Tuesday, June 25, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 25: Proposed budget: $160M BEF; $50M SEF; $25M ECE; $25M EITC; $60M Safety

Started in November 2010, daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, charter school leaders, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

“Wolf and the Republican-controlled legislature said the compromise includes $160 million more in funding for K-12 education, an additional $50 million for special education, $25 million more for early childhood programs, and an extra $25 million for a program that provides tax credits to businesses that donate money for scholarships to private schools for needy students.”
Pa.'s $34B budget deal: More money for public education, but no minimum-wage increase
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis and Liz Navratil, Updated: June 24, 2019- 5:48 PM
HARRISBURG — Public schools, state-run universities, and community colleges will receive millions more, but there will be no increase in the state’s longtime minimum wage, and counties will likely not receive financial help to buy new voting machines, as part of a $34 billion state budget deal announced Monday. The agreement, which needs to be approved by both legislative chambers, contains few of Gov. Tom Wolf’s legislative priorities. Most notably, the Democratic governor failed to win support for hiking the state’s $7.25-per-hour minimum wage or legislative buy-in for an ambitious program to improve infrastructure and battle blight. In all, the $33.9 billion spending plan that would go into effect July 1 does not rely on new or increased taxes. Instead, it was helped along by rosier-than-expected revenue collections and a consensus on both sides to avoid the protracted fighting that marked Wolf’s first few years in office. “What we’re facing right now with our increased revenues — we don’t know if it’s an anomaly or if it’s a trend," said Rep. George Dunbar (R., Westmoreland). "We have to still be careful in our spending. And although the wish list is great and we would like to do a whole lot more, we have accomplished a great deal in this budget.”

“Some highlights from the proposed budget include:
….The full House will consider the proposed budget Tuesday. Corman told PennLive’s Jan Murphy he expects the Senate will take up the spending plan on Thursday.”
Without minimum wage, cash assistance, $34 billion budget falls flat with some House Democrats
PA Capital Star By  Stephen Caruso June 24, 2019
The House Appropriations Committee advanced a $33.997 billion budget Monday, the opening salvo in the week before the June 30 deadline to secure a new fiscal blueprint. A spokesperson for Gov. Tom Wolf said the plan “meets [the] objectives” laid out in the Democrat’s February budget proposal. State spending would increase by 1.8 percent compared to last year under the plan. The budget would also put at least $250 million into the state’s minuscule rainy day fund, which would currently cover just a few hours of state operations. The proposed spending plan is just $149 million less than Wolf’s initial ask in his February budget address. But it does not include some of the administration’s — and legislative Democrats’ — key priorities.

Pennsylvania budget compromise hinges on saving surplus cash
WITF Written by Marc Levy/The Associated Press | Jun 25, 2019 5:01 AM
 (Harrisburg) -- State lawmakers said they have struck a compromise on a spending plan that uses surplus dollars to spread around modest spending increases, hold the line on taxes and make a substantial deposit into a relatively bare budgetary reserve.  Votes in the Republican-controlled Legislature were expected later this week, as the fiscal year winds down and legislative aides scramble to prepare hundreds of pages of budget-related legislation before lawmakers leave Harrisburg for the summer. The main budget bill for the 2019-20 fiscal year starting July 1 emerged from the House Appropriations Committee on a 27-9 vote, with every Republican in favor and Democrats split. Democrats who voted against it issued various criticisms, including its failure to include a minimum wage increase and the elimination of a Depression-era cash assistance program that temporarily provided $200 a month to people deemed unable to work. Pennsylvania is in its strongest stretch of tax collections since the recession a decade ago, bringing a reprieve from a string of tight budget years and deficits.

2019-20 PA House General Fund Budget Proposal

Blogger note: this spreadsheet shows Expected School Code Distribution of BEF, RTL, and SEF Amounts Contained in HB 790, PN 2215 for each school district
2019/20 Basic, Special and Ready to Learn Block Grant Funding in proposed budget, HB790 PN 2215: Printout 
PA House Democratic Appropriations Committee Website Posted Jun 24, 2019

Some Pa. teachers could still get a raise as part of this year’s budget negotiations
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison June 25, 2019
Despite its lukewarm reception from Republicans, Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to give thousands of Pennsylvania teachers a pay raise may still find a place in the budget legislation expected to reach his desk this week. In his February budget address, Wolf called on the Republican-controlled General Assembly to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum teacher salary to $45,000 a year, and to appropriate $14 million in the state’s 2019-20 budget to help districts, mostly in rural areas, cover the new expenses. That money wasn’t included in the $34 billion spending plan that came out of the House Appropriations Committee on Monday. But a spokesperson for a top House Republican told the Capital-Star that the proposal to raise teacher pay “is not dead.” The policy change may be included in Pennsylvania’s school code instead, according to Mike Straub, a spokesperson for House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster. Pennsylvania’s myriad code bills, which govern everything from agriculture to education, don’t provide funding — they prescribe policy. Leaders in the House and Senate expect to send the budget-enabling bills to Wolf later this week.

Blogger note: Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 was over $1.6 billion; $393.5 million, $398.8 million, $436.1 million and $454.7 million respectively.
In 2016-17, taxpayers in Senator .@SenatorMensch’s districts had to send over $13.3 million to chronically underperforming cybers that their locally elected school boards never authorized. . #SB34 (Schwank) or #HB526 (Sonney) could change that. 
Data source: PDE via PSBA

Boyertown Area SD
Brandywine Heights Area SD
Easton Area SD
North Penn SD
Oley Valley SD
Palisades SD
Perkiomen Valley SD
Pottsgrove SD
Pottstown SD
Quakertown Community SD
Souderton Area SD
Upper Perkiomen SD


Has your state senator cosponsored bipartisan SB34?

Is your state representative one of the over 70 bipartisan cosponsors of HB526?

Don’t use the word reform for this charter school package | Opinion
Penn Live Opinion By Bernie O’Neill Posted Jun 24, 9:16 AM
 The Honorable Bernie O’Neill is former Republican State Representative, Bucks County.
If you weren’t worried about the rising cost of public education before now – you should be. If the legislature passes the charter bills currently in the Senate, expect more of the same; higher school taxes and disappointing news on school performance. Last week, the PA House passed a set of bills proffered to “fix” Pennsylvania’s charter school law. However, none of these do what needs to be done to protect taxpayers or help students achieve. In fact, a proposed amendment to the package that would have required a rigorous charter accountability system failed by a vote of 100-99. Harrisburg – what are you thinking? Just last week, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) released a study on charter school performance in Pennsylvania that should be sounding alarms in the minds of legislators across the state. Despite decades of investments, Pennsylvania’s charter school students aren’t showing the results promised or hoped for. Student reading performance is similar for charters and traditional public schools, and in math, charter school students are doing worse than their public-school peers.

It’s Budget Week: Here are five, essential things to know | Monday Morning Coffee
PA Capital Star Commentary By  John L. Micek June 24, 2019
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
All right, here we are. Today is Monday, June 24, 2019. And after a whole lot of build-up, we’re now in the final, six days of the 2018-19 fiscal year. And the budget gears are now finally grinding to life, with votes beginning this week, with an eye toward getting a finished spending plan onto Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk before we toast another Fiscal New Year at 12:01 a.m. a week from today. More astute readers will recall that Wolf has proposed a $34.1 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. It’s an increase from current, approved spending of $32.7 billion. As our friends at the AP note, “the increase largely would go toward early childhood education, public schools and growing costs for health care, pensions and debt.”

Should Philly sell a neighborhood school to the charter company running it?
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent June 25, 2019
Belmont Charter School in West Philadelphia is at the center of a debate over public assets and whether they should ever pass into private hands. Or maybe it’s just an old school with a leaky roof and a web of red tape. Those competing views will be on display this week when the Philadelphia school board takes an unprecedented vote. The board will decide whether it should sell Belmont Elementary School to the charter organization that has run it since 2002. If the board votes yes, Belmont would become the first Philadelphia neighborhood or catchment school owned by a private organization. By next year, some Philadelphia kids could be assigned to attend a school that the public no longer owns. The arrangement would further cement the school district’s relationship with the handful of charter operators that run some of its neighborhood schools. Critics worry a sale like this could leave the district stranded if the charter school ever folds. Some also oppose, on philosophical grounds, the idea of a charter network owning a building that city children are assigned to attend.

Dispelling myths about public charter schools
Citizens Voice LETTER TO THE EDITOR by Jim Smith / PUBLISHED: JUNE 24, 2019
JIM SMITH is chief executive officer of Bear Creek Community Charter School.
Misinformation and untruths continue to circulate regarding Pennsylvania’s public charter schools. As Chief Executive Officer of the only public charter school operational in Luzerne County, I want to take this opportunity to dispel some of the myths that continue to circulate. Since public charter schools are funded with public tax dollars, it is important that the general public have awareness as to how public charter schools function. Bear Creek Community Charter School is a public school, serving a population of 468 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, who reside in 12 school districts across three counties. Along with being a Local Education Agency, the school is also incorporated as a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation and is recognized as a nonprofit organization under section 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. There is nothing “for-profit” about the school’s operation. Bear Creek Community Charter School operates under a charter (a.k.a. contract) with the Wilkes-Barre Area School District Board of Education, but is operated independent of the district by a volunteer board of trustees.

One hundred and eighteen Pennsylvania charter schools were awarded grants from money that came from the federal charter schools program between 2006-2014. At this time, at least 49 (42%) of those charter schools were closed or never opened at all.
Network for Public Education Report June 2019

North Allegheny mulls bringing back its own cyber school
Post-Gazette by SANDY TROZZO JUN 24, 2019 1:07 PM
North Allegheny School District will consider bringing back its cyber school.
Revisting a cyber school is one of 21 items on the table for next year, according to an update to the comprehensive plan discussed at the school board’s June 19 work session. The district’s current comprehensive plan took effect in 2014 and runs until 2021. The North Allegheny Cyber Academy, which was only for grades four through eight, was closed four years ago. But a proposed state law would make it financially feasible for the district to offer a cyber school, officials said. Senate Bill 34 would require families to pay out-of-pocket for tuition to a cyber charter school if their home school district offers a cyber program “equal in scope and content.” That means that schools like North Hills, which already offer a cyber academy, would not have to pay tuition for district residents to attend other cyber schools. And districts like North Allegheny could open their own cyber schools.

SB751: When it comes to grading teachers in Pa., test scores could carry less weight
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.comJune 24, 2019
Much like their students, public school teachers are evaluated for their performance. But student test scores may soon play a smaller role in how teachers are graded. The state Senate is poised to vote as soon as Monday on legislation that will de-emphasize student test performance in evaluating public school teachers and principals. Instead, the bill would increase the weight classroom observations carry in those job performance reviews to 70 percent, up from the current 50 percent. The measure would also apply a factor for student poverty level - in addition to student performance measures - in the remaining 30 percent. Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster County, who is sponsoring the bill, said he thinks this change will help drive up student performance by moving away from the teaching to the test mentality. “I think it will ensure greater creativity and innovation for teachers to do best what they do in the classroom – to creatively instruct,” he said. This proposed evaluation system could become part of the overall state budget package that the General Assembly is looking to send to Gov. Tom Wolf later this week. If not, Aument and Rep. Jesse Topper, R-Bedford County, who chairs a House Subcommittee on Basic Education, say they will push for its consideration in the fall. Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott signaled the governor is interested in the direction this proposal heads.

Pa. to extend $60M school security program for second year
Penn Live By The Associated Press Posted Jun 24, 11:10 PM
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania lawmakers say they’ll authorize a second year of school and community security grants, a $60 million program spurred by last year’s Florida school shooting that killed 17 people. Republican lawmakers said Monday that a newly unveiled compromise budget package will keep the program intact for the coming school year. Officials did not have immediate details on how the program guidelines will change. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf had proposed a second year at $45 million, but lawmakers say they are diverting another $15 million from the state court system's cash reserve to bring it up to $60 million. Under the past year’s program, school districts could apply for a grant for a wide range of purposes, including safety and security assessments, security-related technology, training, counselors, police officers and anti-violence programs.

Blogger note: a $25 million increase in EITC is included in the budget proposal released yesterday.
Private school choice program fight brews in Pennsylvania
Politico Morning Education By KIMBERLY HEFLING 06/24/2019 10:00 AM EDT
PENNSYLVANIA LAWMAKER DECRIES GOVERNOR’S VETO: A high-profile fight in the Keystone State over whether to nearly double the size of a state tax credit scholarship program that funds private school tuition continues to brew. Under the 2001 program, businesses earn a tax credit for contributing.
— GOP Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai tells Morning Education he’s not giving up attempts to expand the program even after Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed a bill last week that would have done so. Turzai said about 50,000 students were turned away last year to participate in the state's tax credit scholarship programs and that $140 million in tax credit applications have been waitlisted due to program caps.
— Turzai said he’s hearing from families and participating schools,which include Catholic, Christian, Jewish and nondenominational schools, voicing disappointment. For students and families that “welcome the opportunity to go to a school that best suits them, they aren’t going to have that opportunity,” Turzai said. “I’m immensely disappointed that the governor has left those families empty handed, really, by virtue of his veto.”
— It looks like there aren’t enough available votes to override Wolf’s veto. But Turzai says there are other legislative mechanisms under consideration to get some provisions in the bill passed.

Your View by retired Allentown police chief: 'Spend more on potential, less on penitentiaries’
If you happen to be looking for high school dropouts, check out Pennsylvania’s state prisons. Four of the 10 inmates sent there in 2018 did not have high school diplomas, according to Michele Hiester, the chief of research and evaluation for the state Department of Corrections. And if you want to know about young people entangled in the criminal justice system, you’ll find that 13 out of every 100 arrests in Pennsylvania involves someone aged 17 to 24. Those who commit property and violent crimes leave behind a trail of victims whose sense of personal security has been shattered forever. Pennsylvania’s law enforcement professionals are tough on criminals because it is their job and their mission, but we know that safer communities start with diverting youth from lives of crime in the first place. We can fight crime by assuring that each Pennsylvania child earns a high school diploma and grows up to lead a productive, law-abiding life. This path demands a continuum of public investment in childhood, building a foundation of success from birth through graduation. 

“When Gym won her seat in 2015, she was a former teacher turned rabble-rousing public school activist, known for founding Philadelphia Notebook, a news outlet covering the district and a parents organization. Some people dismissed her as a one-issue candidate, but it was an issue — education — that fueled her victory. And many reforms she’s since pushed, like ending suspensions in grades K-2 and returning the district to city-control, were accomplished. Education is still a key issue for Gym. After a three-hour Council meeting this month, she changed from heels into flats to dash to a school board meeting, where she encouraged members to create an emergency facilities repair fund.”
Philly’s AOC? How Helen Gym became the city’s most progressive Council member.
Inquirer by Julia Terruso, Updated: June 25, 2019- 5:10 AM
Helen Gym was cooking for her family’s Lunar New Year celebration when she received a call from Mayor Jim Kenney’s team. It was January 2017, and President Donald Trump had just issued an executive order prohibiting citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. Could she help gather people at the airport to rally against the ban? Gym, a freshman City Council member, put out a call on Twitter, and contacted community groups, friends and elected officials. An hour later, the international terminal was filled with protesters. That night, amid similar rallies around the country, a federal judge stayed the order.

Sharif El-Mekki: Leading With Equity and Justice
The Education Trust May 16, 2019 by Robin Harris
On the first day of school at Mastery Charter Shoemaker, principal Sharif El-Mekki welcomes students and staff not only back to school, but “back to nation-building.” The school serves almost 800 middle- and high-schoolers. Add the adults and the roster nears 900. That’s more than double the population of the world’s smallest country. So, technically, Shoemaker could be a small nation on its own. But El-Mekki’s call for nation-building echoes beyond the walls of Shoemaker. As the son of Black Panther Party members and activists, he was taught that we are all responsible not just for those inside your home, but for your community. He was also taught that you needed tangible skills to live up to that responsibility, e.g., learning how to be a good reader, a good communicator, how to build a coalition, and be a good public speaker. Therefore, when El-Mekki evokes nation-building, it’s a charge for Shoemaker’s students not just to get an education, but to lead and serve in their communities and for Shoemaker’s teachers and leaders to ensure students have what they need to do so. For many of Shoemaker’s students that community is West Philly. Shoemaker is a neighborhood public charter school, so the vast majority of students come from the local community. El-Mekki too grew up nearby. But by the early 2000s, William H. Shoemaker Junior High had become the second most violent middle school in the Philadelphia school district. In 2006, district officials contracted with the Mastery Charter School network to turn the school around. El-Mekki joined the staff a year later.

No more snow days? Pa. schools may soon allow kids to work at home
By Ron Southwick | rsouthwick@pennlive.com Updated 12:17 AM; Posted Jun 24, 6:46 PM
In the near future, a snowy day may not translate into a day away from schoolwork. Soon, Pennsylvania’s schools may be allowed to give out school assignments students can do at home on days when school buildings are closed due to heavy snowfall or other issues. State lawmakers have approved a bill that would allow school districts to have five flexible instruction days each year. The state House of Representatives passed the bill Monday, sending the measure to Gov. Tom Wolf. Under the bill, schools could use the flexible days for closures due to weather, building repairs or, grimly, threats made to schools. The bill could allow school districts to avoid delaying the end of the school year to make up for snow days, a sticky issue for families planning vacations or graduation parties.

“Forty-two percent of the Pennsylvania charter schools that received grants either never opened, closed or may not have ever been a charter school at all (an example is given below). Of those, the overwhelming majority (39 of 49) either never opened or were non-charters. Many received grants that exceeded $50,000.”
A report that detailed up to $1 billion in wasted federal funds on bad charter schools may have underestimated the problem
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss Reporter June 24 at 1:13 PM
In March, I published a post about a report detailing up to $1 billion in federal funds wasted on charter schools that never opened, or opened and then closed because of mismanagement and other reasons. The report — titled “Asleep at the Wheel” and published by the Network for Public Education, a group that advocates for public schools — also said that the U.S. Education Department does not adequately monitor how money it uses for grants in its Charter Schools Program is spent. A few days later, the report was raised at a House subcommittee hearing by Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), who asked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos about it. DeVos, a big supporter of charter schools, said that schools that don’t “make it” should be closed. The full House recently passed a spending bill that would provide more funding than ever for the Education Department, though charter school funding would be cut by nearly 10 percent. Now, one of the authors of “Asleep at the Wheel,” Carol Burris, is back with an update. Her conclusion: The waste and fraud may be worse than the original report stated, as she explains in the following piece. Burris is executive director of the Network for Public Education and a former award-winning principal in New York. It is worth noting that the original report said that the Education Department in Republican and Democratic administrations has “largely ignored or not sufficiently addressed” recommendations to improve the Charter Schools Programs made by the department’s own inspector general.

The deadline to submit a cover letter, resume and application is August 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: http://ow.ly/CchG50uDoxq 

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 http://www.eplc.org 

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. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NBCNDKK

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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