Thursday, November 30, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 30: Of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy…GOP tax bill could move in the Senate this week

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 30, 2017:
Of the wealthy, by the wealthy, for the wealthy…GOP tax bill could move in the Senate this week

Senate begins debate on GOP tax overhaul
Inquirer Updated: NOVEMBER 29, 2017 — 7:27 PM EST
WASHINGTON — The largest tax package in more than three decades has cleared a key procedural vote in the Senate as Republican lawmakers work to give President Donald Trump the biggest legislative victory of his first year in office. The Senate voted 52-48 Wednesday to start debating the bill, which would provide generous tax cuts to businesses and more modest tax cuts to families and individuals. It was a party-line vote, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats opposed. Wednesday’s vote paves the way for the Senate to potentially pass the bill later this week. Lawmakers would then try to reconcile it with a tax package passed by the House.

Where the House and Senate GOP Tax Bills Differ on Education
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on November 29, 2017 11:44 AM
It's crunch time for the Republican tax overhaul bills. But will education and educators get squeezed when the clock expires? GOP senators are trying to reach a final vote on a tax package in the next few days. Then they can huddle with House Republican lawmakers—who have already passed their own tax bill—and hammer out a final bill to take back to each chamber. Ideally they want to finish work and send a bill to President Donald Trump before Christmas. But right now, the bills don't treat K-12 issues exactly the same. Here are a few key differences between them.

New York Times editorial board issues rare call to action to oppose GOP tax bill
Politico By CRISTIANO LIMA 11/29/2017 01:08 PM EST
The New York Times editorial board openly urged voters to contact their congressional representatives to express opposition to the Senate GOP tax reform bill on Wednesday, a rare move by one of the most prominent editorial boards in the country. "This morning, The New York Times Editorial Board is tweeting here to urge the Senate to reject a tax bill that hurts the middle class & the nation's fiscal health," the board wrote on The New York Times opinion section's official Twitter account. The @nytopinion account's Twitter bio was changed to say the editorial board was "temporarily taking over" the platform. In a series of tweets, the account listed the phone numbers for the congressional offices of several key Republican senators in the ongoing debate over the GOP tax bill. They included Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bob Corker of Tennessee, James Lankford of Oklahoma and Jerry Moran of Kansas. The seven lawmakers are considered to be persuadable votes in the GOP's effort to overhaul the tax code, though some in the group have indicated they will support the bill.

Trump's Tax Promises Undercut by CEO Plans to Help Investors
Bloomberg News By Toluse Olorunnipa November 29, 2017, 4:00 AM EST Updated on November 29, 2017, 1:43 PM EST
Major companies including Cisco Systems Inc.Pfizer Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. say they’ll turn over most gains from proposed corporate tax cuts to their shareholders, undercutting President Donald Trump’s promise that his plan will create jobs and boost wages for the middle class. The president has held fast to his pledge even as top executives’ comments have run counter to it for months. Instead of hiring more workers or raising their pay, many companies say they’ll first increase dividends or buy back their own shares.

Universities worry about ramifications of proposed tax bill
BILL SCHACKNER Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6:30 AM
NOV 30, 2017
Abby Cartus has worked for years to earn entry to the doctoral program in epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, and she loves her chosen field. But lately she is feeling dread.
It’s not the workload or job prospects that suddenly are weighing on her. Rather, it is legislation racing through Congress that is touted as tax relief but could send her own bill skyrocketing, driving the 29-year-old North Side resident from campus and dashing her career ambition. She said her stipend as a graduate assistant barely covers rent, car payments and other living expenses and would be unsustainable except for a tax-free tuition waiver she receives from Pitt on her $26,000-plus classroom bill. If a congressional proposal to tax that benefit as income becomes law, she said, it would cost her $5,000 — a quarter of her yearly stipend — and make it impossible to continue. “It’s genuinely terrifying,” Ms. Cartus said. “If I have to drop out of school, I will have lost almost four years of work. It shouldn’t be this hard to do science.”

Killing Higher Ed
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Wednesday, November 29, 2017
I will say this for the current GOP regime-- where there have been few features that can distinguish their ed policies of their Democratic predecessors, they are managing to find and underline one. Obama-Duncan-et. al paid lip service to the goal of a college education and made the college entry rate one of the centerpieces of their programs. But the GOP is making itself equally clear that college sucks, that it is an institution that they neither respect nor love. Some data suggests this attitude is a recent development, though as with many ugly attitudes abroad these days, it could be that the anti-college feelings have always been there, but now feel a new-found freedom to tromp around in the light of day. But the anti-college crowd is not just tromping around-- they have begun tromping on the institution itself, with policies designed to kill higher education as we know it. Today's Wall Street Journal covers the House GOP's higher education package (I know-- paywall-- but if we use WSJ coverage, we can be assured that no liberal bias is tainting the report). The proposal ordinarily would face a long year of hearings and revisions, but these days, God only knows. But we need to pay attention, because the bill is ugly. Ugly.

Faith leaders write to Senate leadership opposing tax plan
The Hill BY AVERY ANAPOL - 11/29/17 05:02 PM EST 114
Hundreds of faith leaders from around the country signed onto a letter opposing the GOP tax plan that advocates delivered to Senate leaders on Wednesday, saying the plan "violates our moral principles of equality, justice and fairness." More than 2,400 representatives from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist and other faith traditions signed the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). “We call on Congress to oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act due to our strong belief that this bill is fiscally irresponsible, endangers our country’s economic health, and disproportionately benefits the wealthy at the expense of vulnerable people and low-income families,” the letter reads. “Moreover, we have grave concerns over the manner in which such a large and complex bill, affecting the entire economy and millions of Americans, is being recklessly rushed through Congress,” they wrote.

AARP: 5.2 million seniors could see taxes increased by GOP bill
The Hill BY JOHN BOWDEN - 11/29/17 04:07 PM EST 399
Millions of senior citizens could see tax increases under the Senate version of the GOP's tax-reform plan, according to an analysis from the AARP. In an article published Wednesday on the group's website, the AARP's vice president and policy director argue that 1 in 5 seniors, about 6.3 million taxpayers, will see either no change or a tax increase in 2019 under the plan passed by the Senate Budget Committee. Of those individuals, 1.2 million people would get a tax hike. The authors argue that number will jump "more than four times" by 2027 to 5.2 million seniors "as a result of sunsetting the middle-class tax cuts." Another issue of concern for older Americans, the AARP says, is the automatic cuts to Medicare and other services under the GOP plan.

“With a potentially far-reaching dimension, elements in both the House and Senate bills could constrain the ability of states and local governments to levy their own taxes, pressuring them to limit spending on health care, education, public transportation and social services. In their longstanding battle to shrink government, Republicans have found in the tax bill a vehicle to broaden the fight beyond Washington.”
It Started as a Tax Cut. Now It Could Change American Life.
New York Times By PETER S. GOODMAN and PATRICIA COHEN NOV. 29, 2017
The tax plan has been marketed by President Trump and Republican leaders as a straightforward if enormous rebate for the masses, a $1.5 trillion package of cuts to spur hiring and economic growth. But as the billhas been rushed through Congress with scant debate, its far broader ramifications have come into focus, revealing a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care. Some of this re-engineering is straight out of the traditional Republican playbook. Corporate taxes, along with those on wealthy Americans, would be slashed on the presumption that when people in penthouses get relief, the benefits flow down to basement tenements. Some measures are barely connected to the realm of taxation, such as the lifting of a 1954 ban on political activism by churches and the conferring of a new legal right for fetuses in the House bill — both on the wish list of the evangelical right.

Wolf pushes for reauthorization of Children’s Health Insurance Program
Centre Daily Times BY LORI FALCE NOVEMBER 29, 2017 07:04 PM
Pennsylvania became the latest state to take on the ticking countdown clock that could show the end of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CHIP is a program jointly funded by the federal government and individual states that provides health care coverage to qualifying kids — the ones whose parents can’t afford to pay for insurance but whose income isn’t low enough to merit medical assistance. Nationwide, 8.9 million kids are covered under the program, according to Medicaid statistical information for 2016. The program expired on Sept. 30, and some states are starting to approach the end of their funding. On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf addressed the issue in a statement.

Governor Wolf: Congress Must Take CHIP Kids Off Back-Burner
Governor Wolf’s Website November 29, 2017
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf released the following statement on Congress being two months late to reauthorize the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired on September 30, 2017:
“Right now, the Republican-controlled Congress is steamrolling through a massive tax cut for the ultra-wealthy. Yet, it has not found time to simply reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program that benefits more than 9 million children and expecting mothers. This is a complete abdication of responsibility and it is creating unnecessary anxiety for families around the Holidays. “Pennsylvania will run out of funding for this program in the first quarter of next year. But some states will not be as lucky. The tax cuts for the wealthy and health care repeal votes prove that Congress can do things expeditiously. By letting this program expire and languish, Congress is telling 176,000 kids in Pennsylvania that they don’t care about them. Our children should be Congress’ top priority, not forced to the backburner. “These families deserve better from Washington and they should reauthorize CHIP before one child suffers as a result of their inaction.”

Editorial: Pa. legislators suffering from gas (tax) pain
Daily Local News Editorial POSTED: 11/27/17, 5:55 PM EST 
Now that we have completed our annual day of thanks, we can go back to our normal routine, in other words the things we are not thankful for. Here in Pennsylvania, that usually starts at the top, in this case the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. In case you did not notice, that funding plan our elected representatives cobbled together a few weeks back did not exactly have the financial experts who review Pennsylvania’s bleak fiscal condition doing cartwheels. The House plans a huge boost in legalizing gambling and a big boost in borrowing to cover the $2 billion – and growing – state deficit included in that $32 billion spending plan. The House will dip into the fund set aside for the money derived from that huge settlement with tobacco companies. But nothing the House did really addresses the state’s basic need for a solid, recurring source of income. Not that they did not have the opportunity. But the House Republican leadership continues to avoid anything that smells of a tax hike. That, of course, would include a severance tax on the state’s natural gas industry.

“The statewide base, announced by the state Department of Education, is down slightly from 2.5 percent for the 2017-18 school year. Most district's adjusted limits went down by the same amount. The limits are set as part of the state's Taxpayer Relief Act, Act 1 of 2006. The statewide index is based on the statewide average weekly wage and the employment cost index; it is then adjusted for each school district, with poorer districts being able to increase property taxes more than wealthier ones.”
State sets limits on 2018-19 school district tax increases
Trib Live by BRIAN C. RITTMEYER | Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, 7:39 a.m.
Pennsylvania school districts will be able to increase property taxes by at least 2.4 percent in the 2018-19 school year. In the Alle-Kiski Valley, districts could increase property taxes from the statewide base of 2.4 percent, up to 3.6 percent. Districts at the base are Allegheny Valley, Fox Chapel and Riverview; those that could increase taxes the most are Apollo-Ridge and New Kensington-Arnold. Districts can only exceed their limits if they seek approval from voters at a referendum, or get referendum exceptions from the state. Exceptions are only available for school construction debt, special education spending and retirement contributions.

Trump administration halts school lunch salt reduction
Inquirer by MARIA DANILOVA, The Associated Press Updated: NOVEMBER 29, 2017 5:38 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it is pausing enforcement of an Obama-era plan to further reduce the amount of salt in school lunches.
The Obama administration had set targets that envisioned school reducing the amount of sodium in school meals each year. But the Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service said Wednesday that it would keep the current targets for sodium levels reductions unchanged through 2019. Those targets are currently not more than 1,230 mg per meal for elementary, 1,360mg for middle and 1,420 mg for high schools. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said previously that relaxing the restrictions is necessary because children simply don't eat the healthier meals and the food gets thrown away. The Trump administration has also been pushing for deregulation across many agencies. But Margo Wootan with the Center for Science in the Public interest criticized the decision, saying that the current high school lunch target represented two-thirds of a child's daily sodium intake and needed to be lowered.

Upper Darby delays vote on tax break for new hotel
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, on Twitter POSTED: 11/29/17, 8:37 PM EST
UPPER DARBY >> A lack of quorum of the Upper Darby School Board killed a Tuesday vote on a temporary tax exemption resolution for a 100-room hotel slated to open in the township next year. Only four school board members were present when voting was to commence to adopt a Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance (LERTA) resolution for the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites at the Drexelbrook Catering & Special Events Center in Drexel Hill, a six-floor structure that is under construction on a township-designated LERTA parcel with an opening date set for July. If adopted, the resolution would hold off on collecting all property taxes for five years on the assessed value of the hotel only. With no tax collection in 2019 under the resolution, the hotel would be taxed at just 20 percent of the total assessment in 2020, and increasing the rate 20 percent each year until the full collection rate starts in 2024.

Haverford OKs rules to make schools more trans-friendly
Delco Times By Lois Puglionesi, Times Correspondent POSTED: 11/29/17, 8:36 PM EST
HAVERFORD >> School directors voted unanimously at a recent meeting to adopt new policy created for the purpose of protecting rights and meeting needs of gender expansive and transgender students. Developed by a district-wide Inclusivity Committee in collaboration with psychologist Jeanne Stanley, Board Policy 259, Ensuring Equity and Non-discrimination for Gender Expansive and Transgender Students, affirms Haverford’s commitment to providing “a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students and employees,” with equal access to educational programs and activities. Policy articulates the board’s support for ensuring that gender expansive and transgender students “are provided such equal opportunity and access to programs, services and activities.” Also approved was an accompanying set of administrative regulations offering guidance to district staff “regarding issues relating to gender expansive and transgender individuals in order to create and maintain a safe and supportive environment for all.” These guidelines, posted in their entirety on the district’s website, address privacy and confidentiality, official and unofficial records, use of names and pronouns, dress code, participation in sports, athletics and programs, as well as locker room and restroom access, student safety, and more.

Ears on the SRC: November 16, 2017
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools by Diane Payne November 27, 2017
Victory! All five Commissioners were present for this historic meeting of the School Reform Commission. Resolution SRC-3— Recommendation of Dissolution of the School Reform Commission was passed at 7:35 p.m. with a 3-1-1 vote. Commissioners Wilkerson, Richardson, and McGinley voted in favor, Commissioner Green voted against, and Commissioner Jimenez abstained. This joyous occasion ended sixteen years of state-imposed control of our city’s schools. There were cheers, hugs, dances, and high-fives when the resolution passed. The tireless and persistent effort of the Our Cities Our Schools coalition of parents, teachers, students, unions, and community advocacy groups made this happen. [See APPS’ statement on the end of the SRC and what should come next.]

With boost from alum, Central High is expanding...again
Joseph Field, who graduated in 1949, is seeding a new performing arts center and other improvements
The notebook by Darryl C. Murphy November 29, 2017 — 7:14pm
The already massive Central High School is expanding by 45,000 square feet with a new $42 million performing arts center, kicked off with a $10 million donation by a prominent graduate. The design for the two-story addition was done by MGA Partners, a local architecture firm, and will hold a 400 seat theater, a STEM innovation center, a digital media and technology center, and common areas on each floors. It’ll be located on the north lawn near the corner of Ogontz and Olney Avenues. Over 40 percent of Central’s 2,370 students participate in performing arts. Plans to break ground are set for January 2019 with completion estimated for 2020.

Philly's Central High gets $10M gift for major expansion
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: NOVEMBER 29, 2017 — 10:53 AM EST
Central High School on Wednesday announced a $42 million capital campaign to improve and expand its campus, propelled by a $10 million donation by an alumnus. Joseph M. Field, founder of Entercom Communications Corporation, has pledged what is believed to be the largest single gift in the school’s history. It would go toward building a performing arts center, a 400-seat venue that would accommodate musical, theatrical and dance performances. It would feature a scene shop and dressing rooms, and would allow outside groups to perform at the school. The announcement is expected at a Wednesday morning ceremony attended by Mayor Kenney, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and others. Groundbreaking is set for January 2019. The Philadelphia School District has also signed off on $8.1 million toward the project. Donors would foot the remainder of the bill, with Field matching most contributions.

Math test scores continue to lag in schools across Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
Trib Live by JEFF HIMLER  | Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, 1:03 a.m.
More students in Westmoreland County elementary schools are demonstrating proficiency in language arts, as measured by standardized state tests, than in math. They're joined by students at many other school districts in the Keystone State, as trailing math scores on the annual Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test are a statewide trend. Between 60 percent and 65 percent of Pennsylvania students in grades 3-6 were deemed proficient or advanced in language arts, while only 40 percent to 55 percent were proficient in math, based on the most recent PSSA test scores. “There isn't a clear indication yet as to why that is,” Mary Catherine Reljac, assistant superintendent at Franklin Regional School District, said of the lagging math scores. “Every school district is trying to figure that out.” Area educators have noted that assessment test questions in both subject areas increased in rigor after Pennsylvania adopted new, more demanding Common Core academic standards in 2014. But the increase in complexity was most dramatic for the math questions.

Suburban Philly lawmaker to officially launch Democratic bid for lieutenant governor on Wednesday
Penn Live By John L. Micek Updated Nov 29, 9:51 AM; Posted Nov 29, 8:40 AM
Ending weeks of speculation, state Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Democrat from Montgomery County, will jump into the very crowded 2018 field for lieutenant governor on Wednesday. In a phone interview, Dean, a three-term House incumbent, said she'd been exploring a bid for several weeks and meeting with local business leaders, politicians, labor organizers and others as she made up her mind. "I wanted to see if there was an appetite for the run and if I could add something," to the field, she said. "There is an appetite for someone like me to be in this role and I think I'm the best person." Dean is the second suburban Philly pol to step up to announce a challenge to embattled Lt. Gov. Mike Stack of Philadelphia. Chester County Commissioner Kathi Cozzone is also in the running for the nomination. From the west, for John Fetterman, the tattooed and goth-garbed mayor of Braddock, Pa., near Pittsburgh, and Aryanna Berringer, a veteran from Westmoreland County, are also gunning for Stack's job.

Is it the beginning of the end for Pa. Society bash in NYC?
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis & Chris Brennan - Staff Writers Updated: NOVEMBER 30, 2017 — 5:11 AM EST
New digs, fewer parties, and a dash of uncertainty — will they come?
For those who have trekked to New York City year after year for Pennsylvania Society — the annual, glitzy schmooze-and-booze fest for politicians and the well-heeled special interests that want something from them — there are behind-the-scenes whispers about whether the event will draw its customary big crowds. Not because of a crisis of conscience over persistent criticism that the event blurs the lines between government and politics. But because of an identity crisis of sorts. This year, Pennsylvania Society is getting a forced, albeit temporary, makeover. The marbled halls and gilded ballrooms of the iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel, which for more than a century have anchored many of the weekend’s biggest parties and events, are closed for renovations this year – and possibly next year, too.

Education Week November 28, 2017How well are America’s public school buildings and other facilities holding up? How much is the nation spending to build and maintain them? Is it enough? And just who’s bearing the costs?
Here’s some data to fuel that discussion gleaned from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Department of Education, and a 2016 joint report from the 21st Century School Fund, the National Council on School Facilities, and the Center for Green Schools.

Register for New School Director Training in December and January
PSBA Website October 2017
You’ve started a challenging and exciting new role as a school director. Let us help you narrow the learning curve! PSBA’s New School Director Training provides school directors with foundational knowledge about their role, responsibilities and ethical obligations. At this live workshop, participants will learn about key laws, policies, and processes that guide school board governance and leadership, and develop skills for becoming strong advocates in their community. Get the tools you need from experts during this visually engaging and interactive event.
Choose from any of these 11 locations and dates (note: all sessions are held 8 a.m.-4 p.m., unless specified otherwise.):
·         Dec. 8, Bedford CTC
·         Dec. 8, Montoursville Area High School
·         Dec. 9, Upper St. Clair High School
·         Dec. 9, West Side CTC
·         Dec. 15, Crawford County CTC
·         Dec. 15, Upper Merion MS (8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m)
·         Dec. 16, PSBA Mechanicsburg
·         Dec. 16, Seneca Highlands IU 9
·         Jan. 6, Haverford Middle School
·         Jan. 13, A W Beattie Career Center
·         Jan. 13, Parkland HS
Fees: Complimentary to All-Access members or $170 per person for standard membership. All registrations will be billed to the listed district, IU or CTC. To request billing to an individual, please contact Michelle Kunkel at Registration also includes a box lunch on site and printed resources.

NSBA 2018 Advocacy Institute February 4 - 6, 2018 Marriott Marquis, Washington D.C.
Register Now
Come a day early and attend the Equity Symposium!
Join hundreds of public education advocates on Capitol Hill and help shape the decisions made in Washington D.C. that directly impact our students. At the 2018 Advocacy Institute, you’ll gain insight into the most critical issues affecting public education, sharpen your advocacy skills, and prepare for effective meetings with your representatives. Whether you are an expert advocator or a novice, attend and experience inspirational keynote speakers and education sessions featuring policymakers, legal experts and policy influencers. All designed to help you advocate for your students and communities.

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