Friday, April 7, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 7: Just 23 of the most expensive (avg tuition $32K) PA private schools received $11.2M EITC/OSTC tax credit vouchers in 2014-15

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 7, 2017:
Just 23 of the most expensive (avg tuition $32K) PA private schools received $11.2M EITC/OSTC tax credit vouchers in 2014-15

PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill APR 24, 2017 • 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
“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

“Wolf praised House Republican leaders for supporting his proposed increases of $100 million and $25 million for basic education and special education, respectively.  “But I am concerned that they're gutting $50 million from what I proposed on early childhood education,” Wolf said.”
Wolf 'Concerned' About Republican Cuts To Human Services In Budget Proposal
WESA By KEVIN GAVIN  April 5, 2017
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf describes House Republican budget as "an opening conversation. There are a couple of things we need to talk about."
Eight weeks after Governor Tom Wolf unveiled a $32.3 billion budget proposal for the new fiscal year, the Republican-controlled state House Tuesday approved its own version, a $31.5 billion spending plan.  The GOP plan was introduced Monday and was approved quickly along party lines with four Republicans joining all Democrats in voting “no.”  The Republican budget includes no tax hikes and cuts $800 million from Wolf’s proposal.  The governor called the Republican version “an opening conversation.”  “I applaud them for doing this early,” he said. “There are a couple of things clearly that we need to talk further about.”  One of those things is a $350 million cut to Wolf’s allotment for Health and Human Services, including childcare.  “If we want our citizens to be able to work and to make a real contribution to our economy, we've got to make sure they have access to the services they need to do that and childcare is one of those,” Wolf said.  He said before the state asks families to forego childcare services, “maybe we ought to ask corporations to pay their fair share.”

IFO Issues Report On Gov. Wolf’s Budget Proposal, Minimum Wage Hike
PA Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates APRIL 6, 2017
The Independent Fiscal Office Wednesday published its evaluation of Gov. Wolf’s FY 2017-18 budget proposal that includes more than $1 billion in new taxes as well as a hike in the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $12/hour.  The IFO found the Governor’s projections of expected revenue from the expansion of the state Sales Tax ($490 million vs. $435 million) and enactment of a severance tax on natural gas production ($294 million vs. $223 million) would generate $126 million less than the Governor’s estimates.  On the severance tax, the IFO noted the Governor’s proposal would put the effective tax rate at 9 percent, nearly double the next closest tax rate.  Projected revenues from changes to the net operating loss deductions and combined reporting the IFO found would generate $63 million less than the Governor’s estimates ($81 million vs. $18 million).

“The law takes the new money from increased sales and income taxes and uses most of it to replace money currently being raised in property taxes by each district. The report contends that, as a result, “the largest amounts of property tax relief would go to affluent families in rich school districts that have the highest property taxes because those school districts choose to amply fund local schools.”
Report contends property tax elimination would cost most people more
Times Leader By Mark Guydish - - @TLMarkGuydish 570-991-6112 APRIL 6TH, 2017 - 6:41 PM
A new study contends the current plan in Harrisburg to eliminate school property taxes would actually end up costing most middle class families more in taxes. The Keystone Research Center report estimates total taxes paid by families statewide would, on average increase by $334. The plan is to replace local school property taxes by increasing the state sales and income taxes. But the report argued that would reduce taxes paid by corporations by eliminating their property taxes, forcing working class families to pay more to fund schools — even without increasing the amount of money spent on public education.  “While property taxes would fall by an average of $1,685 per family,” the report said, “sales and income taxes would rise by over $2,000 on average per family.  Families earning between $22,000 and $40,000 would see the biggest tax increase when viewed as percentage of income: 0.9 percent. Families earning between $215,000 and $535,000 would have the smallest increase in relation to income: 0.1 percent.

Just 23 of the most expensive (avg tuition $32K) PA private schools received $11.2M EITC/OSTC tax credits in 2014-15
PBPC Report: Still No Accountability with Taxpayer-Funded Vouchers for Private and Religious School Tuition
Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Report By Stephen Herzenberg and Rachel Tabachnick

Read the full PBPC report here:

Education Secretary Rivera Discusses Education Priorities, Funding With Northwest PA Superintendent's Consortium
HARRISBURG, Pa., April 5, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- State Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera this week met with a coalition of Northwestern Pennsylvania superintendents at the state Department of Education, discussing their needs and priorities, Governor Wolf's vision for improving education in the commonwealth, and his commitment to continued investment in our schools.  "Pennsylvania is helping rural schools use technology to improve academic achievements and growth, and an emphasis on hybrid learning gives them the opportunity to educate students in new ways," Rivera said. "It is important that all schools, no matter where they are located, have access to the supports and resources they need to help students graduate college and career ready."  Ten superintendents representing intermediate units 4, 5, 6, 9, 27, and 28 traveled to Harrisburg to discuss expanding educational opportunities for rural students as well as ensuring equitable access to academic supports. Through the Schools That Teach tour, Rivera has met with administrators and educators across the state, enabling the Department to gauge the needs that are unique to each district and intermediate unit, whether in the city, suburbs, or rural areas.

What would no property taxes in Pa. mean for school districts, taxpayers?
Public Source by Stephanie Hacke April 6, 2017
David Seropian fears a proposal to eliminate school property taxes across Pennsylvania would send McKeesport Area School District residents packing.
While the proposal — likely to be reintroduced in the state Senate within the next few weeks — vows to rid residents of their hefty school property tax bills and replace them with higher sales and personal income taxes, school districts across the state still could collect property taxes to pay off existing debt.  What does it mean? It means that in some districts, especially those with higher debt, residents could be paying nearly double in taxes until their local school district pays off its debt. In some districts, that will take more than 20 years.  “This is not tax relief for them. This is like piling taxes on to them,” said Seropian, business manager in the McKeesport Area School District.  And it’s hurting residents in some of the state’s least affluent districts, like McKeesport where the district is $106 million in debt due to past building projects, Seropian said. The district pays about $8.6 million a year to its debtors, yet receives about $10.7 million from local property taxes. The district operates on a $62.6 million budget, with about 65 percent of its revenue coming from the state.

17 Illinois school districts suing state over funding
Centre Daily Times BY KIANNAH SEPEDA-MILLER Associated Press APRIL 5, 2017 8:39 PM
Illinois has failed to provide enough money to public schools to produce the "high-quality education" the state requires, forcing districts to cut programs, lay off staff and borrow money to keep the doors open, educators claim in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.  Superintendents for 17 central- and southern-Illinois districts said they filed the action in St. Clair County Circuit Court in the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis. They contend the state has fallen short of its constitutional duty to sufficiently finance the top-notch schooling state officials require since adopting learning standards in the late 1990s. The lawsuit didn't immediately appear in online court records.  The shortfall hits less-affluent districts hardest, the lawsuit says. The districts lack the property wealth necessary to generate enough revenue in real estate taxes to make up the difference.  "It's as if we've been using duct tape and superglue to keep our system from collapsing altogether," Dan Cox, school superintendent for the Staunton School District, one of the plaintiffs.
Each of the 17 districts spends less than the per-pupil state average and have increased class sizes, cut programs and relied on community support to keep schools running, he said at a state Capitol news conference.

“Black students matched to black teachers have been shown to have higher test scores but we wanted to know if these student-teacher racial matches had longer-lasting benefits. We found the answer is a resounding yes,” co-author Nicholas Papageorge of Johns Hopkins said. “We’re seeing spending just one year with a teacher of the same race can move the dial on one of the most frustratingly persistent gaps in educational attainment — that of low-income black boys. It not only moves the dial, it moves the dial in a powerful way.”
Black Students More Likely to Graduate if They Have at Least One Black Teacher: Report
The Root Monique Judge April 6, 2017
A new study co-authored by a Johns Hopkins University economist says that Black students who have at least one Black teacher in elementary school are significantly more likely to graduate high school and attend college.  The study, “The Long-Run Impacts of Same-Race Teachers,” is a new working paper published by the Institute of Labor Economics, and it demonstrates how the positive impacts of having just one of these teachers can continue over many years.  The study found that having at least one Black teacher in third through fifth grades reduced a Black student’s probability of dropping out of school by 29 percent, and for very low-income Black boys, their chance of dropping out fell by 39 percent.

'Dragnet' and tax credits: How an Easton arts school is getting built
Gallery: Federal tax credits help build Easton arts school
Lehigh Valley Live BY KURT BRESSWEIN Updated on April 6, 2017 at 8:54 PM Posted on April 6, 2017 at 6:32 PM
Kindergarten-through-fourth-grade students will soon have an arts charter school in Downtown Easton, right next to the city's new police station.  And it may not have happened without a late-night episode of "Dragnet."  More on that in a bit.   Developer Lou Pektor and others gathered Thursday at the North Fourth Street construction site to celebrate another reason the school is happening: financing, specifically $5 million in federal tax credits.  Lancaster-based Community First Fund selected the Easton Arts Academy Elementary Charter School being developed by Pektor's Ashley Development Corp. for a share of $45 million in tax credits available to projects in low-income communities across central and eastern Pennsylvania.

“Their findings, which come as many teachers are signing next year’s contacts, suggest educators at all grade and experience levels are frustrated and disheartened by a nationwide focus on standardized tests, scripted curriculum and punitive teacher-evaluation systems.”
Teacher resignation letters paint bleak picture of US education
FOX47 News 3:32 PM, Apr 5, 2017
As teacher resignation letters increasingly go public – and viral – new research indicates teachers are not leaving solely due to low pay and retirement, but also because of what they see as a broken education system.  In a trio of studies, Michigan State University education expert Alyssa Hadley Dunn and colleagues examined the relatively new phenomenon of teachers posting their resignation letters online. Their findings, which come as many teachers are signing next year’s contacts, suggest educators at all grade and experience levels are frustrated and disheartened by a nationwide focus on standardized tests, scripted curriculum and punitive teacher-evaluation systems.  Teacher turnover costs more than $2.2 billion in the U.S. each year and has been shown to decrease student achievement in the form of reading and math test scores.  “The reasons teachers are leaving the profession has little to do with the reasons most frequently touted by education reformers, such as pay or student behavior,” said Dunn, assistant professor of teacher education. “Rather, teachers are leaving largely because oppressive policies and practices are affecting their working conditions and beliefs about themselves and education.”

Teacher Bryan Steinberg: I quit
He can't deal with disrespect, frozen wages anymore.
The notebook Commentary by Bryan Steinberg March 30, 2017 — 11:58am
After eight years in the Philadelphia School District, I have come to the conclusion that teaching is a wonderful and noble profession, but the lack of respect for its craft by our local, state, and federal politicians will force me to quit my job as a teacher in June.  I never thought I would become a rich man teaching high school, but I also never thought that I would be a near-destitute peasant eight years later. The money owed and promised to me five years ago is over $20,000, under our collective bargaining agreement, but I will not sacrifice my dignity to an employer that is slowly and methodically starving its teachers into attrition.  Not having a raise in five years is not how I imagined my life, and I would never subject a significant other or my future children to this constant state of financial anxiety and distress. Fortunately for me, I have no family to look after, so I can pack my bags and say adios to a district whose sadistic and obtuse treatment to their educators and employees is insane.

“Used to pushing uphill, school choice advocates have been accustomed to stressing traditional public schools' problems and offering choice as a remedy. As secretary of education, DeVos would do better for the cause of school choice, and for the public schools she is entrusted with supporting, by wholeheartedly embracing the both-and approach. But her sideways comments toward public schools, coupled with the administration's $20 billion pledge to increase choice and a "skinny budget" that is arguably light on public school support, signal an either-or approach that increases polarization on choice.”
School Choice Isn't 'Either-Or'
Betsy DeVos' one-sided push against public education isn't productive.
US News By Nat Malkus | Contributor April 5, 2017, at 4:45 p.m.
Last week, Betsy DeVos gave her lengthiest address yet as U.S. secretary of education at the release of the Brookings Institution's annual Education Choice and Innovation Index. The Index catalogues the growth of school choice – including charter schools, homeschooling, private school choice programs and public school open enrollment programs – in the nation's 100 largest school districts. According to Brookings' Grover Whitehurst, this growth means that "the traditional public school district model is being disrupted."  As a longtime school choice advocate, DeVos applauds that disruption, believing that choice helps families and can spur improvement in traditional public schools. DeVos argued that public education funding should be viewed as "investments made in individual children, not in institutions or buildings." In other words, that funding should not privilege district-run schools.  On the surface, DeVos advocates for choice as an important added component to our public education system, promoting choice and public schools in a "both-and" rather than an "either-or" framework. However, in looking more deeply at her remarks last week, the limits of DeVos' affinity for traditional public schools break through. She took issue with Denver receiving the top ranking in Brookings' Index, primarily because the district has no publicly funded private school choice. Later, when asked if it were possible that choice programs could produce worse outcomes for students, she derided the traditional district system's outcomes: "I'm not sure how they can get a lot worse on, you know, a nationwide basis than they are today."

States May Get to Run Competitions for ESSA Block Grant Money
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on April 6, 2017 4:35 PM
One of the big goals of the Every Student Succeeds Act was to give districts way more control over their federal funding, in part by creating a new block grant—aka the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants or Title IV. Under the law, districts can use the money for a whole smorgasboard of things: student safety, dual enrollment, dance instruction, training teachers to use technology, hiring school counselors.  And the funding—a whopping $1.6 billion—was supposed to flow to districts through a formula, meaning that pretty much every district in the country would get a piece of it. The districts would have serious latitude in deciding the dollars are spent.  It may not quite work out that way—at least not this year.  Lawmakers are seriously considering turning Title IV into a competitive-grant program at the state level, at least temporarily, sources say. In fact, multiple sources consider the possibility of a competitive-grant program more likely than not this year.

Growing Tensions Between DeVos Education Department & Reporters
Phi Delta Kappan Online By Alexander Russo April 2017
Access, responsiveness, and calendar notifications are all at issue
As of early April, journalists’ access to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos – and to timely responses from the agency she now runs – have become something of a hot-button issue.
DeVos takes press questions at events only occasionally, has yet to grant a formal interview with a major national education reporter, and heads a department that only intermittently provides answers in a timely manner – through a spokesperson whose name reporters are forbidden to use. The agency has even struggled to put out her weekly schedule in advance of public events.
Education reporters tasked with covering DeVos and her agency have complained mightily about the situation – though none wanted to be named here for fear of retribution. “This is a big issue,” said one education reporter, describing lack of responsiveness from the department, a near-blackout on interviews before or after events (known in journalism as an “availability”), and a ban on approaching DeVos during those times. “Access has been nil.”  But some observers believe that lack of access can actually push journalists to develop a more independent and useful approach to informing the public. And the USDE says it is providing abundant opportunities for the press to engage with the secretary — including this week’s visit to a school in North Carolina and today’s trip to visit a variety of schools in Miami.

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.

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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