Senate Education Committee Meeting MONDAY - 6/5/17 10:00 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building
“Many of the report’s recommendations around transparency and accountability are already part of two pieces of legislation sponsored by Hughes and Brewster.
Hughes’ legislation, Senate Bill 198, would give more oversight to local school boards to better regulate charter schools in their district.
“There are many ideas to incorporate and plenty of work to do to achieve a better charter law,” Hughes said in a statement. “Our local school district and charter schools both need to be treated fairly. We can strike that balance.”
Brewster’s legislation, Senate Bill 670, would redefine how local school districts interact with charter schools; allowing districts to impose limitations on newly authorized charters, among other things.
“The law needs to be changed to include financial reforms, accountability measures and alterations to how the charter school appeal board operates,” Brewster said in a statement. “The recommendations made by the [Legislative Budget and Finance Committee], combined with provisions in my legislation, Senator Hughes’ bill and others would go a long way toward improving how charters interact with local school districts.”
Legislative committee finds that charters cause financial issues for many districts
The notebook by Greg Windle May 24, 2017 — 6:36pm
A state Senate report found that while almost all school districts in the state have at least one charter school, half of those districts account for over 80 percent of Pennsylvania’s charters, and 40 percent of districts with “significant” charter enrollments are facing financial troubles. The report, authored by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, was based on surveys and interviews with 36 school district superintendents. Four of them identified positive impacts of charter schools within their district, while 29 cited negative impacts. “The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee study gives the General Assembly an excellent analysis of how charter schools operate vis-à-vis local school districts and where improvements can be made,” said a statement from Sen. James Brewster (D-Allegheny, Westmoreland), who commissioned the report. “The report includes a long list of recommendations that, if adopted, will aid public schools and provide charters with a reasonable path forward.” The common theme throughout the report’s findings is that the current public education funding system is unsustainable—especially since the elimination of the charter school reimbursement line item within the state budget, along with several other block grants, under Republican Governor Tom Corbett. “Our charter law needs to be changed significantly with reforms that make sense,” said Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia, Mongtomery), a longtime advocate for reform of the state’s charter law. “Charter schools play a role in our education system and have a place, but they cannot be positioned in such a way that they financially put our traditional public schools in a bind.” The report found issues with the state’s funding of charter school transportation, special education payments, cyber school payments, and the state’s practice of sending funding to charter schools without first independently verifying what they are owed.
Some of the recommendations in the PA Legislative Budget and Finance Committee Charter Report, and reasons for them:
• Change the charter funding mechanism so the state pays a larger share. In Pennsylvania, charter school funding depends heavily on local taxes, even for cyber charters which are authorized by the state (brick-and-mortar charters are authorized by the district where they are built). State-wide, 84 percent of charter funding came from local taxes, compared to 23 percent in New Jersey.
• Change the tuition payment formula for special education services. Statewide, in 2014-15 school districts paid $294.8 million to charter schools as special education tuition supplements, yet the charters reported spending $193.1 million on those services.
• Change the state mandates for transportation to charter schools. Pennsylvania is “unique” among states in requiring districts to provide transportation services for charter school students that the districts are not required to provide for their own students.
• Require multi-district charter schools to seek authorization as “regional charters” as provided by the state charter law. As a result of a court ruling, a school district that had nothing to do with the authorization of a charter school can end up paying tuition for students attending that school even if it is not in that district.
• Require parents to register their children in their home school district before enrolling in a charter school. Billing issues between charter schools and the school district paying them have developed when charter school students never attended a school in that district.
• Create clear conflict of interest policies, audit funds received by a charter school but transferred to associated entities, and close loopholes that have allowed what the report called “widely reported cases of fraud and abuse involving several Pennsylvania charter schools.”
New legislative report: WB Area has area’s highest charter school enrollment
By Mark Guydish - firstname.lastname@example.org MAY 24, 2017 BY TIMESLEADER
Wilkes-Barre Area has by far the highest percentage of students enrolled in charter schools among Luzerne County’s 11 school districts, and pays the most per student for those charter school students, according to a new state report. The Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee released “Public Charter School Fiscal Impact on School Districts” on Wednesday with a wide range of findings and recommended changes in the state charter school system, including revamping how charter schools are paid, and how much they get. The report included data on how many students in each of the state’s 500 school districts attend charter schools, comparing that number to the district’s “Average Daily Membership” — the state measure of enrollment.
“Millions of taxpayers are paying the price for these sweetheart deals we’ve given to the charter industry,” Summers said. “Who’s running the show in Harrisburg?”
Eastburg school board opposes charter school bill
Pocono Record By Bill Cameron Posted at 5:00 AM
Editor’s note: This article is part two of a series on charter schools in Pennsylvania.
On Monday, the East Stroudsburg school board adopted two resolutions on charter school reform. One calls for a massive overhaul of charter school funding practices. The other opposes House Bill 97, a draft reform currently circulating in Harrisburg. Both resolutions passed unanimously. “It’s bad legislation,” said Board President Gary Summers. “It was drafted by the charter school industry, their lobbyists — and it does nothing to fix the problem.” Rep. Mike Reese (R-59) introduced the bill in April. One of its provisions would let school districts make more deductions from their charter school payments. That won’t be enough to help East Stroudsburg, said Summers. “We’ll get a couple of bucks, but it doesn’t fix the problem,” he said. “It doesn’t get to the root of the problem: we need a completely new formula.” The bill would also expand the state Charter School Appeal Board — which reviews decisions to renew or revoke charters — from six to nine members. Those additions would stack the board in charter schools’ favor, Summers said. One of the new members must be a public school principal. Two must be affiliated with charter schools. An existing seat would now have to be occupied by the parent of a child enrolled in a charter school
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Now that the tentative budget has been approved, members of the general public have an opportunity to review and/or comment on the spending plan until June 26, which is the day the board is slated to vote on the budget.
Anyone who would like to see a copy of the budget can access one either at the school district's administrative building or online at www.fasd.K12.pa.us.
Just to be clear. For a month, any citizen in the area can look at the proposed budget. They could then attend a board meeting or call a board member or stop a board member when they encounter them out and about in the community, and that citizen could express an opinion about the budget. Any citizen, parent, voter or taxpayer can both see the budget and offer feedback on it. That's a thing that can happen here in our public school district. This is different from the charter school business world, where budgets are proposed and passed in private and where the people who create those budgets may not even live anywhere nearby at all.
By Wade Payson-Denney, CNN Updated 3:26 PM ET, Wed May 24, 2017
The Democratic Party paved the way for the education secretary's efforts to privatize our public schools.
The New Republic BY DIANE RAVITCH May 23, 2017
Of all the corrupt, unqualified, and extremist characters Donald Trump has tapped to lead his administration, none has generated the tsunami of liberal outrage whipped up by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And with all due respect to Jeff Sessions, there’s good reason for the backlash: The billionaire Amway heiress from Michigan, who long ago made “school choice” her passion project, is the first education secretary in history to be hostile to the very idea of public education. Prodded by grassroots activists and what’s left of teachers’ unions, Democrats went all out to defeat DeVos. George Miller, the former congressman from California, slammed her plan to create a $20 billion “school choice” program that would underwrite private and religious schools, calling it “a perfect storm of ignorance, money, and power.” Senator Al Frankengrilled DeVos at her confirmation hearing, drawing out her jaw-dropping ignorance of federal programs. Senator Michael Bennet called her nomination an “insult to schoolchildren and their families, to teachers and principals and communities fighting to improve their public schools all across the country.” And when DeVos was confirmed by a vote of 51 to 50, over unanimous Democratic opposition, Senator Cory Booker went on Facebook, “frustrated and saddened,” to sound a sorrowful note: “Somewhere in America, right now, there is a child who is wondering if this country stands up for them.” Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America’s undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative “school reform” agenda for the past three decades.
Applaud school districts for wise financial planning
Intelligencer Letter by Nathan Mains May 24, 2017
Nathan Mains is executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Assn.
Your May 23 editorial on school fund balances leaves out some critical details. The editorial criticizes the $4.4 billion in reserve for fiscal year 2015-16, citing that it is up $1 billion over five years. However, it fails to mention that in that same time period, pension costs increased 337 percent, rising $521 million in 2015-16 to $2.8 billion. Pension costs are projected to continue to climb over the next several years and remain at those levels for more than a decade. The pension tsunami is upon our schools, and they are wisely planning for that. Lack of political will in Harrisburg has left the pension crisis unresolved, so districts have no alternative other than to save now. The article did accurately point out the potential loss of $677 million a year to public schools if a new legislative proposal to limit a district’s right to appeal property assessments is passed. The editorial brushes this aside as of little consequence in light of current fund balances. However, this loss would be devastating to most schools in Pennsylvania with or without fund balances. Even though fund balance dollars have increased, the opinion piece fails to look at details. The most recent numbers show that 227 districts, or 45 percent, saw a reduction or no change in their total fund balances, and 74 decreased by more than $1 million. Thirty-four districts still have a zero or negative fund balance. Seven out of 13 districts in Bucks County had a reduction in fund balances; five of those were reduced more than $900,000.
Report seeks to set baseline for education debate
WITF Written by Rachel McDevitt | May 23, 2017 6:16 PM
(Harrisburg) -- A recent report from public education advocates seeks to set the baseline for discussion on how to address challenges facing Pennsylvania schools. The inaugural State of Education report from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) used public data and surveys to identify issues. Not surprisingly, 86% of school administrators say budget pressures are one of the biggest challenges facing public schools. They also share concerns over building maintenance and teacher shortages. PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains says they made a point not to draw conclusions in the report. "We wanted to try and gather up as much data as possible and put it out there, and say to folks, here's kind of the base-level of information," Mains said. "If we can at least all agree that these are the numbers, this is the starting point for us, then we can engage in some discussions around potential solutions." Mains does hopes state lawmakers will take a serious look at the report as they craft the coming year's budget, especially the section on student achievement.
Pittsburgh Public Schools OKs first five 'community schools'
MOLLY BORN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette email@example.com 9:28 PM MAY 24, 2017
The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools Wednesday formally signed off establishing its first five “community schools.” The vote passed despite District 8 board member Kevin Carter abstaining, and District 4 board member Lynda Wrenn voting against the designation in which school buildings provide social services for students and, eventually, the surrounding community. “It just doesn’t sound like it’s fleshed out,” Ms. Wrenn said. “I don’t believe the costs will be confined to just personnel in the first year.” Arsenal 6-8 in Lawrenceville, Langley K-8 in the West End, Lincoln PreK-5 in Larimer, and Faison K-5 and Westinghouse 6-12 in Homewood topped 21 schools that applied for the title earlier this year. A committee studying the topic selected 10, which members visited and narrowed to five, which the district announced last week.
Potential school board vacancies loom as primary ballots go unfilled
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer May 23, 2017
That wasn’t white-out on your primary ballot last week; there just weren’t enough candidates to fill vacant seats in some districts. Such was the case in Columbia Borough, Manheim Central, Pequea Valley and Solanco school districts, where incomplete slates of candidates were seeking the unpaid, often thankless position of school board director. The paucity of candidates begs the question whether fewer residents are willing to put their public image on the line by serving on a school board. “You might be able to answer why residents aren’t running by asking yourself,” Pennsylvania School Boards Association spokesman Steve Robinson said. Robinson said that although becoming a public servant is “very rewarding,” school board directors often receive more flak than they might deserve. “A lot of those positions are maybe not given the proper thanks that is due to them,” he said. “They’re looking into sometimes challenging finances that requires them to really take a look at things and make some tough decisions.” Perhaps the toughest decision of all: raising property taxes. “I don’t think anybody wants to take the blame for raising property taxes,” Jonathan Lutz, Columbia’s Republican committee chair, said.
Charleroi school board approves budget with tax increase
Observer Reporter By Beth Hope-Cushey May 24, 2017
CHARLEROI – Taxes will be going up in the Charleroi Area School District, but the exact amount is not yet known due to the recent Washington County reassessment. School directors unanimously passed the $23.55 million preliminary 2017-18 budget at Tuesday’s meeting, which represents a 2 percent spending increase of $453,813 over last year’s budget of $23,096,187. Millage will be set at the allowable state index increase of 3.7 percent. The millage rate last year was 143 mills, but with the recent reassessment, the millage rate will be recalculated and will be in double digits, yet represent the same tax revenue amount. Business manager Crystal Zahand said that the district will not have the information on the final property tax assessments until June 1. Among the increased expenditures is a $381,000 jump due to the rising costs of employee retirement contributions and $200,000 more for employee medical benefits. Zahand said the budget was balanced without any cuts to services or employees.
East Penn dilemma: Spend extra money on technology or reducing tax rate
With new tax assessments coming in and other updated figures in revenue and expenses, East Penn School District is looking at a fund balance at the end of this fiscal year that is about $1.3 million higher than predicted, school officials said.
Margie Peterson Special to The Morning Call May 24, 2017
Technology or a smaller tax hike? Those were the main options on the table in a debate Monday by the East Penn School Board and the district administration over what to do with better-than-expected revenue projections for the 2017-18 budget. With new tax assessments coming in and other updated figures in revenue and expenses, the district is looking at a fund balance at the end of this fiscal year that is about $1.3 million higher than predicted, school officials said. Superintendent Michael Schilder would like the additional money to go to funding more technology priorities, such as Chromebooks for students and an upgrade of the district's technology infrastructure. Several school directors said they would like to see part or all of the money used to lower the proposed 2.9 percent tax increase.
“Under the proposed budget, Medicaid loses $610 billion over the next decade, which the administration suggests is on top of the $839 billion expected to be cut from Medicaid by the American Health Care Act. That means Medicaid funding would be cut nearly in half by 2028.”
Trumponomics: The philosophy that it doesn’t suck enough to be poor
Washington Post By Catherine Rampell May 23 at 4:55 PM
For months, pundits and political advisers have tried to figure out what “Trumponomics” really stands for. Even President Trump himself struggled to characterize it, saying, “It really has to do with self-respect as a nation.” Now that we have the president’s budget in hand, we have a more definitive answer: Trumponomics — like Ryanonomics — is based on the principle that living in poverty doesn’t suck quite enough. That is, more people would be motivated to become rich if only being poor weren’t so much fun. Presidential budgets should be read as statements of political ideology, not determinations for what will ultimately become law. (Congress, after all, does the appropriating.) In this case, the political ideology is reflected in major cuts to anti-poverty programs and the social safety net, all in the name of not “discourag[ing] able-bodied adults from working.” And so, with the “compassionate” goal of making the poor a little less comfortable and a little more motivated, this budget savages nearly every anti-poverty program you can imagine.
Nominations for PSBA Allwein Advocacy Award due by July 16th
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform. In addition to being a highly respected lobbyist, Timothy Allwein served to help our members be effective advocates in their own right. Many have said that Tim inspired them to become active in our Legislative Action Program and to develop personal working relationships with their legislators. The 2017 Allwein Award nomination process will begin on Monday, May 15, 2017. The application due date is July 16, 2017 in the honor of Tim’s birth date of July 16.
Electing PSBA Officers; Applications Due June 1
All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall send applications to the attention of the chair of the Leadership Development Committee, during the months of April and May an Application for Nomination to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. “The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by June 1 to be considered and timely filed.” (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5.E.).
Open positions are:
All terms of office commence January 1 following election.
Thomas Murray, Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools, a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education
Kristen Swanson, Director of Learning at Slack and one of the founding members of the Edcamp movement
*Leadership for Learning
*Professional and Community Leadership