Tuesday, June 20, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 20: Rumor of $100M cut in education budget rattles fair school funding campaign

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup June 20, 2017:

Rumor of $100M cut in education budget rattles fair school funding campaign
Daily Local By Evan Brandt, ebrandt@21st-centurymedia.com@PottstownNews on Twitter POSTED: 06/19/17, 9:54 PM EDT | UPDATED: 4 HRS AGO
PHOENIXVILLE >> Worried by rumors that the state Legislature may cut the additional $100 million planned for K-12 education funding in the state budget, advocates called a press conference Monday to press their point that the money is needed to begin leveling the playing field for underfunded districts.  Pennsylvania already ranks worst in the nation for the gap between rich and poor school districts and Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget had included $100 million more in education funding to be distributed through the fair funding formula adopted last year by the Legislature.  All other state education funding is distributed the way it always has been, an opaque political method which has resulted in the current disparity between rich and poor districts.  Without that additional funding, the state would be making no effort whatsoever to try to close the nation’s worst funding gap, the advocates said.  However, it is not at all clear that funding cut is on the table at all.

Public Interest Law Center Website June 19, 2017
We filed our school funding lawsuit because across Pennsylvania, children attend schools that are inequitably and inadequately funded. Far from a silver bullet, the lawsuit is one piece of a larger strategy to provide all Pennsylvania children with the sound education they deserve. That larger strategy relies on you, engaged citizens, determined to fix this problem for the next generation, and willing to engage with state officials who have the power to do something about it.  For the upcoming year, the Governor has proposed a $100 million increase in basic education funding. That proposal is not close to enough—particularly in a system that is underfunded by $3 billion. But we may not even get that $100 million: Rumors are flying in Harrisburg that even the Governor’s proposal may be scaled back as lawmakers attempt to pass a budget.  Cutting back on an already inadequate proposal will only make this problem worse: our public schools will continue to be forced to make more cuts, and impose ever higher local taxes on their communities.  Lawmakers must hear from constituents that school funding is a priority, and that the state needs to increase basic education funding—by at least $100 million—and make no other cuts to public schools.

Please consider taking action on this alert to urge your legislators to keep the $100 million increase for Basic Education Funding that the Governor proposed and the House agreed with.
ALERT: $100 million in funding for PA's schools is in jeopardy
Education Voters PA Legislative Alert June 19, 2017
State lawmakers are  working to pass a budget for next year and we are hearing that many do not support Governor Wolf's proposed $100 million increase in funding for public school students.  Unless the state invests more in Basic Education Funding, our public schools will continue to be forced to make cuts that hurt students and enact local tax increases that hurt communities.  To keep our schools from falling too far behind, state lawmakers must reject any budget that does not contain at least a $100 million increase in Basic Education Funding and they must make no other cuts to public schools.  Please take action. Lawmakers need to hear from their constituents so they make students a priority.

Rural Schools: Inadequate state support hampering education
Tribune Democrat By Ed Albert (www.parss.org) and Joan Benso (www.papartnerships.org) June 19, 2017
Ed Albert is executive director of Pa. Association of Rural and Small Schools.
Joan Benso is president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.
Insufficient school funding is not just an urban or suburban problem; it is a state problem. That is the main takeaway from a report on rural schools recently released by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children.  The report, “Spending Impact on Student Achievement: A Rural Perspective,” found that of Pennsylvania’s 260 rural school districts, 202 are not receiving their fair share of state funding, forcing districts to either spend less and risk student achievement or increase local taxes.  In turn, 158 rural districts spend below the amount needed to properly educate students – or the “adequacy target.” When rural school districts do not reach that adequacy target, the underspending is a direct result of inadequate state support.  That lack of support negatively affects student achievement.  Like urban school districts and those in less affluent suburbs, many rural schools educate significant numbers of children living in poverty. Their students live in economically disadvantaged communities that are confronting serious social challenges such as the growing opioid problem. These rural schools must deal with smaller student populations across larger and sparsely populated areas that present higher transportation costs and that limit the ability to save money through economies of scale. Rural school districts frequently lack the local tax base to raise sufficient funds through property taxes.  That is a significant problem since the state shoulders only 37 percent of the cost of K-12 education, ranking it 46th in the country in state share.

Pennsylvania badly needs new revenue, top Senate Dem says
Inquirer by Karen Langley, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: JUNE 19, 2017 — 6:45 PM EDT
HARRISBURG — Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa painted a bleak picture of state finances Monday, predicting that lawmakers and the governor will put Band-Aids on the next two budgets instead of fixing problems by enacting steady revenue increases.  Though the June 30 deadline for the next fiscal year’s budget is less than two weeks away, the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Wolf have made little visible progress in negotiations.  “A year from now, someone will be standing here and probably repeating the same thing: We’re a billion-and-a-half dollars short, and there’s no willingness to be able to address the problems that we have going forward,” Costa said, speaking at a luncheon of the Pennsylvania Press Club. “We’ll make up ways to figure it out, to get through it, and then June 30 will pass and we’ll have some discussions about whether the revenue stream is appropriate or not.”  The state Independent Fiscal Office projected last week that the current year’s revenue will fall more than $1 billion below the Wolf administration’s estimate at the beginning of the fiscal year, putting budget makers in a hole as they plot the 2017-18 spending plan.

EDITORIAL: Budget could hurt — unless you're a driller
Editorial board, The York Dispatch3:42 p.m. ET June 19, 2017
Facing a $2.2 billion budget shortfall in their own spending plan, some Pennsylvania House Republicans are fretting about how to bridge that gap without some form of tax increase.
“This budget is going to be difficult,” Sen. Bob Mensch, R-Montgomery, told The Associated Press. “And any solution is going to involve pain.”  Take a couple of guesses as to who exactly is likely to feel that pain.  In the past, it was homeowners, who saw higher school taxes when state education funding was cut; motorists, when gas taxes were raised and licensing and registration fees were hiked; smokers when tobacco taxes went up; and even small entrepreneurs forced out of business under last year’s 40 percent inventory tax on vape shops.  Now guess who always survives these budgets feeling pretty darn good?  Natural gas drillers, who continue making a bundle off Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale reserves without having to worry about an extraction tax — which they pay in every other large natural gas-producing state.  Most state Republicans in control of the Legislature have long resisted calls for a fair extraction tax, often trotting out the ridiculous argument that drillers would leave if asked to pay such a tax.  And go where?  For one thing, Pennsylvania sits atop the largest natural gas reserve in the United States. Secondly, as we already noted, no other state has lawmakers foolish enough to give drillers a free ride at the expense of their constituents.

Pa. lawmakers want to kiss Keystone Exams and seniority-based layoffs goodbye
Penn Live BY JAN MURPHY  jmurphy@pennlive.com Updated on June 19, 2017 at 7:27 PM Posted on June 19, 2017 at 7:25 PM
School may be out for the summer but state lawmakers are busy at the Capitol working to change the rules governing standardized testing for high school students as well as evaluating and furloughing teachers.  House and Senate education committees on Monday approved bills that would:
·         Replace the Keystone Exams with the Scholastic Aptitude Test(SAT), an aligned vocational test, GED or the military entrance exam to meet the federal Every Student Succeeds Act's accountability requirement for high school students.
·         As part of that legislation, it also would make revisions to the teacher evaluation system including allowing parents and students to offer input in rating their teachers.
·         Allow school boards to lay off teachers for economic reasons and allow those furloughs to be based on recent teacher evaluation ratings instead of seniority.
Both bills can now advance through their respective chambers for consideration.

For 20 years, charter schools have provided quality education options for families: Tom Ridge
PENNLIVE OP-ED By Tom Ridge Posted on June 19, 2017 at 8:30 AM
Tom Ridge, a Republican, is the former governor of Pennsylvania and the nation's first Secretary of Homeland Security.
Twenty years ago this week, I was privileged to sign the Commonwealth's first charter school law, which provided meaningful educational options for Pennsylvania families whose children were stuck in underperforming public schools.  My purpose in leading the fight for charter schools was to create a new model for public education that would put the needs of students first, giving all children a better chance at a quality education.  Two decades later, with nearly 160 charter schools statewide that serve more than 100,000 students, plus a waiting list of tens of thousands more children, it is clear that charter schools are an invaluable asset in public education, particularly when it comes to serving those in poverty.  Despite the remarkable success of charters, however, there remains much work to be done in the effort to secure a quality public education for all children.  All schools must be accountable for the children they serve, and we must end the bitter debates that too often pit charters against traditional public schools. 

Reprise: Yes, we need charter school reform. This House bill isn't the way to do it: Lawrence A. Feinberg
PENNLIVE OP-ED By Lawrence A. Feinberg Posted on May 8, 2017 at 10:00 AM
After 20 years, it is long past time for meaningful reforms to Pennsylvania's charter school law that will benefit students and parents while also protecting our taxpayers.   But in its present form, reform legislation (HB97) sponsored by Rep. Mike Reese, R-Somerset, is not the legislation to do that.   The bill would significantly diminish local oversight and control by elected school boards who have a fiduciary responsibility to represent the taxpayers who pay for these publicly funded but privately managed schools.  Reese's bill also encourages expansion of the charter sector without appropriate measures to ensure that they are of high quality.   Our costly and chronically underperforming cyber charters, authorized by the state, are a prime example of that approach.  Charter operators have no accountability to the taxpayers footing the bill. Their funding comes "shrink-wrapped', based on local school district spending, with no local press coverage of charter board meetings; no public budget process; no public check registers.   The House of Representatives on Tuesday sent a charter school reform bill to the Senate renewing the perennial effort to strengthen the state's 20-year-old charter law that state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale calls the "worst in the nation."  For charters that are run by private management companies, like Chester Community Charter, the state's largest brick and mortar charter, taxpayers know virtually nothing about how their money is spent.

Pennsylvania: Haverford School Board Opposes Charter “Reform” Legislation
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch June 19, 2017 //
The Pennsylvania legislature is considering a bill to “reform” charter schools, but it still allows charters to drain resources from public schools without reimbursement, and it still preserves the low-performing cybercharters that milk resources from public schools with providing a decent education to any students.  Many grassroots groups oppose this bill, and the Haverford School Board just voted 7-1 against it.  The board of school directors recently joined Education Voters of Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Pennsylvania School Boards Association, Education Law Center and other school districts around the state that have voiced opposition to provisions for charter school reform in House Bill 97.  School directors voted 7-1 to adopt a resolution opposing the bill, which they allege “fails to establish meaningful change” from the state’s 20-year-old Charter School Law.

The Supreme Court is going to hear a case on partisan gerrymandering - That is a very big deal.
Penn Live BY JOHN L. MICEK  jmicek@pennlive.com Updated on June 19, 2017 at 4:46 PM Posted on June 19, 2017 at 4:44 PM
The Washington Post reports this afternoon: The Supreme Court declared Monday that it will consider whether gerrymandered election maps favoring one political party over another violate the Constitution, a potentially fundamental change in the way American elections are conducted.  The justices regularly are called to invalidate state electoral maps that have been illegally drawn to reduce the influence of racial minorities by depressing the impact of their votes.  But the Supreme Court has never found a plan unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering. If it does, it would have a revolutionary impact on the reapportionment that comes after the 2020 election and could come at the expense of Republicans, who control the process in the majority of states.  The court accepted a case from Wisconsin, where a divided panel of three federal judges last year ruled last year that the state's Republican leadership in 2011 pushed through a plan so partisan that it violated the Constitution's First Amendment and equal rights protections.  Reformers in Pennsylvania have long pushed for changes to the way the state draws both its legislative and congressional maps in the decennial redistricting.  Under state law, a bipartisan commission, made up of Republican and Democratic members of the state House and Senate, joined by an independent chairman (usually, but not always, a retired judge), oversee the redrawing of legislative districts.

Justices to Hear Major Challenge to Partisan Gerrymandering
New York Times By ADAM LIPTAK JUNE 19, 2017
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would consider whether partisan gerrymandering violates the Constitution, potentially setting the stage for a ruling that could for the first time impose limits on a practice that has helped define American politics since the early days of the Republic.  The term gerrymander was coined after Elbridge Gerry, Massachusetts’s governor, signed an 1812 law that included a voting district shaped like a salamander to help the electoral prospects of his party. Over the centuries, lawmakers have become ever more sophisticated in redrawing legislative maps after each decennial census, carving out oddly shaped districts for state legislatures and the House of Representatives that favor their parties’ candidates.  While the Supreme Court has struck down voting districts as racial gerrymanders, it has never disallowed a legislative map because of partisan gerrymandering.  The new case is an appeal of a decision striking down the legislative map for the Wisconsin State Assembly drawn after Republicans gained control of the state’s government in 2010. The decision was the first from a federal court in more than 30 years to reject a voting map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Baer: Gerrymander lawsuit: not perfect but a start, and valuable
Philly Daily News by John Baer, Political Columnist  baerj@phillynews.com Updated: JUNE 19, 2017 — 8:05 AM EDT
There’s some fun stuff in a sweeping anti-gerrymandering lawsuit filed in Commonwealth Court last week.  The suit seeks to get Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional map scrapped as unconstitutional on grounds it was drawn by Republicans for Republicans to ensure that Republicans, now and forever, represent the state in Congress.  One example offered is the ridiculously shaped, oft-ridiculed Seventh District in the Philly burbs (GOP Rep. Pat Meehan’s seat).  The suit notes that there’s a place in Coatesville where the district is so narrow the only thing connecting one part of it to another is a medical endoscopy center.  I’m betting the example is there to suggest GOP mapmakers were thinking: “Hey, Dems, we got a new district for you. Bend over.”  It’s just one example in a list intended to prove Republicans packed Democratic voters into a few districts and dispersed such voters across other districts to guarantee GOP wins.

School spending on disabled students unpredictable, often costly
Trib Live by JAMIE MARTINES  | Sunday, June 18, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
School districts are required to provide “a free and appropriate education” to all students under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Providing those services can be expensive and hard to plan for, according to Janet Sardon, Yough School District superintendent.  For example, a new student could move into the district over the summer and require services ranging from a personal aide, which could cost a district about $30,000 per year, to attending classes off site, which could cost closer to $60,000 per year. The district must also absorb transportation costs for those students.  Almost one in five of the rural Westmoreland County district's 2,100 students are enrolled in special education services.

York City board to vote on Thackston charter revocation
York Dispatch by Junior Gonzalez , 505-5439/@JuniorG_YDPublished 5:21 p.m. ET June 19, 2017
The vote will occur in the district’s administration building, 31 N. Pershing Ave. in York City, and is expected to bring a larger than usual audience to the board room.  In a special meeting June 5, several administrators and board members from the Helen Thackston Charter School were present, including current Helen Thackston board member Lisa Kennedy, who is one of three people on the ballot for four open seats on the York City school board in November's municipal election.  At the June 5 meeting, York City Superintendent Eric Holmes cited several issues Thackston has either not followed up on or has come up short on following the district’s initial resolution outlining deadlines in February.  According to the new resolution, some of the deadlines and standards missed include the 75 percent professional staff certification threshold required by the Pennsylvania School Code and the absence of many background checks and clearances of school board members and employees that the school is required to have on file.
In total, the resolution introduced at the June 5 meeting listed 24 reasons for revoking the school’s charter.

Philly teachers OK new contract; now, how to pay for it?
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag |  kgraham@phillynews.com Updated: JUNE 19, 2017 — 9:05 PM EDT
The longest contract stalemate in Philadelphia School District history appears to be over, with teachers overwhelmingly approving a new contract worth $395 million Monday night after four bitter years.  The three-year deal will mean raises for the more than 11,000 members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the city’s largest union, though it will not make educators whole for five years of frozen wages.  “We are really, really pleased about the agreement,” Jerry Jordan, PFT president, said after a general membership meeting at the Liacouras Center of Temple University.  But even as union leadership celebrated the vote — 95 percent of members who voted endorsed the contract — politicians made clear there is no plan in place to pay for it.
And some officials in Harrisburg sounded ominous notes about their willingness to help foot the bill, which is $245 million more than the district has budgeted. A source close to the negotiations has said that the deal could mean teacher layoffs down the road.  Republicans who control both legislative chambers in Harrisburg threw cold water on any expectation that the state would send Philadelphia more money to help it pay for the contract.  “It makes it very difficult to take any request from Philadelphia seriously when they do nothing that appears to help themselves – and then they negotiate a contract which they admit is based on fantasy,” said Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans.  Drew Crompton, the top lawyer for Senate Republicans, said he was flabbergasted by the move to approve a contract for which the district does not have the money.  “I can’t fathom the school board signing a deal that they fundamentally know that they can’t pay for,” he said. “It’s perplexing.”

PFT overwhelmingly approves contract settlement
Most teachers said they voted yes, if reluctantly, glad the ordeal is over.
The notebook and Breaking News,Newsworks by Avi Wolfman-Arent and Dale Mezzacappa June 19, 2017 — 8:33pm
Philadelphia teachers ratified a new labor deal Monday night, all but assuring city educators of their first valid contract since the old pact expired four years ago.  The contract will go into effect if a majority of the five-member School Reform Commission (SRC) approves it at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday. District sources expect the SRC to approve the deal, though there may be a dissenting vote or two.   Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan announced the vote at a news conference after the meeting concluded. “We have a contract,” he said.  The vote, tallied by the American Arbitration Association, was overwhelming – 4,399 yes, and 2,013 no.  “We’re glad the contract is settled,” Jordan said. “We know it will bring stability to the School District of Philadelphia. The retention of teachers, I believe, will be much better because people will be able to plan their futures and Philadelphia will be a place where we can recruit once again.”  Superintendent William Hite issued a statement saying he was "pleased" and that the contract represents "stability."  The new contract runs through 2020 and is expected to cost the School District of Philadelphia $395 million. It includes some retroactive pay and salary increases for union members, whose wages haven’t budged in almost five years. Even as they gained experience and in some cases earned advanced degrees, they did not receive increments.  Asked whether he had any commitments from Mayor Kenney or other city officials for additional funds to help pay for it, Jordan said he did not.  “There was never ever a time I can remember when a contract has been settled where there has been a boatload of money waiting to pay for [it],” Jordan said. “We have to rely on our funders in the state as well as the city.”  

Bethlehem Area School Board approves new teacher contract, budget
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call June 19, 2017
BETHLEHEM — Bethlehem Area School District teachers have a new two-year deal that gives them more than a 2 percent raise each year.  At a special meeting Monday night, the school board unanimously voted to approve a new teachers contract. The contract was approved a week before the current one is set to expire.  For 2017-18, teaches will receive a 2.1 percent raise; for the next year, it's a 2.9 percent raise.  Starting salary, currently $47,076, will increase to $48,441 in the final year of the contract. Top salary, currently $88,157, will increase to $90,713 in the final year of the contract.  Teachers union President Jolene Vitalos said union members voted and approved the contract earlier in this month. The union represents slightly more than 1,000 teachers in the district.  The contract includes an increased stipend for the high schools' theater departments. Vitalos said the stipend comes to just under $20,000 for both high schools.  There are no changes to health care benefits.  School board President Michael Faccinetto said the contract is for two years and not longer because of uncertainty about what could happen in Harrisburg.  In the last contract, approved two years ago, teachers took a one-year salary freeze.

Another teachers union agrees to short contract amid uncertainty
BY SARA K. SATULLO  ssatullo@lehighvalleylive.com, For lehighvalleylive.com Updated on June 20, 2017 at 6:34 AMPosted on June 20, 2017 at 6:30 AM
Recognizing Pennsylvania's rocky state finances and legislative uncertainty, Bethlehem Area School District teachers have inked a new two-year contract.  The school board approved the agreement at Monday night's special board meeting where directors also passed the 2017-18 budget.  The contract covers the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years and carries average raises of 2.17 percent and 2.99 percent, said Michael Faccinetto, board president.  The 400-some teachers at the top of the salary schedule will see a one-time $500 stipend this year but not the next year, said Jolene Vitalos, union president.  Both the district and the Bethlehem Education Association preferred a longer contract, but there are just too many unknowns on the horizon, Faccinetto said.

Spring-Ford teachers authorize strike, continue talks
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 06/19/17, 5:21 PM EDT | UPDATED: 9 HRS AGO
ROYERSFORD >> The Spring-Ford Education Association teachers union announced Sunday its membership approved a strike authorization as contract talks continue with the school board. The two sides of the bargaining table plan to meet again Wednesday.  An “overwhelming majority,” or approximately 95 percent of the 420 union members present, approved the decision in the floor vote, said union President Zach Laurie. The union has 628 total members.  “Our membership feels we’ve come to a stand still in the bargaining process,” Laurie told Digital First Media Monday.  The move isn’t a guarantee a strike will happen, but it does allow the union’s leadership to make that decision if it thinks the action is needed, Laurie said.  The news comes less than a week after the first contract talks took place between the school board and the union in over two months, when the two sides met June 9. Until that point, there had been no discussions after March 30.

“Because all current employees will get the pension benefits they’ve been promised, the new retirement structure isn’t projected to draw down the billions in accumulated pension debt until 2048.”
Editorial: Pension reform bill not exactly historic
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 06/19/17, 7:22 AM EDT | UPDATED: 19 HRS AGO
Could we stop using the word “historic” to portray legislative efforts better described as overhyped, overdue and half-baked?  Pennsylvania lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf reached for their favorite adjective last week in praising a pension reform bill that will do little to reduce a $77 billion public pension debt over the next 30 years — ensuring that school districts will keep passing along “automatic” property tax hikes in the foreseeable future.  This is reform?  This is historic?  Senate Bill 1 accomplishes something that should have been done two or three decades ago — shift future state employees and teachers into more of a self-funded retirement plan. Those hired after Jan. 1, 2019 will have a choice between a hybrid system (part 401(k), part traditional defined-benefit) or a full 401(k)-type plan. Some employees, including state troopers and corrections workers, are exempt because the nature of their jobs. Wolf has promised to sign the bill.

AG: Manheim Township school board wasted taxpayer money, operated in secrecy in former superintendent's early termination
Lancaster Online by Susan Baldrige and Alex Geli | Staff writers Jun 19, 2017
The Manheim Township school board wasted taxpayer money and operated in secrecy in its handling of a separation agreement with the district's former superintendent, according to the state's top fiscal watchdog.  Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale called the board's actions "inexcusable" and "not in the best interest of the public" during a press conference Monday at Lancaster City Hall .  DePasquale said he will refer the issue to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which, he said, could withhold basic education funding from the district.  Most of DePasquale's findings from his recently completed audit of the school district were related to the expense and secrecy surrounding the termination of former Superintendent John Nodecker in 2016, and his separation agreement.

Faced with a scathing audit, Lancaster Co. school district blames the media, of course: John L. Micek
Penn Live BY JOHN L. MICEK  jmicek@pennlive.com Updated on June 19, 2017 at 2:04 PM Posted on June 19, 2017 at 12:56 PM
LANCASTER -- So if your local school district violated state law by failing to publicly vote to blow $358,000 in your money to buy out the contract of a former superintendent, and then got called on it by Pennsylvania's top fiscal watchdog, you'd probably expect some degree of penitence.  Right?  Not in the Manheim Township schools, where gross incompetence, a penchant for operating behind closed doors, and messenger-shooting is apparently the order of the day.  Here's what Mark Anderson, the township school board's president, had to say Monday when state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale blistered the suburban Lancaster County district in a new audit:  "This has been a long, but successful, road for this District and the current school board," Anderson said in a statement posted to the district's web site. "Our community has rallied together to show positive support for the board and school district that, as this final, full performance audit shows, had unwarranted negative reporting by the local media."

“Sampson expressed that the need for incremental tax increases primarily stems from the sizable increase in district’s required Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) contribution.   This year’s PSERS stabilization rate commitment is $3,051,981. Sampson said the district will likely take out more than $500,000 from the district’s committed fund for pensions this year.   “PSERS pension contributions have tripled over the last five years, and have effectively gone up about $2.6 million,” Sampson said. “If I go back five years ago, we were at roughly $1.7 million in PSERS expenses. This year, we’re at $4.3 million.”  During the June 12 meeting, Sampson explained that PSERS expenses had increased to 32 percent, when just a few years ago, it was closer to 7 percent. In order to keep up with this increase over the years, Sampson said the board recognized that it would need to increase taxes in increments over the course of a number of years. “
Titusville Area School District adopts budget with tax hike
With growing retirement contributions, district officials try to maintain programs
By Natalie Dodd Herald Staff Writer | 0 comments Posted: Tuesday, June 20, 2017 5:00 am
The Titusville School Board officially adopted its 2017-18 general fund budget of $33,690,764 during Monday’s meeting.   The number, according to Business Manager Shawn Sampson, has not changed since the previous meeting on June 12.    In addition to the final approval of the budget, the board also approved the tax millage increase for the 2017-18 fiscal year. With one “no” vote cast by Carol Shaffer, the official millage for the upcoming fiscal year is set at 40.27 mills for Crawford County, an increase of 1.14 mills; 16.94 mills for Venango County, an increase of .28 mills; and 50.32 mills for Warren County, an increase of 1.32 mills.  This translates to a 2.9 percent increase for Crawford County, a 1.7 percent increase for Venango County, and a 2.7 percent increase for Warren County residents.   A mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in a property’s assessed value. 

Bethlehem school board OKs tax hike (but hardly its biggest)
BY SARA K. SATULLO  ssatullo@lehighvalleylive.com, For lehighvalleylive.com Updated on June 19, 2017 at 10:36 PMPosted on June 19, 2017 at 9:09 PM
Bethlehem Area School District tax bills will rise 1.24 percent on average, a tax hike that the superintendent says is the lowest in 25 years.  But the news is not so good for the 20 percent of district residents in Lehigh County, who are seeing an almost 6.7 percent tax hike largely due to a state calculation change.  The Bethlehem Area School Board on Monday night approved a $268.5 million 2017-18 final budget in a 7-1 vote, with Director Thomas Tomasik dissenting. Director Dean Donaher called into the meeting to cast his affirmative vote.  The district began the budget season with a $12.5 million deficit, which was shaved down to $3.29 million through a mix of job and spending cuts, new revenue and postponing educational initiatives, like the new elementary Spanish program. It relies on $4 million from district savings to close the hole.

Riverview School District taxes to increase 2.5 percent
Trib Live by MICHAEL DIVITTORIO | Monday, June 19, 2017, 10:24 p.m.
Riverview School District property owners will pay 2.5 percent more in real estate taxes next school year.  A property owner in Oakmont or Verona with the district's median home value of $134,000 would pay about $73 more in real estate taxes.  The board voted 8-0 Monday night to approve the districts' final in 2017-18 budget with a 0.5611-mill tax hike. That sets next year's millage rate at 23.0073.  The current tax rate is 22.4462 mills.  Business Manager Tammy Good said the tax hike was unavoidable largely due to pension increases.  “Our expenditures are beginning to outpace our revenues, and it will continue,” Good said.

Gateway School Board may cut 10 teaching positions Tuesday night
Trib Live by DILLON CARR | Monday, June 19, 2017, 10:42 p.m.
The Gateway School Board plans to furlough teachers in 10 positions at Tuesday night's meeting, but many could remain district employees.  Citing a 24-percent enrollment drop over the past decade, school officials are proposing to cut three elementary teachers, three physical education teachers, two reading teachers and one each in science and technology.  Each employee would be given the chance to bid for other open positions June 27, and to be recalled in August, district human resources director Patricia Crump said.  The bidding process is based on seniority and certifications, as regulated by the contract with the Gateway Education Association. Gateway Education Association President Mark Spinola couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

Hempfield Area OKs tax increase
Trib Live by MATTHEW GUERRY | Monday, June 19, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
The Hempfield Area School Board on Monday night passed a budget for next school year that will raise property taxes by nearly 3 percent.  Officials blamed the hike on increases in the amount the district will pay in state pension funds and salaries.  The real estate tax hike is Hempfield's ninth in 12 years.  The $95.75 million budget raises the property tax to from 79.74 mills to 82.21. That's an increase of $82.21 for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value.  Hempfield's budget adoption comes at a time when similar hikes are being made in neighboring districts, officials said.

Franklin Regional approves budget with property tax hike
Trib Live by PATRICK VARINE  | Monday, June 19, 2017, 8:57 p.m.
Franklin Regional School Board officials approved a 2017-18 budget that bumps up property taxes by 2.63 mills.  The $56.5 million budget has not changed substantially from the preliminary version the board approved last month.  The proposed final budget would see millage rise to 93.62 mills; the new millage translates to an annual increase of $45 for homes valued at $100,000.  Revenue is supplemented by $830,000 from a fund earmarked for pension contributions, as well as just over $100,000 from the district's unassigned fund balance.

“PA is #5 with $253.3 million heading back to school districts. As a state with one of the most expensive special education budgets in the country, I’m sure PA districts are eager to have this funding to support their students.”
What States Receive The Most Money For School-Based Medicaid?
AASA Website June 19, 2017
The GOP health care proposal to change Medicaid from an entitlement program to a block grant could mean that school districts are cut off from receiving Medicaid reimbursement permanently. With a significant shortage of federal funding to support Medicaid, districts will be in the unenviable position of competing with hospitals, doctors and other providers for limited reimbursement from states. While districts receive less than 1% of the federal Medicaid allocation, that money represents the third largest federal funding stream in education.   Here are the states that will lose the most most school-based Medicaid funding: 
#1 by a wide margin is Texas. Districts in Texas receive about 444 million dollars annually from the Medicaid program (250 million of which comes from the feds).
#2 is my home-state of NJ which captures about 286.6 million annually. Yeah Jersey!
Coming in right behind NJ is IL, which is #3. IL school districts receive $286.4 million annually.
#4 is New York with $273.6 million in school-based Medicaid reimbursements.

If You're A Supt Who Hasn't Taken Action To Protect Medicaid In Schools Now, You're Missing A Major Opportunity To Make A Difference In The Debate On Capitol Hill
AASA Website June 13, 2017
As a school leader you know school-based Medicaid programs are really important to students, to school personnel and to communities. We need Congress to understand this point now more than ever. Please take 5 minutes. Make a call, send an email, do whatever you can to weigh in with your Senators. If you miss the opportunity to protect school-based Medicaid programs you are missing an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in this debate. 

Supreme Court to rule on how election districts are drawn
Richard Wolf , USA Today Published 9:34 a.m. ET June 19, 2017
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a potential landmark case that addresses how far lawmakers can go in choosing their voters, rather than the other way around.  Venturing into what one justice recently called the "always unsavory" process of drawing election districts for partisan advantage, the court will try to set a standard  -- something it has failed to do in the past.  The case under review comes from Wisconsin, but about one-third of the maps drawn for Congress and state legislatures could be affected by the justices' ruling. Similar cases are pending in North Carolina and Maryland.  The issue is reaching the high court at a time when both Republicans and Democrats have improved the art of drawing congressional and legislative maps to entrench themselves in office for a decade at a time. Computer software increasingly helps them create safe districts for their most conservative and liberal candidates, whose success invariably leads to more partisan gridlock in government.

South Carolina: Taxpayers Waste $350 Million on Failing Virtual Charter Schools
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch June 19, 2017 //
Legislators in South Carolina must have been following an ALEC script when they authorized Virtual charter schools to enroll students and take money away from their underfunded public schoools. Or maybe they were paid off by lobbyists. There is certainly massive evidence, even from charter advocates, that virtual charters get terrible results. Yet no matter how much they fail, they are never closed or held accountable.  Consider this report in the “Post & Courier” in South Carolina: “Online charter schools have grown exponentially across South Carolina and the nation — and questions about their effectiveness are growing, too.  “Today, the state has five virtual charter schools that together enroll roughly 10,000 students, up dramatically from about 2,100 students nine years ago when the state’s first cyber schools opened. A 2007 bipartisan bill fueled their growth by authorizing the state’s virtual schools program, and since then, taxpayers have footed the bill to the tune of more than $350 million.  “Despite this hefty investment, online charter schools have produced dismal results on almost all academic metrics, according to state and district data. On average, less than half of their students graduate on time. At one cyber school, nearly a third of students dropped out last school year. Data from the S.C Public Charter School District, which oversees these schools, shows just one in two virtual students enroll for a full year.

Apply Now for EPLC's 2017-2018 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program!
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Applications are available now for the 2017-2018 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). Click here for the program calendar of sessions.  With more than 500 graduates in its first eighteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants. Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders. Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 14-15, 2017 and continues to graduation in June 2018.

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.

Pennsylvania Education Leadership Summit July 23-25, 2017 Blair County Convention Center - Altoona
A three-day event providing an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together
co-sponsored by PASA, the Pennsylvania Principals Association, PASCD and the PA Association for Middle Level Education
**REGISTRATION IS OPEN**Early Bird Registration Ends after April 30!
Keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics, and district team planning and job-alike sessions will provide practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit and utilized at the district level.
Keynote Speakers:
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 
Breakout session strands:
*Strategic/Cultural Leadership
*Systems Leadership
*Leadership for Learning
*Professional and Community Leadership 
CLICK HERE to access the Summit website for program, hotel and registration information.

Save the Date 2017 PA Principals Association State Conference October 14. 15, 16, 2017
Doubletree Hotel Cranberry Township, PA

Save the Date: PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference October 18-20, Hershey PA


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