2017 PA SENATE SESSION SCHEDULE
September 18, 19, 20
October 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25
November 13, 14, 15
December 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20 2017
2017 PA HOUSE SESSION SCHEDULE
September 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 25, 26, 27
October 2, 3, 4, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25
November 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22
December 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20
Pa. legislators return Monday with budget crisis looming
By Marc Levy - Associated Press SEPTEMBER 9, 2017 BY TIMESLEADER
HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will return to session Monday for the first time in seven weeks as a lengthening budget stalemate is drawing warnings by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf that he is out of options to make payments on time. Hanging in the balance is $2.2 billion in program funding — about 7 percent of approved spending — and another downgrade to Pennsylvania’s battered credit rating. At issue is how to come up with the money to keep state agencies, programs, schools and institutions funded at levels supported overwhelmingly by Republican and Democratic lawmakers in a $32 billion spending agreement. A vote is expected this week on the latest plan, pushed by a group of House Republicans. If it fails, the next step is unclear for the House, led by Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny.
Erie schools funding at risk in budget twist
GoErie By Ed Palattella and Kevin Flowers Posted at 12:01 AM Updated at 6:22 AM
House GOP group’s budget proposal would eliminate $14 million included in spending package passed June 30. Talks expected to resume in Harrisburg on Monday.
As the General Assembly reconvenes on Monday, the Erie School District will be among those groups focused on the outcome of the long-delayed state budget talks. A proposal that a GOP faction in the state House of Representatives circulated last week would eliminate the additional $14 million in state funding for the Erie School District. The funding was included in the nearly $32 billion spending budget that lawmakers approved on June 30. The Republican-controlled General Assembly has yet to pass an accompanying revenue package, which has created the budget uncertainty. The complete budget was due by July 1. The Erie School District is counting on the $14 million, as well as the prospect of more additional state funding in the future, to stay solvent and continue it reconfiguration, which included the creation of Erie High by merging three of its four high schools at the former Central Career & Technical School. The district faces the real possibility of running out of money without the $14 million infusion, Superintendent Brian Polito said. “The loss of that money would be devastating,” he said. “But we are confident that our legislative delegation is advocating to keep that in the budget.”
Pennsylvania budget proposal is no miracle
Bill White Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call September 9, 2017
Couch Cushion Budget scheme is not miracle
When an Allentown Fair barker tells you that for $2 you will get to see a voluptuous headless centerfold model kept alive through a miracle of medical science, you're probably going to be somewhat skeptical. That's not to say you won't pay the $2 to see for yourself, at least if you're me. But you'll be doing it more for a laugh than a journey of scientific discovery. I brought my then-13-year-old son, Andrew, along with me to the fair one year to provide pocket reviews of some of the attractions, and he found the headless model less impressive than advertised. Andrew's Review: "It was just this junky like person sitting on a chair moving their hands and their legs around, and I guess her head was behind a little curtain, and there was a black collar she had on and it had fake blood on it or something. It was a total ripoff." I've long since come to the conclusion that we should be equally skeptical when it comes to politicians. When you look behind the curtain, there's almost always more or less to the story than what the barker is promising. Consider this recent news release from the House GOP the latest salvo in the state's endless budget impasse.
Wall Street boosts Philly school credit rating, praises Hite and city/state financials
Inquirer by Joseph N. DiStefano, Staff Writer @PhillyJoeD | JoeD@phillynews.com Updated: SEPTEMBER 8, 2017 — 3:49 PM EDT
Citing “considerable improvement in the district’s still-strained financial position,” Moody’s Investors Service on Friday upgraded the rating on $3 billion in Philadelphia School District bonds to Ba2, up a notch from its former rating, Ba3. Moody’s is one of the big Wall Street credit agencies that tells investors which borrowers are most likely to pay their bills. Higher ratings tend to attract more investors, and eventually to convince them to lend to the district at lower rates. Philadelphia school taxpayers have been paying millions of dollars a year in additional interest on the district’s borrowings to upgrade schools and other capital projects, compared to wealthy Main Line townships, Chester County, or fiscally responsible states like Delaware and Maryland that enjoy top triple-A ratings. The better rating “might bring more investors into the fold,” but the rating is still low enough that the city’s borrowing rates aren’t likely to drop much or at all anytime soon, said Eric Kazatsky, municipal bond analyst at Bloomberg LP.
Bucks County Congressman urges U.S. Supreme Court to limit extreme partisan gerrymandering in landmark case
Bucks Local News Sep 6, 2017 Updated Sep 6, 2017
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WASHINGTON, D.C. >> U.S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-08-Bucks) led dozens of current and former members of Congress in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to set a limit on extreme partisan gerrymandering in the landmark partisan gerrymandering case Gill v. Whitford. The case will be heard at the Supreme Court on October 3. “The Framers intended the House of Representatives to be the ‘People’s House’ – an institution directly accountable to the electorate through frequent and competitive elections,” said Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), one of the current members of Congress who weighed in. “Extreme partisan redistricting undermines constituent-focused representation and forces lawmakers to ideological extremes, growing the divide of partisanship that grinds the gears of government to a halt. Basic limits on extreme gerrymandering will make Congress a more representative institution by giving the American People fewer politicians and more independent voices focused on serving.”
Charter schools spin off building ownership to nonprofits, reap money from quirk in state law
Post Gazette REPORTING Rich Lord September 11, 2017
The five-story brick and concrete building overlooking Brighton Road in Perry South features a Propel schools banner over its front door, with signs for the charter network at every approach. The 99,155-square-foot Propel Northside is owned, though, by School Facilities Development Inc., a nonprofit corporation with a very narrow role: Leasing property to Propel. SFD’s ownership allows Propel to collect around $322,000 in annual lease reimbursements from the state -- money it wouldn’t get if it owned its school buildings. It’s an arrangement that had drawn criticism from the state’s top auditor and is threatened by proposed legislation. “You’ve created this nonprofit and sort of in a sense, you control it,” said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a critic of the state’s charter school law. “You’re getting a lease reimbursement for renting to yourself.”
Since 2004, SFD has spent $32.6 million buying a portfolio of seven schools, comprising most of Propel’s 11 locations. With no employees and just a few volunteers and part-time consultants, the nonprofit receives $3 million in annual lease payments from Propel schools, and after debt payments runs annual six-figure surpluses.
Well-regulated charters improve education for low-income students, author says
David Osborne spoke at an event sponsored by the Philadelphia Education Fund before an audience of movers and shakers, but few parents and teachers.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa and Avi Wolfman-Arent September 8, 2017 — 5:18pm
In remarks before a cross-section of the city’s elite, author David Osborne argued Friday that to improve education for poor students, cities such as Philadelphia should create more charter schools – as long as the expansion is accompanied by meaningful accountability. Osborne works for the Progressive Policy Institute, a moderate think tank, and served as a senior adviser to Vice President Al Gore in his 1993 effort to reinvent government. His talk at the Union League in Center City, a longtime haven for the city’s political and financial power brokers, and a subsequent roundtable discussion were organized by the Philadelphia Education Fund, which is led by School Reform Commissioner Farah Jimenez. Osborne’s new book Reinventing America’s Schools focuses on three cities that he said improved education for low-income students through charter growth with rigorously enforced performance standards: New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Denver.
Inequities in Pennsylvania’s Charter Sector: Segregation by Disability
Education Law Center Website February 2017
Published in February 2017, this analysis explains how Pennsylvania’s charter schools serve disproportionately fewer of the state’s vulnerable students than traditional public schools, too often segregating students by type of disability. Federal and state laws are clear that charter schools must provide quality public options for all pupils. With respect to students eligible for special education under Pennsylvania law and the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the data demonstrates that, even where charter schools are serving proportionate numbers of students with disabilities in line with their share of the overall student population, the charter sector by and large does not educate students with disabilities who require higher cost aids and services—e.g. students with intellectual disabilities, serious emotional disturbance, and multiple disabilities. Instead, the charter sector serves students with disabilities who require lower cost aids and services, such as speech and language impairment and specific learning disabilities.
Blogger note: here’s another perspective on the David Osborne event held at the Union League on Friday.
A scrappy parent takes on the bow tie man.
Wrench in the Gears Bog by Allison McDowell September 9,2017
Or, how my day would have been very different had I worn khakis.
This is a story about access. Who has it, who doesn’t, and how in order to save public education, people like my friend Tomika Anglin and I who both had to push back after the system attempted to push us to the margins, need to take a page from the Ed Reform 2.0 handbook and start actively disrupting. Showing up (and sometimes sitting down) can build awareness of critical issues and catalyze the direct action we need to ramp up our defense of neighborhood schools against predatory venture capitalists and the so-called “community partners” who benefit from education austerity budgets. The latter, those non-profits NOT actively speaking out to secure public funds for public schools but rather accepting funds from private interests to fill the myriad gaps created in our schools through intentional defunding, are not acting in good faith and are not allies. It was a busy morning. Before I hopped on my bike into Center City Philadelphia I double-checked my supplies. I had printed a paper copy of my Eventbrite ticket to “Educate Philly: Rethinking America’s Schools,” a reformy book launch and panel discussion over breakfast with David Osborne of the “radically pragmatic” Progressive Policy Institute. The event page noted “If you believe in the virtues of a public education AND are willing to be challenged – join us for breakfast this Friday, September 8th for a compelling conversation on public education.”
Editorial: In defense of charter schools
Intelligencer Editorial by Bloomberg View September 9, 2017
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Charter schools have traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support. That's because they deliver results: Students who attend nonprofit charter schools on average learn more and have higher college graduation rates than kids at traditional public schools. Yet recent surveys reveal that charters are losing Americans' support. Even among Republicans, who once hailed charters for introducing competition into the public-school system, support has fallen to less than 50 percent. Charter schools are, to an extent, victims of their own success. The number of students attending charter schools has doubled in the last decade, to more than 2.5 million. In 14 big cities, including Philadelphia, charters now enroll more than 30 percent of all public-school students. This has not made them immune to attack. Because charter schools operate independently, their growth poses an existential threat to teachers' unions. The country's largest union has called for a moratorium on the establishment of some new charters, a cause picked up by other advocacy groups. Last fall, opponents of charters helped defeat a ballot referendum in Massachusetts that would have lifted caps on the number of new charters in the state. That President Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos, his education secretary, support charter schools, meanwhile, has soured Democrats on them even more, tarring charters unfairly by association.
After last year's melee, Cheltenham students return to strict new rules at school
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer @Kathy_Boccella | firstname.lastname@example.org Updated: SEPTEMBER 11, 2017 — 5:32 AM EDT
As teachers and students streamed into Cheltenham High School for the first day of classes last Tuesday, they were greeted by the sight of the district superintendent, Dr. Wagner Marseille, doling out coffee and doughnuts — a symbolic gesture, perhaps, to wash away the bitter taste from the last school year that ended in controversy and rancor. The breakfast treat served as a small harbinger of major changes that Cheltenham School District is implementing to tackle the disciplinary crisis that unfolded last spring after a wild brawl in the hallway in the 1,500-student high school left a teacher unconscious, led to student arrests, and produced embarrassing viral videos. Since then, the district has hired “climate and culture” administrators and new safety and mental health staffers, implemented a stricter code of student conduct, and brought back homeroom periods, which will include a moment of “mindfulness” to start the day.
Does Philly's new grading policy level the playing field or lower standards?
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer @newskag | email@example.com Updated: SEPTEMBER 8, 2017 — 3:30 PM EDT
For the Philadelphia School District, a new term brings a controversial new grading policy — one that either levels the playing field for students or weakens academic standards, depending on whom you ask. In the past, students who earned a 64 or below flunked, and teachers had latitude to enter report-card grades as low as zero for students who did no work. Beginning with report cards issued in November, pupils who receive grades from 60 to 69 will pass with D’s, and no scores lower than a 50 will be permitted. Teachers at the high-school level are also being directed to use uniform standards for assigning those report-card grades — using test marks to make up 40 percent of a student’s grade, 30 percent for performance-based learning such as projects and labs, 20 percent for classwork, and 10 percent for homework.
Teachers in four area school districts working under expired contracts
Intelligencer By Chris English, staff writer September 11, 2017
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Teachers and other professionals in their unions in the Bensalem Township, Bristol Borough, New Hope-Solebury and North Penn school districts all are working under expired contracts, though that situation soon could change in North Penn. School district spokeswoman Christine Liberaski said tentative new deals have been reached with both the North Penn teachers and support staff unions, and the school board is scheduled to vote on both contracts at its Sept. 14 meeting. She said details would not be released until after the deals are approved by the board. "However, we are pleased that we began the school year as we did, with all parties moving forward with tentative agreements," Liberaski wrote in an email.
Nestled in House Spending Bill: Campaign Finance Deregulation
House package is unlikely to advance in the Senate, but provisions easing rules for companies and churches could become bargaining chips
Wall Street Journal By Cezary Podkul Updated Sept. 10, 2017 8:17 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—House Republicans are backing several provisions that could reshape campaign-finance rules ahead of next year’s midterm elections as spending negotiations continue this fall. The measures are included in a GOP package of spending bills being debated in the House. While the House package is unlikely to advance in the Senate, its provisions could become bargaining chips in the negotiations leading up to the next government-funding deadline, now Dec. 8. Under one deregulatory measure in the spending package, churches may be able to contribute to candidates without fear of losing their tax-exempt status, furthering President Donald Trump’s promise to “get rid of and totally destroy” a law that forbids such activity. Corporations also would be able to ask their employees to donate to unlimited numbers of trade associations’ political-action groups instead of limiting employee solicitations to one group per year. Other measures included in the bill would continue to prevent the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission from implementing rules that would affect political activities of 501(C)(4) nonprofits and publicly traded corporations, respectively. And the government would still be prohibited from requiring federal contractors to disclose their political contributions and campaign expenditures.
Congressmen Target 'Relic of Ugly History' in Education Spending Bill
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on September 8, 2017 4:57 PM
A little-known provision buried deep in every education spending bill since at least 1974 bars school districts from using federal funding to cover the transportation costs of racially desegregating schools. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the top Democrat on the House education committee, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus want it gone. Scott tried to introduce an amendment scrapping the language to an education spending bill currently under consideration in Congress. But the amendment was nixed by the House Rules Committee, a gatekeeper panel that decides what changes lawmakers can offer to a particular bill once it reaches the House floor. Speaking on the floor in the early morning hours Friday, Scott said that he was he was "appalled" that the Republicans in control of the chamber chose not to allow a vote on the amendment. He called the provision, "a relic of ugly history when states and school districts across the nation resisted meaningful integration of public of education for decades after the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education."
CONSIDER IT: SCHOOL CHOICE AND THE CASES FOR TRADITIONAL PUBLIC EDUCATION AND CHARTER SCHOOLS
September 19 @ 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM Hilton Reading
Registration Opens Tuesday, September 26, 2017