Friday, March 24, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 24: House sets risky health care vote after Trump demands it

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 24, 2017:
House sets risky health care vote after Trump demands it

Keystone Crossroads: Education Equity – Video Runtime 26:46
Every child in Pennsylvania is offered an education through their local school district, but not every district is able to provide the same opportunities. A lot depends on the where the student lives.

Trump Tells G.O.P. It’s Now or Never, Demanding House Vote on Health Bill
WASHINGTON — President Trump issued an ultimatum on Thursday to recalcitrant Republicans to fall in line behind a broad health insurance overhaul or see their opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act vanish, demanding a Friday vote on a bill that appeared to lack a majority to pass.  The demand, issued by his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, in an evening meeting with House Republicans, came after a marathon day of negotiating at the White House and in the Capitol in which Mr. Trump — who has boasted of his deal-making prowess — fell short of selling members of his own party on the health plan.  House Speaker Paul D. Ryan emerged from the session and announced curtly that Mr. Trump would get his wish for a vote on Friday. Mr. Ryan refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether he expected the measure to pass.  Although the House Republicans’ closed-door meeting became a cheerleading session for the bill, their leaders braced for a showdown on the floor, knowing they were likely to be at least a handful of votes short of a majority for the health insurance bill and would need to muscle their colleagues to the last to prevail.

“There was no evidence that leaders had nailed down sufficient support to prevail, nor that their decision to charge ahead was a feint and that they'd delay again if necessary. But they seemed to be calculating that at crunch time, enough dissidents would decide against sabotaging the bill, Trump's young presidency and the House GOP leadership's ability to set the agenda, with a single, crushing defeat.”
House sets risky health care vote after Trump demands it
Lancaster Online By ALAN FRAM and RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR Associated Press  Mar 24, 2017 Updated 3 hrs ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a gamble with monumental political stakes, Republicans set course for a climactic House vote on their health care overhaul after President Donald Trump claimed he was finished negotiating with GOP holdouts and determined to pursue the rest of his agenda, win or lose.  House Speaker Paul Ryan set the showdown for Friday, following a nighttime Capitol meeting at which top White House officials told GOP lawmakers that Trump had decided the time for talk was over.  "We have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it's collapsing and it's failing families. And tomorrow we're proceeding," Ryan tersely told reporters after scheduling what loomed as the most momentous vote to date for Trump and for the Wisconsin Republican's own speakership.  In an embarrassing and stinging setback hours earlier, leaders abruptly postponed the vote because a rebellion by conservatives and moderates would have doomed the measure. They'd hoped for a roll call Thursday, which marked the seventh anniversary of President Barack Obama's enactment of his landmark health care statute that Republicans have vowed ever since to annul.

Vote expected today: Call your Congressman’s office this morning to let them know that Pennsylvania could lose over $140 million in reimbursement for services that school districts provide to special education students; let them know how this would impact your students, district and taxpayers
Contact info:
Issue info:
Letter to Congress from 50 Education Groups:
PP4C: What’s at stake for kids if ACA is repealed?
How Medicaid, CHIP, and the ACA Cover Pennsylvania’s Children

“Without adequate funding from the state to overcome annual increases driven by mandated costs beyond our controls, like special education, pensions, charter school costs and the new requirement of foster student travel, more districts will increasingly be forced to reduce programs, increase class sizes, cut supplies and vocational training equipment, and reduce career-related electives for students. “
Without funding, more districts will face Erie’s plight: William A. Nichols
Go Erie Opinion by William A. Nichols March 24, 2017
William A. Nichols is superintendent of the Corry Area School District.
Although many people are surprised at the Erie School District's financial situation, it is clear that the present and projected funding for schools throughout our region and the state means schools will be making very serious reductions to their programs and their staffs.  It is important to understand that some of the same factors that brought the Erie district to this point are bearing down on other districts here in Erie County and around the state. Unless the state begins paying its fair share of education costs, more school districts will face similar struggles. According to a recent report from the Center on Regional Politics at Temple University, "the phenomenon of shortfalls for a substantial majority of districts in the state is not a one-year or even a short-term condition. It is a persistent, ongoing, and systemic crisis that will continue and worsen unless structural changes are made in the Pennsylvania school funding system."

Fair-funding formula questioned at Erie talks
Go Erie By Ed Palattella / Posted Mar 23, 2017 at 9:34 PMUpdated Mar 23, 2017 at 11:46 PM
The state's year-old fair-funding formula for public education received praise and criticism on Thursday night.  Both came from Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera and Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams.  They characterized the GOP-controlled General Assembly's 2016 passage of the formula, with a push from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, as one of Harrisburg's greatest legislative achievements.  But Rivera and Badams — speaking on public education before a sold-out crowd of about 260 people at the Jefferson Educational Society in Erie — criticized the application of the formula, which the Legislature agreed would only apply to new funding.  The formula takes into account such factors as poverty and is designed to help poor urban school districts such as Erie's. But Badams and Rivera said it is not delivering immediate fairness because of its application.  "I am not going to say funding is equitable. It is not," Rivera said. "I can say we are working hard to fix that."  Rivera said the funding gap would decrease with more investment.  Badams said the fair-funding formula would give the Erie School District an additional $38 million a year if applied to the state's entire basic education funding budget and not just new money.

Got a better idea to fix property taxes? Let's see it - otherwise you're just talk: Mike Folmer
PennLive Op-Ed  By Mike Folmer n March 23, 2017 at 10:15 AM
State Sen. Mike Folmer, a Republican, represents the 48th Senate District, which includes parts of Dauphin, Lebanon and York counties.
During my travels throughout the 48th Senatorial District, I hear a persistent drumbeat:  "eliminate school property taxes" - not partial elimination or reduced school property taxes - total elimination. That's why I've joined with Senator David Argall, R-Schuylkill, to fight for legislation eliminating school property taxes. In 2015, the Senate fell one vote short: 24-25.  This isn't the first time we've been down this road. Other plans have been offered to reduce property taxes and some have become law.   However, none have totally eliminated school property taxes as proposed by the legislation we are now circulating for co-sponsorship.  Act 511 was passed in 1965 to reduce both school and municipal property taxes through a myriad of other taxes, which proved to be equally unpopular and were changed or repealed over the years while school property taxes continued to rise.  In 1987, Governor Casey and the General Assembly sent a bipartisan tax mixture to the voters that was overwhelmingly rejected by the voters statewide by a margin of over four-to-one.  Eliminating property taxes is a great idea - in theory. In reality, it's fraught with very real obstacles and challenges.  During the Rendell administration, gaming was promised to reduce property taxes by a minimum of 20 percent. Today, we have both gambling and school property taxes.

Smooth sailing now, but choppy waters ahead for Philly school budget
Despite the expectation of a small balance of $33 million in the next fiscal year, the Philadelphia School District's financial picture remains bleak, with expenditures far outpacing revenues and an anticipated shortfall of nearly a billion dollars by 2022.  That was the message from Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson as he presented the annual "lump sum" budget to the School Reform Commission Thursday, along with five-year projections that lay out in detail how that cushion quickly curdles into a $138 million "negative fund balance" by 2019, just one year later.  "We're actually exactly where we were a year ago, we're just a year closer to that problem and our goal is for all of our funders to understand that and help us find ways to work to fill those gaps in the future," said Monson. "The time is running out for that future."  The projections are based on current revenue sources and recent trends in funding from the state and city, on which the district relies for most of its revenue.  They also factor in $150 million in additional compensation costs over five years for teachers, who have worked without a contract and received no raises since 2013 as the district and teachers union continue their protracted stalemate over wages, benefits and work rules.

Split Philly SRC approves plan to spend $2.9 billion in 2017-18
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham & Martha Woodall - Staff Writers Updated: MARCH 23, 2017 — 8:23 PM EDT
 By a vote of 3 to 1, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission on Thursday approved the broad outlines of a $2.9 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year that all the members agreed was not enough to cover the education that the district’s students need and deserve.  Commission member Bill Green, who cast the dissenting vote, had asked his fellow commissioners to join him in voting no for what he called “a fake budget.”  Green, a former City Council member, said voting against the so-called “lump-sum budget” was the only way to put pressure on the city and state to provide the additional money that the district needs  “You never get more than what you ask for,” he said.  SRC chair Joyce Wilkerson suggested a motion directing the district to spend time developing an alternative budget that would reflect that need.  That measure was approved unanimously.

Pleas made as Pa. education secretary visits Erie on Thursday.
Go Erie By Ed Palattella / Posted Mar 22, 2017 at 9:31 PM Updated Mar 22, 2017 at 10:15 PM
The Erie School District is calling on the community to focus more on Harrisburg, and the timing is fitting.  On Wednesday night, on the eve of state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera's visit to Erie, district Superintendent Jay Badams and others urged residents to continue to lobby state officials for more funding for the Erie School District.  The comments came at 90-minute public hearing at East High School on the district's proposed reconfiguration plan, in which it is considering sweeping changes, including reducing the number of high schools from four to two, to offset a $10 million budget deficit in fiscal 2017-18, which starts July 1. The hearing was the third of five the district is holding on the plan.  Many of the 15 speakers on Wednesday night said they supported the district's plan, given its bleak finances, but they also told the crowd of about 70 people that Harrisburg must rescue the school district by ensuring it gets its share of state education funding.  "I am more convinced that we are a forgotten region," Badams told the crowd. He said Erie often seems closer to Canada than Harrisburg.  "We need them to help us," he said.

Norwin schools authorize layoffs to balance budget
Post Gazette By Anne Cloonan March 24, 2017 12:00 AM
Norwin School District will consider layoffs as one way to trim an estimated $3.3 million budget deficit for 2017-18.   The school board Monday voted to authorize administrators to reduce the deficit through a review and reduction of staff positions that may include furloughs.  School board president Robert Perkins said the state’s Public School Employees Retirement System is hitting school districts with a financial burden that has "become unbearable.”  He said school directors don’t intend to cut programs, but they don’t have the answer right now to the financial problem. Board members will work on district finances in April, Mr. Perkins said.  During the meeting, teachers, a former teacher and students urged the board to keep the district’s art, music, and family and consumer science classes.  Christine Satterfield, head of the Norwin art department, attended the meeting with other district art teachers and asked the board to reconsider cutting art and family and consumer science classes.

“Burke noted that student enrollment was down to almost half of its peak enrollment of 5,200 in 1975. He also noted that, with increasing pension contributions, the district was facing a deficit of $1 to $3 million annually, with its reserve fund balance now exhausted.”
Tunkhannock Area to close three of four elementary schools
TUNKHANNOCK — The Tunkhannock Area School Board voted 8-1 Thursday night to close three of its four elementary schools and realign grades in the remaining school buildings in Tunkhannock.  Evans Falls, Mehoopany and Mill City will be closed beginning in the 2018-19 school year. The move is designed to improve the schools’ educational quality while keeping the district financially solvent for the future.  About 75 people attended the meeting, but no one in the audience addressed the board before the vote.   School board member William Swilley cast the lone no vote, saying he saw transportation, loss of personnel, and attention to special needs and pre-K kids as challenges in the new setup.  “I see the dream of wanting to make this a destination school district, but I don’t see the reality of achieving it by closing three buildings,” Swilley said, to a chorus of applause.  Board member John Burke said none of the options was optimal, “but if we do nothing, the quality of education will go down in a very big way.”

Spring-Ford hosts town hall on $12M high school expansion
More than 350 people attended a town hall meeting Thursday at Spring-Ford Area High School to hear the latest on the district’s expansion project and offers their views before the district moves forward.
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 03/23/17, 10:56 PM EDT | UPDATED: 4 HRS AGO
Spring-Ford Area High School Principal Patrick Nugent told the audience the high school may enroll as many as 2,500 students next year.Barry TaglieBER — For Digital First Media
ROYERSFORD >> Over 350 people filled the Spring-Ford Area High School auditorium Thursday night for a town hall meeting discussing a proposed major expansion of the school’s music and athletic wings, and an additional hallway near the cafeteria.  The price tag for the project could cost up to $12.1 million but officials say the current plan would not require a tax increase.  The meeting, which ran over two hours beginning at 7 p.m., included a formal presentation on the project delivered by members of the school board and administration, including Superintendent David Goodin, Principal Patrick Nugent, school board President Joe Ciresi and board Vice President Tom DiBello. The meeting also offered time for community members to provide their input. Leading up to the event, the school board said the meeting would provide an opportunity to dispel any nagging rumors about the proposed plan once and for all.

Pa.'s public education plight
Trib Live by COLIN MCNICKLE | Thursday, March 23, 2017, 8:55 p.m.
The transfer of middle and high school students in the Wilkinsburg School District into Pittsburgh Public Schools is raising some significant, and troubling, questions about not only this particular arrangement but about the state of public education in Pennsylvania.  Flagging enrollment led to an agreement by which Wilkinsburg Middle/High School was closed at the end of the last school year and approximately 270 students were folded into Pittsburgh Public Schools' Westinghouse Academy. The deal runs through at least the 2021-22 school year.  But Jake Haulk and Eric Montarti, scholars at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, say the most important question is why the Wilkinsburg school board thought sending its students to Westinghouse was in the best interest of students or taxpayers funding their education.

Commentary: Philadelphia educators long overdue for a fair contract
Inquirer Commentary by Jerry Jordan Updated: MARCH 23, 2017 — 9:26 PM EDT
Jerry Jordan is the president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
IT'S EASY to accept the School District's assertion that it has made a fair contract offer to Philly's educators - if you don't look too closely at the numbers behind the proposals.  Let's begin with the biggest number: $150 million. Yes, that's a lot of money. It's how much the district says it offered to the 11,500 teachers and non-instructional personnel.  The Daily News reported the fact that the offer represents a 4 percent raise for teachers. But this raise would affect only those teachers who qualify for step increases - about half of all Philly teachers. The Daily News' March 20 editorial omits the fact that teachers with 11 or more years' experience would not get this raise, and completely disregards the thousands of school secretaries, paraprofessionals and other noninstructional personnel represented by the PFT also excluded from this increase.  The PFT doesn't have the luxury of focusing only on the 8,625 members who are classroom teachers. The PFT recognizes that everyone working in a school does critical work for Philly's children. That's why we are committed to getting a fair contract for all our members.

Boyertown School District responds to locker room suit
Reading Eagle BY DAVID MEKEEL Thursday March 23, 2017 12:01 AM
In a still unsettled environment, the Boyertown School District is sticking by its guns.
Tuesday, district officials were surprised by the filing of a federal lawsuit by a Boyertown High School student and his parents. The suit claims the student — who is not identified in court documents — has had his right to privacy stolen from him because the district has allowed a transgender student to use the school's male locker rooms and bathrooms.  A day later, Superintendent Dr. Richard Faidley issued a statement saying the district “contests the claims and will appropriately respond and defend its actions that we believe were consistent and compliant with the law.”  The district is “committed through our words and actions to treating every student, and member of our community with respect, dignity, and sensitivity in accordance with all applicable laws,” the statement continues.  Faidley said that when district officials were approached by the student complaining about the transgender bathroom policy those officials offered him “reasonable and appropriate alternatives.” His guardians also were made aware of those alternatives.  They were not accepted.

A Republic, If You Can Keep It: The Education Every Student Really Needs
National Review by David Fouse March 21, 2017 12:15 PM
Local control would let our schools focus on teaching what is truly important.
‘If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” These words come from an 1816 letter written by Thomas Jefferson — one of our most influential Founding Fathers, but not the father of the United States Constitution. That title belongs to James Madison — and less than a third of American college graduates know this. But it’s not just Madison’s nickname that proves a problem for students. It’s the content and basic principles of the Constitution itself. Sixty percent of college graduates don’t know any of the steps necessary to ratify a constitutional amendment. Fifty percent don’t know how long the terms of representatives and senators are. Forty percent didn’t know that Congress has the power to declare war. 
Read more at:

PSBA Advocacy Forum and Day on the Hill APR 24, 2017 • 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the fourth annual Advocacy Forum on April 24, 2017, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hear from legislators on how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. Government Affairs will take a deeper dive into the legislative priorities and will provide tips on how to be an effective public education advocate. There will be dedicated time for you and your fellow advocates to hit the halls to meet with your legislators on public education. This is your chance to share the importance of policy supporting public education and make your voice heard on the Hill.
“Nothing has more impact for legislators than hearing directly from constituents through events like PSBA’s Advocacy Forum.”
— Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), Senate Appropriations Committee chair

Visit the Members Area of PSBA’s website under Store/Registration tab to register.

Education Roundup: Recruitment fair for Black male educators March 25
Philly Trib by Ryanne Persinger Tribune Staff Writer Mar 13, 2017
The annual Career Fair for Black Male Educators for Social Justice will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, March 25, at Mastery Charter School’s Shoemaker Campus, 5301 Media St.

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 #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

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

The 2017 PenSPRA Symposium  Keeping Current: What’s New in School Communications April 7th Shippensburg
Join PenSPRA Friday, April 7, 2017 in Shippensburg, PA    9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with evening social events on Thursday, April 6th from 5 - 8 p.m. at the Shippensburg University Conference Center
The agenda is as follows: Supporting transgender students in our schools (9 am), Evaluating School Communications to Inform Your Effectiveness (10:30 am), and Cool Graphics Tools Hands-on Workshop (1:15 pm).

The $150 registration fee also includes breakfast, lunch and Thursday’s social!   You can find more details on the agenda and register for the Symposium here:

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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