Tuesday, February 28, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 28: One of the fundamental differences between charters and democratically governed public schools is the total disconnect between the spending of public tax dollars and the responsibility for actually raising those funds from your neighbors

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 28, 2017:
One of the fundamental differences between charters and democratically governed public schools is the total disconnect between the spending of public tax dollars and the responsibility for actually raising those funds from your neighbors

Fair funding provides small gains for districts in Wolf’s proposed budget
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 02/26/17, 1:43 PM EST | UPDATED: 13 HRS AGO
A first look at the impact of Gov. Wolf’s proposed $80 billion budget for the coming fiscal year offers at peek at the effect last year’s adoption of the fair funding formula for education is having on local schools.  The formula was adopted and put into place for the first time last year and is designed to take into account facts in the ground — community wealth, percentage of special education students, number of students enrolled — in determining how much basic and special education funding a district receives from the state.  As a result of these calculations, the Pottstown School District, perhaps the poorest of the nine in The Mercury coverage area, will see significantly more state aid than the other districts.  According to figures provided to the House Republican Caucus by Wolf’s office, Pottstown would receive an increase in basic and special education funding that is nearly double many area districts.  But while more funding is always welcome, the depth of Pottstown’s under-funding for schools — ranked at about $12 million last year — is unlikely to be ameliorated by the additional $490,643 contained in those two funding streams.

Turzai: Pa. budget process isn't sustainable
Inquirer Opinion by Mike Turzai Updated: FEBRUARY 27, 2017 — 3:13 PM EST
Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) is speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. 
As the General Assembly begins another budget season, it's time to admit that Pennsylvania needs to overhaul state government.  In the midst of a 21st-century economy driven by new technology and fundamental changes in the markets, we are still using a formula dating to the early 20th century when economic change was glacial and industrial growth assumed.  We started down this path to rethink state government when the General Assembly last summer put another of my bills on the governor's desk to allow the private sector to sell wine. There is no rational reason for state government to be in the wine and spirits business. Thank goodness, he signed our legislation, which needs further expansion.  We need to do so much more - streamline the role of government and make it more efficient in meeting the real needs of Pennsylvanians.

Blogger commentary: One of the fundamental differences between charters and democratically governed public schools is the total disconnect between the spending of public tax dollars and the responsibility for actually raising those funds from your neighbors.  These folks used money from all 500 school districts to purchase a Florida condominium, homes for his girlfriend and mother and a jet airplane, something that would be considerably more difficult to do with nine pairs of elected eyes responsible for authorizing payments and reviewing check registers.
Accountant's sentence delayed in $8M charter school fraud
Sentencing has been delayed for an accountant who pleaded guilty to helping the founder and former CEO of Pennsylvania's largest online charter school avoid federal income taxes on more than $8 million that man siphoned from the school.  Neal Prence pleaded guilty to one count of tax conspiracy in September. Monday's sentencing before a federal judge in Pittsburgh has been postponed until April 27.  Federal prosecutors contend Prence conspired with Nicholas Trombetta, 61, who pleaded guilty to the fraud in August involving The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School.  Trombetta is scheduled for sentencing April 7 for using the school's money to fund a lavish lifestyle, including buying a Florida condominium, homes for his girlfriend and mother and a jet airplane, while socking most of the money away for retirement.

“It’s going to shift control away from our local governments, our local school boards, and it’s going to put all the control to Harrisburg,” said the Republican from Jefferson Hills.  “We don’t want to turn the General Assembly into a large school board.”
Lawmakers discuss property tax plan at C-M town hall
Observer Reporter By Gideon Bradshaw February 27, 2017
CANONSBURG – From the podium at the front of a dim auditorium, Sen. Guy Reschenthaler warned the few dozen people scattered throughout the room that a plan to replace school property taxes with increased sales and income taxes would amount to sending their money to the state capital and then put it “on an eastbound train to Philadelphia.”  “It’s going to shift control away from our local governments, our local school boards, and it’s going to put all the control to Harrisburg,” said the Republican from Jefferson Hills.  “We don’t want to turn the General Assembly into a large school board.”  Reschenthaler was among the speakers at Canon-McMillan High School Monday during a town hall meant to give local residents a chance to learn about the proposal, dubbed the Property Tax Independence Act.  Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, said in a recent memo he planned to reintroduce the legislation in a bill similar to the one he floated in 2015. That proposal failed in a 25-24 vote.  Not everyone in attendance agreed with Reschenthaler’s predictions.

Bethlehem Area adopts resolution opposing property tax elimination plan
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call February 27, 2017
The Bethlehem Area School Board, having previously called a plan to eliminate school property taxes "radical," has now adopted a resolution urging legislators to oppose that plan.   At Monday's meeting, the board voted unanimously for the the resolution, which was drafted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. The resolution asks lawmakers to reject the school property tax plan in consideration of alternative relief targeted specifically toward senior citizens. Other school boards across the state have adopted this resolution.  The debate to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania is expected to return to the Legislature this year. If passed, it would mean shifting about $14 billion in taxes from property owners, including businesses, to Pennsylvania consumers and workers through sales and personal income taxes.  In Bethlehem, 70 percent of the district's revenue comes from property taxes.  Last month at a meeting, Superintendent Joseph Roy called the property tax elimination plan a "radical" idea that takes away local control.

Northampton Area School District concerned that drop in transportation subsidies offsets state budget increases for education
Morning Call by Kevin Duffy February 27, 2017
A decrease in transportation subsidies from the state as a result of Gov. Tom Wolf's budget proposal will result in a minimal net gain for the Northampton Area School District despite increases in special and basic Education funding.  The governor's proposed $125 million increase in education funding will only mean about $60,000 more to Northampton once the $225,000 decrease in transportation funding to the district is factored in, Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik said during a school board meeting Monday.  Under the current proposal, the district is set to receive about $75,000 more in funding for special education and $211,000 more toward basic education, finance director Terry Leh said.  Those gains, however, will be largely washed away due to the decrease in transportation funding, Kovalchik said.  District officials also are uneasy about the possible passage of HB 76, which would eliminate property taxes as a funding mechanism for school districts in favor of sales tax and local income tax hikes.

A Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, further providing for the Legislative Reapportionment Commission for the purpose of reapportioning and redistricting the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
PA Senate Bill 22; Regular Session 2017-2018
Printer's No.(PN): 397*
Actions: PN 0397           Referred to STATE GOVERNMENT, Feb. 27, 2017

Pa. judge rules in favor of transgender students in lawsuit against school bathroom policy
Penn Live By Colin Deppen | cdeppen@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 27, 2017 at 8:23 PM, updated February 27, 2017 at 11:16 PM
A federal judge has ruled in favor of a trio of Pennsylvania transgender students who sued their school district last year over a bathroom choice policy they say violates their civil rights.    The ruling announced Monday grants a preliminary injunction sought by the three students at Pine-Richland School District near Pittsburgh and effectively ensures they will be able to use the bathroom corresponding with their chosen gender identity as their case proceeds through the courts.  Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, staff attorney at Lambda Legal, the group which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the students, said: "This is just a temporary preliminary injunction as the case proceeds. But as it proceeds, our clients can use the facilities that match who they are and the district is obligated to do so under the U.S. Constitution."  Gonzalez-Pagan said the district now has until March 15 to formally answer the students' complaint in the western district court where the case is being heard.

Judge: Bathroom choice a decision for Pine-Richland transgender students
By Torsten Ove / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 27, 2017 6:10 PM
A federal judge on Monday said three transgender students at Pine-Richland High School can use the bathroom of their choice.  U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak granted a preliminary injunction request brought by the students and an advocacy group that sought to halt the enforcement of a policy at Pine-Richland that required the students to use the bathrooms matching their biological gender or to use unisex bathrooms.  “This is a huge win for Juliet, Elissa and A.S., who will be able once again to use the bathroom that matches who they are,” said Lambda Legal staff attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan. “The court recognized that policies that seek to erase a transgender student’s identity do not address any real problems, but rather only serve to discriminate and harm our youth.”  Judge Hornak said the students “appear to the court to be young people seeking to do what young people try to do every day — go to school, obtain an education, and interact as equals with their peers.”  He said the plaintiffs have shown a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that Pine-Richland’s enforcement of its rule is discriminatory, and he denied the district’s request to throw out the suit.

Students with allergies protected by law from dangerous reactions, bias
The notebook by Morgen Black-Smith and David J. Berney February 27, 2017 — 3:46pm
For some students with food allergies, school can be a dangerous place. Parents of these students know all too well that exposing their children to the wrong foods can cause symptoms ranging from rashes, to labored breathing, to anaphylactic shock and even death.
Here are several basic steps that you can take to keep your food-allergic child safe. 
§  First, work with your pediatrician or allergist to learn which foods trigger your child’s allergic reaction, what the reaction’s symptoms are, and what to do if a reaction takes place.
§  Second, meet with school staff to advise them of your student’s allergy and collaborate with them to develop a food-allergy plan for avoiding exposure to the allergen and taking necessary actions in case of an emergency.
§  Finally, teach your child – in age-appropriate ways – how to self-advocate and stay safe at school.
In addition to taking those steps, parents of students with severe food allergies can turn to the protections in federal civil rights laws to help keep their children safe. Some parents and schools may not think of a student’s allergic reaction as a disability, but if that allergy can result in severe, life-threatening reactions, the protections of these federal laws apply.  The primary federal law that can apply to students with severe food allergies is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Any school that receives federal funds from the Department of Education must comply with Section 504. In Pennsylvania, this typically includes all public schools, all public charter schools, and some private schools.  Section 504 was written to ensure that students with disabilities can participate fully in all regular aspects of the school day. A written Section 504 plan outlines the accommodations that the student needs to attend school safely.

Erie School District looks at more cuts
State's rejection of its financial plan narrows options
GoErie By Ed Palattella / ed.palattella@timesnews.com February 27, 2017
With a jolt, the Erie School District has quickly reached the same position that it was in a year ago.  The district must look to the General Assembly as its last hope for relief from its budget crisis.  Otherwise the district will have to make massive cuts — the amount could be close to $10 million — if it wants to stay solvent.  The need for legislative help became starkly clear on Monday, when the Pennsylvania Department of Education rejected the Erie School District's $31.8 million plan for financial recovery.  The department gave the district two months to submit a revised plan, but one of the department's top officials said the new plan cannot include a request for state aid, as the rejected plan did.  The district in that plan said it needed $31.8 million more in annual state funding to balance its budget and improve programs. The additional money, the district also said, would make its level of annual state aid more commensurate with the levels for more affluent school districts.  The revised plan instead must show how the district plans to stay solvent by cutting programs and raising local property taxes.

North Pocono considers teachers contract
Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL AND KATHLEEN BOLUS / PUBLISHED: FEBRUARY 28, 2017The North Pocono School Board plans to vote on a teachers contract tonight that offers annual raises and requires teachers to call for coupons for high-priced prescriptions.  The current North Pocono contract, negotiated after a one-day strike in 2013, expires in June. Approving a new contract four months before the current contract expires is a rare occurrence in a region plagued by teachers strikes and threats of work stoppages the last few years.  “We worked very well together,” said Scott Keating, president of the North Pocono School Board. “We had a great negotiation team. We have a great school board. The union negotiation team was phenomenal.”
At least two school directors, however, plan to speak at tonight’s meeting about issues they have with the proposed contract.

Donald Trump's First Speech to Congress and Education: Four Things to Watch
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on February 28, 2017 8:00 AM
President Donald Trump is slated to give his first big speech to Congress Tuesday. Because this is his first year in office, it's not technically a State of the Union address. (Think of it as a pseudo-SOTU in Beltway-speak).  The speech could give the country a glimpse of education's place in Trump's presidency—or it could send a signal that education won't be a major focus.
Here are four things to watch for:

What Could Trump's Broad Budget Plans Mean for Education?
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on February 27, 2017 12:33 PM
UPDATED - After months of speculation about how President Donald Trump would approach the budget, we now have at least a general idea: Trump will seek a $54 billion increase for defense-related spending and a corresponding cut in other discretionary funding in fiscal 2018, according to published reports. So what could that mean for the U.S. Department of Education budget. We don't know the crucial details yet, but one thing's for sure: Many education advocates are concerned.   First, rememember that many funding advocates have been watching to see how the Trump administration handles those mandatory budget caps on defense and nondefense discretionary spending imposed, which is commonly called sequestration. Now we have a (perhaps unsurprising) answer: more money for defense and roughly a 10 percent cut for discretionary spending at domestic agencies like the Education Department. Also keep in mind that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said recently that she'll look for places to make cuts in the department's budget.
The Education Department's current budget is just over $68 billion, so a 10 percent cut would be roughly $6.8 billion. What are the biggest programs by dollar amount that could lose money?
·         Pell Grants to support low-income students attending college are funded at $22.5 billion.
·         Title I funding for disadvantaged students is $14.9 billion.
·         Individuals With Disabilities Education Act money for students in special education is funded at $12.9 billion.
Together, those three line items in the budget account for $50 billion, or about 73 percent of the Education Department's total spending. Earlier this month, Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole, the chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that drafts the department's budget, indicated to us that Title I and IDEA funding are crucial budget building blocks for many school districts. But it could be unsafe to assume that means the big-ticket items will be left alone in Trump's budget proposal, which is expected some time in March.  

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 2/28/2017

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania Tue, February 28, 2017
7:00 PM – 8:30 PM EST Strath Haven Middle School 200 South Providence Road Nether Providence Township
By Public Interest Law Center along with Delco Indivisible and Moving the Needle/Indivisible Swarthmore Education Committees
Join attorney Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a briefing on:
·         the basics of education funding
·         the PA school funding lawsuit
·         the property tax elimination bill and how it would affect school funding
This presentation will be followed by a discussion on how we can mobilize to protect public education in PA.

Public Education Funding Briefing; Wed, March 8, 2017 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM at United Way Bldg in Philly
Public Interest Law Center email/website February 14, 2017
Amid a contentious confirmation battle in Washington D.C., public education has been front and center in national news. But what is happening at home is just as--if not more--important: Governor Wolf just announced his 2017-2018 budget proposal, including $100 million in new funding for basic education. State legislators are pushing a bill that would eliminate local school taxes by increasing income and sales taxes. And we at the Law Center are waiting on a decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as to whether or not our school funding lawsuit can go to trial.   How do all of these things affect Pennsylvania's schools, and the children who rely on them? Come find out!   Join Jennifer Clarke, Michael Churchill and me for one of two briefings on the nuts and bolts of how public education funding works in Pennsylvania and how current proposals and developments could affect students and teachers. (The content of both briefings will be identical.) 
The briefings are free and open to the public, but we ask that you please RSVP. 

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania March 15, from 5:30-7:00 p.m.,
On March 15, from 5:30-7:00 p.m., join attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a briefing on public education.
Topics include:
·         the basics of education funding
·         the school funding lawsuit
·         the property tax elimination bill and how it would affect school funding
1.5 CLE credits available to PA licensed attorneys.

New PSBA Winter Town Hall Series coming to your area
Introducing a new and exciting way to get involved and stay connected in a location near you! Join your PSBA Town Hall meeting to hear the latest budget and political updates affecting public education. Enjoy light hors d’oeuvres and networking with fellow school directors. Locations have been selected to minimize travel time. Spend less time in the car and more time learning about issues impacting your schools.
6-6:35 p.m.         Association update from PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains
6:35 -7:15 p.m. Networking Reception
7:15-8 p.m.         Governor’s budget address recap
Tuesday, February 28    PSBA, Mechanicsburg
Wednesday, March 1     Bedford County Technical Center, Everett
Thursday, March 2         West Side CTC, Kingston

Ron Cowell at EPLC always does a great job with these policy forums.
RSVP Today for a Forum In Your Area! EPLC is Holding Five Education Policy Forums on Governor Wolf’s 2017-2018 State Budget Proposal
Forum #2 – Harrisburg Area (Enola, PA) Tuesday, February 28, 2017 – Capital Area Intermediate Unit – 55 Miller Street (Susquehanna Room), Enola, PA 17025
Forum #3 – Philadelphia Thursday, March 2, 2017 – Penn Center for Educational Leadership, University of Pennsylvania, 3440 Market Street (5th Floor), Philadelphia, PA 19104
Forum #4 – Indiana University of Pennsylvania Tuesday, March 14, 2017 – 1011 South Drive (Stouffer Hall), Indiana, PA 15705
Forum #5 – Lehigh Valley Tuesday, March 28, 2017 – Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit #21, 4210 Independence Drive, Schnecksville, PA 18078
Governor Wolf will deliver his 2017-2018 state budget proposal to the General Assembly on February 7. These policy forums will be early opportunities to get up-to-date information about what is in the proposed education budget, the budget’s relative strengths and weaknesses, and key issues.  Each of the forums will take following basic format (please see below for regional presenter details at each of the three events). Ron Cowell of EPLC will provide an overview of the Governor’s proposed budget for early education, K-12 and higher education.  A representative of The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will provide an overview of the state’s fiscal situation and key issues that will affect this year’s budget discussion. The overviews will be followed by remarks from a panel representing statewide and regional perspectives concerning state funding for education and education related items. These speakers will discuss the impact of the Governor’s proposals and identify the key issues that will likely be considered during this year’s budget debate.
Although there is no registration fee, seating is limited and an RSVP is required.
Offered in partnership with PASA and the PA Department of Education March 29-30, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg - Camp Hill, PA .    Approved for 40 PIL/Act 48 (Act 45) hours for school administrators.  Register online at http://www.pasa-net.org/ev_calendar_day.asp?date=3/29/2017&eventid=63

PASBO 62nd Annual Conference, March 21-24, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh.
Register now for the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference March 25-27 Denver
Plan to join public education leaders for networking and learning at the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference, March 25-27 in Denver, CO. General registration is now open at https://www.nsba.org/conference/registration. A conference schedule, including pre-conference workshops, is available on the NSBA website.

Register for the 2017 PASA Education Congress, “Delving Deeper into the Every Student Succeeds Act.” March 29-30

SAVE THE DATE LWVPA Convention 2017 June 1-4, 2017
Join the League of Women Voters of PA for our 2017 Biennial Convention at the beautiful Inn at Pocono Manor!

Save the Date 2017 PA Principals Association State Conference October 14. 15, 16, 2017
Doubletree Hotel Cranberry Township,  PA

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