Friday, June 23, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 23: Even with Wolf’s proposed $125M hike, 164 mostly rural districts could have a net loss due to transportation cuts

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup June 23, 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. 

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.)

Campaign for Fair Education Funding insists upon full $100M Basic Education Budget increase in State budget
PSBA Website June 22, 2017
The Campaign for Fair Education Funding assembled in the Capitol rotunda on Thursday to underscore the importance of a $100 million increase in basic education funding. Campaign members stood together to tell legislators that a funding increase is truly critical for students.
“Both the state budget proposed by Governor Tom Wolf and the version passed by the Pennsylvania House included a $100 million increase in the line item for basic education,” said Joan Benso, President and CEO of the PA Partnerships for Children and co-chair of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding. “This level must be maintained in whatever final version becomes law.”  The group also urged that the increase not be diluted by cuts to other funding streams for public schools, such as school transportation.  “The proposed $100 million increase will not even keep pace with schools’ mandated expenditures over which they have no control,” said John Callahan, Assistant Executive Director for Public Policy for the PA School Boards Association (PSBA). “Anything less than $100 million will force many districts to make deeper budget cuts, including the elimination of programs and staff.”  Even with the governor’s proposed increase, Pennsylvania’s state share of public school funding remains one of the lowest in the country. Local districts are left to fund more and more of the bill for education, and many communities have reached their local tax capacity.

“While Wolf has proposed increasing spending in the classroom, he’s proposed a
$50 million cut in the $550 million in state aid to help pay for busing. That could be a major concern in rural school districts where busing is a major cost, Callahan said.  In addition to the basic education boost, Wolf has proposed a $25 million increase in state support for special education costs.  Even so, an analysis by the school board group found that the transportation cuts will be so deep in 164 mostly rural school districts that they will outweigh the gains from the governor’s proposal.  Schools are being squeezed by costs they can’t control, most notably pension costs, Callahan said.  The $100 million boost Wolf has proposed won’t even offset the $140 million increase in employer costs for the retirement system this year, he said.  Over the past five years, school districts’ share of employer costs for the retirement system have increased 337 percent, he said.”
Advocates fear school boost could be axed
Tribune Democrat By John Finnerty June 22, 2017
HARRISBURG – Education advocates on Thursday said they’re worried that as state lawmakers strain to come up with a balanced budget, they’ll balance the plan by shortchanging public schools.  The issue looms large because the proposed increase actually just serves to offset increased pension costs. And in many rural school districts, even without factoring in pension costs, a cut in busing aid proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf will outweigh his proposed boost in classroom spending, according to an analysis provided by Pennsylvania School Boards Association.  Wolf has proposed a $100 million increase in state funding for basic education. With that increase, state spending on classroom instruction will be just shy of $6 billion. A plan passed in the state House in April kept the governor’s proposed increase in place.  Jennifer Kocher, a spokeswoman for Senate Republicans, said she’s unaware of any serious discussion about eliminating the boost for schools in a spending plan currently under development by legislative leaders.  Wolf, in a statement released Monday, reiterated that he expects any budget that lands on his desk “should protect” his “proposed investments in our schools.”  Joan Benso, chairwoman of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, said advocates’ concerns are fueled by “chatter” around the Capitol.  John Callahan, assistant executive director of public policy for the state school boards association, added that their fears are aggravated by the fact that the state’s fiscal shape has only gotten worse since the House passed its budget.

Eight days out from the #PaBudget deadline, it's getting real: John L. Micek
Penn Live BY JOHN L. MICEK Updated on June 22, 2017 at 5:03 PM Posted on June 22, 2017 at 1:05 PM
So if you're looking for two, sure-fire ways to tell we're getting down to the wire on passing a new state budget, do this:  Listen to the tone, and watch the body language, of those who live and breathe this stuff every day of their working lives.   Take, for instance, the activists who commandeer the Capitol rotunda almost daily during session weeks to advocate on behalf of this or that worthy cause.  In April, when the first blossoms are appearing on the cherry trees around the Capitol complex, their tone is merely hectoring.  By late June, they're declaiming like Old Testament prophets.  "We know $100 million is a lot of money - in any year," Joan Benso, of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding said during a mid-morning rally, referring to the increase in the state's basic education subsidy her group wants and that Gov. Tom Wolf included in his February budget proposal.  That particularly true in "years like this where we're talking about belt-tightening and not growing significant revenue sources. But we urge people to remember that it is, indeed, a small down payment," she said.  Benso's been around the budget fights as long as almost anyone. She's known for her tenacity. This close to the deadline, she's clearly dug in.
Then there are the staffers and lawmakers who are close to the budget talks.

Days from the deadline, budget indecision in Pa.
Post Gazette by ANGELA COULOUMBIS AND KAREN LANGLEY Harrisburg Bureau 10:58 AM JUN 22, 2017
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. Tom 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 Mr. 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.

'I want real revenue, and I want net revenue,' Wolf says as budget deadline closes in: Thursday Morning Coffee
Penn Live BY JOHN L. MICEK Updated on June 22, 2017 at 5:19 PM Posted on June 22, 2017 at 8:05 AM
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
With the end of the current fiscal year a scant eight days away, Gov. Tom Wolf is sending some pretty clear signals about what he does (and more importantly) doesn't want to see in a finished spending plan.  Speaking to reporters Wednesday, the York County Democrat didn't exactly say no to a Republican-backed plans to balance the books.  But he didn't exactly say yes, either. 
As our pals at the Associated Press report:  "Wolf avoided saying that he outright opposes two key Republican ideas: borrowing against future state revenue and legalizing gambling on slot machine-style games in thousands of bars, truck stops and other locations.  "Rather, he suggested that such ideas concern him.

It's time for Pa. to stop papering over its budget holes: Frank Dermody
PENNLIVE OP-ED By Frank Dermody Posted on June 22, 2017 at 8:45 AM
For many years during budget negotiations, Democrats have proposed commonsense solutions like a severance tax on gas drillers and closing corporate tax loopholes, but each year Republicans have resisted.   This year Pennsylvania is facing a $3 billion deficit, and there is still no tax on gas drillers or move to close loopholes.   Republicans who like to paint themselves as fiscal conservatives have helped create a $3 billion deficit and now may try to do something that makes our fiscal situation even worse.   Instead of a commonsense tax on natural gas or closing loopholes in our law that favor greedy out-of-state corporations, Republicans are proposing a borrowing scheme that would further threaten Pennsylvania taxpayers.    As Democratic floor leader of the House, I am eager to explain to my colleagues why borrowing $2 billion to fill the deficit is the wrong plan when we can simply tax gas drillers and close loopholes.

Scarnati: Unsure How Senate Will Close Budget Gap
PoliticsPA Written by Paul Engelkemier, Managing Editor June 22, 2017
Senate Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) told reporters that he was unsure how the Senate will close the expected $2 billion budget deficit.   According to City & State, Scarnati said “how we close this out is yet to be seen.”    There are some ideas that have been floated, but do not show much chance of passing the Senate.    The House passed a gaming expansion bill two weeks ago, but the bill does not have much support in the Senate.  “My experience with gaming in the Senate Republican Caucus, I can boil down real simply: You have a third of the members of the Senate Republican Caucus who oppose gaming because they oppose gaming. You have a third of them that have a gaming interest within their district, so they’re somewhat not in favor of competition for casinos. Then, you’ve got a third of the members in our caucus that could be influenced one way or another to vote for something.  There’s no strong consensus and, when you start off with two-thirds of your caucus either principally against it or certainly economically opposed to something, it’s difficult. That’s why we’re where we’re at,” Scarnati told reporters.  

Ziegler, Pennsylvania Principals Association Peers Lobby State For School Funds
Sanatoga Post by Joe Zlomek | June 23, 2017
HARRISBURG PA – A group of Pennsylvania education leaders, including Pottsgrove High School Principal Dr. Bill Ziegler (at top and below) and Upper Providence Elementary School Principal Dr. Melissa Patschke, personally visited the state Capitol to lobby area politicians and prod them to allocate more money for education in Pennsylvania’s annual budget. The spending plan is due to be finalized next Friday (June 30, 2017).  The state’s financial crisis in public schools demands “the help of legislators,” Ziegler said, as one of five speakers representing the Pennsylvania Principals Association during its annual Principal Advocacy Day. “We still need to significantly increase school funding,” he said, as “statewide survey data shows that 85 percent of school districts plan to raise taxes, 50 percent plan to reduce academic or extracurricular activities, and 48 percent plan to reduce staff resulting in larger class sizes.”  Local funds also are threatened by proposed legislation that would provide significant property tax reductions for commercial properties, Ziegler added. “If this bill passes, the Pottsgrove School District could potentially lose more than $1.7 million in tax revenue from commercial properties next year alone,” he said.  Joining Ziegler and Patschke in making comments in the rotunda were principals from Junitata Elementary School, Crestwood High School, and the association’s executive director. Advocacy Day, which this year occurred on June 9 (Friday) focuses on having legislators from across the state discuss education issues of the day directly with those involved in teaching their constituents’ families.

With state searching for revenue, is marijuana a possible solution for Pennsylvania?
As GOP leaders search high and low for more than $2 billion dollars to patch the commonwealth’s budget gaps, one state senator is trying to tempt his colleagues with revenue projections from one of his longtime pet issues — recreational marijuana.  Over the last several years, Democrat Daylin Leach has never had much luck getting the legislature to take recreational weed seriously.  The Montgomery County lawmaker said he still doesn’t have any illusions about getting a bill on the table for the current budget. Instead, he’s hoping new revenue estimates — which his staff put together with help from budget experts — grease the wheels for the coming years.  Especially, he said, because they show significant, recurring revenue. “We’re heading into a period of enormous, unsustainable structural deficit, and a reluctance to raise any sort of money necessary to address them,” he said. “I think this is a particularly propitious time to start talking about doing this.”  The figures predict that after two years of legalization, marijuana tax revenue could add up to more than a billion dollars. After four, they show $1.5 billion. That’s more than many other non-tax revenue sources like gambling and liquor, Leach noted.  “The legislature’s like a very thirsty person,” he said. “They’re desperate for a drink, and there’s a big old glass of ice water just sitting on the table.”

Are Ontario public schools a model for Pennsylvania?
Keystone Crossroads BY KEVIN MCCORRY JUNE 21, 2017
Just a two hour drive from the city of Erie, Ontario has become internationally heralded as a leader in public education. Based, in part, on its performance on international assessments.  Not only are Ontario’s test scores high, but there’s less of a performance gap between high and low income students compared to many other nations, including the U.S.  Why? And, how? Listen to this five-part series, where we dive into these questions in comparison to Pennsylvania, and analyze a few key takeaways.  Ontario, as a society, commits to the idea of “equity,” and puts a high premium on the good of the collective, which is reflected in its school funding and policy decisions. In Pennsylvania, our education system largely reflects a commitment to the individual’s right to maximize their own opportunities, creating large gaps between the quality of different school systems.

Equity First Website by David Parker (R-Monroe) Former Member PA House of Representatives Director – Citizens for Fair School Funding
Now is the time for Pennsylvania to use the new funding formulas on all Education Funding and stop discriminating against schools with higher minority populations. 
(East Stroudsburg, PA) June 21, 2017. This past December marked the 60th anniversary of the day Rosa Parks got to ride on the front of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. We’ve made a lot of progress on Civil Rights across this great country since December 21st 1956; but for some reason, on June 21st, 2017, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we are still treating African Americans and other people of color, like 2nd class citizens when it comes to education funding. In 2014, our legislature recognized that Pennsylvania distributes education funding unfairly and established a Basic Education Funding Commission to design a better, fairer way to invest those education dollars. A new, fair, funding formula was unanimously approved by all members of the commission. Unfortunately, the legislature would only implement the newly adopted formula on the NEW money added to the Basic Education line item, while the Existing $5.5 billion would continue to be distributed unfairly. Recent studies show that this funding distribution method discriminates against school districts with higher minority populations. It certainly holds true in my home county of Monroe where the least-white (49%) district gets less than $2,000 per student while the mostly-white (77%) district gets more than $4,300 per student. Based on the last two state budgets there is no plan to reach equity in school funding, and $5.5 billion in basic education funding and nearly $1 billion in special education funding will continue to be distributed by this discriminatory method in perpetuity.  Tragically, by official state policy, Pennsylvania continues to discriminate against schools with higher populations of students of color,

Upper St. Clair School District Hikes Property Taxes
Expect Upper St. Clair School District taxes to rise again for at least the next two years.
Upper St. Clair Patch By Eric Heyl (Patch Staff) - Updated June 22, 2017 2:40 pm ET
UPPER ST. CLAIR, PA - Prepare to pay more in property taxes. Upper St. Clair school directors approved a 2017-18 district budget containing a millage increase of 0.8 mills. The new tax rate is 25.16 mills.  What does that mean for taxpayers? For those owning a $230,000 house, the median home value in the township, taxes will increase $188 or $16 per month.  The 2017-18 spending plan is an increase of nearly $3.5 million or 4.59 percent over the current budget. More than $1 million is attributed to mandated increases to the Public School Employees Retirement System, which has jumped from $2 million in 2007-08 to $11.3 million for 2017-18. Salaries, health care premiums, special education and transportation costs also have increased.  Despite state and federal mandates, funding levels remain at 21 percent and two percent respectively. Seventy-seven percent of the district’s budget is locally funded.  “The theme of school budgets continues to be increased mandates from both the state and federal levels with an absolute failure to adequately fund,” superintendent Patrick T. O’Toole said. “In effect, our legislators at every level have passed the buck of school funding to local school boards.”

Ringgold budget includes slight real estate tax increase
Observer Reporter By Scott Beveridge June 22, 2017
NEW EAGLE – Ringgold School Board, as expected Wednesday, approved a 2017-2018 district budget that includes a small increase in real estate taxes to pay for rising pension contributions and health care costs.  The upcoming $44.3 million budget is identical to the preliminary spending plan that was introduced by the school board in May, said Randy Skrinjorich, the district’s finance director.  Skrinjorich said the district has been fortunate because it’s building a new middle school that is paid for at a time when other districts are struggling to meet expenses.  “We’re on solid ground,” board President William Stein Jr. said.  He said the board didn’t want to cut programs. “We want our children to have every opportunity,” Stein said at the board meeting in the district’s administration building in New Eagle.  The .42-mill tax increase will raise $546,000 for the district. Prior to the Washington County tax reassessment that changed market values this tax season, 1 mil in Ringgold generated $125,000 in income, Stein said. Now, one mill will raise $31,250, Stein said.  Director Larry Mauro cast the only no vote on the budget, saying he would have preferred the board was given alternative spending plans to save money.

 “The district expects to spend $4.7 million for an estimated 473 students in cyber charter tuition at more than $10,000 per student. To combat that, the district purchased 501 online course licenses from Pearson Connexus for $190,000 to have district educators teach in this online learning environment and to bring students back into district learning environments.  …Expenditures are budgeted to increase $10.1 million, with retirement contributions jumping $2.66 million alone over last year, salaries increasing $2.3 million, almost $2 million more in charter school tuition payments and another for $1.45 million private school tuition.:”
Upper Darby hikes taxes, but not as much as feared
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, on Twitter POSTED: 06/23/17, 4:42 AM EDT | UPDATED: 6 SECS AGO
UPPER DARBY>> There was no doubt a tax increase was going to happen with next year’s Upper Darby School District budget after last year’s hold-the-line grace period, but a last-minute amendment before the school board adopted a final budget will actually ease the pain for homeowners somewhat.  Homeowners in the school district will now see their property taxes increase by 2.89 percent, down a fraction from the 2.99 percent that was approved in the proposed final $199 million budget last month. The millage rate will increase to 36.2337, so a home assessed at $100,000 will see their tax bill increase approximately $100.  The budget itself has not actually changed from the proposed final plan.  The board approved the new tax increase with the budget by a 7-1 vote at a special June 20 meeting with Heather Boyd voting no. Manjit Singh was not present at the meeting.  School board director Vincent Gordon made the suggestion to the board to formally adopt the final budget following a closed-door meeting with administrators on June 12 with his board colleague Judy Gentile. Gordon and the administrators’ reasoning was found in the potential for the district to save $100,000 by bringing back 10 students with its new online cyber school that will launch this fall.

Tax increase, position shifts in Interboro budget
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, on Twitter POSTED: 06/23/17, 4:41 AM EDT | UPDATED: 5 SECS AGO
PROSPECT PARK>> The Interboro School Board Wednesday night approved a $66 million budget for the 2017-18 school year with a tax increase and some restructuring of positions in the district.  By a 5-2 vote the board adopted the budget with a 3.2 percent property tax increase, which is actually down from the 3.4 increase that was approved last month with the preliminary final budget. The millage rate for the next school year will be set at 36.0377, increasing the tax bill for the average home owner with a property assessed at $88,000 by $98. Revenue from the tax increase will bring in an additional $1.23 million.  Salaries make up 49 percent of expenditures with benefits making up another huge chunk. Contributions to the state pension retirement system (PSERS) accounts for $10.2 million alone.

Pa. vo-tech students no longer need to worry about Keystone Exams
BY SARA K. SATULLO, Updated on June 22, 2017 at 1:40 PM Posted on June 22, 2017 at 1:30 PM For
Pennsylvania high school students studying in career and technology education programs no longer have to pass the Keystone Exams to graduate.  On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law Act 6, which allows those students to demonstrate proficiency through other ways. The bill was sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and it garnered bipartisan support in both the state House and Senate, according to a news release.  "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," Turzai said in a press release.   The new law allows career and technical students to demonstrate proficiency through their grades and alternative assessments or industry-based certifications.

New law pulls focus away from Keystone exams
Philly Trib Stacy M. Brown Tribune Harrisburg Correspondent June 23, 2017
A new law signed by Gov. Tom Wolf this week will help provide Career and Technical Education students more options to meet graduation requirements and effectively diminish the importance of the state-standardized Keystone Exams.  House Bill 202, enacted by Wolf on Wednesday, amends state law to allow CTE students to demonstrate proficiency and readiness for high school graduation in an alternative pathway, removing the statutory requirement for the more burdensome Keystone tests.  Several local lawmakers and community groups say they are thrilled with the new law.  “Career and technical education is often overlooked as a pathway to success, but it’s an important one that more students can and should take advantage of,” said state Rep. Joanna McClinton (D-191).  “It gives students more options to meet graduation requirements instead of the one-size-fits-all Keystone Exams and it’s not fair to provide everyone the same requirement for graduation yet not fund every public school adequately,” she said. The law provides four options for students. A 2016 state Department of Education report to the General Assembly spelled them out:

Rethinking the education model
Centre Daily Times Opinion BY DAVID HUTCHINSON JUNE 17, 2017 12:54 AM
David Hutchinson is in his 14th year as a member of the State College Area School Board, and is the Vice-President of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
Every Pennsylvania high school student should graduate with the skills to be successful in the modern world. I expect we would all agree on that. But what would this actually look like, and how would it be different from what many, if not most, of our schools are doing now?  Fortunately, this wheel doesn’t need to be invented. Some years ago, I heard a conference speaker discuss the simple way his organization addressed the issue: they asked business leaders and university administrators, “what important skills do your first-year employees/students lack when they show up at your door?” Here is the collective response: the ability to think critically, communicate clearly, collaborate with others and be creative problem-solvers (what the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills calls the “4 C’s”).  So why isn’t every school doing this intentionally and consistently? These concepts aren’t new to educators. One problem is that much of the public — and probably most of our policymakers — is stuck with a mental vision of education based on when they went to school, often decades ago. (You know, with the desks all in neat rows.) As a result, we continue to implement so-called education reforms — such as the PSSAs and the high school Keystone exams — that might have made sense in the middle of the last century when the United States was still an industrial economy.

Pa. guidelines for school discipline may change
A legislative report found disparities in how different demographic groups are treated. It recommends giving districts clearer direction on suspensions and arrests. A bill is now in committee.
The notebook by Greg Windle June 22, 2017 — 1:46pm
 This story was produced as part of the  Reentry Project, a collaborative news initiative about the challenges of -- and solutions to -- prisoner reentry in Philadelphia. 
After learning about a 6-year-old autistic student who was put in handcuffs for biting his aide in 2013, Phoenixville parent Blake Emmanuel took action. Before she was through, a bipartisan legislative commission had investigated harsh disciplinary practices in schools and concluded that they negatively affect all students, but that children of color and those with disabilities are disproportionately affected.  Emmanuel knew there was a better way. She has an autistic son who bit his aide at age 7, but her son was treated differently. Special education staff at his school met with Emmanuel, altered her son’s behavioral plan to give him more breaks for exercise, and changed the rewards system in his Individualized Education Program.  As a result of the work that Emmanuel’s advocacy set in motion, the Pennsylvania legislature’s bipartisan research arm released a comprehensive report in October 2016 highlighting troublesome school discipline practices. And her state representative, Warren Kampf, a Republican, recently introduced legislation to revamp Act 26, the law that governs how schools define a weapon and what it means for a student to “possess” one. The legislation, referred to the House Education Committee in May, limits the ability of districts to use harsh discipline selectively. The committee has yet to take any action.

As Democrats blast Senate GOP health-care plan, Toomey says it's a 'constructive first step'
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose June 22, 2017
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Gov. Tom Wolf and his administration joined the cacophony of criticism heaped on the U.S. Senate Republican health-care plan unveiled on Thursday as U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey defended it as a “constructive first step” to replacing the Affordable Care Act.  “The deeper and more devastating cuts to Medicaid in this plan make it even crueler than the House plan,” Wolf said in a statement. “Some politicians in Washington are completely disconnected from the reality of how cutting Medicaid will damage real Pennsylvania families and communities.”  Wolf said the plan, which was written by a 13-member Senate working group that included Toomey, R-Lehigh County, would decimate Medicaid funding -- hurting seniors, disabled children, working families and rural hospitals -- simply to give tax cuts to the wealthy.  “The Senate plan prioritizes tax cuts for the wealthy, modest deficit reductions and achieving a political victory over families who need lifesaving care,” said Wolf.  In a separate Twitter post, Wolf said he was “gravely concerned” about the effect repealing the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, “would have (on) hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians.”  On a conference call, Toomey said he was “very disappointed at the way Gov. Wolf has chosen to mischaracterize what I’ve been doing and what we’re doing here.” Specifically, Toomey said Wolf has lamented “deep cuts” to Medicaid, yet Toomey said annual spending on Medicaid will increase.

Inside McConnell’s plan to repeal Obamacare
The Senate majority leader doesn’t have the votes yet. But if anyone can get them, it’s him.
Politico By BURGESS EVERETT  06/22/2017 07:16 PM EDT
As Mitch McConnell unveiled the Senate’s long-anticipated Obamacare repeal bill at a closed-door briefing Thursday morning, he urged GOP senators to withhold statements announcing outright opposition to the proposal and remain flexible, according to people familiar with the matter.  About four hours later, a quartet of McConnell’s most conservative members said in a joint statement that they are “not ready to vote for this bill.”  But notably, GOP Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson and Ted Cruz left themselves plenty of room to eventually support it after further negotiation and persuasion — a critical nod to the Senate majority leader’s request.  The Kentucky Republican still has much work to do to get his health care overhaul across the finish line and may have to offer those senators some concessions that move the bill to the right. And somehow while doing so, he also must keep on board a pair of moderates and a half-dozen stalwart defenders of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.  Right now, McConnell is far from having a commitment for the 50 votes needed for passage, according to senators who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal politics of the 52-member caucus. But no one on Capitol Hill seems to be betting against the wily majority leader as he plans for one of the most critical roll call votes of his career next week.

Kansas Supreme Court Sets Calendar In School Funding Case
High Plains Public Radio By CELIA LLOPIS-JEPSEN  14 HOURS AGO Originally published on June 20, 2017 6:53 am
The Kansas Supreme Court has set a schedule for the latest chapter in the seven-year lawsuit that accuses the state of underfunding public schools.  Lawyers for the state and the plaintiff school districts will submit briefs in the Gannon case by June 30. That was the deadline for implementing a school finance formula that meets constitutional muster.  The Legislature only passed a new formula this month. The court is allowing that to take effect while legal proceedings continue.  The formula boosts funding by nearly $300 million over two years. If the court decides that’s not enough, the Legislature may have to return for a special session and put in more money.  Oral arguments in the case are scheduled to take place on July 18.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen is a reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics. You can reach her on Twitter @Celia_LJ

House Passes Bill to Overhaul Career-Tech Education by Giving More Power to States
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on June 22, 2017 2:46 PM
The House passed a reauthorization of the federal law governing career and technical education programs on Wednesday, but how exactly it will mesh with other workforce development efforts afoot in Washington remains to be seen.   Lawmakers backed H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which would overhaul the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Like the Every Student Succeeds Act, it gives more decision-making and funding authority to states. The bill's lead co-authors are Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill.  Among other things, the bill would allow states to set aside money for their own competitive-grant or other funding streams for CTE, and increase the permitted share of federal aid states could set aside for their own use from 10 percent under current law to 15 percent. It also is designed to better connect education in local communities to their respective local labor market, and changes the definition of which students are counted as "concentrators" in career and technical education programs. (That last provision has caused some heartburn among CTE advocates who think it's overly broad, although it hasn't significantly hampered the legislation.)

“This post, written by Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who is executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education, details issues on which many charter school supporters don’t want to focus. Burris was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year. She has chronicled problems with standardized-test based school reform and the school choice movement on this blog for years.”
Problems with charter schools that you won’t hear Betsy DeVos talk about
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss June 22 at 10:05 AM 
President Trump has proposed spending hundreds of millions of dollars in new federal funding to expand charter schools, and his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has made clear that her major priority is expanding school choice, including charters. But one thing missing from their agenda is anything that seeks to hold charter schools and for-profit charter operators accountable for how they spend money and educate children and their level of transparency to the public.  Asked at a hearing earlier this year whether she was “going to have accountability standards” in any new school choice program, DeVos responded that states should decide “what kind of flexibility they are going to allow.”  Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated, sometimes by for-profit companies, and have been proliferating for more than 25 years, with thousands of them enrolling as much as 6 percent of America’s schoolchildren around the country.  Supporters of charter schools say they give parents an alternative to failing traditional public schools. Critics say they take vital resources away from traditional public schools and that while some charters are well-run and successful, many are poorly operated. In some cases, “poorly operated” is an understatement. Some states have scandal-ridden charter sectors, though the depths of the problems were hardly front and center at the annual charter conference in Washington earlier this month.

Online Classes for K-12 Students: 10 Research Reports You Need to Know
Education Week Digital Education blog By Benjamin Herold on June 21, 2017 12:57 PM
From Advanced Placement courses offered by state-run virtual schools to credit recovery classes delivered via third-party software, supplemental online education courses have exploded in K-12 education.  To help policymakers, administrators, educators, parents, and students make sense of it all, Education Week published an overview explaining the many varieties of online classes now available to K-12 students. It's part of our new special report on the state of classroom technology, which you can read here.  For those who want to dig deeper, here are the reports and research studies that have shaped what we know about the still-murky field of K-12 online supplemental courses.

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.

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