School Board. He lives in Springettsbury Township.
As Pennsylvania faces continued budget challenges for the coming fiscal year, every dollar matters, particularly for students in our public schools. Yet, legislators are trying to tinker with the budget in a way that would negatively impact public schools across the commonwealth. House Bill 250 would add $50 million (to $175 million) to the existing Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and $25 million (to $75 million) to the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs.  The state is challenged to close an estimated $716 million revenue on this year’s budget, and is looking at a growing structural deficit at nearly $3 billion. Now is not the time for the General Assembly to redirect tax dollars into programs that largely benefits private, nonpublic schools.  These programs shift limited state funds away from public school districts, by siphoning valuable dollars from the general fund, via tax credits that could otherwise be used for public schools. As a result, millions of dollars will not be available to fund the basic education subsidy that goes to school districts to provide instruction and educational services for the 1.8 million students in public schools.

Reprise October 2016: Pennsylvania’s “successful EITC program” is successful at circumventing the Pennsylvania Constitution.
PA Constitution Article III, Section 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.”

Keystone State Education Coalition Commentary October 9, 2016
Pennsylvania’s EITC and OSTC programs were carefully crafted to circumvent Article III Section 15 of the PA constitution and divert public tax dollars to private and religious schools with no fiscal or performance accountability.
Every tax dollar diverted to private and religious school under the EITC program is a dollar that is not available to the general fund.  For FY 14-15 there were 1096 recipients of EITC funds totaling over $108.3 million.
Furthermore, the scholarship organizations that distribute the funds get to keep 20% of the money.  Comparable programs in Florida only direct 3% of the funds to those intermediary organizations.”
Here are the top 100 dollar recipients (receiving $67.6 million).  In addition to numerous large amounts funding religious schools you will also see several of the Philadelphia Main Line’s most prestigious private schools on this list.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 12: PA Manufacturers Assoc.: The property tax elimination fallacy

Smooth ride predicted for state budget
Standard Speaker BY JIM DINO / PUBLISHED: FEBRUARY 13, 2017
Local state legislators have confidence a state budget will be approved on time this year for the first time in three years.
They also believe state pension reform legislation will be approved during this session of the Legislature, they told members of the Manufacturers and Employers Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania at a legislative forum Friday at Top of the 80s restaurant in Sugarloaf Township. State Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-124, Tamaqua, said he sees a more cooperative Gov. Tom Wolf, based on remarks the governor made during his budget address to the Legislature on Tuesday. “The tone was much different, much better in terms of sending the message he truly wants to work with the Legislature,” Knowles said. “It is a much better approach then he has used in the past. That’s a good sign we’re off to a good start. I feel very encouraged. I think it’s going to be much smoother. I predict we will have a budget on time.”

Riverside may start giving grades for PSSA performance
TAYLOR — When taking state exams, some Riverside students fill in random bubbles or rush through the questions with little thought, administrators say.  “They say it doesn’t count for anything,” Junior-Senior High School Principal Joe Moceyunas said.  Now it may.
Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams to be taken in the spring by seventh- and eighth-graders could be used as part of their first-quarter grades in the fall. If the plan is implemented, Riverside students would be the only ones in Lackawanna County, and likely the region, to receive a grade based on their PSSA performance.  “We need to put ownership on the kids,” Moceyunas said. “The test reflects all of us.”

“As it turns out, asthma has risen by 18 percent, ADHD by 44 percent and autism spectrum disorders by 400 percent from 2003 through 2011-12 for all children, with debate about whether they reflect more actual cases or better health care and diagnoses.   But the rise in lifetime prevalence of asthma “was most prominent among poor children,” the study found, with a 26 percent higher rate compared with affluent children, and a 58 percent higher rate among uninsured children.  For ADHD, the increase in lifetime prevalence for children living at or under the federal poverty line was 43 percent higher than those in the highest income bracket. “
Study shows poor children face higher rates of asthma and ADHD
By David Templeton / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 13, 2017 12:00 AM
Poverty takes a toll on human health and especially on children. 
The American Academy of Pediatrics and Britain’s Child Poverty Action Group, among various groups and scientific studies, long have documented the higher risk of illness, chronic disease and disability among impoverished children, along with lower birth weights and an average life expectancy nearly a decade shorter than children from affluent families.  Now add asthma and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder to the long list of physical and mental maladies, along with attendant conditions known as “comorbidities.”  These are the key findings of a Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC study published today in Pediatrics.  

“In the contest for students, one of the most cost-effective moves for public school districts is to expand offerings in online learning. According to Harner, Quakertown has to pay about $12,000 for a student who leaves for a cyber-charter, yet the district can teach that same child online for about $3,000.”
Public schools step up fight to win back charter students
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer  @Kathy_Boccella | Updated: FEBRUARY 12, 2017 — 6:08 AM EST
When Quakertown Community School Superintendent Bill Harner realized his district was shelling out $250,000 a year in tuition reimbursements for 17 students studying dance at a performing arts charter in nearby Allentown, he came up with a battle plan.  The Upper Bucks district, he decided, would beat the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts at its own game.  “We will have a brand-new dance studio," said Harner, who has counted more than 20 applicants for a program that, he vows, will put the district "on the map for dance." And he isn't finished. To enhance the drama program, a “black box” theater, a bare-bones performance space, is being built. Declared Harner: “We love competition.” Each year, Quakertown Community spends about $2 million on students who choose to attend charters rather than their public schools. As tuition payments to charters bite ever deeper into the budgets of virtually every district in the region, some are beginning aggressive campaigns to win kids back. Their strategies range from direct-mail marketing, to boisterous “back-to-school” rallies with bouncy castles, to pricey new programs such as all-day kindergarten.

Feinberg said he started paying attention to DeVos long before she emerged nationally as President Donald Trump’s choice for education secretary. The U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed her this week, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the decisive tie-breaking vote, after a contentious round of hearings.  Feinberg noted DeVos' generous donations to political candidates who support school choice.  The American Federation for Children, of which she is a former chairwoman, has made contributions to school choice PACs in Pennsylvania.
DeVos spurs hope, fear over possible charter school growth in Pennsylvania
Meadville Tribune By John Finnerty CNHI News Service February 11, 2017
HARRISBURG — More Pennsylvanians already attend charter schools than students in most other states. With Betsy DeVos leading the U.S. Department of Education, school choice proponents hope — and critics fear — their numbers will rise.  DeVos is an advocate for, and generous donor to, school choice causes. Her home state of Michigan is one of eight with more charter schools than Pennsylvania.  Lawrence Feinberg, a longtime school board member in Delaware County, said at a minimum DeVos can use the bully pulpit of her new post to encourage states to develop rules more friendly to charters.  That worries him.  While charter schools themselves must be nonprofit, Pennsylvania law allows them to hire for-profit management companies. It's hard to tell how those companies spend money, how much goes to education and how much money goes into the pockets of executives.  Betsy is fine with that,” Feinberg said. “I see education as a public good — not as something to wring money out of."

Blogger comment: PLANCON provides funding for public school construction for buildings that are owned by the public.  Let’s hope that PLANCON doesn’t turn into another vehicle for public funds being used to enrich charter school  private management company owners.
PA Senate GOP Website February 10, 2017
WHAT:          The PA Public School Building Construction and Reconstruction Advisory Committee will hold its next public hearing to continue discussion and receive testimony related to the state’s reimbursement program for school districts for costs associated with construction and reconstruction and lease of public school buildings (commonly known as PlanCon). The Committee was established pursuant to Act 25 of 2016 to review and make recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly.
WHO:             PlanCon Committee, co-chaired by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne and House Education Committee Chairman Stan Saylor. This hearing will be held in the district of PlanCon co-chair Representative Saylor.
Tentatively scheduled to testify include:
·         Mike Wang, Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners
·         Jonathan Cetel, Executive Director, PennCAN
·         Naomi Johnson Booker, Vice President, Board of Trustees, Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and CEO, Global Leadership Academy Charter School in Philadelphia
·         Anthony Pirrello, Vice President, Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools Board of Trustees, and CEO, Montessori Regional Charter School in Erie
·         Dave Steele, PE, ACEC/PA Vice Chair of Facilities Committee, Vice President, Urban Engineers, Inc.
·         John Luciani, President, First Capital Engineering
·         Scott A. Deisley, Superintendent, Red Lion Area School District 
Monday, February 13 at 11:00 a.m. 

Red Lion Area High School, 200 Horace Mann Avenue, Red Lion, PA 17356

Trump Drops Defense of Obama Guidelines on Transgender Students
New York Times By LIAM STACK FEB. 11, 2017
A nationwide injunction that has kept transgender students from using school bathrooms and other facilities that correspond with their gender identity will remain in place after the Trump administration decided not to challenge it in court. The move, announced Friday, ended an effort mounted by the Obama administration after the order was announced last year.  The injunction was issued in August by Judge Reed O’Connor of the Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas as part of a lawsuit filed by more than a dozen states over the Obama administration’s position that Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in schools, protects transgender students.  Under that interpretation, transgender students have access to facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity, a proposition to which social conservatives strongly object. They argue that allowing transgender students to use those facilities poses a threat to the privacy and safety of other students.  The Obama administration appealed the injunction and requested that it apply only to states involved in the lawsuit and not nationwide. Oral arguments in that case were scheduled to begin on Tuesday, but on Friday, the Justice Department withdrew the previous administration’s challenge.

New PSBA Winter Town Hall Series coming to your area
Introducing a new and exciting way to get involved and stay connected in a location near you! Join your PSBA Town Hall meeting to hear the latest budget and political updates affecting public education. Enjoy light hors d’oeuvres and networking with fellow school directors. Locations have been selected to minimize travel time. Spend less time in the car and more time learning about issues impacting your schools.
6-6:35 p.m.         Association update from PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains
6:35 -7:15 p.m. Networking Reception
7:15-8 p.m.         Governor’s budget address recap
Monday, February 20     Forbes Road Career and Technology Center, Monroeville
Tuesday, February 21    Venango Technology Center, Oil City
Wednesday, Feb 22       Clearfield County Career and Technical Center, Clearfield
Thursday, February 23   Columbia Montour AVTS, Bloomsburg
Monday, February 27     Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, Jamison
Tuesday, February 28    PSBA, Mechanicsburg
Wednesday, March 1     Bedford County Technical Center, Everett
Thursday, March 2         West Side CTC, Kingston

Ron Cowell at EPLC always does a great job with these policy forums.
RSVP Today for a Forum In Your Area! EPLC is Holding Five Education Policy Forums on Governor Wolf’s 2017-2018 State Budget Proposal
Forum #1 – Pittsburgh Thursday, February 23, 2017 – Wyndham University Center – 100 Lytton Avenue, Pittsburgh (Oakland), PA 15213
Forum #2 – Harrisburg Area (Enola, PA) Tuesday, February 28, 2017 – Capital Area Intermediate Unit – 55 Miller Street (Susquehanna Room), Enola, PA 17025
Forum #3 – Philadelphia Thursday, March 2, 2017 – Penn Center for Educational Leadership, University of Pennsylvania, 3440 Market Street (5th Floor), Philadelphia, PA 19104
Forum #4 – Indiana University of Pennsylvania Tuesday, March 14, 2017 – 1011 South Drive (Stouffer Hall), Indiana, PA 15705
Forum #5 – Lehigh Valley Tuesday, March 28, 2017 – Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit #21, 4210 Independence Drive, Schnecksville, PA 18078
Governor Wolf will deliver his 2017-2018 state budget proposal to the General Assembly on February 7. These policy forums will be early opportunities to get up-to-date information about what is in the proposed education budget, the budget’s relative strengths and weaknesses, and key issues.  Each of the forums will take following basic format (please see below for regional presenter details at each of the three events). Ron Cowell of EPLC will provide an overview of the Governor’s proposed budget for early education, K-12 and higher education.  A representative of The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will provide an overview of the state’s fiscal situation and key issues that will affect this year’s budget discussion. The overviews will be followed by remarks from a panel representing statewide and regional perspectives concerning state funding for education and education related items. These speakers will discuss the impact of the Governor’s proposals and identify the key issues that will likely be considered during this year’s budget debate.
Although there is no registration fee, seating is limited and an RSVP is required.
Offered in partnership with PASA and the PA Department of Education March 29-30, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg - Camp Hill, PA .    Approved for 40 PIL/Act 48 (Act 45) hours for school administrators.  Register online at

PASBO 62nd Annual Conference, March 21-24, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh.
Register now for the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference March 25-27 Denver
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.

Register for the 2017 PASA Education Congress, “Delving Deeper into the Every Student Succeeds Act.” March 29-30

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!

Save the Date 2017 PA Principals Association State Conference October 14. 15, 16, 2017
Doubletree Hotel Cranberry Township,  PA

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