Wednesday, June 19, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 19, 2019 Gov. Wolf vetoes bill to expand tax credits for private, parochial school scholarships

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“Take, for example, a fight over school funding in 2013. In the budget negotiated that year, 21 of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts split an additional $30 million in funding distributed through the school code. As LancasterOnline reported, districts weren’t named; instead, the language was crafted so narrowly it could only apply to one place. The vast majority of the lawmakers whose districts benefited were in leadership positions at the time, WHYY reported. The practice has continued. LancasterOnline reported last year on millions of extra state dollars that went to school districts in Erie, Scranton, Allentown, and other systems across the state through the budget.”
Cracking the Code: These budget bills are where the deals get made
PA Capital Star By  Stephen Caruso June 19, 2019
Normally, it’s the big numbers of Pennsylvania’s annual budget debate — whether increasing public school dollars or decreasing business tax rates — that attract the most attention. But with no new taxes or big spending hikes on the table, many Capitol veterans believe the drama this year could lie in an obscure, but no less critical, part of getting an on-time spending plan onto Gov Tom Wolf’s desk: code bills. The bills are a package of budget-enabling legislation that effectively serves as the instruction manual for spending the money in the state’s General Fund budget. Lawmakers amend all sorts of state codes — tax, education, and human services, to name a few — during the June budget season. At times, these bills are used as depositories for lawmaker priorities that have failed to move through the regular legislative process. Each edit an existing part of state law that govern spending in their given area. If, for example, lawmakers launch a new workforce development program in high schools, the education code must tell the Department of Education how to fund it.

A proposal to change Pa.’s teacher evaluation system is moving forward — without support from Philly’s unions
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison June 19, 2019
A proposal to make Pennsylvania’s teacher evaluation system fairer to educators in high-poverty schools passed a key Senate committee hurdle on Tuesday without the support of the state’s most impoverished school district. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster, would change how Pennsylvania grades its public school teachers to better acknowledge how poverty affects student achievement. But the Philadelphia school district, which educates more children living in poverty than any other district in the state, said it needs more time to review the bill. “We haven’t taken a position on it,” Sharon Ward, a policy advisor to Philadelphia public school system, said after a Tuesday meeting of the Senate Education Committee, where members voted 9-2 to approve the bill. “We need time to fully assess the impact, and we would love to see it delayed until the fall so everyone can be at the table.” Aument helped design the state’s current evaluation system in 2012, when he was a member of the House. Seven years later, he says its outsized emphasis on student test scores has unfairly penalized teachers in high-poverty school districts.  “What we have seen is the current evaluation system absolutely serves as a barrier for high quality students wanting to serve our most vulnerable students,” Aument said Tuesday. Under his new bill, the evaluations will rely more heavily on a teacher’s classroom observations, which school administrators conduct using a nationally recognized methodology. Teachers would still be accountable for their students’ standardized test scores. But a formula Aument developed with the Department of Education would adjust those test scores based, in part, on a school’s aggregate poverty level.

Governor Wolf Vetoes House Bill 800
Governor Wolf’s Websiste June 18, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 800.
“Education is the cornerstone of democracy, and it is my job as the leader of this commonwealth to ensure fairness and accountability in our classrooms. House Bill 800 would pour funding into a program that lacks these two critical aspects,” said Gov. Wolf. “We have an accountable public education system in place that is underfunded. I have and I will continue to fight to fully fund Pennsylvania’s public schools. The governor’s full veto message:

“Despite Wolf’s veto, funding for the EITC program is expected to be a part of budget talks in the coming weeks. Last year, Wolf signed a budget that included a $25 million increase for the program.”
Wolf vetoes increase in tax credits for Pa. private-school scholarships
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, June 18, 2019
Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday vetoed a dramatic expansion of a program that would give businesses tax credits for donating to scholarships for Pennsylvania students to attend private schools.
"It is my job as the leader of this commonwealth to ensure fairness and accountability in our classrooms. House Bill 800 would pour funding into a program that lacks these two critical aspects,” Wolf said in a statement. Backed by top lawmakers, the bill would have nearly doubled Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program, adding $100 million in credits. It also would have allowed automatic increases to the program in the future, and raised the income limit for participating families. Under the bill, a family of four could earn $126,216 a year and qualify. In his veto message, Wolf said the proposed program expansion “strays from the original stated intent of the program — to lift people out of poverty — and fails to provide any additional accountability or oversight for the tax dollars being expended.”

Gov. Wolf vetoes bill to expand tax credits for private, parochial school scholarships
PA Capital Star By Sarah Anne Hughes June 18, 2019
Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday vetoed a bill that would nearly double the size of a tax credit program for private and parochial school scholarships. Wolf told the Capital-Star last week he planned to veto the bill, introduced by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny. “Education is the cornerstone of democracy, and it is my job as the leader of this commonwealth to ensure fairness and accountability in our classrooms,” Wolf said in a statement. “House Bill 800 would pour funding into a program that lacks these two critical aspects. We have an accountable public education system in place that is underfunded. I have and I will continue to fight to fully fund Pennsylvania’s public schools.” Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program provides up to $110 million per year in tax credits to businesses that donate to K-12 scholarship funds. Under the current program guidelines, a family that makes $100,608 per year can receive an EITC scholarship for their child.

“One of the defining elements of Democratic politics under President Donald Trump has been their opposition to publicly administered programs that support private school choice. Beltway Democrats, including some of those seeking the party's presidential nomination in 2020, have relentlessly attacked U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for her support for vouchers in particular, although vouchers work differently than tax-credit scholarships. DeVos has frequently been accused of seeking to privatize public education; her argument is that students should have access to the educational settings that suit them best regardless of where it takes place and who delivers instruction.”
Democratic Governor Captures National Party's Mood in Vetoing School Choice Expansion
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on June 18, 2019 3:44 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania has vetoed a bill that would expand the state's private school choice program, a move that in part reflects increasing opposition in the Democratic Party to programs that grassroots activists and voters believe divert funding away from traditional public schools. Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed House Bill 800, which would have doubled money available for the Educational Improvement Tax Creditto an annual amount of $210 million. The program provides tax credits for donations to organizations that provide scholarships to private schools. The money can also be used to support prekindergarten programs.  In his veto message, Wolf said the current tax-credit scholarship program "lacks accountability and oversight." He also rhetorically questioned why the state would increase its funding when there are bigger priorities for K-12 in Pennsylvania.  "We have public schools that are structurally deteriorating, contaminated by lead, and staffed by teachers who are not appropriately paid and overstretched in their responsibilities. Tackling these challenges, and others, should be our collective priority," the governor said in his message. 

Greater Johnstown School District's lawsuit against the state continues
by WJAC STAFF Tuesday, June 18th, 2019
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (WJAC) — The Greater Johnstown School District is providing an update on the fair funding lawsuit they're part of. The district is one of six districts that filed a lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania in 2014. The lawsuit came about after there was a significant cut in school funding. The suit claims that the state is not providing a thorough and efficient education as stated in the state constitution, citing not enough money being given to school districts. “We believe that that every child has the right to a quality education," said Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg, staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center. “And so what that means, the lawsuit, what fair funding means is that the state allocates enough money and does it in a fair enough manner that every child has the resources they need to give them a real chance to go to college and to have a family sustaining career.” The Public Interest Law Center staff attorney says he is grateful that the Greater Johnstown School District is part of this lawsuit and fighting for themselves and for children across the state. According to court documents, the trial is set for summer of 2020.

Moo-ve over skim milk: These lawmakers are udderly serious about bringing back whole milk
PA Capital Star By  Stephen Caruso June 19, 2019
Surrounded by sash-wearing dairy princesses, lawmakers gulping down chocolate milk, and a sea of concerned farmers and their families, allies of Pennsylvania’s dairy industry made a plea in the Capitol Tuesday on behalf of the country’s school children — let them drink milk. Whole milk, that is. In 2010, the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress pushed through a measure to change school nutrition standards — including removing higher fat, flavored milks from the lunch tray  — as part of an Obama administration effort to fight childhood obesity. As part of a rollback to “make school meals great again,” President Donald Trump’s administration in 2017 started allowing kids to drink 1 percent flavored milk again. U.S. Rep. Glenn William “G.T.” Thompson, R-15th District, wants the feds to go even further. The congressman, whose sprawling, rural northwestern district includes large agricultural interests, was in Harrisburg Tuesday to promote his bill to put whole milk, flavored and unflavored, back into the nation’s school cafeterias. 

12 area districts get $87,900 in STEAM-related grants
Observer-Reporter by Rick Shrum Jun 18, 2019
Twelve school districts in Washington, Greene and Fayette counties will share $87,900 in grants aimed at enhancing STEAM-education opportunities. Those grants are part of a quarter-million-dollar package that will benefit 43 school districts in Southwestern Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio. The funding is through a partnership of Chevron, EQT and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. This is the third year of this partnership program, through which these “Innovation Grants” are awarded to districts, mostly in rural areas, to help them step up education in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. Funding for the Pennsylvania schools is going toward coding, robotics and music as well as STEAM subjects. There are 13 projects in the 12 districts, with two going to Connellsville Area. Here is a breakdown by county:

“Charter school and pension obligations are two of the biggest cost-drivers for the district. Charter school tuition is expected to be more than $30 million, while the district will pay more than $37 million in pension obligations. This is the first time in about 25 years that Bethlehem Area has passed a budget with no tax hike.”
Bethlehem Area teachers guaranteed more than 3% raises each year in new four-year contract
Bethlehem Area School District teachers have a new contract that will guarantee them more than 3% raises each of the next four years. In an 8-0 vote Monday night, the school board approved a contract that starts July 1 and ends June 30, 2023. It gives teachers 3.5% raises each of the first three years and 3.25% raise in the final year. The union, which represents slightly more than 1,000 teachers in the district, has approved the contract. For the 2019-20 school year, starting pay for teachers will be $48,987. Top pay for teachers with a master’s degree will be $88,428. Teachers with a doctorate can earn up to $91,737. In the final year of the contract, starting pay for a first-year teacher will be $51,254, while top salaries for teachers with a master’s and doctorate degrees are $92,521 and $95,981, respectively.

“At the meeting, school directors voted 8-0 to raise property taxes for the 2019-20 school year. School Director Gregg Lindner absent. The $90.2 million budget calls for real estate taxes in Chester County municipalities to be 29.16 mills 25.71 mills in Delaware County.”
Unionville to outfit its school buses with stop-arm cameras
Daily Local by Fran Maye June 19, 2019
EAST MARLBOROUGH—Pass a Unionville-Chadds Ford School Bus loading or unloading students this fall and you can expect a hefty fine and five points on your driver’s license. And a police officer doesn’t even need to be in the vicinity. Unionville School Board directors this week voted to authorize $55,000 in funding for stop-arm cameras on 45 of the district’s school buses. “I’m very pleased that we have this technology available,” School Director Jeff Hellrung said. “This will give us the capacity to take photos of vehicles that pass stopped school buses. It will get photos of license plates of the cars.” Hellrung said vehicles illegally passing school buses as students board buses is common. “This is a not uncommon occurrence, according to our district bus drivers, and one that could become fatal to students in our school district,” Hellrung said.
Here’s how it works: Once a vehicle illegally passes a bus, a sensor installed directly below the stop-arm will trigger a marked alarm on the video recording each time it senses a vehicle passing the stopped bug. A high-definition digital video recorder captures views of the event from both directions. The DVR recording is tagged with stop-arm violation and information such s date, time and GPS coordinates. When the bus returns to the yard, the video tagged as a stop-arm violation is automatically downloaded over WIFI to a central server for review, and police processing.
The vote was 8-0.

“Expenses are largely mandated with 76 percent of costs a combination of salaries, healthcare and the retirement system (PSERS). While the rate of PSERS increases has somewhat slowed, the coming year’s net increase is still just over $512,000.”
Garnet Valley OKs budget with small tax increase
Delco Times By Susan L. Serbin Times Correspondent June 19, 2019
CONCORD — There was no public comment, no board discussion and no changes since the preliminary final budget was approved in May. The Garnet Valley School Board approved and will send its 2019-2020 final general fund operating budget of $112.6 million to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Business Director Chris Wilson presented the budget to the board for the final time. The tax increase of 1.80 percent is the lowest hike in six years. Using the average assessment of $205,540, millage for Concord and Chester Heights is 33.0721, or just less than $6,800. Bethel has an additional .3679 mills as a participant in Delaware County Community College. The 33.44 mills equates to $6,873 in taxes. The difference of the approximate $73-$75 for Bethel tax payers was particularly relevant as DCCC representatives attended the board’s work session to discuss a potential capital project and overall impact on the district. For Bethel residents attending DCCC, the township’s sponsorship (for which the extra millage pays) entitles them to a tuition rate which doubles for non-sponsorship residents in the county including Chester Heights and Concord. With credits transferrable to a number of four-year colleges, the savings for higher education can be significant.

“When you talk to people outside of here (the board room) they have no clue what’s going on in Harrisburg. Their focus is solely on the school board; it’s not the school board’s fault that this is happening,” he said. “No one seems to understand the impact of underfunding coming from the legislators in Harrisburg.” Grant says the district is underfunded by $16 million.”
U.D. school board approves $215 million budget, tax increase
UPPER DARBY— Expenditures are up, and the tax increase down, in the final 2019-20 school year budget for the Upper Darby School District. The school board approved a $215.1 million budget Tuesday night that looked slightly different than the proposed final budget approved last month. The proposed final budget of $213 million included a 3 percent tax increase, but board members wanted a lower figure, either 1.9 or 2.3 percent, and both options were on the table for a vote. The board voted 6-3 to raise taxes 1.9 percent which will bring the millage rate to 37.8452 mills. The tax increase will generate an additional $1.92 million in property real estate taxes.

Education Week Special Reports June 2019
How much does money really matter in the quest for educational quality?
And if it matters so much, as supporters of higher spending argue, why do taxpayers and the public seem to flinch when they’re confronted with the tab? This second installment of Quality Counts 2019 examines that question and more. The Education Week Research Center and school finance reporter Daarel Burnette II dig into the policy and political debates over K-12 funding, and tally how the nation and the states stack up, complete with scores, rankings, A-F grades, and expert analysis.

“Though teenagers and privacy rights advocates might find it extreme, the new policy is legal thanks to a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld an Oklahoma school district’s policy of randomly drug testing students who participate in “competitive” extracurricular activities such as cheerleading and choir. In 1997, the Supreme Court had determined that testing high school athletes for illegal drugs was constitutional.”
A school district is fed up with ‘epidemic’ vaping. Now it will randomly test students for nicotine.
According to the U.S. surgeon general, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students increased by 900 percent between 2011 and 2015. (Bloomberg News)
Washington Post By Antonia Noori Farzan June 18 at 6:11 AM
Virtually odorless and smokeless, easily concealed in a pocket or sleeve, and frequently designed to look like USB drives or other everyday items, e-cigarettes are not difficult to hide. Perhaps not coincidentally, the number of teenagers who vape has skyrocketed in recent years, bedeviling school principals and prompting fears that a new generation will grow up hooked on nicotine. So one small Nebraska school district is trying an aggressive new approach: forcing students in grades seven through 12 to submit to random nicotine testing if they want to take part in extracurricular activities such as speech competitions and the National Honor Society. “Vaping and smoking in our view is reaching epidemic proportions,” Fairbury Public Schools Superintendent Stephen Grizzle told the Lincoln Journal Star last week, after the school board voted to approve the measure. “It’s just a way we can deter kids from potentially being addicted to nicotine.”

Testing Resistance & Reform News: June 12 - 18, 2019
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on June 18, 2019 - 2:14pm 
Though most public schools across the U.S. have closed for the summer, there are still plenty of stories about effective campaigns to roll back standardized exam misuse and overuse. Encourage your friends and allies to sign up for these updates so they can receive important news and tools

The deadline to submit a cover letter, resume and application is July 19, 2019.
Become a 2019-2020 PSBA Advocacy Ambassador
PSBA is seeking applications for two open Advocacy Ambassador positions. Candidates should have experience in day-to-day functions of a school district, on the school board, or in a school leadership position. The purpose of the PSBA Advocacy Ambassador program is to facilitate the education and engagement of local school directors and public education stakeholders through the advocacy leadership of the ambassadors. Each Advocacy Ambassador will be responsible for assisting PSBA in achieving its advocacy goals. To achieve their mission, ambassadors will be kept up to date on current legislation and PSBA positions on legislation. The current open positions will cover PSBA Sections 3 and 4, and Section 7.
PSBA Advocacy Ambassadors are independent contractors representing PSBA and serve as liaisons between PSBA and their local elected officials. Advocacy Ambassadors also commit to building strong relationships with PSBA members with the purpose of engaging the designated members to be active and committed grassroots advocates for PSBA’s legislative priorities. 

PSBA: Nominations for The Allwein Society are open!
This award program recognizes school directors who are outstanding leaders & advocates on behalf of public schools & students. Nominations are accepted year-round with selections announced early fall: 

EPLC is accepting applications for the 2019-20 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Education Policy & Leadership Center
PA's premier education policy leadership program for education, policy & community leaders with 582 alumni since 1999. Application with program schedule & agenda are at 

2019 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 16-18, 2019
WHERE: Hershey Lodge and Convention Center 325 University Drive, Hershey, PA
WHEN: Wednesday, October 16 to Friday, October 18, 201
Registration is now open!
Growth from knowledge acquired. Vision inspired by innovation. Impact created by a synergized leadership community. You are called upon to be the drivers of a thriving public education system. It’s a complex and challenging role. Expand your skillset and give yourself the tools needed for the challenge. Packed into two and a half daysꟷꟷgain access to top-notch education and insights, dynamic speakers, peer learning opportunities and the latest product and service innovations. Come to the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference to grow!

NPE Action National Conference - Save the Date - March 28-29, 2020 in Philadelphia, PA.
The window is now open for workshop proposals for the Network for Public Education conference, March 28-29, 2020, in Philadelphia. I hope you all sign on to present on a panel and certainly we want all to attend.

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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