Tuesday, April 11, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 11: PA EITC/OSTC Vouchers: elite private schools rec’d avg. of $500K each in diverted tax dollars

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 11, 2017:
PA EITC/OSTC Vouchers: elite private schools rec’d avg. of $500K each in diverted tax dollars

Monday April 17th is the last day to register to vote in the May 16th primary election

“The report examined 23 of the top private schools in the state, with an average annual tuition of $32,000. Herzenberg said every one was getting money from at least one of the two programs, and most got money from both.  "These programs end up subsidizing some of the most exclusive and expensive private schools in the state; essentially subsidizing, also, affluent families,” he said.  On average, the report said, the elite schools received $500,000 in taxpayer dollars each. And Herzenberg pointed out that the 44 percent increase for the programs in the House-approved budget is more than half of the total increase proposed in Gov. Wolf’s Budget for Basic Education Funding for all public schools.  "We should be putting more of the state's money into public schools, including the public schools in rural areas, which aren't served at all by these voucher programs,” he said.”
Report: EITC/OSTC Vouchers Fund PA Religious, Private Schools with Taxpayer Dollars
Public News Service April 10, 2017
HARRISBURG, Penn. -- A new report says millions of state dollars are being funneled to religious and private schools through two voucher programs.  The Pennsylvania House has approved a bill to increase funding by $55 million over the current $125 million level for the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit and Educational Improvement Tax Credit. But Stephen Herzenberg, director of the Keystone Research Center, said at least 30 counties get none of that money - and much of the funding goes to schools that don't even have to be accredited.  "Three-quarters of the money goes to religious schools, and a substantial share of that is schools that teach creationism and teach faith-based curricula,” Herzenberg said.  Promoters of the programs claim they provide better educational opportunities to low-income and under-served students. But the report found that much of the money goes to elite schools catering to the rich.

Does school spending produce better grades?
Data suggests link between funding, achievement
The Sentinel by JULIANNE CAHILL Education/religion editor jcahill@lewistownsentinel.com
LEWISTOWN — Does education funding affect student achievement?
State data suggests a link between the two.  A report issued in late March by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children outlines a positive correlation between school spending and student performance.  Researchers based the study on estimated adequacy targets, which measure the amount of money expected to ensure children can meet Pennsylvania’s academic standards.  According to the report, adequacy is achieved when school districts are able to provide the resources necessary to help students reach their educational potential. The idea is to level the playing field by taking into consideration district size, wealth, enrollment, poverty and local tax effort among other factors that reflect student and community needs.

SB406: Bill that would make it harder for local school boards to raise taxes misses the mark
Lancaster Online Editorial by The LNP Editorial Board April 11, 2017
THE ISSUE - A bill in the state Legislature would make it harder for school boards to increase property taxes. Senate Bill 406 would require a two-thirds vote to approve tax increases, rather than a simple majority. That means for a nine-member school board, six votes would be required instead of five to approve an increase. The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved the proposal March 29, and it is now headed to the full Senate for consideration.  The rationale goes something like this: Rising property taxes have become the millstone around the necks of property owners — particularly seniors. If a local school board is considering raising taxes, the process requires extended deliberation. Any decision to increase taxes should not come easily, thus the requirement of a two-thirds vote.  Raising taxes should be “really hard,” the bill’s co-sponsor, Republican state Sen. Mike Folmer, told LNP. Folmer serves parts of Dauphin and York counties and all of Lebanon County.  “There should be no tax that should be able to tax somebody out of (his home).”  Folmer might find agreement among some of our readers, who write regularly about rising property taxes and who are now staring down the barrel of a reassessment.

Watch on-demand! EPLC's new show on early learning in PA & ed funding
Part 1: Guest was Susan Spicka, Executive Director of Education Voters PA
To discuss school funding in Pennsylvania and the implications of the proposed state budgets for education in the Commonwealth.

Part 2: Guests included –
Carey Harris, Executive Director, PA Early Learning Investment Commission
Kate Woods, JD, Member of the PA Early Learning Investment Commission and Corporate and ACA Compliance Officer, Capital Blue Cross
To discuss early learning in Pennsylvania and the work of the PA Early Learning Investment Commission.
All EPLC “Focus on Education” TV shows are hosted by EPLC President Ron Cowell.

On the Monday, April 10th edition of WITF's Smart Talk:
Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera
Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Apr 9, 2017 8:00 PM
When it comes to Pennsylvania's future, education may be the most important issue facing the state.  Almost everyone can agree that a good education is key to making a good living, preparing a work force, and maintaining a healthy economy and high quality of life.  How to provide and pay for quality education is what makes it an issue.  There are many opinions and almost as much research into what is successful and even how to measure that success.  As a result, there is no simple answer on how to improve schools and education overall.  There are many.   Monday's Smart Talk features Pennsylvania's Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.  A few of the issues we'll discuss are improving student performance, the role of schools in today's communities, education funding, the state budget, challenges facing schools, higher education, and charter schools.

Roebuck bill would end conflicts of interest in charter school lease payments, recover money for educating kids
Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr. website    April 10, 2017
HARRISBURG, April 10 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, plans to introduce a bill that would end conflicts of interest in tax-funded payments for charter school leases.  "To ensure financial accountability for all public schools and protect Pennsylvania taxpayers, I will introduce legislation that would ban anyone who serves as a school director, founder, member of a board of trustees or administrator of any public school entity -- including a school district, charter school or cyber charter school -- from receiving reimbursements on lease payments for buildings or facilities used for charter school. The ban would also include executives or employees of charter school management companies," Roebuck said.  "We need to prevent these conflicts of interest up front and also recover taxpayers' money to benefit students when there has been an inappropriate payment for one of these leases," Roebuck said. "Every dollar that goes to an inappropriate lease is a dollar that doesn't go to educate our kids."  Roebuck said charter schools and traditional public schools should be treated equally under law since both receive tax dollars and both are considered public schools under Pennsylvania law.

East Penn eyes 2.9% tax hike; Adidas contract tabled
Special to The Morning Call April 10, 2017
East Penn School District is looking at a tax hike of 2.9 percent for 2017-2018, which is lower than administrators were predicting at the end of 2016 but still includes several district priorities. Robert Saul, the district's business administrator, said the sunnier financial outlook for East Penn was in large part due to increased assessments on real estate development of about $686,000 more than estimated. The district also expects to pay less in health insurance than it first budgeted, thanks to lower costs from the health care consortium it belongs to.  The board is slated to vote on the $148.4 million proposed spending plan on May 8 with a June 12 vote on the final budget.  The proposed 2.9 percent tax hike would raise the millage rate from 17.697 mills to 18.2102 mills. At the new rate, a property owner with a home valued at $200,000 would pay $3,642 in property taxes or $103 more than in 2016.  East Penn had applied for and received permission from the state Department of Education to use exceptions to the Act I Index of a 2.9 percent tax increase to pay for high pension and special education costs. But the proposed tax hike will stay within that Act I Index.

Easton's Arts Charter School gets boost from New Markets Federal tax credit program
 Christina Tatu Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call April 10, 2017
Development of the Easton Arts Academy Elementary Charter School is getting a boost from a tax credit secured by the Lancaster-based Community First Fund.  Lou Pektor's Ashley Development Corp., which is overseeing development of the charter school in the former Express-Times building on North Fourth Street, was selected by the nonprofit to receive a $5 million tax credit.  The credit comes form the New Markets Tax Credit Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The federal program targets community building projects in areas where the poverty rate is at least 20 percent. It provides incentive for businesses and real estate companies to invest in low-income communities.  The Community First Fund secured $45 million in tax credits from the program this year, said Dan Betancourt, the Lancaster nonprofit's president and CEO.  The nonprofit selected the Easton Arts Academy Charter School for a $5 million share of the credits because it's a project that should have a significant, positive impact on children and families in the community, Betancourt said. The school is the only project in the Lehigh Valley to be awarded credits from the fund so far this year, he said.

Teachers assess opportunities, challenges in working for Philadelphia at recruitment fair
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa April 10, 2017 — 3:15pm
Jeewon Kim is relocating to Philadelphia for family reasons from Chicago, where he is a specialist in early learning at a well-regarded charter school. Danbi Yi, originally from North Carolina, is studying to be an English teacher at Penn’s Graduate School of Education.  Nguessan Yobouet is a French teacher originally from the Ivory Coast. And Alexis Green, from just outside Atlantic City, will soon be a freshly minted graduate of York College of Pennsylvania with certification in pre-K to 4th grade.  They were among the 125 prospective teachers who attended a job fair at the School District headquarters last Thursday, where they heard Superintendent William Hite tell them that if helping children reach their potential in the face of big challenges is what they are looking for, this is the place to be.

Use entire city windfall for PFT contract
Inquirer Commentary by George Bezanis Updated: APRIL 10, 2017 — 12:40 PM EDT
George Bezanis is a social studies teacher at Central High School. He serves as the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers' representative at Central and is a leader of the union's Caucus of Working Educators.
Earlier this month, the city's Office of Property Assessment announced that an extra $65 million per year would be pouring into the School District of Philadelphia's coffers due to commercial property re-evaluations triggered by former Mayor Michael Nutter's Actual Value Initiative.  This money must be used in its entirety in order to finally settle a collective bargaining agreement with the hard-working members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Such a move would start rebuilding trust and stability between the district and public school educators.  The district's most recent offer is based on the $107 million it has budgeted over the next five years toward settling the PFT contract, with potential federal funding increasing that amount to $153 million, according to data released by Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson. That offer, however, does not account for the hundreds of millions that members of the PFT have already sacrificed in lost and frozen wages over the past few years, including all the money they have donated by buying their own supplies. The PFT's counter-offer takes these sacrifices into account, but would cost the district closer to $500 million over the next five years.

Joseph Batory: The Betrayal of Pennsylvania’s Public Schools by the Legislature
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch April 10, 2017 //
Joseph Batory, a retired superintendent in Pennsylvania, has been speaking out loud and clear about the deliberate defunding of public schools in Pennsylvania and other issues.
In this post, he describes the betrayal of the public schools by the Legislature:
The betrayal of Pennsylvania public schools by the State legislature began in the early 1990’s when Pennsylvania government consciously destroyed its Equalized Subsidy for Basic Education (ESBE) formula. That method of State funding had been successfully used to bridge the wide gaps between poorer and more affluent school districts. The ESBE formula each year had utilized factors of community wealth and pupil population to drive out annual subsidies to school systems that distributed State money equitably based on each school district’s affluence and pupil population. Unfortunately, the growing costs of this ESBE formula to the State budget, despite its positive impacts, caused cowardly politicians fearing necessary tax increases to eliminate the ESBE funding formula. This result has been that over two decades, billions of dollars in State subsidies have been denied to school districts across the Commonwealth.  Pennsylvania now has the widest disparities in the nation in spending among its wealthiest and poorest districts with pupils who live in poverty and need the most getting the least, while students in wealthier districts live with all sorts of educational and school enhancements. This legislative incompetence has created a system where the gaps of per-pupil spending among Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts are now enormous, ranging from $9,800 to $28,400.

York City proposes re-opening Smith school for STEAM
York Dispatch by Junior Gonzalez , 505-5439/@JuniorG_YD12:16 a.m. ET April 11, 2017
York City's superintendent proposed re-opening a former middle school building to create an academy focusing on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics during the school board’s committee meeting Monday night.  During Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Eric Homes said the proposal would transfer and expand the district's existing STEAM program at Ferguson K-8 to the building that housed the former Edgar Fahs Smith Middle School, where Holmes served as principal for several years.  Holmes called Ferguson K-8 “extremely overcrowded” and said re-opening Smith and turning it into a school focused on technology would encourage students who would otherwise go to charter and vocational schools, to stay in the district.

Costs through the roof: Require competitive bidding
TRIBUNE-REVIEW Editorial Monday, April 10, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Closer scrutiny of how tax dollars are spent on school roofing jobs could well help taxpayers keep roofs over their own heads.  Pennsylvania is among 23 states participating in the Association of Educational Purchasing Agencies, “which funnels roofing projects through” national contractor Tremco, writes Robert Dziuban, Coalition for Procurement Reform executive director, in a PennLive column. He notes a survey that found Pennsylvania school districts buying roofs through the AEPA “spent $100 million more on the projects from 2005 to 2010 than they would have through public competitive bidding” — and that other studies have shown “the process of overcharging continues.”

Study: Black Students More Likely to Graduate if They Have One Black Teacher
Education Week Teaching Now Blog By Madeline Will on April 6, 2017 3:00 PM
If a low-income black student has just one black teacher in elementary school, that student is significantly more likely to graduate high school and consider attending college, a new John Hopkins University study has found.   A low-income black student's probability of dropping out of school is reduced by 29 percent if he or she has one black teacher in 3rd, 4th, or 5th grades. That student is also 18 percent more likely to express interest in college after graduating. There was an even stronger effect for black boys from persistently low-income homes: Their probability of dropping out of school is reduced by 39 percent if they have one black teacher, and they are 29 percent more likely to consider college.   These results come from a longitudinal study that tracked 100,000 black students who entered 3rd grade in North Carolina public schools between 2001 and 2005 all the way up through 12th grade. 

“After the students leave us, the public loses any sense of accountability or scrutiny of the outcomes,” said Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County public schools. He wonders what happens to the 25,000 students from the county who receive the scholarships. “It’s very difficult to gauge whether they’re hitting the mark.”  Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime advocate for school choice, does not seem to be bothered by that complaint.”
DeVos praises this voucher-like program. Here’s what it means for school reform.
Washington Post By Emma Brown April 9 at 10:13 PM 
Florida has channeled billions of taxpayer dollars into scholarships for poor children to attend private schools over the past 15 years, using tax credits to build a laboratory for school choice that the Trump administration holds up as a model for the nation.  The voucherlike program, the largest of its kind in the country, helps pay tuition for nearly 100,000 students from low-income families.  But there is scant evidence that these students fare better academically than their peers in public schools. And there is a perennial debate about whether the state should support private schools that are mostly religious, do not require teachers to hold credentials and are not required to meet minimal performance standards. Florida private schools must administer one of several standardized tests to scholarship recipients, but there are no consequences for consistently poor results.

NPE: Organizing Against the Trump/DeVos Mis-Education Agenda
The Network for Public Education is leading the campaign challenging the Trump/DeVos anti-public school agenda. According to NPE “DeVos and her allies have worked for decades pushing charters, vouchers and neo-vouchers such as education tax credits. DeVos even supports virtual charter schools that have a horrific track record when it comes to student success.” This campaign picks up urgency as Arizona just passed legislation providing its entire student population with vouchers to attend private, for-profit, and religious schools. The law is modeled on Trump/DeVos proposals.  The public is often confused by the Trump/DeVos assault on public schools because they frame it as promoting “choice.” In response, The Network for Public Education prepared a thirteen-point question/answer toolkit to expose the lies and distortions of charter school, voucher, and tax credit advocates. The full toolkit is available online. This report excerpts key items from the toolkit.

“Instead of passing the voucher bill, the House voted 103-44 to approve an amendment to the state budget that expressly forbids the use of taxpayer money from being spent to subsidize private school tuition.”
A Big Loss For Vouchers In The Lone Star State
Americans United for Separation of Church and State website Apr 10, 2017 by Rob Boston in Wall of Separation
Texas is one of the more conservative states in the country. Over the years, Lone Star State legislators have cooked up some pretty bad church-state legislation.  Voucher legislation is common in the Texas legislature, but even in this redder than red state, the bills usually fail to gain traction. This year’s session has given us a new twist: the lieutenant governor’s hard push for vouchers prompted the House to pass a proposal to bar the funding of private school vouchers.  The crusade this year was spearheaded by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who managed to ram his voucher plan through the state Senate on a narrow vote, but the scheme unraveled in the Texas House of Representatives. Instead of passing the voucher bill, the House voted 103-44 to approve an amendment to the state budget that expressly forbids the use of taxpayer money from being spent to subsidize private school tuition.

Blogger note: American Federation for Children noted below is the vehicle for political donations by Betsy and Disk DeVos in support of school privatization candidates.  AFC has also spent significant funds in Pennsylvania races.

“That means Arizona’s universal ESAs become the most expansive choice program in the country. Every public-school student would be eligible, though new enrollment each year would be capped at 5,000. Accounts would average about $5,600, which is enough to cover tuition at about half of the private schools in the state. The legislation also imposes rigorous accountability measures, including mandated standardized testing and public reporting of the aggregate results.  The Goldwater Institute and American Federation for Children deserve special credit for bringing public pressure to bear on lawmakers. Arizona set school-choice precedents by enacting the country’s first tax-credit scholarship and ESA programs. Here’s hoping more states follow its lead.”
Arizona’s Grand School Choice
The state enacts universal education savings accounts.
Wall Street Journal April 10, 2017 7:10 p.m. ET
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last month gave a rousing speech encouraging all flowers of school choice to bloom. Arizona lawmakers put her words into action on Thursday by enacting universal education savings accounts.  Arizona pioneered education savings accounts (ESAs) in 2011 as a workaround to a state Supreme Court ruling that struck down vouchers. The state deposits 90% of a student’s per-pupil allowance into an account that parents who withdraw their children from public schools can tap for private-school tuition, tutoring, home schooling, curriculum, materials and other education expenses approved by the state. Parents can roll over funds and use remaining money in the account to finance their child’s college education.  The program had been limited to select groups of students, principally those who have special needs or attend failing schools. More than 3,300 kids currently participate, and state fiscal analysts have estimated ESAs save taxpayers about $1,400 per special-needs student. In addition, nonprofit organizations award more than 60,000 tax-credit scholarships.  Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee have also established ESAs for students with special needs. In 2015, Nevada passed legislation enacting universal ESAs, though that state’s Supreme Court last fall rejected the program’s funding mechanism while upholding its constitutionality. Governor Brian Sandoval didn’t impel his GOP legislative majority to finance accounts for the 8,000 parents who signed up, and he now has to contend for funds in the budget with a Democratic-controlled statehouse.

Why Arizona officials don't know which private schools benefit from expanding voucher program
Rob O'Dell and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez , The Republic | azcentral.com8:02 a.m. MT April 8, 2017
Lawmakers expanded the Empowerment Scholarship program, but it will be difficult, if not impossible, to track the increased spending and any improvement in student performance.
  • Education officials say they cannot provide accurate information about how much money private schools receive from ESA funding
Thursday night, shortly before the deciding votes were cast to expand the state’s school-voucher program, state Sen. Debbie Lesko talked optimistically about its future impact.
Allowing more students to tap taxpayer funds for private schooling or other education programs "will just provide one more option for parents to improve education for their child,” said Lesko, R-Peoria and a sponsor of the legislation.  But it will be difficult, if not impossible, to track the increased spending and any academic improvement as the state's Empowerment Scholarship Account grows from about 5,500 students to 30,000 over the next five years.  The reasons can be found in the level of program oversight by the Arizona Department of Education, as well as the expansion bill itself.  The Education Department's tracking of money distributed to private schools, as revealed in data provided to The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com last week, is opaque, incomplete and riddled with errors.

A Chance for Betsy DeVos to Promote Choice While Avoiding Vouchers
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on April 7, 2017 9:16 AM
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has stirred the pot with her continued advocacy for school choice since taking over the Education Department nearly two months ago. A lot of the discussion has been about how DeVos and President Donald Trump might push for vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and expanded charter schools. But there's another option open to DeVos that's specifically supported in the Every Student Succeeds Act, but often flies under the radar when choice is discussed.  This week, the Andrew half of Politics K-12 teamed up with Curriculum Matters blogger Liana Loewus to look at course choice, also known as course access. We reported on a relatively new Idaho program called Fast Forward, in which each student in grades 7-12 gets $4,125 to spend on approved courses for high school, as well as those that are credit-bearing for college. 

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

PSBA Spring Town Hall Meetings coming in May!
Don’t be left in the dark on legislation that affects your district! Learn the latest from your legislators at PSBA Spring Town Hall Meetings. Conveniently offered at 10 locations around the state throughout May, this event will provide you with the opportunity to interact face-to-face with key lawmakers from your area. Enjoy refreshments, connect with colleagues, and learn what issues impact you and how you can make a difference. Log in to the Members Area to register today for this FREE event!
  • Monday, May 1, 6-8 p.m. — Parkway West CTC, 7101 Steubenville Pike, Oakdale, PA 15071
  • Tuesday, May 2, 7:30-9 a.m. — A W Beattie Career Center, 9600 Babcock Blvd, Allison Park, PA 15101
  • Tuesday, May 2, 6-8 p.m. — Crawford County CTC, 860 Thurston Road, Meadville, PA 16335
  • Wednesday, May 3, 6-8 p.m. — St. Marys Area School District, 977 S. St Marys Road, Saint Marys, PA 15857
  • Thursday, May 4, 6-8 p.m. — Central Montco Technical High School, 821 Plymouth Road, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
  • Friday, May 5, 7:30-9 a.m. — Lehigh Carbon Community College, 4525 Education Park Dr, Schnecksville, PA 18078
  • Monday, May 15, 6-8 p.m. — CTC of Lackawanna Co., 3201 Rockwell Avenue, Scranton, PA 18508
  • Tuesday, May 16, 6-8 p.m. — PSBA, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
  • Wednesday, May 17, 6-8 p.m. — Lycoming CTC, 293 Cemetery Street, Hughesville, PA 17737
  • Thursday, May 18, 6-8 p.m. — Chestnut Ridge SD, 3281 Valley Road, Fishertown, PA 15539
For assistance with registration, please contact Michelle Kunkel at 717-506-2450 ext. 3365.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.