Friday, June 8, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 8: PASBO/PASA Report: School districts 'can't get ahead' of mandated costs despite increases in state education funding

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PASBO/PASA Report: School districts 'can't get ahead' of mandated costs despite increases in state education funding

“While Democrats blasted the cuts, the real objection to some of them, such as $7 billion from popular Children’s Health Insurance Program funding, is that it would take that money off the table so it couldn’t be used later as it was in the earlier spending bill. The CHIP cuts wouldn’t affect enrollment in the program, which provides health care to children from low-income families that don’t qualify for Medicaid. “Targeting CHIP for a rescission prevents Congress from reinvesting in other priorities like child and maternal health, early childhood education, biomedical research and our community health centers,” said New York Rep. Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. Some GOP moderates also worry that they’re casting a difficult-to-explain vote to cut CHIP funding in the run-up to November’s midterm elections. “I don’t think the vote’s intended for people in swing districts,” said Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa. Nineteen Republicans, mostly moderates, opposed the bill. No Democrats voted for it.”
Trump plan to cut $15B in spending squeaks through House
AP News By Andrew Taylor June 8, 2018
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Thursday only narrowly passed a White House plan to cut almost $15 billion in unused government money, a closer-than-expected tally on legislation that’s designed to demonstrate fiscal discipline in Washington even though it wouldn’t have much of an impact on spiraling deficits. The measure, which passed 210-206, would take a mostly symbolic whack at government spending because it would basically eliminate leftover funding that wouldn’t have been spent anyway. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it faces long odds. The deficit is on track to exceed $800 billion this year despite a strong economy. Republicans controlling Congress are not attempting to pass a budget this year. The package of so-called rescissions has been embraced by GOP conservatives upset by passage in March of a $1.3 trillion catchall spending bill that they say was too bloated. More pragmatic Republicans on Capitol Hill’s powerful Appropriations panels aren’t keen on the measure since it would eliminate accounting moves they routinely use to pay for spending elsewhere.

“The report indicated that all state funding for districts increased by $2 billion between 2012-13 and 2016-17, the combined mandatory costs for pensions, special education and charter schools rose by $3.3 billion.”
School districts 'can't get ahead' of mandated costs despite increases in state education funding
Penn Live By Jan Murphy Updated Jun 7, 1:55 PM
 Mandated pension contributions, special education services and charter school payments are identified as the biggest cost drivers that are worsening Pennsylvania's school districts' financial condition, causing some to eliminate kindergarten, increase classes sizes, and cut elective courses. A survey released on Thursday indicates pension costs have risen 153 percent between 2012-13 and 2016-17 while special education costs increased 26 percent and charter school costs 30 percent during that time. Meanwhile, salary costs over that time grew by 4 percent and health care costs by 2 percent. "Even though we are moving further away from the Great Recession, many of the same financial hurdles that create fiscal deterioration remain. I would categorize it as sort of a recession hangover," said Jay Himes executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.

More Pa. school districts feeling the crunch of mandated expenses, according to survey
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent June 7, 2018
Most of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts plan to ask for tax hikes this fiscal year and about half expect their finances to get worse, according to an annual census conducted by school administrators and business officials. The survey results suggest districts, on the whole, are more pessimistic this year than they were the year prior, indicating many feel pinched by the continued growth of pension, healthcare, special education, and charter costs. “School districts across Pennsylvania continue to struggle to make ends meet and balance their budgets without negatively impacting their educational programming,” according to the annual School Budget Report, which is compiled jointly by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA).

School districts say their financial conditions are getting worse
Trib Live by JAMIE MARTINES  | Thursday, June 7, 2018, 2:12 p.m.
The financial outlook of school districts across the state is grim, and at least 40 percent of the state's 500 school districts expect to include a tax hike next year, according to an annual report released by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators Thursday. The report details the results of a survey offered to all 500 school districts in Pennsylvania. Between April and May , 265 districts sent in responses, according to the report. As districts finalize budgets and prepare for the 2018-19 fiscal year — which starts July 1 — 48 percent of respondents said that they expect their school district's financial condition to be worse than in 2017-18. "We're back where we always are at this point," with many school districts looking to cut programs and increase property taxes in order to stay afloat, said Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.

2018 PASBO-PASA School District Budget Report Released
By: PASBO On: 06/07/2018 08:23:35
As school districts across the state finalize their 2018-19 budgets, many continue to face challenging financial conditions requiring cuts and reductions to programs and increased property taxes to offset the annual growth in mandated costs. The latest iteration of the PASBO-PASA School District Budget Report, a joint initiative of PASBO and the PA Association of School Administrators, indicates that school districts continue to struggle to balance their budgets.
Click here to read the 2018 PASBO-PASA School District Budget Report
Click here to read the PASBO-PASA press release

Will Pa. ever get reform right? The current redistricting debate is not encouraging | John L. Micek
By John L. Micek Updated Jun 7, 3:44 PM; Posted Jun 7, 3:16 PM
One of these days, Pennsylvania is probably ... okay, maybe ... going to figure out how to do reform right. But it's not going to happen with the debate over redistricting reform. And the clock is ticking. Here's the bottom line: The state Senate could vote as soon as next week on a deeply flawed plan that's splintered progressives who pushed for reform in the first place. The Republican-controlled state House, meanwhile, is sitting on a proposal that has more issues than The New Yorker. Because any change requires a constitutional amendment, the House and Senate have to approve something by July 6 to keep things on track for when the next round of decennial redistricting starts in 2021. You'll recall that the great rallying cry behind the push to fix the way Pennsylvania draws its legislative and congressional maps is that it's rigged in favor of the General Assembly. And that's absolutely, indisputably true. With the bills that are out there now, though, lawmakers heeded that cry and promptly smothered it.

Bill requiring high school civics test heads to governor
Trib Live JAMIE MARTINES  | Wednesday, June 6, 2018, 4:15 p.m.
A bill requiring students to take a civics assessment before they graduate — though passing it won't be required — will head to the governor's desk. Starting with the 2020-21 school year, students will be required to take a civics test, which could be modeled after the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services test, at least once by their senior year of high school. Those who pass will earn a certificate of recognition. Introduced by Rep. Karen Boback, R-Luzerne, House Bill 564 originally made passing a civics test a graduation requirement. That portion was dropped following pushback from teachers unions, local school districts and education advocacy groups. Eight states already require high school students to pass an exam based on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' citizenship test to graduate. Nine others, including West Virginia, require students to sit for an exam but do not include it as a graduation requirement, according to a September 2017 report by the Education Commission of the States. While the rigor of coursework varies, all of the 22 high schools in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties that responded to a Tribune-Review survey of 32 schools indicated that courses in civics or government are already part of local graduation requirements. Most of those schools offer the option to take Advanced Placement courses in government or American history.

Seeking funding for early childhood education
The Standard Journal By Kevin Mertz Staff writer June 8, 2018
Roundtable discussion held in Milton
MILTON — Rep. Lynda Schlegel-Culver (R-108) believes the 2018-2019 state budget will include increased funding for Pre-K Counts programs. She doubts it will be to the tune of the $40 million being asked for by a nonprofit organization which held a roundtable discussion Thursday afternoon at the Milton YMCA. The discussion was spearheaded by Mission: Readiness, described as a being comprised of retired admirals and generals “strengthening national security by ensuring kids stay in school, stay fit and stay out of trouble.” Steve Doster, Pennsylvania state director for Mission: Readiness, and Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Thomas J. Wilson III were two of the speakers at the event. They released a report which calls for “$40 million in new state funding to serve an additional 4,400 at-risk children with high quality school day, school year Pre-K programs,” such as Head Start and Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts.

Philly School District cleans Olney Elementary after 10.7 million asbestos fibers found
Inquirer by Barbara Laker, Wendy Ruderman & Dylan Purcell - Staff Writers Updated: JUNE 8, 2018 — 5:55 AM EDT
Outrage over the number “10.7 million” got the School District of Philadelphia to finally act. Lawmakers and the head of the teachers’  union demanded that the district immediately clean up millions of asbestos fibers from surfaces inside Olney Elementary School. On Thursday, students and teachers arrived at their school to find that areas had been vacuumed, and damaged asbestos accessible to children and staff had been sealed off. Students with special needs were moved from a classroom that had damaged lead paint and perilous levels of asbestos into a portable classroom. The cleanup came three days after the Inquirer and Daily News alerted the district to results of  testing done recently by the newspapers at Olney. Olney was one of 19 schools in which reporters enlisted staffers to collect samples of suspected asbestos fibers, lead dust, mold spores and water from drinking fountains as part of the newspapers’ “Toxic City: Sick Schools” series, which examined environmental hazards inside district buildings. An accredited laboratory analyzed the samples.

Cybersecurity summer camp at Pitt Cyber grows, sells out
Trib Live by AARON AUPPERLEE  | Thursday, June 7, 2018, 4:12 p.m.
If Russia decides to launch a cyberattack on Pittsburgh this summer, even more students will be ready to fight back during Pitt Cyber's second CyberCamp. In its second year at the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, the Air Force Association CyberCamp has grown, expanded and added programing. The camp will host 250 students from high schools across Pennsylvania and beyond, up from 180 last year. To accommodate more students, Pitt partnered with Robert Morris University, where 70 of the 250 students will attend the weeklong camp. Pitt Cyber added an advanced camp this year for returning students and will host a panel discussion on college admissions and careers in technology with representatives from Microsoft, PNC and the FBI. Microsoft has signed on as a sponsor of the camp. “The demand for this camp is huge,” David Hickton, the founding director of Pitt Cyber, told the Tribune-Review.

York City schools: End of state oversight near?
Lindsay C. VanAsdalan, York Dispatch Published 10:46 a.m. ET June 7, 2018 | Updated 12:43 p.m. ET June 7, 2018
For nearly six years, the York City school board has operated under the watchful eye of a state-appointed financial recovery officer. That watchdog now says the district is making good progress, and her oversight might not be needed much longer.  However, Carol Saylor said only one of the four financially distressed districts ensnared by a 2012 law — Harrisburg — has completed its recovery plan, and it's still awaiting word on its recovery status.  “We don’t know what happens at the end of the plan,” she said. “No one seems to know.”

“The salary adjustments come after five female Steel Valley teachers filed a suit in U.S. District Court against the district in May 2017 in, arguing they were improperly hired at lower salaries than their work experience merited. Meanwhile, other “similarly situated” male teachers were hired at a higher salary step, according to the complaint. Despite work experience ranging from one to five years before joining Steel Valley, the teachers said they were hired at the lowest step on the pay scale. Steel Valley said it was its “policy” to hire teachers at the bottom pay step, despite paying some male teachers more, according to the lawsuit.”
Steel Valley seeks bond issue to settle gender-related pay disparities with teachers
MATT MCKINNEY Pittsburgh Post-Gazette JUN 7, 2018
School districts often rely on bond issues to finance big-ticket purchases such as new buildings. But using money from a debt issuance to fix gender-related pay disparities is far less common, experts say. That’s the approach the Steel Valley School District hopes to take after reaching a recent federal court settlement for an undisclosed amount with teachers over gender-related pay discrimination, according to a May 21 petition filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. 
Steel Valley is asking a judge to give it permission to issue $1.75 million in general obligation notes or bonds to address pay disparities across the district, according to the petition. Attorneys for Steel Valley say the district would otherwise need to hike real estate taxes.

Plum school board approves $64.7 million preliminary budget that includes tax increase
Post-Gazette by ANNE CLOONAN JUN 7, 2018 1:09 PM
The Plum Borough school board on May 22 approved a preliminary general fund budget for the 2018-2019 school year with a tax increase of 0.8327 mills. The board plans to vote on a final budget June 26. The budget includes projected revenues of $63,280,169 and expected expenditures of $64,753,076. The district’s fund balance will be used to cover the difference of $1,472,907. School directors Angela Anderson, Scott Coulson, Vicky Roessler, Jim Rogers, Brian Wisniewski and Rich Zucco voted for the budget. Steve Schlauch, Sue Caldwell and Scott Kolar voted against it. Under the proposed budget, a property owner with a home of median value will pay a school real estate tax increase of $101 per year, or $8.42 extra per month, during the 2018-2019 school year.Plum school directors and administrators this year took several steps in an attempt to close a $5.2 million deficit.

Philly Mayor to Council: Your budget is not enough for schools
Council leaders, however, reiterate opposition to increasing property taxes. Agreement must be reached by June 30.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa June 7 — 7:53 pm, 2018
Mayor Kenney has sent a letter to City Council saying that its budget plan – which avoids a property tax increase – does not solve the School District’s longstanding structural budget problems and won’t allow the acceleration or expansion of efforts to improve sometimes dangerous building conditions. In a morning briefing, his aides thanked Council for supporting measures that will send more money to the District, most prominently a halt in planned reductions to the wage tax, while reiterating that it falls short of what is needed. “The long-term fiscal stability of the School District, that issue really hasn’t been resolved,” said City budget director Rob Dubow. “At some point, we are going to have to come back to that issue.” Kenney’s budget includes a 4.1 percent property tax rate hike and an overall increase in revenue to the District of $770 million over five years, a sum that would balance its books and eliminate through 2023 the ever-present threat of cuts that cause instability in schools. In the recent past, largely due to steep reductions in state subsidies, the District has been forced to temporarily eliminate counselors, nurses, and other personnel, while struggling to keep up with increasingly dire maintenance and facilities issues. Without additional revenue, the District was projecting a $630 million shortfall over the next five years that Kenney was determined to eliminate and then some, coinciding with the initiative to reclaim control of the city’s schools from the state after 17 years.

Apply Now for EPLC's 2018-2019 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program!
Applications are available now for the 2018-2019 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). 
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 13-14, 2018 and continues to graduation in June 2019.
Applications are being accepted now.
Click here to read more about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.
The application may be copied from the EPLC web site, but must be submitted by mail or scanned and e-mailed, with the necessary signatures of applicant and sponsor.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of the Fellowship Program and its requirements, please contact EPLC Executive Director Ron Cowell at 717-260-9900 or

Nominations for PSBA’s Allwein Advocacy Award due by July 16
PSBA Website May 14, 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 2018 Allwein Award nomination process will begin on Monday, May 14, 2018. The application due date is July 16, 2018 in the honor of Tim’s birth date of July 16.
Download the Application

Join with EdVotersPA and PCCY for Capitol Caravan Days and fight for our public schools! When: 9:00-3:00 on June 12 or June 20 (your choice!)
Where: The Harrisburg Capitol
Why: To show state lawmakers that their constituents expect them to support public school students in the '18-19 budget

Education Voters of PA joining together with Pennsylvania Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) for a lobby day in Harrisburg. Join a team and meet with your state legislators and legislative leaders to talk about how the state can support K-12 students in the state budget.
Register Here:

IN PHILLY, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13, 2018, 8:30-10:00 A.M.
Join Law Center attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke, and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a free briefing on the state of education funding in Pennsylvania. They’ll cover the basics of education funding, our fair school funding lawsuit, the property tax elimination bill, the 2018-2019 state budget, and more! RSVP online here. The briefing will be held on Wednesday, June 13th at 8:30 a.m. at 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
Download a flyer for this event.

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD! Join the PA Principals Association, the PA Association of School Administrators and the PA Association of Rural and Small Schools for PA Education Leaders Advocacy Day at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, at the Capitol in Harrisburg, PA.  
A rally in support of public education and important education issues will be held on the Main Rotunda Steps from 1 p.m. - 2 p.m.
Visits with legislators will be conducted earlier in the day. More information will be sent via email, shared in our publications and posted on our website closer to the event.
To register, send an email to Dr. Joseph Clapper at before Friday, June 8, 2018.
Click here to view the PA Education Leaders Advocacy Day 2018 Save The Date Flyer (INCLUDES EVENT SCHEDULE AND IMPORTANT ISSUES.) 

POWER 100% SCHOOL FUNDING Day of Action Wednesday, June 20th at 1 PM at the PA Capitol
On Wednesday, June 20th at 1 PM, students, parents, community activists, and faith leaders from different traditions will gather on the steps of the State Capitol Main Rotunda for POWER’s 100% SCHOOL FUNDING Day of Action to demand support for legislation to put 100% of the Commonwealth's Basic Education Budget through PA's Fair Funding Formula. We ask you to join us as we stand in solidarity with one another and continue demanding fair and fully funded education for Pennsylvania’s public school students. In addition to a large rally, we will march to Governor Tom Wolfe's office to pray for his support for 100% through the Formula. Join us as we hold meetings that day with our legislators asking each one to speak out in favor of POWER's 100% plan.

SAVE THE DATE for the 2018 PA Educational Leadership Summit - July 29-31 - State College, PA sponsored by the PA Principals Association, PASA, PAMLE and PASCD.  
This year's Summit will be held from July 29-31, 2018 at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, State College, PA.

Save the Dates PASA/PSBA School Leadership Conference – Hershey, Oct. 17-19, 2018 
Mark your calendar! The Delegate Assembly will take place Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, at 2:30 p.m.
Housing now open!

Our Public Schools Our Democracy: Our Fight for the Future
NPE / NPE Action 5th Annual National Conference
October 20th - 21st, 2018 Indianapolis, Indiana
We are delighted to let you know that you can purchase your discounted Early Bird ticket to register for our annual conference starting today. Purchase your ticket here.
Early Bird tickets will be on sale until May 30 or until all are sold out, so don't wait.  These tickets are a great price--$135. Not only do they offer conference admission, they also include breakfast and lunch on Saturday, and brunch on Sunday. Please don't forget to register for your hotel room. We have secured discounted rates on a limited basis. You can find that link here. Finally, if you require additional financial support to attend, we do offer some scholarships based on need. Go here and fill in an application. We will get back to you as soon as we can. Please join us in Indianapolis as we fight for the public schools that our children and communities deserve. Don't forget to get your Early Bird ticket here. We can't wait to see you.

Any comments contained herein are my comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.

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