Thursday, June 22, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 22: Superintendents sound alarm over Medicaid changes in Obamacare repeal bill

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup June 22, 2017:



Contact your legislators today and urge them to support a $100 million increase in the Basic Education Funding (BEF) subsidy and a $25 million increase for special education.  Show your legislators the consequences of proposed $50M transportation cuts

Click here to find your members of the Senate and House. When you find your legislators, click on their names for phone numbers and other contact information.

PSBA estimates that 164 school districts will receive less money, even with the proposed $125 million subsidy increases for 2017-18, if the General Assembly cuts transportation funding. 
This chart shows the district-by district impact of the proposed $50 million cut for pupil transportation.  

The chart shows how much money each district will receive if the $100 million increase in the BEF and the $25 million increase is enacted, along with how much money each district will lose with a $50 million decrease for transportation. The final column shows the BEF and special education funding increase less the transportation decrease. (Please remember that the chart is an estimate that utilizes the best data available to calculate the funds.)



Join the Campaign for Fair Education Funding for a news conference at the Capitol 11 a.m. today
PSBA Website POSTED ON JUN 21, 2017 IN PSBA NEWS
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding (CFEF) will be conducting a news conference this Thursday, June 22, at 11 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda to press for a state budget that increases basic education funding by $100 million without any cuts to other school funding budget lines.  The campaign is a statewide effort that began in 2014 and includes more than 50 education advocacy organizations, including PSBA, with the common belief that the state must adequately and equitably fund our schools if every Pennsylvania student is to have an opportunity to succeed.  We need a strong showing from all of the member organizations to underscore the importance of this funding increase to the legislature and the media.  Please let us know if you are able to attend the news conference. The event should last no more than 20-30 minutes. RSVP to Jamie.zuvich@psba.org if you can join us at the Capitol on Thursday.

Concerns About School Funding as PA Budget Deadline Nears
Pennsylvania legislators are trying to close the state budget gap without raising new revenue.
Public News Service June 21, 2017
HARRISBURG, Pa. - Education advocates in Pennsylvania are concerned that a proposed increase in school funding may be in jeopardy. The budget is due June 30, and the state is facing a $2 billion to $3 billion budget gap.  As lawmakers try to close that gap without raising new revenue, said Susan Spicka, executive director of the group Education Voters of Pennsylvania, everything is up for grabs.  "We're hearing that Gov. (Tom) Wolf's proposed $100 million increase in Basic Education Funding is now on the table," she said, "and that that could be cut or even completely eliminated from the budget."  The House passed a budget in April that includes the governor's $100 million increase in school funding. Even that amount, Spicka said, wouldn't begin to give Pennsylvania kids what they need in their classrooms.  "But $100 million is still a lot of money," she said, "and what it's going to do is allow school districts to at least not go as far backward as they otherwise might go without this funding increase."  She pointed out that districts around the state already have incorporated the increase into their planning.  "They've passed budgets that have counted on at least some of this money," she said, "and so if this money isn't there when schools come back in the fall, then school districts are going to have huge holes in their budgets."  Advocates have estimated that the state needs to invest more than $3 billion in education to achieve adequate funding and restore years of budget cuts to schools.
More information is online at educationvoterspa.org.

Days from the deadline, budget indecision in Pa.
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis & Karen Langley, HARRISBURG BUREAUS Updated: JUNE 21, 2017 — 7:19 PM EDT
HARRISBURG —  With less than 10 days to the deadline for a new state budget, there is talk but little action — and even less agreement — on how to close a steep budget deficit and fix the state’s fiscal problems.  Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, on Wednesday strongly signaled skepticism over a plan being discussed by Republicans who control the state Senate to borrow money to ease the state’s $1.5 billion shortfall.  Top Republicans in both chambers in turn have dismissed many of Wolf’s proposals to generate new dollars, including a new tax on natural gas drilling and an expansion of the state sales tax to items that are currently exempt.  And no one involved in budget talks appeared to be anywhere near figuring out a plan to expand gambling — one of the proposals that until now all sides indicated would likely be part of any final budget plan.  Muddying the waters further Wednesday: top legislative leaders sent rank-and-file legislators home for the rest of the week, setting the stage for a hectic session next week when they return to the Capitol.

Lawmakers appear far from consensus on paying for budget
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 22, 2017 5:15 AM
 (Harrisburg) -- House and Senate leaders are preparing to work through the weekend as they try to finish budget negotiations before their June 30th deadline.  However, they still have little to say about their negotiations.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said the House, Senate, and Governor are close to being on the same page on a relatively austere, $31.8 billion spending plan.  But that's the easy part--they still have to figure out a way to pay off this year's $1.5 billion revenue shortfall, plus raise an additional $700 million to actually bring the new budget into balance.  The House has proposed a sweeping gaming expansion to close the gap somewhat, as well as privatization of the liquor industry. The Senate favors its own, more modest gaming bill, and has been skeptical of the liquor measure.  "I was more optimistic two weeks ago," Corman said when asked about the gaming negotiations. "As I always tell people, nothing's ever dead around here."

No more excuses - it's time to finish up the state budget: Marc Stier
PENNLIVE OP-ED By Marc Stier Updated on June 21, 2017 at 9:59 AM Posted on June 21, 2017 at 7:30 AM
Marc Stier is the director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a left-leaning think-tank. He writes from Harrisburg.
Now that the Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and the Republican-controlled General Assembly have reached a deal to reform public employee pensions, it's time to get to work on the budget.  And, whether you like or don't like the pension deal (like any compromises everyone seems to like something and not like something about it), it removes one excuse for failing to deal with Pennsylvania's budget difficulties by raising new, recurring revenues.  It is now completely and utterly clear that, as we have been saying for years, the failure to reform pensions is not the source of our persistent budget deficits.  We have reformed pensions and there is no positive impact on the state's bottom line (nor will there be one for around for fifteen years).   There is little expectation in the Capitol of bringing long-term balance to the state's tattered finances before lawmakers depart for their traditional summer break.  A second excuse for not raising new, recurring revenues, the claim that our budget deficits are the result of too much spending, has also gone by the wayside.

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.

SB76: Bucks, Montgomery school officials challenge plan to have districts live on sales, incomes taxes
Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer June 21, 2017
Area school officials are attacking legislation that would change the way districts are funded, significantly limiting most property taxes in favor of increased sales and income taxes, and shift control of revenue from local school boards to Harrisburg.  Senate Bill 76, the Property Tax Independence Act, introduced this week, would increase the state's income tax from 3.07 percent to 4.95 percent and raise the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. Additionally, to make up the nearly $14 billion needed to fund the commonwealth's 500 school districts, the sales tax would expand to cover more goods and services that are currently exempt.  "This would be crippling, There's no question about it," said Stephen Skrocki, North Penn School District's business manager. "Our biggest concern is that real estate taxes are not impacted by the economy, so we have a stable source of revenue for the school district. If you move to revenue streams that are highly sensitive to the economy, how can you live up to your promise to replenish those revenues?  "What happens in an economic downturn? Are they going to make us whole? Will there be any increase?"  Should the measure become law, homeowners in North Penn, the state's seventh-largest school district with nearly 13,000 students and a $252.2 million budget, could be negatively impacted as SB 76 would eliminate property taxes paid by businesses. The district would lose out on revenue from commercial enterprises like Merck and Montgomery Mall. Merck alone pays $12 million in property taxes to North Penn.

‘Swami’ Nester Predicted Newest Budget Turmoil
Sanatoga Post by Joe Zlomek | June 21, 2017
LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Only nine days ago, Pottsgrove School District Business Administrator David Nester warned this might happen.  As the district Board of School Directors wrestled during its June 13 (2017) meeting with ways to further whittle down what it perceives as an already small potential property tax increase for the 2017-2018 academic year budget, Nester urged caution. The budget includes up to $200,000 the state hinted it would provide Pottsgrove in additional funding, he said, but the district hadn’t definitively learned the promised money was on its way.  “That represents a $200,000 question mark right now,” Nester told directors at the time.  Developments this week in Harrisburg indicate Nester either owns a fortune-telling swami’s crystal ball, is a good guesser, or understands all too well how state politicians operate. Facing a $2 billion to $3 billion budget gap, with a state budget due June 30, sources surprised capital education watchers and lobbyists by leaking that earlier proposed increases in school funding may be in jeopardy.  “We’re hearing that Gov. (Tom) Wolf’s proposed $100 million increase in basic education funding is now on the table,” she said, and “could be cut or even completely eliminated from the budget,” said Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, an advocacy group. As lawmakers try to close that gap without raising new revenue, she suggested everything is up for grabs.

Schools sinking financially under lawmakers' watch
Letter by Gloria C. Endres Philadelphia by Daily News Readers  views@phillynews.com Updated: JUNE 22, 2017 — 3:01 AM EDT
KUDOS TO John Baer for his fact-filled report on the corrupt practices of our state legislators ("Lawmakers' fiscal policy: Digging deeper holes").  While our state sinks deeper into debt, our schools remain underfunded and our budget is perpetually tied to local "sin taxes," we continue to be the only state in the nation that refuses to impose a severance tax on natural gas extraction.  According to Baer's sources, such a tax is projected to generate over $300 million per year in revenue, more than enough to offset, for example, the deficit projected by the School District of Philadelphia for the next five years.  But as Baer illustrates, key Harrisburg legislators in both parties are in the pocket of the gas extraction industry to the tune of $10 million - a cheap price to avoid a tax plan that might actually help our state and our students.

How a case in Pennsylvania predicted the Wisconsin gerrymandering challenge
Penn Live BY JOHN L. MICEK  jmicek@pennlive.com Updated on June 21, 2017 at 1:51 PM Posted on June 21, 2017 at 7:27 AM
Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Running west through the Philadelphia suburbs, it takes in in a giant chunk of Delaware County, even as it stretches over its shoulder north and east to Montgomery County, before leaning to its south to hug the Delaware state line.  This Rorschach blot of a district is so tortured and arthritic that it even has a nickname, "Goofy Kicking Donald" for its resemblance to the profiles of the beloved Disney characters.  The district was drawn that way in 2010 to ensure that Republicans took back the seat formerly held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak.  The gambit worked. A former United States Attorney named Pat Meehan has held the seat ever since.  So veteran observers' ears here perked up this week at the news that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a potentially precedent-setting case out of Wisconsin challenging partisan gerrymandering.


Op-ed: Permitting concealed guns in Pa. schools would make kids less safe
WHYY Newsworks COMMENTARY  BY DEBORAH GORDON KLEHR JUNE 21, 2017 SPEAK EASY
Everyone wants our schools to be safe places for students and educators.  But legislation recently passed out of the state Senate Education Committee that would permit school personnel to carry concealed firearms in Pennsylvania's public schools is a dangerous step in the wrong direction.  Arming school personnel would make students less safe and would threaten to turn our schools into free-fire zones.  Senate Bill 383, sponsored by a group of Republican senators ignores the General Assembly's own recommendations on improving school safety.  A 2014 report released by the House Select Committee on School Safety, which was formed to study ways of improving school safety in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, did not recommend arming school personnel as a means of addressing perceived threats. Neither did a report released last year by the Joint State Government Advisory Committee, which examined best practices to improve school climate.  There isn't one credible national, state, or local organization that supports the idea of giving school personnel permission to carry concealed guns on school property. Indeed, National School Safety and Security Services, a consulting firm, advises against arming teaches and school staff.

TOP 10 REASONS TO OPPOSE A $55M INCREASE IN EITC/OSTC FUNDING FOR PRIVATE/RELIGIOUS SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIPS
Education Voters PA 2017
The Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs already divert $125 million in business tax payments out of the state budget and into scholarship organizations that provide vouchers to students to attend private/religious schools. We oppose the proposal to include a $55 million increase in EITC/OSTC funding for private/religious schools in the 2017-2018 budget.

Community schools: A key to improved behavioral health access?
The notebook by Paul Jablow June 21, 2017 — 10:39am
Antonio Romero’s introduction to the Kensington neighborhood came when he was barely taller than the farebox on a SEPTA bus.  “My field work started when I was 7,” he said.  His father drove the Route 3 bus through the area, and along the way, he would have his son interview people on the street.  “He taught me that everyone had a story,” said Romero, who grew up in Bucks County but has returned to the neighborhood to live and to serve as community schools program coordinator at Kensington Health Sciences Academy.  Now, when he interviews neighborhood residents, he is looking not only to learn about them but also to change their lives.  Kensington is one of nine schools in Mayor Kenney’s community schools initiative, which seeks to “improve access to programs, services, and supports.”  The initiative, supported over the next four years by $40 million from the city’s new sweetened-beverage tax, is projected to grow to 25 schools.  Detailed plans for each of the schools were released in March after a months-long process in which the School District and the Mayor’s Office of Education sought community input on what residents wanted for their schools.

New Pennsylvania law eliminates Keystone Exam requirement for career and technical education students
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer June 22, 2017
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law Wednesday a bill creating an alternate pathway to high school graduation for students in career and technology education — one without Keystone Exams.  The new law eliminates the statutory requirement for Keystone Exams and replaces it with new ways for vocational students to prove they’re ready for the next step, whether it be the workforce, college or a trade school.  “Whether they are working and learning in the classroom, in the lab, in the shop, in the field or in the garage, young people are always striving and succeeding across a wide variety of fields,” Wolf, a Democrat, said in a statement. “With this measure, Pennsylvania will recognize diversity and will no longer hold all students to the standard of a Keystone Examination, which too often doesn’t reflect the reality of a large sector (of) students’ educational experience.”  The bill, sponsored by Republican state Reps. Mike Turzai and Mike Tobash, garnered bipartisan support through its five-month journey from committee to the governor’s desk.

New law: Career or technical students could earn high school diploma without Keystone exams
by Karen Langley, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: JUNE 21, 2017 — 7:04 PM EDT
HARRISBURG — As state law stands, Pennsylvania is scheduled to begin requiring students in two years to pass standardized Keystone examinations in order to graduate high school.  But with the signing of a new law Wednesday, students in career and technical education programs will be allowed to demonstrate their readiness for a diploma in other ways.  “There are so many career pathways that exist within the economy of Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Mike Tobash, (R-Schuylkill), one of the bill’s sponsors. “There should be more educational pathways, and this is just acknowledging that.”  If students enrolled in career and technical education do not do well enough on the Keystone examinations in algebra 1, literature and biology, they will be permitted to graduate anyway if they meet school district requirements in those subjects.  That’s so long as the student also attains an industry-based competency certification or shows they are likely to succeed on an industry-based competency test or are ready for “continued meaningful engagement” in their program of study.

Governor Wolf Signs HB 202 Into Law
Governor Wolf’s Website June 21, 2017
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today signed House Bill 202, known as Act 6, into law. The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai, amends the Public School Code to allow students in career and technology education (CTE) to demonstrate proficiency and readiness for high school graduation in an alternative pathway, and removes the statutory requirement for the Keystone Exam on that student population.  “Whether they are working and learning in the classroom, in the lab, in the shop, in the field, or in the garage, our young people are always striving and succeeding across a wide variety of fields,” Governor Wolf said. “With this measure, Pennsylvania will recognize that diversity and will no longer hold all students to the standard of a Keystone Examination, which too often doesn’t reflect the reality of a large sector students’ educational experience.”  “We continue to recognize the importance of providing multiple avenues for students to demonstrate educational achievement, especially for students enrolled in career and technical education,” said Speaker Turzai. “This law will ensure our career and technical education system is flexible enough to adapt to the needs of emerging industries, is accountable to ensure every child has a chance to succeed, and is providing robust support for our educators. The bill passed the House and Senate with broad bi-partisan support, and I am very appreciative that the Governor has signed this important legislation into law.”

Advocates, opponents of suspension reform in Pittsburgh Public Schools fail to agree on proposal
MOLLY BORN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette mborn@post-gazette.com 9:15 PM JUN 21, 2017
Parent advocates have called for an immediate end to out-of-school suspensions for the youngest learners in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. The school system and teacher’s union want another year to make sure teachers have the classroom support they need to make it a reality.  A last-minute proposal Wednesday tried but failed to split the difference.  District 3 board member Tom Sumpter Wednesday evening suggested the district convene a “working group” that would study the topic and recommend supports teachers would need if the district banned suspensions for kindergarteners, first-graders and second-graders accused of nonviolent offenses.  But it also proposed a moratorium beginning Jan. 1 — with a K-5 ban to start in the 2018-19 school year. Those dates drew criticism from several board members, who disapproved of a firm deadline, in part because the committee isn’t set to reveal its recommendations until November.

Innovative Arts' budget vote, unadvertised meetings raise Sunshine Act questions
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call June 21, 2017
The Innovative Arts Academy board of trustees adopted a 2017-18 budget during an unadvertised meeting in June where trustees refused to allow questions on the spending plan from the public — actions that a legal expert says run counter to the state Sunshine Act.  The board's actions at a June 7 meeting come as The Morning Call discovered the charter school in Catasauqua has not advertised a regular or special meeting — as required by law — since August.  Board minutes reviewed by The Morning Call list meetings as being advertised in The Express-Times. But according to copies of the most recent paid advertisements made with the Easton newspaper, the school last advertised Aug. 25. That legal ad was published to notify the public of an Aug. 30 regular meeting, according to records.  Melissa Melewsky, media law expert with the Pennsylvania Newsmedia Association, said failing to advertise meetings and preventing the public from commenting are violations of the state's transparency laws.  "Charter schools do not get a pass from public notice, public participation and public meeting requirements," she said.

York City board votes to start Thackston charter revocation
York Dispatch by Junior Gonzalez , 505-5439/@JuniorG_YD7:06 a.m. ET June 22, 2017
The York City school board voted unanimously Wednesday night to initiate proceedings to revoke the charter for the Helen Thackston Charter School.  After solicitor Jeffrey Gettle mentioned that two reasons listed from the resolution brought earlier this month were removed (bringing down the listed reasons to 22), the board moved to vote.  Board President Margie Orr read out the consent item verbatim as listed on the agenda and asked board secretary Mindy Wantz to collect an individual roll call vote. The vote was 8-0. Board member Diane Brown was absent for the vote.  “OK folks, the revocation process goes forward,” Orr said.  Helen Thackston board President Danyielle Newman, Helen Thackston Interim Principal Melissa Achuff and solicitor Brian Leinhauser were present for the meeting but left immediately after the vote. Leinhauser declined comment.

Aspira Charter lays off most of security staff at Olney High
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda |  martha.woodall@phillynews.com Updated: JUNE 21, 2017 — 10:26 PM EDT
The charter-school operator Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania abruptly laid off 18 of its 23 security employees at Olney Charter High School on Tuesday in the midst of a union-organizing drive.  Members of what Aspira calls the school’s “safety team” said they were summoned to the human resources office at the nonprofit’s headquarters in Hunting Park and told they were being terminated because of “budget problems.”  “They never discussed anything before about a budget anything,” said Louis Alvarez, who had been a member of Aspira’s safety team at Olney for two years. “This came out of nowhere.”  Staffers were told that they would receive their last paycheck Friday and that their health insurance would end June 30.

Lower Merion School District heading to Pa. Supreme Court over tax increase fight
Alison Burdo Digital Producer Philadelphia Business Journal Jun 21, 2017, 8:44am EDT Updated Jun 21, 2017, 11:28am EDT
Lower Merion School District officials are ready to appeal the affluent suburban school system's battle with a community resident over tax increases to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after reportedly losing its latest efforts calling for a review and reargument of its April appeal loss.  The Commonwealth Court judge's denial of LMSD's latest appeal is the latest chapter in the legal fight mounted by Arthur Wolk, a Lower Merion resident and attorney, who says the district misled its taxpayers and continued to raise taxes despite a funding surplus.  Last week, Wolk submitted his own motion in the case, calling for a judge to declare the district's budget for the upcoming school district illegal. LMSD's 2017-2018 budget was approved earlier this week, according to Main Line Media News, which reported the district won't back down from the litigation.

“District officials say state-mandated pension contributions are to blame for spiraling costs. If these contributions were removed, the 2017-18 budget would be $244,645 smaller than the 2009-10 budget.”
Greensburg Salem increases property tax 1 mill for 2017-18
Trib Live JACOB TIERNEY  | Thursday, June 22, 2017, 12:15 a.m.
At first a divided Greensburg Salem School Board rejected the district's 16th tax increase in 17 years Wednesday night, but eventually reversed its decision after failing to agree on another plan. Property taxes will go up one mill as originally proposed.  That will cost the median taxpayer an additional $16.49 a year and bring the total millage to 88.22.

“I just want to give the taxpayers a one-year respite,” board member Gary Topolosky said.  The board is projecting to use $491,242 from a reserve fund, leaving $4.43 million.”
Brentwood passes school budget with no tax hike
Trib Live JIM SPEZIALETTI | Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 3:30 p.m.
Brentwood School Board members this week approved the a $23.19 million final budget for the 2017-18 school year without a property tax increase.  After three years of tax increases and pending capital improvement projects, most board members decided to give homeowners a break from the rising tax rate that holds at 29.5322 mills.  The budget was approved Monday night by a 7-1 vote, with board member David Schaap voting against. Amy Hayden not at the meeting.

Property tax rate in the Highlands School District remains the same
Trib Live TOM YERACE | Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 6:30 p.m.
School taxes won't be going up in the Highlands School District next school year.
A tax increase was an option for the school board that remained in play through the spring as district officials worked at cutting into a budget deficit projected at $1 million in February.
Taxes could have been increased by 3.6 percent, or 0.85-mills under state law, according to Business Manager Jon Rupert. That increase would have raised an additional $500,000 in revenue.  An influx of $274,000 from the state for Social Security and pension reimbursements along with ongoing budget cuts enabled district officials to avoid the tax increase, he said.

Deer Lakes holds the line on property taxes
Trib Live GEORGE GUIDO | Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 6:21 p.m.
Real estate tax rates will be staying the same in the Deer Lakes School District for the coming school year.  The school board Tuesday approved a $35.7 million budget that will keep the tax rate at 21.953 mills.  The school district will dip into its fund balance to the tune of $300,000 to balance the budget.  A home with a median assessed value of $127,000 will pay about $2,788 in property taxes for the 2017-18 school year.

Ambridge Area School District to hold the line on taxes
Beaver County Times Katherine Schaeffer June 21, 2017
AMBRIDGE -- The Ambridge Area School Board approved a budget Wednesday evening that will hold the line on property taxes for the 2017-18 school year.  The budget passed 8-1, with board member Mary Jo Kehoe dissenting. Kehoe said she voted no simply because she received the final version of the budget Wednesday afternoon and did not have time to review it.  The budget sets expenses at $47,711.554 and will draw about $500,000 from the district’s reserve fund to balance the books. It maintains the current millage rate of 79.2941.   The owner of a property assessed at $23,300, the district's median value, will receive an annual school property tax bill of $1,846.78. 


Superintendents sound alarm over Medicaid changes in Obamacare repeal bill
Politico By CAITLIN EMMA  06/21/2017 10:00 AM EDT With help from Helena Bottemiller Evich
Superintendents in school districts nationwide are writing their senators to warn that a vote to repeal Obamacare could jeopardize health coverage for the nation’s most vulnerable children. The letter-writing comes at the urging of Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Bob Casey who have stressed that legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare could be moving fast. Republicans have been working behind closed doors to bring a bill to the Senate floor and leadership is preparing for a vote as early as next week, POLITICO reports. Letters have already been penned by superintendents in Washington, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Virginia, Wisconsin, Maine and Massachusetts.  — The superintendents’ concerns center on changes to Medicaid in a bill passed by the House last month. The House bill would convert the federal-state program for the poor and disabled from an entitlement program, in which the government pays all the health-related costs for those who qualify, to a grant program that would cap federal spending growth. The Congressional Budget Office estimated in March that the legislation would cut Medicaid spending by $880 billion over a decade. Dozens of education advocacy groups said last month that the change would force schools to compete for funds with hospitals, physicians and clinics that serve Medicaid-eligible children. That, in turn, would affect schools’ ability to fund vision and hearing screenings, pay for supplies like wheelchairs, and employ nurses, psychologists and occupational therapists, they said.

Medicaid Cuts
AASA Website
Superintendents and other school district leaders are “overwhelmingly concerned” and “deeply worried” about students in special education programs and those living in poverty if Republican proposals to refinance Medicaid are enacted according to a new AASA survey.  In Cutting Medicaid: A Prescription to Hurt the Neediest Kids, close to 1,000 school leaders detailed the educational and economic consequences of a proposed 30 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursements. Republicans have expressed a desire to reduce federal Medicaid spending by 25 percent by distributing funding through a block grant or a per-capita cap, which would shift costs to states.  Access the full report of Cutting Medicaid here. an executive summary that details the survey findings in brief here, and an infographic with the eight facts you need to know about children on Medicaid and the services they receive in schools here.  Read the Save Medicaid in Schools letter on AHCA.

Even before GOP health care bill is introduced, battle lines clear in PA, NJ
Inquirer by Jonathan Tamari, Washington Bureau  @JonathanTamari |  jtamari@phillynews.com Updated: JUNE 21, 2017 — 7:38 PM EDT
WASHINGTON — The simmering Senate debate over health care is about to go from shadowboxing to the real thing.  But even before Republicans roll out the details of their plan Thursday, Philadelphia-area senators made clear where they stand on the GOP’s long-promised bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.
Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, the region’s lone Republican, defended the GOP plan and its closed-door work crafting the bill. He said he expected the measure to include a version of his plan to scale back spending on Medicaid, the health program that provides coverage to millions of poor and disabled people.  The plan is part of a broader push to reshape a law that he blamed for raising costs and reducing consumer choices.  “What we’ve said for seven years now is that we want to repeal Obamacare, move health care in a different direction,” Toomey said. “I think I’m going to be able to conclude that this is a big step in that direction.”  Every Democrat from the region has vowed to oppose the measure, attacking it as a tax giveaway to the wealthy that would cut critical consumer protections.  “We have one choice: Stop the bill,” Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania said in a call with reporters this week. “It’s as simple as that. This isn’t a time for pretending that there’s common ground on this bill.”

AP sources: Senate GOP health bill would reshape Obama law
Delco Times By Alan Fram and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, The Associated Press POSTED: 06/22/17, 5:32 AM EDT | UPDATED: 1 MIN AGO
WASHINGTON >> Senate Republicans would cut Medicaid, end penalties for people not buying insurance and erase a raft of tax increases as part of their long-awaited plan to scuttle President Barack Obama’s health care law, congressional aides and lobbyists say.  After weeks of closed-door meetings that angered Democrats and some Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell planned to release the proposal Thursday. The package represents McConnell’s attempt to quell criticism by party moderates and conservatives and win the support he needs in a vote he hopes to stage next week.  In a departure from the version the House approved last month, which President Donald Trump privately called “mean,” the Senate plan would drop the House’s waivers allowing states to let insurers boost premiums on some people with pre-existing conditions. It would also largely retain the subsidies Obama provided to help millions buy insurance, which are pegged mostly to people’s incomes and the premiums they pay.

“But on the eve of the bill’s release, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) faced the prospect of an open revolt from key conservative and moderate GOP senators, whose concerns he has struggled to balance in recent weeks. Republicans familiar with the effort said Senate leaders have more work to do to secure the 50 votes needed to pass the measure, with Vice President Pence set to cast the tiebreaking vote, from the pool of 52 GOP senators. No Democrats are expected to support the bill.”
Senate Republicans set to release health-care bill, but divisions remain
Washington Post By Paige Winfield CunninghamJuliet Eilperin and Sean Sullivan June 21 at 8:36 PM 
Senate Republicans on Thursday plan to release a health-care bill that would curtail federal Medicaid funding, repeal taxes on the wealthy and eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood as part of an effort to fulfill a years-long promise to undo Barack Obama’s signature health-care law. The bill is an attempt to strike a compromise between existing law and a bill passed by the House in May as Republicans struggle to advance their vision for the country’s health-care system even though they now control both chambers of Congress and the White House.  The Senate proposal largely mirrors the House measure with significant differences, according to a discussion draft circulating Wednesday among aides and lobbyists. While the House legislation would peg federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income, as the Affordable Care Act does. The Senate proposal would cut off expanded Medicaid funding for states more gradually than the House bill but would enact deeper long-term cuts to the health-care program for low-income Americans. It also would eliminate House language aimed at prohibiting federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions, a provision that may run afoul of complex Senate budget rules.

What's in the Senate's secret Obamacare repeal bill
The plan tracks the House-passed overhaul, also taking aim at Medicaid.
Politico By JENNIFER HABERKORN  06/21/2017 01:56 PM EDT  Updated 06/21/2017 07:50 PM EDT
The Senate is on the verge of unveiling a sweeping Obamacare repeal bill that would end Medicaid as an open-ended entitlement, roll back health insurance subsidies and strike multiple taxes from the Affordable Care Act.  The bill is expected to repeal the biggest parts of the Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate and the employer mandate. It is also expected to defund Planned Parenthood for one year by kicking the women's health organization out of the Medicaid program. That provision could be dropped if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs votes from moderate Republicans who oppose it.  Senate Republicans plan to release the draft at approximately 11 a.m. Thursday and hold a vote at the end of next week. Key parts could change as Republicans negotiate final details and try to come up with 50 votes they need to pass the bill. There are also unresolved questions about how much of the bill can be squeezed through the Senate’s strict budget rules governing the fast-track procedure called reconciliation that the GOP is using to avoid a filibuster.

“A leading fiscal conservative, Toomey spearheads the effort to drive down overall Medicaid spending. He wants to cut the program even deeper than the House did — its bill cut the program by $834 billion over a decade.”
How McConnell gets to 50 votes to repeal Obamacare
Politico By JENNIFER HABERKORN 06/20/17 8:00 PM EDT
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to nail down 50 GOP votes to repeal Obamacare. He has no easy options.  He can lean toward conservatives like Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, who want to dismantle as much of Obamacare as they possibly can. But if he does that, he risks losing a group of Senate moderates, including Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who are pushing for a slower phase-out of the Medicaid expansion that is covering low-income people in some of their states.  The stakes are high: The GOP’s political identity is tied to the repeal pledge Republicans have made since the Affordable Care Act was signed more than seven years ago.

Is DeVos Sending Mixed Messages on Advanced Courses and Accountability?
Education Week Pollitics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on June 21, 2017 7:35 AM
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos seems to be sending some confusing signals when it comes to whether states will be allowed to use Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate tests, the SAT, dual-enrollment courses, or career certifications to figure out if students are ready for college and the workforce, some experts say.  Rating schools based on whether they get kids ready for college and the workforce was all the rage in state's plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. And at least eight states—that's about half of the 17 that have turned in plans so far—want to use AP, IB the SAT, dual enrollment courses, or career certifications for accountability.   The problem? It's unclear if DeVos is cool with that, even though she has said she will make local control a big focus of ESSA implementation. What's more, some experts worry that her team may be telling different states different things when it comes to how they measure college and career readiness.  Here's how this became an issue: Delaware, like almost every state, wants to rate schools based on whether they get kids ready for college and career. To measure that, the districts can use AP test scores, IB test scores, and whether students hit certain targets on the SAT. Districts can also consider whether students have earned a B or better in a college-level course.

Q&A: NSBA’s Tom Gentzel on why it’s more important than ever to stand up for public schools
TrustEd POSTED BY: TODD KOMINIAK MAY 22, 2017
It’s a challenging time for America’s public schools.  School choice advocates continue to cast public schools as “failing” and “old-fashioned.” Amid the hubbub, a growing chorus of advocates, educators, parents, and students is pushing back on that narrative.  Their collective goal: To give voice to the success, progress, and vital importance of America’s public schools.  At the forefront of this movement is the National School Boards Association’s Stand Up 4 Public Schools campaign, a combination of videos, posters, and social media that highlights everyday successes of students and teachers in America’s public schools.  We recently sat down with NSBA Executive Director and CEO Tom Gentzel to talk about the new campaign and what its success says about the nation’s changing education landscape.


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

Registration now open for the  67th Annual PASCD Conference  Nov. 12-13 Harrisburg: Sparking Innovation: Personalized Learning, STEM, 4C's
This year's conference will begin on Sunday, November 12th and end on Monday, November 13th. There will also be a free pre-conference on Saturday, November 11th.  You can register for this year's conference online with a credit card payment or have an invoice sent to you.  Click here to register for the conference.
http://myemail.constantcontact.com/PASCD-Conference-Registration-is-Now-Open.html?soid=1101415141682&aid=5F-ceLtbZDs


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