Monday, April 3, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 3: HB250: Increasing EITC/OSTC vouchers hurts PA taxpayers

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 3, 2017:
HB250: Increasing EITC/OSTC vouchers hurts PA taxpayers

Note: We will be offline tomorrow; the PA Ed Policy Roundup will be back on Wednesday morning

Learn more about Gerrymandering the need to repair PA’s redistricting process
Fair Districts PA Event Calendar

FairDistrictsPA aims to end gerrymandering
By Chris Barber, Daily Local News POSTED: 04/01/17, 7:48 PM EDT | UPDATED: 9 HRS AGO
LONDON GROVE >> At first glance, a map showing the legislative districts in Pennsylvania looks like the result of a pastry chef gone wild with his cookie cutters. There are no uniform shapes, no uniformity in the content, and the edges don’t conform to any geographical characteristic like rivers or mountain ranges. But in reality, the pattern is actually a reflection of the partisan method that a majority party in power uses to keep its strength and minimize the input of the minority party. It’s called gerrymandering.  Gerrymandering is the manipulation of electoral districts for political gain, and it’s rampant in Pennsylvania.  To that end, a group called FairDistrictsPA, an offshoot of the League of Women Voters, has emerged to reform the system by establishing a new system for forming the method of drawing lines of districts served by legislators.  Last Tuesday, Lawrence Husick of FairDistrictsPA addressed an audience of more than 150 at Avon Grove High School, explaining the hazards of gerrymandering and proposing some solutions.

“Somehow, we've gotten to a point in our national politics where rigid intransigence gets hailed as courage - and compromise blasted as cowardice. That gets things exactly backward.  How did we reach this sorry pass? Culprits abound, but chief among them is gerrymandering.”
Satullo: Citizens starting to see dangers of gerrymandering
Inquirer Opinion by Chris Satullo Updated: APRIL 3, 2017 — 3:01 AM EDT
Chris Satullo is a former Inquirer editorial page editor. 
Do you remember the film Lincoln?
Recall Daniel Day-Lewis' riveting depiction of a crafty, urgent Abraham Lincoln doing whatever it took to get Congress to approve the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery?  By Hollywood standards, the movie got the history pretty right. That includes the parts where Lincoln - our greatest president - deploys unsavory intermediaries to offer federal jobs to lame-duck Democratic congressmen in return for their yes votes.  Bribe is such an unpleasant word, but the man in the stovepipe hat sure worked the old quid pro quo pretty hard.  Recent events in Washington have had me thinking back to Day-Lewis' Lincoln.

Maryland to Pennsylvania (and four other states): We'll redistrict when you do
WHYY Newsworks/Keystone Crossroads BY ELEANOR KLIBANOFF, WPSU APRIL 3, 2017
President Donald Trump, a Republican, won Pennsylvania by a narrow margin of 68,000 votes. The state has about 900,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.   And yet, 13 of the state's 18 congressional seats are held by Republicans. One of the reasons for that imbalance is gerrymandering, the drawing of voting districts to benefit a political party. Pennsylvania is often ranked among the most gerrymandered states in the country.   In Pennsylvania, gerrymandering helps Republicans hold onto their seats. But in Maryland, Democrats have drawn the districts to their advantage. In both states — like most states in the country — the party in power would rather keep their majority, so it's hard for redistricting efforts to get traction in the state legislature.  After voting down Republican Governor Larry Hogan's proposal to redraw the congressional districts, Maryland Democrats have offered a plan of their own: a six-state regional pact. If Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina agree to redistrict by 2020, Maryland will too.   The idea is that these six state would even each other out — some would go more red while others would go more blue.

“Unfortunately, under current law, private/religious schools that receive EITC/OSTC vouchers are allowed to discriminate against students for any reason, including disability, race, socio-economic status and religious affiliation. Students don’t have increased school “choice” unless a private school chooses to enroll them.  In addition, the vast majority of funding for private/religious school vouchers flows into large urban areas of the state, which are home to most of PA’s private/religious schools. Rural communities receive very few dollars from the EITC/OSTC programs.  To put the PA House’s proposed EITC/OSTC funding increase in perspective, Governor Wolf’s 2017-18 budget proposes a $100 million increase in Basic Education Funding for 1.7 million students who attend public schools. The PA House voted for a $55 million in increase in voucher funding for private/religious schools that educate 250,000 students.”
HB250: Increasing EITC/OSTC vouchers hurts PA taxpayers
Chambersburg Public Opinion Online Opinion by Susan Spicka 10:23 a.m. ET March 31, 2017
Increasing taxpayer-funded vouchers for private/religious schools has emerged as a top budget priority for state lawmakers.  Recently, the PA House approved legislation (HB 250) that would provide $55 million in new funding for private/religious school vouchers through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs. This 44% increase would bring total funding for vouchers in PA to $180 million/year.
The EITC and OSTC programs allow businesses to divert their tax payments away from the state and into private/religious schools. These programs have virtually no fiscal or academic performance accountability standards and there is no evidence that they have contributed to improved student achievement in PA.
The EITC/OSTC programs do, however, come at a steep cost to Pennsylvania taxpayers. Every tax dollar that is sent to private/religious schools through the EITC/OSTC programs creates a hole in the state budget that must be filled by hard-working Pennsylvanians.
In order to pay to for $55 million in new private/religious school voucher funding in the 2017-2018 budget, state lawmakers will need to either raise new taxes or cut programs and services from the budget that benefit Pennsylvanians.

Blogger note: Rep. Turzai is the lead sponsor on HB250 which would increase the EITC and OSTC tax credit programs.
Turzai run for Pa. governor looks likely
Pennsylvania's gubernatorial election is still well over a year away. But, already, Republicans are announcing intentions to contest Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf's bid for re-election.  It's likely that GOP House Speaker Mike Turzai — long rumored to be interested in higher office — will soon be among them.  The Pittsburgh-based political agency Cold Spark Media has confirmed it's working with the Allegheny County Republican. Mark Harris, a partner with the agency acting as Turzai's strategist, said the politician may explore a run more seriously after the state budget is finished.  Cold Spark has helped other prominent Republicans, including U.S. Sens. Pat Toomeyof Pennsylvania and  Marco Rubio of Florida , win elections.  Harris wouldn't specifically confirm the bid, but he made it clear that it's on the table. He also repeatedly stressed Turzai's electability.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 2: Community Schools: Who Needs Charters When You Have Public Schools Like These?

First Book: A Novel Model for Social Enterprises
Knowledge@wharton Feb 15, 2017
First Book founder Kyle Zimmer talks about the hybrid model that's key to the nonprofit's success.
In the early 1990s, Kyle Zimmer was a practicing attorney who spent her free time volunteering at a soup kitchen in Washington, D.C. Working with struggling families made her realize that many children do not have access to new, high-quality books, which are the building blocks of education. She did her research, came up with a plan and launched First Book, a social enterprise that has distributed millions of books and other items to children in need.  But it’s not run like most nonprofits. First Book charges a small shipping fee per book that covers the operating cost of its book bank and it adopted atypical publishing terms so it could buy books at a discount.   Zimmer spoke to Katherine Klein, a management professor and vice dean of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, about the hybrid business model First Book has adopted that was key to its success.

Lawmakers' 'slush fund': Its time has passed
TRIBUNE-REVIEW Editorial | Saturday, April 1, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
State lawmakers' $118 million “reserve” could help with Pennsylvania's projected multibillion-dollar budget shortfall. Often called a “slush fund,” it's less than fully accountable to taxpayers.  And lawmakers didn't tap it during the last, nine-month budget impasse, making its continuing existence even harder to justify.  Legislative leaders maintain that their reserve buttresses separation of powers, ensuring that the Legislature can operate even if a budget-battling governor cuts off normal funding. Yet during the last impasse, PennLive notes, House and Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats instead borrowed money and House Democrats instead got a Treasury advance, undercutting that rationale.  The reserve is audited annually by an outside firm hired by the Legislature. State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he would love to do an independent audit but can't, telling The Philadelphia Inquirer “it would take a statute.” Essentially, the Legislature makes sure that only it audits its own “slush fund” — despite that fund consisting of unspent taxpayer dollars from prior legislative budgets.

“A year ago, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law delaying use of the Keystone Exams as a high school graduation requirement until the 2018-19 academic year. The delay reflects concerns among lawmakers of both parties about whether the Keystone Exams are a fair or reliable marker for graduation. Meanwhile, legislative proposals are emerging to provide alternatives to the Keystone Exams.”
Federal moves keep Keystone Exams in limbo
Philly Trib by Robert Swift Mar 31, 2017
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s experiment with a high-stakes student test remains in limbo as state lawmakers digest the impact of the latest changes in education policy from Washington.  The Senate and House education committees held a joint hearing last week on the effects of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act signed in 2015 by former President Barack Obama. This law outlines how states are to establish student performance goals in public schools and hold schools accountable for academic progress. It’s the successor to the No Child Left Behind Act, which put more emphasis on teaching to pass tests.  In Washington, Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s education secretary and school choice advocate, says she wants to give states more flexibility in meeting the law’s goals.  “ESSA was passed with broad bipartisan support to move power away from Washington, D.C., and into the hands of those who are closest to serving our nation’s students,” she said.  Pennsylvania developed the statewide Keystone Exams in algebra, biology and literature for high school seniors in 2013 as part of the trend toward greater emphasis on tests to measure academic achievement.

Students party before grueling PSSA tests
Delco Times By Rick Kauffman, on Twitter POSTED: 04/02/17, 10:41 PM EDT | UPDATED: 53 SECS AGO
UPLAND >> The wild fervor of students pleading for teachers to win their class a pizza party by dunking their face in crime pies in search of a hidden Tootsie Roll reverberated the walls at Chester Community Charter School on Friday.  Students covered their ears in response to the shrill cacophony by friends and classmates who wanted nothing more than to see teachers make their best pie-to-the-face “Mrs. Doubtfire” impression.  All in preparation to the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests that begins today, the students were in need of some pep, practice and perseverance.

York County bee hives sweetened by STEM experiment
York Daily Record 6:02 p.m. ET April 2, 2017
Armed with a bag of powdered sugar and an infrared camera smartphone attachment, a team of Harrisburg-area students came to Jeremy Barnes' Springfield Township apiary for the mites. The students, ranging from fourth through ninth grades, are competing in FIRST LEGO League, a STEM-driven challenge for which they identify and try to solve a real-world problem involving animals. After researching varroa mites, which plague bee colonies, the team hypothesized that forcing powdered sugar into a bee hive would irritate the mites off the honeybees and that they could use an infrared camera to detect displaced mites on the bee hive's bottom board.
"It's quick; it's non-invasive," Barnes said of the students' proposed method. "You don't have to open the hives, you don't have to kill bees, you don't have to pull out frames to do it."

Free-market think tank calls out Salisbury School District for budgetary tactics
Andrew Wagaman Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call April 3, 2017
In 10 of the last 11 years, the Salisbury Township School Board has requested permission from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to potentially raise property taxes above the state-designated cap.  It's a budgetary move that about one-third of school districts statewide make each year — one that affords school boards some flexibility as they figure out how to balance budgets plagued by steep state-mandated expenses and unpredictable state funding.  Business Administrator Robert Bruchak said Salisbury will for the third consecutive year likely keep a tax hike at or below the Act 1 cap — 2.5 percent this year —despite seeking exceptions to levy a hike more than twice as high.

Trump Taps Former Jeb Bush Aide as Ed. Dept. General Counsel
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on April 2, 2017 7:09 PM
UPDATED - President Donald Trump has tapped his first political appointee for the U.S. Department of Education: Carlos Muñiz, who will serve as the agency's general counsel, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The position would give him a key role in overseeing legal matters at the agency.   Muñiz, who was most recently a senior vice president at the counsulting firm McGuire Woods, was the deputy attorney general and chief of staff to Pam Bondi, Florida's attorney general and a Trump ally.  Before that, he was deputy general counsel under former Florida governor Jeb Bush. The Trump administration's "beach head team" of early arrivals at the department includes a handful of alumni from Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education. And DeVos herself served on the nonprofit's board before she was nominated as education secretary.

House Democrats ask Trump administration to remind schools that they must educate undocumented children
Washington Post By Emma Brown April 3 at 6:00 AM 
House Democrats are asking the Trump administration to send a clear message reminding the nation’s public schools that, despite recent changes in federal immigration enforcement policy, they are still legally obligated to educate undocumented children.  The representatives expressed concern that the educational rights of undocumented students may be overlooked as the new administration cracks down on those in the country illegally. The Supreme Court ruled 25 years ago that U.S. public schools must serve all children, regardless of their immigration status.  “In this environment of trepidation, it is important that we do all we can to minimize the impact these policies have on school attendance and student learning,” the top Democrats on the judiciary, education and homeland security committees wrote in a letter Monday.  The lawmakers also sought public assurance that the administration intends to avoid enforcement actions at schools and other “sensitive locations,” as has been the federal government’s stated policy since 2011.

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.

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:

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

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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