Tuesday, June 27, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 27: “If higher extraction taxes were a death knell for investment, drillers would have abandoned other states for the Keystone State.”

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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup June 27, 2017:

How to get started with charter school reform?  Ask your senator to cosponsor.@SenatorBrowne's SB806 which would create a Charter School Funding Advisory Commission

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.)

We could be in store for a very long week waiting to see what can get done regarding a new state budget. 
Capitolwire.com Email Under The Dome™Monday, June 26, 2017
The smart money in the state Capitol is on lawmakers not completing a Fiscal Year 2017-18 state budget by the time midnight on June 30 (Friday) rolls around this week. As of the end of last week, no one had yet seen a budget plan from Senate Republicans, who while they don t seem to be too far apart with House Republicans on how much to spend in FY2017-18 (around $31.8 billion), there still appear to be some differences of opinion regarding on what that $31.8 billion will be spent (and whether some of it will be in or taken out of the General Fund budget) and how to pay for all that spending (including some questionable monetization of asset proposals that amount to using one credit card to pay off another credit card something that credit rating agencies simply love to see from states). House Republicans maintain until they see some details from the other chamber, as well as the governor, regarding proposals to address as much as a $3 billion deficit, they re sticking with the plan they passed in April one that includes gambling expansion (including controversial video gaming terminals), additional liquor privatization, fund transfers and some tax credit reductions. It should be an interesting week (and maybe weekend).

Pa budget deadline looms as Pennsylvania lawmakers eye deficit
Delco Times By Marc Levy, The Associated Press POSTED: 06/27/17, 4:52 AM EDT
HARRISBURG, Pa. >> Pennsylvania lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Monday with five days left to pass an on-time budget and no firm agreements on how to address state government’s biggest cash shortfall since the recession.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has kept a low profile, while leaders of the House and Senate GOP majorities reported no deal between themselves on a spending plan or a strategy to pay for it.  The 2017-18 fiscal year begins Saturday and few, if any, lawmakers expect this year’s budget plan to make any headway toward clearing up Pennsylvania’s long-term deficit. Senators said they expect a spending plan to pass before Saturday, but — like last year — legislation to pay for it could follow later in July.  Rating agencies will be watching: The state’s penchant for patching up deficits with one-time maneuvers has left its credit rating among the lowest of states.

More talk, but no Pa. budget deal
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis & Karen Langley, HARRISBURG BUREAUS Updated: JUNE 26, 2017 — 7:50 PM EDT
HARRISBURG – It’s crunch time in the state Capitol.  Pennsylvania legislators returned Monday facing a race against the clock to strike a deal on a state budget for the fiscal year that begins this Saturday. Nothing much was moving.  Disagreements over how much to expand gambling continue to dominate talks, with a top Senate Republican on Monday saying the key sticking point is whether the state should allow bars, restaurants and other establishments with a liquor license to legally install up to 40,000 “video gaming terminals” (VGTs), or slots-like machines.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) said Republicans who control the House of Representatives are insisting that any gambling expansion proposal include VGTs, but that there is still resistance in his caucus to such a move.

“Energy companies complain that an extraction tax would drive them out of the state -- a point they make through lobbying efforts in Harrisburg and re-election support for legislators. Don't buy it.  Pennsylvania sits atop a bountiful supply of shale gas, one of the richest in the world
Pa. needs shale gas tax to fill budget gap | Editorial
BY EXPRESS-TIMES OPINION STAFF Updated on June 25, 2017 at 6:31 AM Posted on June 25, 2017 at 6:30 AM
Pennsylvania isn't just facing a monster of a budget deficit, it's plagued by a bankruptcy of ideas on how to tame it.  Well, check that -- some ideas are being floated in Harrisburg to close the budget gap, estimated at anywhere from $1.5 billion (to scrape through another fiscal year) to $3 billion (the estimated year-to-year "structural" deficit).  Among the good ideas are a few proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf: Enact a sensible extraction tax on natural gas drillers, close some business tax loopholes and cut the cost of government by consolidating several departments. Of those, letting Pennsylvanians share a bit more in the profits of shale gas drillers holds the most hope to help fill the budget hole.  Pennsylvania is the only major gas-producing state that doesn't collect an extraction tax. It has a system of impact fees that helps communities deal with the environmental and road costs of the industry; smaller shares go to other areas of the state.

Pa. House budget plan would spike child care wait lists, advocates say
Trib Live by NATASHA LINDSTROM  | Monday, June 26, 2017, 11:42 p.m.
Pennsylvania's wait list for state-subsidized child care could climb to a historic high of 19,000 children under the budget plan approved by the state House, a spokeswoman for Gov. Tom Wolf warned Monday in Pittsburgh.  The GOP-controlled House's $31.5 billion proposed budget — leaner and more aggressive in cost-cutting than the Democrat governor's plan — calls for a $28 million reduction in child care assistance.  The deadline to pass a state budget is Friday. Senate leaders continue to negotiate their own plan.  As part of a last-ditch advocacy push, city and state officials joined local proponents of early childhood education inside a preschool classroom at Providence Connections Family Support Center in Pittsburgh's Marshall-Shadeland neighborhood. Speakers representing Wolf, Mayor Bill Peduto and The Heinz Endowments urged lawmakers to reconsider the potential cuts.

“Now, with the latest fiscal year and budget deadline looming Friday at midnight, the Republican majorities offer only bad ideas. Their proposals include long-term borrowing to cover the deficit without underlying reforms to fix the deficit generators, yet another vast expansion of gambling, and masking the deficit by redirecting a portion of the state’s gambling cut from local economic development to the state general fund.”
Editorial: Pennsylvania has a legislative leadership deficit
Citizens Voice by THE EDITORIAL BOARD / PUBLISHED: JUNE 27, 2017
For the last six years, during which the Legislature has managed to accumulate a $3 billion deficit, Republican majorities in both houses steadfastly have rejected an array of reforms that have been proposed by Republican and Democratic governors.  The result is not just a burgeoning deficit in the face of a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, but lousy governance.  Republicans had a four-year window, during the administration of Republican former Gov. Tom Corbett, to reform the government in many ways. Yet they never seriously considered Corbett’s serious proposal to truly reform runaway state-governed pension systems that continue to drive the deficit and diminish the state government’s effectiveness. And with Democrats Ed Rendell and Tom Wolf in the governor’s office, they have rejected multiple opportunities to close costly tax loopholes for favored narrow interests, establish fair taxation of Pennsylvania’s vast natural gas resources, effect property tax reform and adjust the state’s tax structure to reflect the 21st, rather than the mid-20th century.  Recently, lawmakers toyed yet again with the pension crisis, passing a bill that will do nothing to diminish the cost for at least another 20 years. Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, the bond-rating agencies that have downgraded Pennsylvania’s credit-worthiness due to legislative inaction, scoffed at the “reform” as being meaningless.

These three, commonsense steps would close Pa's budget hole: Madeleine Dean
BY PENNLIVE OP-ED By Madeleine Dean Posted on June 26, 2017 at 7:45 AM
State Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Democrat, represents the 153rd House District, which includes part of Montgomery County.
Less than a week remains until Pennsylvania's June 30 budget deadline, and details of the negotiations are few.  So in the quiet, here is a basic understanding of where we are, along with my suggestions for working through our budget challenges.  The greatest hurdles to Pennsylvania's budget are our substantial revenue shortfall in the current year, more than $1 billion dollars for our year ending June 30, and our projected $3 billion budget deficit in the year beginning July 1st.  Earlier this year, Governor Wolf proposed a lean, yet responsible budget, with important investments in education, human services, the environment, and the opioid crisis. In response, House Republicans passed a budget bill (HB218) which cut  Gov. Tom Wolf's proposal by $815 million.  The House-approved budget includes dangerous cuts to the health and safety of our constituents, to the future of our children and our environment, and cuts that will cripple economic growth.  That bill now rests with the Senate.  The truth is we cannot cut or borrow our way out of this hole.

How gerrymandering can make your vote worthless
When voters cast ballots for state representatives last fall, millions of Americans essentially had no choice: In 42 percent of all such elections, candidates faced no major party opponents. Political scientists say a major reason for the lack of choices is the way districts are drawn — gerrymandered, in some cases, to ensure as many comfortable seats as possible for the majority party by creating other districts overwhelmingly packed with voters for the minority party. About 4,700 state House and Assembly seats were up for election last year. Of those, 998 Democrats and 963 Republicans won without any opposition from the other major political party. In districts dominated by one party, election battles are fought mostly in the primaries; the winner from the majority party becomes a virtual shoo-in to win the general election.  These are the findings by David A. Lieb of the Associated Press. You can read the full story.  NewsWorks Tonight Host Dave Heller talks with Lieb about what gerrymandering is and why it matters to voters. Lieb also talks about how AP used a new mathematical model that determined how many "wasted" votes a losing party incurs when gerrymandering occurs. A wasted vote is where a voter can cast a vote but it almost doesn't matter because the other party dominates the district. 

In-depth look: Cuts from recession, spiraling pension costs drive worries for Pennsylvania schools
Lancaster Online by SAM JANESCH | Staff Writer Jun 25, 2017
When large sums of federal money stopped flowing to public education after the Great Recession, some Pennsylvania schools closed and many teachers lost their jobs.  Class sizes grew.  Renovations were shelved.  The picture was gloomy.  Nearly a decade later, the economy is recovering and wary schools are cautious but optimistic as money has begun flowing back into their coffers.  They have a governor who has promised more money for the neediest kids and achieved the passage of a “fair” funding formula that gives a larger portion of new money to districts that need it most.  But the picture is still dismal, they say.  The slow pace of the recovery and ballooning pension costs have tempered any enthusiasm. School districts across Pennsylvania still say their biggest worry is money, and they have little hope for change in the years ahead.

“Pennsylvania has work to do in strengthening its charter school laws. That's one conclusion drawn from the 2016 Measuring Up to the Model - a ranking of state charter school laws - which placed the Keystone State 31st among 42 states and the District of Columbia. This report, now in its seventh year, is the product of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a not-for-profit advocate of the movement.”
Amend state school code to reflect realities of charter funding
Inquirer Opinion by Theodore Arapis & Leslie Frisbie Updated: JUNE 26, 2017 — 3:01 AM EDT
Theodore Arapis is an assistant professor at Villanova University's Department of Public Administration. Leslie Frisbie is a business administrator at Northwestern Lehigh School District. They are fellows with the Education Policy and Leadership Center 
Over the last three decades charter schools have become one of the most widespread reforms within the American education system.  First to conceptualize them in the 1970s was Professor Ray Budde, who saw in charter schools an opportunity to reorganize districts and "provide teachers increased responsibility over curriculum and instruction in exchange for a greater degree of accountability for student achievement." Support for public charter schools continued to rise and, in 1991, Minnesota became the first state to pass a charter school law. Since then, 42 other states and the District of Columbia have enacted charter school legislation. Today, more than 6,500 charter schools serve about 3 million children.  On June 19, Pennsylvania celebrated the 20-year anniversary of Gov. Tom Ridge signing into law Act 22, which charged charter schools with the responsibility to improve, among others things, pupil learning and teaching pedagogy. In the fall of 1997, the first four charters - Harambee Institute of Science and Technology, Community Academy of Philadelphia, World Communications, and Youth Build Philadelphia - opened their doors in Philadelphia. Two decades later, close to 135,000 students attend one of the commonwealth's 177 charter schools (163 bricks/mortar and 14 cyber charters) operating within 27 counties.

Susan Mauser: Charter school law in Pa. gives families a choice
Morning Call Opinion by Susan Mauser June 26, 2017
Susan Mauser is the CEO of Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School.
Twenty years ago this month, then-Gov. Tom Ridge signed into law Act 22, Pennsylvania's Charter School Law, opening the doors to new, exciting opportunities in public education.
The Keystone State's charter school law grew out of a school choice debate that centered on a voucher system. When the idea of vouchers failed to muster sufficient traction, the rising tide of educators, community activists, legislators and parents worked around the clock with a mission to ensure public school choice for all Pennsylvania students, removing the limits of their ZIP codes and school district boundaries.  Fast forward two decades, Pennsylvania is home to 175 brick-and-mortar public charter schools and 13 public cyber charter schools serving about 130,000 students. Nationally, 43 states and the District of Columbia have charter schools. Charter schools are independent schools funded by the same tax dollars that fund school districts.  One of the key differences is that charter schools lack the power to raise taxes to secure additional funding. Rather, educational dollars flow through the school districts to the charter schools, so when a family chooses a charter school for its child, a percentage of that student's funding follows him or her from the district school. On average, charter schools receive only 75 percent to 80 percent per-pupil funding compared to district schools.

$33 billion in tax cuts to 400 highest income households would equal Medicaid cuts to 725,800 Medicaid enrollees
This chart shows the stunning trade-off at the heart of the GOP health plan
Vox.com Updated by Sarah Kliff and Javier Zarracina  Jun 26, 2017, 9:50am EDT
The Republican repeal bills in the House and Senate both include multi-billion-dollar tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and deep health benefit cuts for the poorest Americans.
The House bill would cut taxes by $756 billion over a decade, and most of those gains would go to the richest Americans, independent analyses suggest. (We’re still waiting on a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate bill, which is expected to be released this afternoon). The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the 400 top income households alone would receive $33 billion in tax cuts between 2019 and 2028. This is equivalent to the amount that the federal government spends on Medicaid expansion in four states: Alaska, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Nevada. The Medicaid expansion there covers an estimated 725,800 enrollees. It’s hard to wrap your head around that disparity: 400 families gaining a tax cut that is offset by ending a program that covers three-quarters of a million of low-income Americans. Our graphics editor Javier Zarracina and I decided to show how those two groups compare visually. Start scrolling to see how many people win in this trade-off, and how many people lose.

Senate health plan will increase uninsured by 22 million, CBO says
Inquirer by Jonathan Tamari, Washington Bureau  @JonathanTamari |  jtamari@phillynews.com Updated: JUNE 26, 2017 5:54 PM EDT
WASHINGTON — The Republican health plan speeding toward a vote as early as this week would increase the number of uninsured people by 22 million by 2026, the Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday, delivering a projection that immediately weighed on the unfolding debate and wavering senators. The report from Congress’ nonpartisan scorekeeper also estimated that the Senate plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act would reduce the federal deficit by $321 billion over the next decade. The savings come largely from slashing expected Medicaid spending by $772 billion, although much of those savings would be consumed by tax cuts for the wealthy and insurers.  Over time, insurance premiums would fall, but deductibles would rise and coverage would shrink, the CBO projected, ultimately leaving many to pay more for health care.

On 'Radio Times': How the GOP health care plan threatens Medicaid
The Senate health care plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was revealed last week.  It’s been heavily criticized by democrats, the health care industry, and consumer groups. On Monday’s Radio Times, host Marty Moss-Coane talked with a trio of guests about the bill and what it will mean for Americans if it is passed.  One of the most significant pieces of the legislation are cuts to Medicaid, including ending the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion and reducing federal support to the program overall.  New York Times reporter Margo Sanger-Katz explained that the Medicaid program covers far more people than most of us realize:  Julie Rovner, chief Washington correspondent with the Kaiser News Network, added that “The most dramatic change [in the bill] is not so much the rollback to the expansion.  It’s the capping of Medicaid overall and this is something Republicans have been trying to do for 30 years…to reign in entitlement spending.”   Listen to the full interview at Radio Times.

Schools need Medicaid funds
Trib Live LETTER TO THE EDITOR by HELEN SITLER, Ligonier  June 26, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Recent stories in the Trib, including “State budget process, mandated costs bedevil Pennsylvania schools” , illustrate the guesswork school districts are forced to make in planning their budgets (.  The health-care bill developed in secret by a U.S. Senate committee that includes Pennsylvania's Sen. Pat Toomey could make school budget situations even worse. If Medicaid funds are cut or are sent to states as block grants, schoolchildren could feel negative effects. Medicaid provides multiple services in schools, paying, in part, for needs of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Each of Westmoreland County's school districts taps Medicaid funds. Most are used for professional staff salaries — speech therapists, personal care aides, counselors, etc.
According to a May 22 “PBS NewsHour” report, Pennsylvania schools received $131 million in Medicaid funding in 2015. If schools lose this funding, or even some of it, effects could reach every child and every taxpayer in a district. Services to special-needs students cannot, by state and federal law, be curtailed. Somehow, schools will need to make up Medicaid losses — perhaps by furloughing staff, increasing class sizes in order to keep necessary IEP personnel or increasing local taxes. Call Sens. Toomey (202-224-4254) and Bob Casey (202-224-6324) and tell them reduced services for schoolchildren through Medicaid cuts are not acceptable.

Bill allowing teachers to carry guns could see Senate action
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 26, 2017 10:09 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- The state Senate is considering a plan to allow teachers and other school employees with permits to carry guns at work. Supporters say it's about keeping kids safe, while opponents are worried the measure would do just the opposite. Senate Bill 383 is sponsored by GOP Senator Donald White of Armstrong County, who said it would give schools more options in protecting students. He added, it could be particularly helpful for rural districts that are far from police stations and might not employ their own security guard. "This is just one more tool to help them--if they see fit--to protect their families," he said. But the measure has received considerable backlash from gun control and teachers' groups. Many--like Shira Goodman, with CeaseFire PA--say arming school employees would be an unnecessary liability. "If you can't afford a school armed security guard, how are you going to afford the insurance to have armed teachers?" she asked. "It doesn't make any sense.' "If we want to spend money on these kinds of things, that's what we should be giving money on," she added. "Security assessments, better communication with police, and maybe more money for security guards and school resource officers."

Superintendents applaud House passage of Perkins Act
Bradford Era By ALEX DAVIS Era Reporter a.davis@bradfordera.com Jun 24, 2017
Area superintendents are applauding the U.S. House of Representatives for passing legislation designed to strengthen and improve career and technical education and provide individuals the skills needed to compete for in-demand jobs.  This week’s approval of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act is the first major overhaul to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act since 2006. The act provides federal support to state and local career and technical education programs.  “The Perkins funding does reduce the burden on local taxpayers. Hopefully through the reauthorization we will see a reduction in the bureaucracy.  We will need to see the new guidelines for Perkins and next year’s allocation,” said Seneca Highlands Career and Technical Center Director James Young.  Specifically, the legislation will deliver states more flexibility to use federal resources in response to changing education and economic needs; ensure career and technical education prepares all students, including historically disadvantaged and vulnerable students, for success in high-skill, high-wage occupations and careers in nontraditional fields; improve alignment with in-demand jobs by supporting innovative learning opportunities, building better community partnerships, and encouraging stronger engagement with employers; and enhance career and technical education through increased focus on employability skills, work-based learning opportunities, and meaningful credentialing so students are prepared to enter the workforce poised for success.

REP. RYAN COSTELLO: Supporting Pa. workforce
Pottstown Mercury Opinion by Ryan Costello POSTED: 06/26/17, 2:44 PM EDT
Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6th Dist., is co-chairman of the Congressional 21st Century Skills Caucus and a member of the Congressional CTE Caucus.
For over three decades, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins Act) has provided the legal framework for federal investment in state and local career and technical education (CTE) programs.  In our congressional district, the Perkins Act helps support the work of Berks Technical Institute, Montgomery County Community College, and Chester County Technical College High School of Phoenixville in their mission to equip students with the high-quality education and hands-on experience necessary to enter the workforce or take their careers to the next level.  These programs play a critical role in educating students and matching job-seekers with in-demand employment opportunities.  However, it has been nearly 11 years since the Perkins Act was updated, and students, educators, and employers are all feeling the effects of operating under an outdated policy structure.

Letter to the Editor: Pension reform plan huge win for Pa.
Delco Times Letter by Lisa A. Meyers POSTED: 06/26/17, 9:42 PM EDT
Lisa A. Myers, CPA, president of the Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs
To the Times: Act 5 of 2017 – the overhaul of Pennsylvania’s pension system – is a huge win for the economic future of the state and its taxpayers. Reform was badly needed, and I sincerely thank the Pennsylvania House and Senate for passing - and Gov. Tom Wolf for signing - this necessary piece of legislation. The Fiscal Responsibility Task Force of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) identified in 2011 how the state’s pension crisis would have adverse effects on the state budget and taxpayers. Task force members predicted a crisis of unfunded liabilities for the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) and the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) reaching $50 billion in the next 10 years. According to the task force’s latest report, issued June 5, 2017, and available at www.picpa.org/pensionreform, that number has since grown to a staggering $62 billion. And we must not ignore that local school districts are responsible for a 50 percent share of PSERS obligations, thereby increasing unfunded obligations another $22 billion. We are in this position because of inaction, and to further delay action would have created an outrageous liability for Pennsylvania taxpayers that would have inflicted severe harm on the state’s school districts and overall economy.
The PICPA supports Act 5 of 2017 for the following reasons:

“During a May board meeting, business affairs director Sherri Ludwig said nearly 14 percent of the budget goes to its state-mandated contribution to the Pennsylvania Public School Employees' Retirement System. The increase was $970,000, bringing the toal contribution to $11.6 million and a net payment of $5.5 million.”
Shaler Area School Board passes final budget with tax increase
Trib Live by ERICA CEBZANOV | Monday, June 26, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
The Shaler Area School Board has passed 2017-18 budget with a 3.2 percent property tax increase.  The $84 million budget contains a 0.72-mil increase, raising the property levy from 22.56 mils to 23.28 mils. The increase will generate approximately $1.4 million in additional revenue.  A homeowner with an assessed property value of $100,000 will pay an additional $72.19 annually.  The budget passed 7-1 with school directors Steve Romac dissenting and Jason Machajewski absent.

Penn Hills school board raises taxes with $84 million budget for 2017-18
Post Gazette by TIM MEANS 10:38 PM JUN 26, 2017
Penn Hills school directors narrowly passed an $84.4 million budget for the 2017-18 school year, which includes a 1.25 mill increase in the real estate tax rate. The budget was approved by a five to four vote with two board members participating via telephone. The tax rate will increase from 26.30 to 27.55 mills. The board also approved a borrowing $9 million from PNC Bank at an interest rate of 2.8% in the form of a tax anticipation note. The note will be payable by September 30th of this year. Although the approved budget is balanced, the district continues to carry an overall debt of approximately $170 million.

Senate Health Bill Reels as C.B.O. Predicts 22 Million More Uninsured
New York Times By THOMAS KAPLAN and ROBERT PEARJUNE 26, 2017
WASHINGTON — The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act was edging toward collapse on Monday after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026.  Two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, said Monday that they would vote against even debating the health care bill, joining Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who made the same pledge on Friday. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin hinted that he, too, would probably oppose taking up the bill on a procedural vote expected as early as Tuesday, meaning a collapse could be imminent.  “It’s worse to pass a bad bill than pass no bill,” Mr. Paul told reporters.  Ms. Collins wrote on Twitter on Monday evening that she wanted to work with her colleagues from both parties to fix flaws in the Affordable Care Act, but that the budget office’s report showed that the “Senate bill won’t do it.”

Supreme Court Says State Playground-Grant Program Can’t Exclude Religious Schools
Opinion limited to discrimination based on ‘religious identity’, but doesn’t address state support for religious practices
Wall Street Journal By  Jess Bravin Updated June 26, 2017 8:04 p.m. ET
The Supreme Court Monday ruled that Missouri may not exclude a church school from a program that funds playground resurfacing, finding that discrimination based on “religious identity” violates the First Amendment’s protection for free exercise of religion.  The Missouri Constitution long had forbidden public subsidy, “directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, sect or denomination of religion,” which state courts interpreted as excluding church-run schools from programs like Missouri’s Playground Scrap Tire Surface Material Grants, which helps schools and day-care centers resurface playgrounds with material made from recycled tires.  “The consequence” of that approach “is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. But excluding Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Mo., from applying for the funds “solely because it is a church is odious to our Constitution all the same.”

Will the Supreme Court’s Trinity decision lead to the spread of school voucher programs?
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss June 26 at 2:56 PM 
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday on a case that public school and First Amendment advocates feared might harm the future of public education in the United States. Will it?
The case is Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, in which the Missouri church sued after being denied state funding to refurbish its preschool playground because, it was told, the state Constitution forbids financially supporting a religious institution. Though the policy in the state has since been changed, the case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and on Monday, the justices ruled 7 to 2 that the state’s original decision violated the U.S. Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion by excluding churches from state programs with a secular intent. Missouri and several dozen other states have in their constitutions provisions known as Blaine amendments, which forbid the state government from using public funds for “any church, sector or denomination of religion.”  These measures have prevented some legislatures from adopting and implementing school voucher programs — which use public money to pay for private and religious school tuition and other educational expenses — while lower courts have offered different interpretations; for example, the supreme courts in Wisconsin and Arizona upheld voucher programs in their states, while the high court in Colorado declared one unconstitutional.

School voucher recipients lose ground at first, then catch up to peers, studies find
Washington Post By Emma Brown June 26 at 5:06 PM 
Students who received publicly funded vouchers in Indiana and Louisiana appeared to lose significant academic ground in the first two years after switching to private schools but then caught up to their public-school counterparts in subsequent years, according to two studies made public Monday. The studies do not show that vouchers led to significantly stronger math and reading performance overall, even as President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos promise to pour billions of dollars into expanding vouchers nationwide. Vouchers are direct government payments that families use as scholarships to attend private schools, and they are bitterly contested. Both sides could claim a measure of validation from the new research: advocates of school choice who say it isn’t fair to judge voucher programs based on test results from a student’s first year in private school, and critics who say vouchers drain funding from public schools without improving achievement.

School Vouchers Get A New Report Card
NPR by CORY TURNER June 26, 20173:00 AM ET
It is the education debate of the Trump era. With the president and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos using policy and the bully pulpit to champion private school vouchers, supporters and critics have tangled over the question:  Do low-income, public school students perform better when they're given a voucher to attend a private school?  For years, the answer from researchers has been a muddle, while a handful of recent studies have clearly shown voucher students backsliding academically. But no one has studied the largest, single statewide program in the nation ...Until now.   More than 34,000 students are enrolled in Indiana's Choice Scholarship Program. That's 3 percent of students statewide. In a recent investigation of the program, NPR found some private schools turning away children with disabilities and LGBTQ students, but it was impossible to say, at the time, whether those students who are using vouchers are any better off academically.

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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