Tuesday, July 11, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 11: No plan to pay for new budget; #HB97 on hold; EITC/OSTC tax credits to increase $20M

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup July 11, 2017:

Blogger note:  We are hearing that the House has indicated they intend to hold the charter expansion bill HB97 until the fall, working on additional changes over the summer.  Thank you for your advocacy efforts on HB97.

In spite of the looming deficit and no solid plan to increase revenue, the School Code Bill, SB227 apparently includes increases in the tax credits available under the EITC/OSTC programs of $20 million; $12 million for scholarship organizations, $6 million for educational improvement organizations and $4 million for pre-kindergarten scholarship organizations.

That’s an additional $20 million in tax revenue that will be diverted to private and religious schools without any fiscal or academic performance accountability; that may refuse to enroll students for any reason, including religious affiliation, disability, discipline or academic history.

The intermediary scholarship organizations that administer and distribute the EITC/OSTC funds get to keep 20 percent of the money and are not required to report on how they spend it.  For comparison, Florida has a similar tax credit program with scholarship organizations keeping just 3 percent of the money.  Have a nice day.

Unfinished 2017-18 budget package remains a work in progress
Penn Live BY JAN MURPHY  jmurphy@pennlive.com Updated on July 11, 2017 at 1:25 AM Posted on July 10, 2017 at 9:53 PM
If Gov. Tom Wolf has a special pen to use to sign a state budget, it must be still sitting untouched in its box.  Wolf on Monday allowed the $32 billion bipartisan-backed spending plan for 2017-18 become law without his signature as the 10-day clock for him to act expired at midnight. This is the third consecutive year that he has allowed a budget to take effect due to his inaction.  That decision came this year despite not having a plan to fully fund the spending package in the pipeline seemingly even ready to go.  In a statement, Wolf expressed hope that in the coming days "the General Assembly will come together to pass a responsible solution to balance our books."  What became increasingly clear as Monday wore on is that the solution that the governor and lawmakers were looking for was still a work in progress.

“Wolf rejected Republican plans that leaned more heavily on one-time cash infusions, and pressed Republicans to support a larger package of tax increases, top lawmakers say.  Wolf had sought $700 million to $800 million in reliable, annual revenue, such as tax increases. House Republicans had been unwilling to offer a tax package even half that size, Democrats say.  Top senators said tax increases under discussion involved basic cable service, movie tickets, bank profits, telephone service and electric service. Another element of a proposed budget deal, designed to save money, would give the state the option to shut down unprofitable wine and liquor stores and transfer the stock to a nearby beer distributor to be sold there.”
Pennsylvania budget takes effect amid fight over funding it
Post Gazette by MARC LEVY ASSOCIATED PRESS 12:00 AM JUL 11, 2017
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — For the second straight year, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will let a state budget bill become law despite being badly out of balance as he presses Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature to approve a tax package big enough to avoid a credit downgrade.  Wolf’s decision came in a statement Monday, after the collapse of down-to-the-wire negotiations and hours before the nearly $32 billion spending bill was to become law without his signature at midnight.  In a statement, Wolf — who had stayed out of sight since Friday — said he hoped lawmakers could come together in the coming days to responsibly balance a budget with a projected $2 billion hole in it.  “Our creditors and the people of Pennsylvania understand a responsible resolution must take real and necessary steps to improve Pennsylvania’s fiscal future,” Wolf said.

Governor Wolf Will Let Budget Become Law
Governor Wolf’ Office July 10, 2017
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf released the following statement on his intention to allow House Bill 218 to become law without his signature:
“In February, I proposed a budget that balanced by implementing more than $2 billion in cuts, savings, and efficiencies and closing $1 billion in loopholes. For the past several months, Democrats and Republicans have had a robust conversation about our fiscal challenges. We worked in a bipartisan way to reform our pension system to protect taxpayers and employees, and set the commonwealth on a more responsible fiscal path.
“Working with both parties in the legislature, we passed a general appropriations bill that streamlined government by making more than $2 billion in cuts, invested more money in education at all levels, and continued our efforts to fight the heroin crisis.
“This budget invests $175 million in our schools, helps Pennsylvanians who need it the most like those with intellectual disabilities, and invests in key programs to create manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania, while allowing the commonwealth to team up with businesses and institutions of higher learning to create jobs and a strong workforce.
“And today, I am going to let this general appropriations bill become law without my signature in the hope that we can continue to work together on a sustainable budget solution that sets Pennsylvania on the right path.
“Just last week, we received a warning that if we did not do the hard work to balance our budget, Pennsylvania’s credit would be downgraded. This independent call to action made it clear we must avoid gimmicks to protect from a downgrade, as we have been able to do since I took office.
“As with pensions, many of the people currently in Harrisburg did not create this problem, but we must face this challenge and address it in a responsible way.
“In the coming days, it is my hope that the General Assembly will come together to pass a responsible solution to balance our books. There are many options available to balance the budget in the long-term like those I presented earlier this year. Our creditors and the people of Pennsylvania understand a responsible resolution must take real and necessary steps to improve Pennsylvania’s fiscal future.”

“Negotiations down the home stretch got bogged down as Wolf insisted that legislative leaders present a strategy to rely more heavily on recurring revenue, such as tax increases, to close the shortfall.  “Just last week, we received a warning that if we did not do the hard work to balance our budget, Pennsylvania's credit would be downgraded. This independent call to action made it clear we must avoid gimmicks to protect from a downgrade, as we have been able to do since I took office,” Wolf said.  Republicans have been resistant to tax increases and lawmakers in the House and Senate were divided over how to legalize new gambling alternatives.”
No plan to pay for Pa.'s new budget
For 3rd time, Wolf refuses to sign legislation
Sharon Herald By JOHN FINNERTY CNHI Harrisburg Correspondent July 10, 2017
HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday afternoon that he will allow a $32 billion spending plan to become law without his signature after the governor and lawmakers failed to come to an agreement on how to overcome a $2 billion shortfall.  “I am going to let this general appropriations bill become law without my signature in the hope that we can continue to work together on a sustainable budget solution that sets Pennsylvania on the right path,” Wolf said in a statement.  This is the third straight budget Wolf has allowed to become law without his signature. In his first year in office, Wolf, a Democrat, and the Republican-controlled Legislature engaged in a nine-month standoff after Wolf vetoed the entire 2015-16 budget. He later used his line-item veto to withhold school funding to try to force lawmakers to revisit the budget. In March of 2016, he finally allowed the budget to fully become law, while still refusing to sign it. Last year, he also allowed the spending plan to become law after 10 days but refused to sign it.  Wolf has insisted throughout budget negotiations that the tone of conversations has been more positive than in prior years. Monday he said he hopes a solution can be reached "in the coming days."

“The spending portion of the state budget includes about $100 million in increased funding for 500 local districts. For most districts, however, that will not even cover the mandated 8.5 percent increase in payments into the statewide pension system for school employees. For the coming school year, districts must make a pension contribution equal to 32.7 percent of payroll — a gargantuan burden that drives property tax increases even in healthy districts.”
No suspense on school tax
Suspense was palpable Monday at the state Capitol. Would Gov. Tom Wolf veto the $32 billion supposed “budget” that legislators passed without bothering to account for revenue? Would he sign it? Would he let it become law without his signature?  There is no such suspense in school district boardrooms across the commonwealth, however. The Legislature’s deplorable inability or refusal to attend to crucial public business already has ensured substantial property tax increases in hundreds of school districts.  Eight school districts entirely or partially within Lackawanna County already have announced increases. (The Scranton School District won’t deal with its calendar-year budget until December.)

What the budget plan means for the state and the politicians who wrote it [in-depth]
Lancaster Online by BRAD BUMSTED and MIKE WERESCHAGIN | The Caucus July 10, 2017
The debate over the 2017-18 state budget between Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican legislative leaders foreshadows themes that will be used in next year's governor and legislative elections, political experts say.  As the dust settles from the budget fray, which was relatively mild by Harrisburg standards, Wolf and Republicans controlling the General Assembly, both will be able to claim victory in certain areas.  The nightmare negative scenario for both sides has been avoided: a marathon budget impasse that extends into next year as happened with Wolf’s first budget in 2015.  The winners in this budget are the status quo and incumbents,” said J. Wesley Leckrone, a political science professor at Widener University. “Going into the legislative and gubernatorial elections of next year, both parties can use this budget to shape their re-election narratives. “ Wolf gets the $100 million increase he sought in basic education funding, along with $25 million more for special education. “He gets his budget,” a prominent lobbyist said.  Lawmakers of both parties also benefit politically from helping to get funding increases for their school districts.  Voter surveys show education “is one of the top two or three issues they care about,” said G. Terry Madonna, a pollster and political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College.  But more than just education funding, Republicans can brag about blocking broad-based tax increases — sales and income — for the current fiscal year and Wolf’s first two years in office.

#HB97: PA Senate passes charter school expansion bill, disregards needs of students and taxpayers
Education Voters PA Posted on July 10, 2017 EDVOPA Posted in blogPress Releases
Susan Spicka, Executive Director of Education Voters of PA made the following statement about the PA Senate’s passage of HB 97:
It is very disappointing that 26 members of the PA Senate voted to disregard the very real needs of the students and taxpayers they were elected to represent.  At 10:00 on a Sunday night, with little discussion, 26 Republican senators voted for HB 97, a bill that is backed by the deep-pocketed charter school industry.  The Senate version of HB 97 strips out $27 million in immediate savings that school districts would have received as a result of changes in cyber charter school tuition payments  In addition, instead of improving what Auditor General Eugene DePasquale once called, “the worst charter school law in the nation,” HB 97 ensures that bad actors in the charter school sector will be able to continue to spend and waste taxpayer dollars without public oversight.  On Sunday, 32 members of the Senate rejected an amendment that would have made private charter school management organizations subject to PA’s Right to Know laws. PA lawmakers ensured that taxpayers would not be able to gain access to the financial records of these privately-operated, publicly-funded companies or learn how much they reap in profits off of taxpayer dollars that are meant to educate children.

Mythbusting PA’s EITC/OSTC Programs
Education Voters PA Posted on May 16, 2017 by EDVOPA
Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs funnel $125 million tax dollars into unaccountable private and religious schools in PA every year.  These scholarships are marketed as offering low-income students increased educational opportunities and “choice.”  In reality:
·            students in families that earn $106K/year are eligible for scholarships (these are not low-income students);
·            scholarships may be awarded to students who are already in private school (this doesn’t offer new opportunities); and
·            private/religious schools that receive this taxpayer funding are allowed to discriminate against any student for any reason (schools have a choice, not students).
To learn more, read our Mythbusting Tax Credits in the EITC/OSTC programs:

With a midnight deadline looming, 3 things to know about the #PaBudget: Monday Morning Coffee
Penn Live BY JOHN L. MICEK  jmicek@pennlive.com Updated on July 10, 2017 at 8:20 AM Posted on July 10, 2017 at 8:19 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Today is Monday July 10, and, in addition to being the start of another working week, it's a day fraught with more than a little symbolism.  That's because Gov. Tom Wolf has until midnight tonight to decide whether to sign, veto or allow to lapse into law the $32 billion spending document that landed on his desk 10 very long days ago.  So with that in mind, here are the three things you need to know as we start the day.

“Although the increase might be seen as a windfall for Pottstown, it pales in comparison to the $13 million the district is underfunded by the state’s failure to funnel all education funding through the fair funding formula adopted last year.  The formula is designed to take into account facts in the ground — community wealth, percentage of special education students, number of students enrolled, local tax effort — in determining how much basic and special education funding a district receives from the state, but currently only 6 percent of all education funding is determined by the formula.”
State budget provides 7% hike to Pottstown schools, less for others
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 07/10/17, 6:55 PM EDT | UPDATED: 8 HRS AGO
With the exception of Pottstown, local schools will receive funding increases of between 1 and 3 percent under the budget that Gov. Tom Wolf allowed to become law Monday without his signature.  According to a searchable database created by PennLive.com, Pottstown schools would see the largest state funding increase in the region — 6.7 percent or nearly $873,000.  The figures included in the database basic education, special education and Ready to Learn grants, but do not include the pension payments which continue to rise in Pennsylvania.  Pottstown Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez said those figures do not include the cuts to transportation funding, and said he believes Pottstown’s number is close to a $700,000 increase in a $62 million budget.

City’s public schools, education beneficiaries of new state budget
Philly Trib by Stacy M. Brown Tribune Harrisburg Correspondent Jul 8, 2017
After state lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a $32 billion budget that still has no defined plan in which to pay for it, many around the commonwealth have hailed the spending plan as a victory for public schools and for early childhood and special education.  Local lawmakers added that it’s a victory for Philadelphia area schools as well.  “For Philadelphia, this boost in education means an extra $34 million for basic and special education,” said State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, (D-Phila).  “If we invest that money wisely to capitalize on our children’s capacities and maximize the support and learning opportunities, then we really stand a good chance of setting our communities on a trajectory of success,” said Kinsey, a member of the House Appropriations Committee.  “This budget isn’t perfect, but I’m pleased that it includes several increases for education,” said State Rep. James Roebuck, (D-Phila).  “During former Gov. Tom Corbett’s four years in office, Pennsylvania’s education suffered major cuts and I’m also pleased that we were able to protect the $30 million in state funding for the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school.”  The bill includes $100 million more for basic education; $25 million more for special education; $25 million more for Pre-K Counts; and $5 million more for Head Start.

Pennsylvania Legislature considering bills to rework school lunch policies
Trib Live by JAMIE MARTINES  | Saturday, July 8, 2017, 11:45 p.m.
Under current law, Pennsylvania school districts create their own meal policies.
The State Department of Education provides assistance and resources, in cooperation with federal agencies, to schools that have families struggling to pay for lunch but do not qualify for free or reduced-price meals.  “The department encourages schools to make every attempt to see if a child is eligible for free/reduced meals, have a charge policy in place that is representative of the culture of the community and communicate that policy to all students and their families,” said Casey Smith, spokesperson for the State Department of Education.  Both houses of the state General Assembly are considering legislation that will make those guidelines more stringent.

Education update: Student-shaming over lunch debt, race to Malaysia and crunch time for Pa. budget
Trib Live NATASHA LINDSTROM  | Monday, July 10, 2017, 1:21 p.m.
Happy Monday, education news junkies.
With schools nationwide rethinking meal policies , the Trib's Jamie Martines delves into just how much lunchtime debt is weighing down Western Pennsylvania's school districts, and what school officials are doing or plan to do about it .  Related: Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering legislation that would make meal policies more stringent and explicitly prohibit the likes of shaming students who can't afford to pay.

“educators in rural areas are worried about cuts to funding in public schools”
School choice at the top of Betsy Devos' agenda
CBS JULY 8, 2017, 6:44 PM| Video Runtime 3:14
President Trump and Education Sec. Betsy Devos have placed school choice at the top of their education agenda. Their proposed agenda calls for hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for vouchers and charter schools. But some educators in rural areas are worried about cuts to funding in public schools. Jim Axelrod has more.

'This is a tax cut for the super-rich,' Sen. Bob Casey says of Senate healthcare bill
Penn Live BY JOHN L. MICEK  jmicek@pennlive.com Updated on July 10, 2017 at 5:24 PMPosted on July 10, 2017 at 3:22 PM
CARLISLE -- While GOP leaders in Washington scrambled to build support for a foundering healthcare bill, U.S. Sen. Bob Caseyfound himself playing a familiar role Monday:  Namely, helping to lead an opposition effort that he hopes will kill the GOP-authored legislation and lead to a bipartisan discussion about fixing the Affordable Care Act.  "This isn't a healthcare bill," Casey, D-Pa., said during a rally at the borough hall here Monday. "How can you call it a healthcare bill when 22 million people will lose their coverage [over the next decade]? ... They're calling it a healthcare bill. It's really a tax cut bill. It's a tax cut bill for the super-rich."

Toomey is on the right path to tame Medicaid: Opinion
Penn Live Updated on July 10, 2017 at 8:06 AMPosted on July 10, 2017 at 8:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Were it not for the provision that Pat Toomey, the Pennsylvania Republican, put into the Senate's proposed health care reform, this legislation would be moderately important but hardly momentous.  Toomey's provision, however, makes it this century's most significant domestic policy reform.  It required tenacity by Toomey to insert into the bill a gradually arriving, but meaningful, cap on the rate of growth of per-beneficiary Medicaid spending. It is requiring of Toomey and kindred spirits strenuous efforts to keep it there, which reveals the Republican Party's itch to slouch away from its uncomfortable but indispensable role as custodian of realism about arithmetic.

Advocacy Groups Issue Toolkit For Schools Navigating Health Care Law And Pending Changes
AASA/ASBO Press Release July 5, 2017
Reston, VA – July 5, 2017 – The Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, in partnership with American Fidelity, unveiled a new resource to help school system leaders understand the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Employer Mandate provision and other regulations of which district officials must be aware.
The toolkit, School Districts and the Future of the Affordable Care Act, was released today as public debate surrounding potential changes in the nation’s healthcare laws continues to escalate. While changes may be on the horizon, the ACA remains the law. “Although the future of the ACA remains unclear, school business managers and other district leaders are in desperate need of guidance to comply with the law as it currently stands,” said ASBO International Executive Director John Musso. “This resource helps K–12 employers do just that by navigating what are often considered confusing and burdensome regulations.”
The toolkit includes summaries of ACA rules, applicable calculation formulas and information on possible strategies for employers to consider when assessing the impact of the Employer Mandate on their organizations, contributions and eligibility.

Gerrymandering: Fair Districts PA Statewide Calendar of Events

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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