Lawrence Feinberg produces this comprehensive summary of news about education in Pennsylvania every day. It is an excellent redource, especially valuable during the state’s prolonged budget crisis. The failure of the legislature and governor to agree on a budget has wreaked havoc on the state’s schools.
Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 18, 2016:
All daily postings are on our blog site at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
“School districts are in the business of preparing kids to be productive members of society. The reduction in staff (450-plus positions) and budget cuts ($102 million) of the last five years left us with fewer services for Allentown students who have the greatest needs. The end result is we have fewer positions for remediating academic needs, increased class sizes, less social-emotional support, fewer electives, and fewer opportunities to build one-on-one relationships that all kids need, especially ours.”
Allentown’s Mayo: It’s more about the kids than state budget | Opinion
C. Russell Mayo is superintendent of the Allentown School District.
The financial crisis for the Allentown School District and other districts, created by the absence of a state budget for this 2015-16 fiscal year, is devastating. Needless financial costs and evaporated services are appalling, but that does not compare to the loss of hope — which is the essence of this crisis. Of course, our district suffers from additional financial costs and expense restraints from having no state budget. (The state funds 54 percent of our annual budget.) This past fall, we spent about $47,000 in fees and interest in borrowing $50 million. We covered unpaid bills remaining from the first semester and paid back the borrowed funds when a portion of the state money arrived in January. Since then, we have had to exhaust our fund balance and local taxes collected. In spite of spending on only essential items, delaying hiring for positions, and reducing payments to charter schools, the district now has to borrow $64 million to stretch to our next round of local taxes. Assuming the court approves this loan, we will incur at least $90,000 in additional fees with the potential for $500,000 in interest payments. Additionally, a lower Standard and Poor’s bond rating is likely. Even though these financial concerns are staggering, the major problem is the concern for our students.
Local school districts facing financial collapse
Bradford Era By ALEX DAVIS Era Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
Local school districts on the brink of a financial collapse faced yet another roadblock on Wednesday in their efforts to secure months-overdue state funding. The latest hurdle came as Gov. Tom Wolf promised to veto a supplemental budget that would have restored funding to several programs, including education. The Senate and House passed the measure earlier in the day. Under that plan, House Bill 1801 would have increased education funding by $200 million and restored a majority of the $6 billion in funding cuts by Wolf’s line-item vetoes. The $30.031 billion spending plan would use existing revenues without a tax increase, according to Republican Senate officials. Now, school districts are back to square one, and that’s a position that doesn’t bode well for several area districts, especially the Austin Area School District, the smallest public school district in the state. That district could be left with only $54,460 in the general fund by the end of April, Business Manager Peggy Derr told The Era on Wednesday.
“The resolution relates to a high-profile case filed November 2014 in Commonwealth Court by the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the Education Law Center, on behalf of six school districts, including William Penn, seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference.
The case was filed against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the governor “for failing to uphold the General Assembly’s constitutional obligation to provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education.”
Haverford board votes to support William Penn School District in lawsuit
Delco Times By Lois Puglionesi, Times Correspondent
In an uncharacteristically divided tally, school directors voted 5-3 with one abstention to adopt a resolution expressing support for plaintiffs in the William Penn School District lawsuit “as they seek to enforce Pennsylvania’s constitutional guarantee of a thorough and efficient system of public education.” The resolution also urges the General Assembly to provide school districts with adequate revenues, based on a fair and predictable formula calculated to grant all students resources they need to meet state standards and lead productive lives. School director Larry Feinberg, who serves as legislative liaison, chair of the Delaware County School Districts Legislative Council and co-chair of the Keystone State Education Coalition, introduced the matter in January, when it sparked lively debate. School directors voted to table the measure in February, pending revisions Feinberg made.
For more info on the above lawsuit:
Thorough and Efficient
Pennsylvania School Funding Litigation Website: The Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.
– Article III, Section 14, of the Pennsylvania Constitution
Gov. Wolf Video: ‘Pennsylvania is running out of money’
WTAE.com Video Runtime 2:54 UPDATED 5:43 PM EDT Mar 17, 2016
Governor Wolf brought his message to Pittsburgh Thursday focusing on the importance of education funding
“Wolf said he would veto the current budget proposal by Republican legislative leaders to release education funding. He has called it “irresponsible and unbalanced” and said it does not properly fund schools or fix the deficit. “We’ve got to get this right. And fixing this for another three months, four months, then coming back and having exactly the same conversation in July, August, September, is not going to get us much,” Wolf said.”
Gov. Wolf addresses prospect PA budget battle could force some school district shutdowns
WTAE By Bob Mayo
PITTSBURGH —Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf visited Pittsburgh Brashear High School to spotlight its career and technical education programs Thursday, but also to warn of continuing danger to state education funding in the ongoing budget battle between the Democratic governor and Republican-controlled state Legislature.. “We have a choice. And it’s a really stark choice,” Wolf told students, teachers, and staff after his tour of the school. The choice, Wolf said, is between the state making a commitment to raise revenue to support and expansion education or continuing on a path he said would risk education cuts in the long-term. “Pennsylvania is running out of money. We have been using smoke and mirrors in our budgets. We have been spending money we don’t have,” Wolf said. The governor said if the state’s budget isn’t resolved by July — the start of the next fiscal year — Pennsylvania will face a $2-billion deficit that could lead to a billion dollar cut in education funding.
No Wolf veto yet on GOP-backed Pa. budget bill
GoErie By Kevin Flowers 814-870-1693 Erie Times
Gov. Tom Wolf took no action Thursday on his threat to veto a new, $6 billion Republican-backed spending bill approved by the state Legislature aimed at ending the 8-month-old state budget fight. Wolf was at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh on Thursday, outlining a proposal for government reform that includes calling on the state Legislature to ban gifts, contracting, reforms, more oversight of lobbying and other moves to increase transparency. He did not indicate when a veto might happen. On Wednesday, Wolf said he would officially reject the new spending bill, designed by Republicans to be part of a $30 billion spending package that would help finish the partially completed 2015-16 state budget. The bill would increase spending from the state’s main bank account by about $870 million, and deliver half the public school aid increase, or roughly $200 million, that Wolf had initially sought for fiscal year 2015-16, which began July 1.
Reading School Board told state budget impasse’s cost: $1,000 per day in interest
The Reading School District is racking up $1,000 per day in interest payments thanks to the ongoing state budget impasse, and district officials are fed up. At the Reading School Board’s workshop meeting Wednesday night, several board members expressed dismay about the impact the impasse is having on the district, which was forced to borrow $20 million to make up for state funding that has been held up. “It’s just so frustrating to be in this position,” said board President Robin Costenbader-Jacobson. Costenbader-Jacobson expressed anger toward state officials, saying more pressure needs to be put on local members of the Legislature to get a deal done.
Auditor General to research how budget crisis is costing schools
WITF Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania
– Schools have already had to borrow nearly $1 billion to cover operating costs while Governor Tom Wolf and state lawmakers fight over a completing this year’s budget.
Now, state’s top fiscal watchdog is planning to put more pressure on those who have failed to get a deal done. It’s round three for Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. His office has already released two reports on how the budget crisis is affecting schools. Now, he’s planning to do a third, just as some districts are warning they may have to shut down or declare bankruptcy.
Red Lion in York County recently said it faces that option. DePasaquale says it is not alone.
“Allentown talked about borrowing, certainly seen that it in Erie as well, those are two others. And we’re starting to see how others are affected. April’s a pretty big month if there isn’t a budget by then,” says DePasquale.
Education Advocates: PA Budget Bill Falls Short
Public News Service
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The budget passed by the General Assembly on Wednesday falls far short of providing what Pennsylvania schools need, according to education advocates. More than eight months after the budget was due, lawmakers have sent Gov. Tom Wolf a supplemental budget bill that would increase K-through-12 school spending by $202 milion over last year, far short of the $400 million the governor had sought. Cheryl Kleiman, staff attorney for the Education Law Center, said that just isn’t enough. “We have called for an increase of at least $600 million between this year and next,” she said, “and this budget simply doesn’t get us there.”
Wolf also has said the bill, which passed on an almost party-line vote, does not adequately fund education and doesn’t address the looming $2 billion deficit in next year’s budget. He has said he will veto the bill. –
See more at: http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2016-03-18/education/education-advocates-pa-budget-bill-falls-short/a50922-1#sthash.NbLUlVDX.dpuf
Vogel Supports Restoration of Funding for Schools, Agriculture, Hospitals
HARRISBURG — Senator Elder Vogel Jr. (R-47) issued the following statement today in response to the Senate’s passage of legislation to restore approximately $6 billion in funding for education, agriculture, and hospitals that Governor Wolf eliminated from the state budget in December: “Today, I voted for and the Legislature restored the $6.05 billion in funding that was vetoed by Governor Wolf back in December. If Governor Wolf signs it into law, our public schools will remain open, the 1,000+ folks that work for Penn State Extension will not be laid off, and we can finally move past this ugly situation and do the work that Pennsylvanians expect from their government.
Blogger note: Tim Eller was formerly Press Secretary for Governor Corbett. The Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools is an alliance of brick and mortar charter schools only and does not advocate for cyber charter schools.
Proposed budget dooms Pa. charter schools
The Evening Sun
Tim Eller is the executive director of Keystone Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Supporters of public school choice next year will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law. Since 1997, the number of brick-and-mortar charter schools has grown to 160 and enroll nearly 100,000 students, with tens of thousands more on waiting lists. At a time when the charter school sector should be gearing up to celebrate this significant milestone, instead, it is preparing to battle anti-school choice advocates’ efforts to close down charter schools and force students back into the very schools they fled that failed them year after year. Governor Wolf in February proposed a 2016-17 spending plan that calls for cutting nearly $500 million in funding to charter schools, which would result in the shutting down of virtually every charter school across the state. Without understanding how charter schools are funded, the Wolf administration’s proposal selectively aims to cut by at least 50 percent the per-student funding amount charter schools receive for educating disabled students.
Gov. Wolf should drop veto threat – it’s time to get it done: Thursday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before:
The Republican-controlled General Assembly sends Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf legislation it hopes will end Pennsylvania’s ages-old budget standoff. The bill sails through the House and Senate, mostly along party lines, and lands with a thud on Wolf’s desk. And that’s when it all goes wobbly: Proclaiming it inadequate and not up to the task of righting the state’s fiscal ship and closing the deficit, Wolf vetoes it, resetting the clock and starting the drama anew.
That’s a scenario that’s played itself out at least three times since the Senate GOP sent Wolf a budget bill last June 30. And it seemed likely to play itself out again this week as the chamber teed up yet another spending bill for a swift voyage to Wolf’s desk. But on Wednesday, there were encouraging signs that, at least it as it concerns the current year’s budget, Pennsylvanians might be spared an encore performance of the increasingly tedious budget drama.
Commentary: Policy failures fuel Pa. budget impasse
Inquirer By Berwood A. Yost
Berwood A. Yost is the chief methodologist for the Franklin and Marshall College Poll, director of the Floyd Institute’s Center for Opinion Research, and director of the Floyd Institute for Public Policy Analysis. email@example.com
Why don’t we have a state budget? The answer is neither short nor simple.
Pennsylvania’s budget impasse is the direct result of three state policy failures: the failure to find the reliable funding sources that state government needs to operate, the failure to reduce the spending growth that existing laws require, and the failure to support reforms that make elections more competitive. Corporate taxes as a share of general-fund revenues have steadily declined because the amount of money generated by those taxes has remained, in inflation-adjusted terms, unchanged since 1988. Revenue based on consumption taxes, such as the state sales tax, has grown by 27 percent, and revenue from other sources, such as the personal income tax and table games, has grown by 87 percent. This is policy failure one: not finding a sustainable revenue stream to replace money lost because of changes to corporate taxes.
Education philosophies clash at packed Philly SRC meeting
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY MARCH 18, 2016
Thursday’s Philadelphia School Reform Commission meeting again became a forum to debate the school district’s plans for drastic intervention at several of its lowest performing schools.
The evening began with a clash of minds on the front steps of district headquarters. Before the meeting, the NAACP joined the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and other traditional public school advocates in a rally against the district’s school conversion plans — all of which would result in dramatic faculty shakeups. NAACP Philadelphia chapter president Rodney Muhammad called for the SRC to be abolished with a reference to the slave trade. “They are nothing but a consultant group for private industry who wants to take over our children and put them back on the auction block,” he said. Muhammad’s statement was directed in part at Mastery charter — one of three nonprofit charter organizations that has applied to takeover three low-performing elementary schools. Those remarks didn’t sit well with Kirby Ames, a senior at Mastery’s Shoemaker campus in West Philadelphia. He stood on the other side of the steps with dozens of other Mastery supporters listening to speakers bash the charter’s motives.
Plan for 3 more Philly charters draws protests, counterprotests
by Mensah M. Dean, Staff Writer
Before the School Reform Commission could start its scheduled meeting Thursday, the School District’s plan to hand over several struggling schools to charter operators drew demonstrators and counter-demonstrators to the steps of district headquarters on North Broad Street. On one side, about 150 parents, teachers, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan, State Rep. Curtis Thomas, and Philadelphia NAACP president Minister Rodney Muhammad were cheered as they spoke passionately in opposition to turning public schools into charters. “This is a dangerous arrangement for our children, it’s a dangerous arrangement for public education,” Muhammad said. “The NAACP is here to shut the SRC down. They’re nothing but an advertising agency for privatizing education in Philadelphia.” On the other side: About 150 people, including many parents. One of them, Jathiya Singleton, could not comprehend the depth of emotion.
Her three children, ages 7 to 10, attend Wister Elementary in Germantown, one of three schools the district has targeted for charter management.
Emails show effort to sway SRC on Wister charter conversion
Documents reveal the Philadelphia School Partnership moved to influence SRC members. PSP says its preference for Renaissance charters is no secret.
The notebook by Bill Hangley Jr.
Newly released documents shed new light on behind-the-scenes moves by the Philadelphia School Partnership to revive Mastery Charter School’s bid to run Wister Elementary, after Superintendent William Hite had reversed course and recommended that the school remain under District control. The documents, mostly emails, were released by the Philadelphia School District after requests from the American Federation of Teachers and the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS) under the state’s Right to Know law. Among them is an email to School Reform Commissioner Bill Green from a senior PSP executive. It indicated that PSP board members planned to call SRC members Sylvia Simms and Feather Houstoun to encourage them to “move for and/or support a resolution to transfer Wister to Mastery.” PSP sent its email just days after Hite, citing some academic improvement at the school, decided to take Wister off the charter transformation list.
Senator eyes legislation requiring public superintendent contracts
The Sentinel by Amanda St. Hilaire abc27 News Mar 16, 2016
Questions have arisen about school district transparency in light of legislation that would require school boards to be more open with taxpayers during hiring processes. “If you can’t defend something publicly, then it’s probably not a good idea,” Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said. It’s his mantra, and he believes school districts should follow suit. Often called Pennsylvania’s fiscal watchdog, DePasquale can now be called the inspiration for a new bill promoting transparency After seeing DePasquale’s scathing audit of Connellsvile Area School District in Fayette County, state Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette, is getting ready to introduce legislation that would require school boards to publicly post employment offers for superintendents and principals at least two weeks before voting. “At a minimum, I hope it spearheads a discussion on some of the iss es taking place in some of the school districts,” DePasquale said.
Nazareth teachers put off plans for Friday strike; classes are on
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call March 17, 2016
The Nazareth Area teachers union has postponed plans for a strike Friday, preventing at least temporarily what would have been the first teacher walkout in the Lehigh Valley in seven years.
The school district announced on its website that all schools will be open Friday and operating on a regular schedule. “As part of the ratification process, the Nazareth Area Education Association will be presenting a [contract] proposal to teachers early next week,” the district said. The school board had scheduled a special meeting for 9 a.m. Friday. That meeting is still on, the district said. The two sides had a series of bitter exchanges Wednesday, with the union announcing plans for a strike and the district issuing a long rebuttal. On Thursday, they came together in an attempt to hash out an agreement. The district said the teachers had until 7 p.m. to decide whether they still intended to strike. Shortly before 8 p.m., the strike postponement was announced.
Tennessee school funding proposal threatens status quo
Education Dive By Erin McIntyre | March 17, 2016
A proposal that passed through a Tennessee House panel and is now set to be considered by a Finance Committee would amend the state constitution to grant the General Assembly sole discretion over school spending.
Bill sponsor Rep. Bill Dunn (R), says the legislation will protect taxpayers from activist judges who might rule the state is not adequately funding education, and from situations in other states where courts have increased taxpayer burdens.
Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377
Lawrence A. Feinberg
Keystone State Education Coalition
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