Friday, July 7, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 7: S&P threatens to cut PA credit rating

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

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup July 7, 2017:


Blogger note: #HB97 Charter Expansion bill is in the Senate Appropriations Committee.  If your state senator is a member of that committee please consider contacting them regarding the charter bill.

PASA Update on Status of HB97 Charter School Bill
PA Association of School Administrators Website July 3, 2017



PASA recommends the following changes in charter school law:

*The funding formula for charter school entities must be changed to reflect the actual cost needed to educate students in these alternative environments.

*The cost of special education students attending charter school entities must reflect the actual cost to instruct the students through the IEP process.

*Over-identification of special education students by charter school entities must be addressed.

*Professional educators in charter school entities must meet the same certification requirements as educators in traditional public schools.

*Charter schools must be evaluated by the same measures as traditional public schools to ensure the public can compare the effectiveness of all educational entities supported by public tax dollars.

*Public school districts must have the authority to properly oversee and evaluate charter schools.

*The Charter School Appeal Board must consist of neutral, bi-partisan members that will be objective in the hearing process.

*Billing discrepancies between school districts and charter school entities should be reconciled between the two agencies.  The process of automatic withholding of subsidies from school districts based on a charter school entity claim must cease.

*Charter school entities must display the same level of transparency with their finances that are required of traditional public school districts.

*The enrollment and selection process of charter school entity students must be transparent and free of any form of discrimination.

*More scrutiny and review must be applied to cyber charter school entities as their academic performance is significantly lower than brick-and-mortar charter schools and traditional public schools.



PA Senate, House Reconvene
Crisci Associates Posted by PA Capitol Digest at 12:06 PM July 6, 2017
Senate reconvenes Saturday at 1:00, planning 4 days in Harrisburg.  House comes back Friday at 11:00.

House GOP leader: No agreements in Pennsylvania budget talks
Delco Times By Marc Levy, The Associated Press  POSTED: 07/06/17, 3:32 PM EDT 
HARRISBURG >> The Republican leader in the GOP-controlled Pennsylvania House of Representatives says there haven’t been any agreements reached in a six-day-old budget stalemate over the state’s deficit-ridden finances.  Majority Leader Dave Reed told House GOP members in a Thursday memo that he’s also opposed to a “broad-based” tax increase and favors trying to raise money by expanding casino-style gambling and further privatizing the sale of wine and liquor in Pennsylvania.  Critics say it’s too unreliable to try to balance the budget by expanding gambling or selling more wine and liquor licenses.  Reed’s memo comes as top lawmakers negotiate a revenue package in private and Standard and Poor’s warns that Pennsylvania faces another credit downgrade if the state doesn’t improve its finances. A downgrade increases the cost of government borrowing.

Nearly a week into stalemate, "no agreements" on budget revenue
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 7, 2017 6:00 AM
 (Harrisburg) - A state budget standoff has been going strong since lawmakers passed a spending plan Friday, but no revenue package to pay for it.  As members return from their Independence Day recess, House and Senate Republican leaders don't appear much closer to a consensus.     The budget that's currently sitting on Governor Tom Wolf's desk becomes law automatically at midnight on Monday--even if it's not balanced. If that happens, credit rating agencies are already warning of possible downgrades.  The conflict is coming down to differing views among GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate.  In a strongly worded note to members, House Leader Dave Reed defended his caucus' proposed revenue plan, saying that "to just walk away from legitimate concepts in favor of tax increase after tax increase is just not realistic or acceptable."  He struck a pessimistic tone, saying while the House will compromise, members won't "completely abandon" their proposals.  Senate GOP spokeswoman Jenn Kocher countered that the House's proposals were never realistic in the first place.  "The House has to remember that they were two billion dollars out of balance in the budget they presented, and never closed that gap. And now we are left with trying to close that gap," she said.

A credit downgrade for Pennsylvania would raise the cost of borrowing money.
Inquirer by Joseph N. DiStefano, Staff Writer  @PhillyJoeD |  JoeD@phillynews.com Updated: JULY 6, 2017 — 12:50 PM EDT
S&P Global Ratings threatened Thursday to cut Pennsylvania’s AA- general-obligation bond rating a notch, which would likely drive up taxpayers’ annual borrowing costs. The “negative credit watch” warning “reflects Pennsylvania’s eroding financial position and our view that there is a significant likelihood that the commonwealth will not enact a structurally balanced budget for fiscal 2018” over the next three months, said analyst Carol Spain in a statement.  Though the General Assembly has “passed a $32 billion spending plan,” members can only count on $30 billion in tax income, and haven’t said where they’ll get the other $2 billion, Spain noted. Gov. Wolf “has 10 days to sign or veto the spending plan or to let it lapse into law” while the Republican legislature weighs a last-minute revenue deal.

Deficit-ridden Pennsylvania warned of another hit to credit
Post Gazette by MARC LEVY Associated Press 12:49 PM JUL 6, 2017
HARRISBURG — A credit rating agency is putting Pennsylvania on notice that it faces another downgrade that increases the cost of government borrowing if the state doesn’t improve its finances.  Standard and Poor’s on Thursday said putting Pennsylvania on a negative “creditwatch” reflects Pennsylvania’s eroding financial position. It says it also reflects its view that there’s a “significant likelihood” that Pennsylvania state government won’t pass a structurally balanced budget for the fiscal year that began Saturday.  Pennsylvania is struggling with an entrenched post-recession deficit, and credit downgrades in 2012 through 2014 left Pennsylvania with among the nation’s lowest ratings. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says the move “is an urgent call to action” for a long-term budget solution.  Republican legislative leaders are considering borrowing money and expanding casino-style gambling to help balance the budget.

S&P Tells Pennsylvania: Balance Budget or Face Rating Downgrade
Bloomberg.com By Martin Z Braun July 6, 2017, 12:42 PM EDT
·         Budget passed by legislature leaves $2 billion deficit
·         It’s uncertain whether revenue raising steps will follow
Pennsylvania’s bond rating may be downgraded as its finances erode and the state risks enacting a budget that leaves it on track to spend more than it brings in, S&P Global Ratings said.  S&P placed the Keystone State’s AA- rating on negative watch after it failed to enact a spending plan before the fiscal year began on July 1. The Senate and House have since passed a $32 billion budget that falls $2 billion short in revenue. Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has 10 days to sign, veto or let it become law without his signature. It’s not clear whether legislators will agree on a revenue-boosting package by July 10, S&P said.  “While it is not uncommon for states to have periodic structural imbalance, Pennsylvania’s chronic misalignment and eroding general fund position, particularly during a period of economic growth, demonstrate a pattern of financial mismanagement," S&P said in a statement. “If legislators enact a budget that relies on what we view as optimistic assumptions or one-time sources, we would likely lower the rating."

Editorial: No plan to fund new state budget
Intelligencer Editorial July 6, 2017
Let's all give a cheer for Pennsylvania state lawmakers, who last week agreed on a new state budget with hours to spare before the midnight June 30 deadline.  Now, take a deep breath and offer a rousing Bronx cheer for the manner in which the nearly $32 billion spending bill was passed: with no plan on how to pay for it.  This, apparently, is how our state senators and representatives define responsible budgeting. Never mind that a budget, any budget, is essentially meaningless without a revenue component. What makes the Legislature's action all the more bizarre is that Pennsylvania faces a projected shortfall of more than $2 billion for the just completed fiscal year and the one that began on Saturday. Given the haggling that's been going on in Harrisburg for weeks about how to plug the deficit, where that kind of money comes from is anyone's guess.  Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is publicly praising the new spending plan crafted by the Republican-dominated Legislature, in large part because it increases spending on some of Wolf's priorities: public education, early childhood and special education, and services for the intellectually disabled.  But at this writing, he hadn't indicated he would sign the budget bill before a revenue package also clears both houses.

EdVotersPA: PA Senate approves guns in classrooms, HB 97 on tap
Education Voters PA Posted on June 29, 2017 EDVOPAPosted in Uncategorized
By a vote of 28 to 22, the PA Senate approved SB 383, a bill that allows teachers and other school employees to carry concealed, loaded firearms in public schools.
Each school board will decide if it will allow teachers and employees to carry weapons in its district’s schools. Each board’s firearm access policy, including the names of those who will be armed, must be on file with law enforcement agencies that serve the school district. However, this plan would NOT be subject to PA’s Right to Know law. School boards would be prohibited from sharing with parents and community members which teachers and school employees in buildings are armed.  Employees who wish to carry weapons into classrooms will need to have some firearms training, possess a concealed carry license, and pass a psychological exam. There is no limit on the number of employees in a school who could be armed and the bill contains no guidelines about the safe storage of weapons in schools.

Why study history? A bill before the Pa. Senate is only part of the answer: Opinion
Penn Live GUEST EDITORIAL By John Fea Updated on July 6, 2017 at 8:34 AMPosted on July 6, 2017 at 8:30 AM
John Fea chairs the history department at Messiah College. He is the author of "Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past."
Legislation now before the Pennsylvania Senate (SB723) would require Commonwealth high school students to take a history and civics test identical to the one taken by immigrants seeking naturalized citizenship in the United States.   According to the bill's co-sponsors, Sens. John C. Rafferty, R-Montgomery, and Andrew Dinniman, D-Chester, knowledge of basic American history and civics is on the decline in Pennsylvania.  Citing a 2016 survey from the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, only 26 percent of adults were able to identify the three branches of the United States Government.   According to Rafferty and Dinniman, "this is not an acceptable percentage."  If the bill passes, students will be required to take a test modeled off of the 100 question exam that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers to citizenship candidates.

School Reform Commission approves new in-house special education program
The District downscaled the proposal after advocates complained, but concerns linger.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa and Avi Wolfman-Arent July 6, 2017 — 4:29pm
The School Reform Commission voted Thursday to establish a new in-house special education program for 100 students, most diagnosed with social-emotional disabilities and now placed in facilities run by Wordsworth. The new program will be run initially by the private education provider Catapult Learning before transitioning to full District control.  The vote, which was unanimous, came after hearing from parents and advocates for disabled students who want a firmer commitment from the School District to work toward educating these students, and others with similar needs, as much as possible in regular classrooms with extra support.  The proposal adopted Thursday is significantly smaller than the original contract with Catapult, which was for $36 million over three years and could have served up to 600 students. This contract is for $10 million over three years and is capped at 100 students.  The District plans to set up the program in three schools, according to Cheryl Logan, the District’s chief academic support officer. The two sites chosen are Frankford High School and Penrose Elementary in Southwest Philadelphia.


“While BDEA’s approach to education may once have been a radical departure from the norm, educators say it’s gaining in popularity and becoming a role model for others. For one, its strategies work: According to school administrators, 65 percent of its students graduate from BDEA or get a general equivalency degree (GED), 70 percent of its graduates go on to college, and the school has one of the lowest suspension rates in Massachusetts, despite several gang affiliations among its students.”
'Last Chance' schools prove to be best chance for struggling students
Alternative high schools, such as one in Boston, offer lessons in how to reach students who might otherwise drop out.
Christian Science Monitor by Natalie Gross The Hechinger Report JULY 5, 2017
At Boston Day and Evening Academy, there are no such things as freshmen, F's, or detention.  Sixteen-year-olds share classrooms with 20-somethings, students earn diplomas at their own pace, and if anyone has a problem with a peer, they’re encouraged to talk about it like adults. It is features like these that have helped former high school dropouts such as Rocheli Burgos – and other students who have struggled in school – get a second chance at earning a diploma.  After giving birth to her son in 2011, Ms. Burgos dropped out of her old school when counselors told her that she didn’t have enough credits to pass ninth grade. Burgos then discovered this alternative high school in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, where students aren’t placed in classes by age or transcript, but by what they know. She was 17, battling severe depression and dealing with a fallout with her family that would soon leave her homeless.  At the Boston Day and Evening Academy (BDEA), Burgos found a curriculum that made it possible to take breaks and start where she left off, so she wouldn’t have to repeat an entire class when her son’s long hospital stays for chronic asthma meant missing a month or two of school. She met teachers who checked in with her on the weekends to make sure she was doing okay – and not just academically. Soon she began to thrive.

“Maybe more importantly, Republicans in Congress don't seem terribly excited about the school choice proposals in the budget, which come at the expense of long-standing education programs. And lawmakers—and maybe even the Trump administration—don't seem poised to include the tax credit scholarships as part of a broader overhaul of the tax code, the most likely vehicle.”
Trump Administration's School Choice Plans: Four Questions to Ask
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on July 6, 2017 7:49 AM
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos took over the Education department, first and foremost, to move the ball forward on school choice, her long-time passion. She's been in the job less than six months, but already, time may be running out to get a sweeping school choice initiative over the finish line, at least this year.  One big reason: There have been broad, school choice proposals floated, but no details.  The Trump administration has been signaling for months that it may push for a federal tax credit scholarship program, allowing individuals and companies to get a break on their taxes if they donate to a scholarship-granting organization. That could help low-income or special needs students cover private school. But it's July, and there aren't specifics on that. (Sources say that there could be details soon, however.)   President Donald Trump's budget includes some new initiatives aimed at ramping up school choice, including $250 million for a private school voucher demonstration program, and allowing $1 billion in Title I money to follow students to the public school of their choice. But, again, there are ton of questions—both big picture and nitty-gritty—about how those proposals would work

An inside look at how the Koch brothers are flexing their political muscle to spread message of school choice, ESAs
From Colorado Springs, the campaign for educational savings accounts – criticized for diverting money from public schools — is shaped to deploy nationwide
By JOHN FRANK | jfrank@denverpost.com | The Denver Post PUBLISHED: June 28, 2017 at 3:50 am | UPDATED: June 28, 2017 at 3:55 pm
COLORADO SPRINGS — In a nondescript office building on the north side of this conservative enclave, more than a dozen volunteers spent hours making calls to educate voters about a new initiative that will allow parents to use taxpayer dollars to send children to private schools. At the same time, just miles down the road, the political network behind the effort gathered hundreds of its wealthiest donors at a posh mountainside resort to raise money to support the campaign to remake the education system.  The confluence of policy and politics epitomized how the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch flex their organization’s muscle and spread an ideological agenda in states across the nation.  “The value of this network cannot be overstated,” said Stacy Hock, a Koch donor and conservative education advocate in Texas. “The ability to stand on the shoulders of the giant that is this network to make yourself more impactful and strategic changes the game.”  The phone calls to middle-of-the-road voters and presentation to donors in Colorado last week were part of the Koch network’s six-figure campaign to promote school choice and education savings accounts, or ESAs.

Letter to Members of Congress Outlining Priorities for Federal Scholarship Tax Credit
Committee on Catholic Education June 9, 2017
As Chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to propose principles for a federal tax credit scholarship program. First, I offer my appreciation for your leadership in encouraging true choice for parents and their children. Our shared Catholic faith teaches us that parents are the first and primary teachers of their children and that any delegation of that authority should be empowered by the public authority while always remaining at the parents’ discretion. A federal tax credit is in keeping with that vision. The design of a federal program empowering parental choice in education is of utmost concern to the Catholic education community. As you design a federal tax credit for K-12 scholarships, please consider the following principles:


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.
http://myemail.constantcontact.com/PASCD-Conference-Registration-is-Now-Open.html?soid=1101415141682&aid=5F-ceLtbZDs


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