Below is the current Education Update. Click here for a list of other recent updates.
October 23, 2017
ALERT: VOUCHER BILL! See below...
In State Budget News…
State Budget Update – One never knows what will happen in Harrisburg. And last week was another example.
Revenue Plan: On Tuesday evening the House pulled together a revenue plan to fund the $32 billion 2017-18 state spending plan passed last July and sent the Tax Code bill to the Senate with a 102-89 vote. The revenue plan includes very little new revenue, but instead relies heavily on borrowing – and revenues from video gaming terminals that have yet to be approved. In other words, the budget plan is based on a lot of “ifs” and definitely based on a lot of borrowing that eventually will need to be paid back. (On a side note, how Standard & Poors and other bond rating companies will see this plan is a good question.)
School Code Bill: Following the vote on the revenue plan, the House amended and approved the School Code bill with a 105-81 vote, sending it to the Senate. Click here for a summary of the relevant k-12 provisions in the bill.
The School Code bill includes a number of provisions, including:
*delaying the Keystone Exams/graduation requirement until 2019-20
*requiring school board training
*extending the PlanCon moratorium
*reducing from 150 days to 90 days the timeline for boards to act on the upcoming expiration of a commissioned officer’s contract
*providing for economic furloughs of school employees (also tied in to administrator furloughs)
*prohibit lunch shaming
*allows multiple charter organizations
*makes technical changes to the calculation of the BEF formula
*increases the EITC by 8 percent ($10 million)
*requires legislative oversight of the state ESSA implementation plan
What’s Ahead: After passing the revenue plan and School Code bill, the House also sent the Administrative Code to the governor for his approval. After doing all that, the House adjourned and cancelled their scheduled session for this week, basically putting everything in the Senate’s hands.
The Senate spent the weekend reviewing the House’s revenue plan, Tax Code bill and School Code bill to prepare to caucus for everything on Monday and potentially taking action this week. At this point, although they recognize this plan is based more on wishes than realities, it is most likely that the Senate will concur on the Tax Code and School Code bills just to get the budget settled. As Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said last week, “We need to get this accomplished. We need to get it done, and that’s really the one thing that’s leading us to really take a serious look at this and be supportive as we can, because it would get us done. There’s value to being done.”
The Senate this week also will need to prepare gaming expansion legislation (revenue needed for the budget) and tweak the Fiscal Code, while the legislation needed to fund higher education remains unfinished.
It is going to be a crazy week – and to add to the mayhem, the Senate Education Committee suddenly put a voucher bill on its schedule for this week (see below).
Stay tuned and follow PASA via Twitter @PASASupts for the latest information.
**ALERT** - VOUCHER BILL...
The Senate Education Committee has scheduled a meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) to consider several bills, including SB 2, which creates a voucher program that takes funds from underachieving public schools (but NOT underachieving charter or cyber charter schools) and gives it to parents to put toward private school education. The bill creates “Education Savings Accounts” (a euphemism for portable vouchers) for students attending “low-achieving schools” (the bottom 15% of school district schools) to attend private schools, deducting the money that goes into a student’s ESA from the resident school district’s state subsidies. Click here for a summary of the legislation.
There are many major concerns about this legislation—both at a fundamental level and at a technical level – but there appears to be some momentum from the sponsors of the bill and the committee chairman (Sen. Eichelberger) to move it out of the Senate Education Committee as quickly as possible without hearings or any significant analysis.
PASA STRONGLY OPPOSES THIS BILL!
IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU CONTACT YOUR SENATOR IMMEDIATELY AND URGE HIM/HER TO VOTE “NO” ON THIS BILL.
Need resources? Check out these articles:
“Public Loss Private Gain: How School Voucher Tax Shelters Undermine Public Education” (AASA 2017)
“The Promise and Peril of School Vouchers” (NPR 2017)
“The History of School Vouchers Isn’t Flattering” (U.S. News 2017)
In Other Legislative News…
Session Schedule – The Senate is in session this week, and the House is in recess with a 12-hour recall as needed.
Other Committee Meetings This Week –
*The Senate Appropriations, Education and Agriculture & Rural Affairs committees will hold a joint hearing on Wednesday, October 25 to discuss the impact of the failure to fund the state-related institutions of higher education. This is intended to spur some additional action on the state budget.
Last Week’s Committee Action –
* Pension System Management Fees. The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to discuss PSERS and SERS management fees. Click here to read testimony provided by Glen Grell, PSERS Executive Director.
* Student Credits: HB 429; amended and approved by the House Education Committee. The bill allows a student that completes a personal financial literacy during grades 9-12 to apply up to one credit towards a social studies credit for graduation requirement. HB 429 was amended to allow those credits to be applied to other curricular areas, including math and family/consumer science.
Resident Wage Tax: HB 1312; informational meeting held by the House Finance Committee. The bill allows a taxing jurisdiction with residents working in Philadelphia and paying the non-resident wage tax to collect the resident local taxes, giving the individual a credit against the Philadelphia non-resident wage tax at rate equivalent to the local tax rate that is now being collected by the resident tax jurisdiction.
* Instructional Certificates: HB 1386; approved by the House Education Committee. The bill redefines the instructional certificate grade spans and age levels for certificates offered beginning January 1, 2020. The certificates and grade spans would revert to those in effect before the State Board of Education amended Chapter 49 in 2007:
-Early childhood: ages 3-9 (pre-k through grade 4)
-Elementary: ages 4-11 (k through grade 6)
-Middle: ages 11-15 (grades 6 through 9)
-Secondary: ages 11-21 (grades 7 through 12)
-Specialized areas: ages 3-21 (pre-k through grade 12)
-Special education: ages 3-21 (pre-k through grade 12)
PASA supports this bill. The current restrictions and parameters of certification grade levels have complicated school district efforts to fill teaching positions in many areas. While establishing and revising certificate requirements and grade spans has been the responsibility of the State Board of Education, upon recommendation by the Department of Education, through changes in regulation (Chapter 49), PASA believes that changes are needed now to provide districts with more flexibility in hiring and to alleviate teacher shortages in specific areas.
Shale Tax: HB 1401; passed by the House Finance Committee. The bill would impose a shale severance tax that could generate around $200-250 million per year. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration upon their return to Harrisburg. (Provisions for a shale tax were not included in the budget bill.)
In State News…
Cyber Charter Success Rates – Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has touted online learning as a school-choice solution for rural America, saying that virtual charter schools provide educational options that wouldn’t otherwise exist. But in Pennsylvania, an early adopter where more than 30,000 kids log into virtual charter schools from home most days, the graduation rate is a dismal 48 percent. Not one virtual charter school meets the state’s “passing” benchmark. And the founder of one of the state’s largest virtual schools pleaded guilty to a tax crime last year. As DeVos seeks to expand school choice nationwide, including online options, Pennsylvania serves as a case study in the shortcomings of the virtual charter school model, or cyber charter schools, as they are known there. The state’s 14 virtual charter schools have flourished in rural communities over the last 15 years — so much so that Pennsylvania, along with Ohio and California, now account for over half the enrollment in the nation’s full-time virtual charters, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. But as the virtual schools have expanded, so have questions about their effectiveness. Read the rest of the story: “DeVos Champions Online Charter Schools, But the Results Area Poor” (from politico.com, 10/8/17).
Future of the School Reform Commission – The School Reform Commission could vote to disband itself by year’s end, the panel’s chairwoman said last Thursday night. After another SRC meeting where dozens of members of the public angrily called for an end to the body, Chairwoman Joyce Wilkerson said the five members were keenly aware of the timeline in front of them: To kill the SRC and shift to local control by the 2018-19 school year, they would need to vote themselves out of existence by the end of December. “I think we need to look seriously at the issues,” said Wilkerson. She made no guarantees but said members were actively engaged in conversations with the city and state about the SRC’s future. Her admission that a vote by year’s end was possible was the first time such concrete shape has been given to the idea of an end to the 16-year SRC era. Read the rest of the story: “Philly's SRC Could Call Dissolution Vote by Year's End” (from philly.com, 10/19/17).
In National News…
Superintendent Poll: Importance of Pre-K Investment – More than three-quarters of American public school superintendents say that early-childhood care and education means "a great deal" to a child's future success—but that they work in states that are investing too little in it. The findings come from a survey of a nationally-representative sample of district leaders conducted by Gallup earlier this year. The survey organization has been releasing findings since the summer; this look at superintendents' views on early childhood came out Oct. 11. The majority of superintendents also said that quality care was hard to find—63 percent said they "strongly disagreed" or "disagreed" with the statement that high-quality care was "available to every family in my state." Read the rest of the story: “School District Leaders Say Early Education Needed, But Underfunded” (from Education Week, 10/13/17).
From the PDE…
The PDE and PaTTAN are offering training sessions on preparing for the 2018 Keystones/PSSAs and the 2018 PASA.
Keystone/PSSAs Webinar: Monday, Oct. 30 from 9:00-11:00 a.m.
District and school assessment coordinators of the PSSAs and/or Keystones and any additional personnel responsible for implementing the testing program in their district and/or schools are urged to participate. Presenters from the PDE will provide an overview of the 2018 assessments, highlight changes and discuss appropriate administration procedures and test security. Click here to register. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
Videoconference on the PA Alternate System of Assessment (the PASA): Monday, Nov. 20 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at each PaTTAN site
Special education administrators, supervisors, and assessment coordinators for the PA Alternate System of Assessment (PASA) are encouraged to attend. Administrators may also invite school staff to attend if they support PASA assessment coordinators in the online enrollment process or coordinate dissemination and return of testing materials. The video conference presentation will provide information on three areas of emphasis including PASA updates, regulatory information, and professional development information relevant to the special education administrator. Developing an increased understanding in the identified areas will support the effective delivery of the alternate assessment to students with significant cognitive disabilities. PASA updates will include information regarding the testing window, enrollment process, test levels, test security, and test administration protocols. Regulatory information from the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will be shared on the one percent waiver process. In addition, instructional information relevant to the special education administrator will be provided to assist in the provision of professional development for teachers of students with significant cognitive disabilities to increase understanding of alternate eligible content and available resources. Register for this video conference by visiting the PaTTAN homepage at www.pattan.net.
**REMINDER** Free School Leader Advocacy Training…
With public education facing challenges at both the state and federal levels, advocacy is an essential component of a school leader’s responsibility.
Next month YOU have the opportunity to engage in FREE advocacy training sessions that will give you the tools and information you need to be an even more effective advocate both for your district and for public education.
PASA, PASBO, PSBA, the Pennsylvania Principals Association, the PARSS and PAIU are offering five, full-day School Leader Advocacy Training sessions at the following locations:
Monday, November 6 – Capital Area I.U. 15 (Summerdale)
Tuesday, November 7 – Luzerne I.U. 18 (Kingston)
Wednesday, November 15 – Berks County I.U. 14 (Reading)
Thursday, November 16 – Midwestern I.U. 4 (Grove City)
Friday, November 17 – Westmoreland I.U. 7 (Greensburg)
Take advantage of this great opportunity – at NO cost to you!
REGISTER TODAY at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SchoolLeaderTraining.
On the Calendar…
Oct. 25 – PASA Webinar: Supt./Asst. Supt. Contracts
Oct. 30 – Southeast Women’s Caucus dinner/meeting (King of Prussia)
Nov. 1-2 – Aspiring to Leadership Workshops (Westmoreland I.U. 7)
Nov. 8 – PASA Webinar: Superintendent Evaluations
(pdf for printing)