Monday, September 28, 2015

Progress on the budget ??

While it is hard to read the tea leaves from the second round of state budget talkson Monday, some might find reason to think that the sides may be picking up intensity in their quest to end the budget impasse in its 90th day on Monday.

House Republican leaders left that meeting sounding somewhat optimistic that some common ground could be found with the Democratic administration on some of the spending and revenue number that serve as a building block for a finalized budget.

They initially planned to meet for a third time Monday with their Senate Republican and House and Senate Democratic counterparts and Gov. Tom Wolf after first meeting earlier in the day but instead, that meeting got pushed off until Tuesday. 

House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said, "We'd like to try to get a budget done sooner rather than later. ... Maybe we'll find some common ground, that would be a positive."

Wolf also played coy in discussing with reporters about the amount of progress made in his closed-door meetings with legislative leaders. He said he didn't want to sound like the eternal optimist but "we're working and I think very seriously."

Despite that optimism, Wolf made it clear in no uncertain terms the GOP-backed stopgap budget bill that the House and Senate passed over the last two weeks is dead on arrival.

"I want to keep the pressure up. Pennsylvanians want a budget. That's what I want. I don't want a stopgap," Wolf said in the above video.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A word from AASA

Good morning Advocacy network,


A friendly reminder that we are working on our economic survey. With the threat of shutdown and the return of across-the-board sequester cuts a very real possibility, feedback from the states would be greatly appreciated.


The survey will be open through Sept 30, and I would welcome additional responses. Please consider completing the survey (Thank you to those who already have!).


To participate in the survey, you can either please click on this link.

{Full survey URL: “” }





Noelle Ellerson

Associate Executive Director, Policy & Advocacy

AASA, The School Superintendents Association

1615 Duke Street

Alexandria VA 22314

(C) 703-774-6935

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A word from Noelle

Good afternoon advocacy networks,


Apologies for cross postings.


As Congress brings the federal funding discussion to the 11th hour, AASA is brushing off its Economic Impact Survey Series to provide an updated snapshot of how school districts were, and continue to be, impacted by the recession, sequester, and cuts to federal funding.


You’ll recall that AASA conducted 14 similar surveys during the course of the recession, generating a longitudinal narrative of how the nation’s public schools responded to the confluence of local, state and federal funding cuts stemming from the recession and sequestration. The reports were well received on Capitol Hill, in the White House and with AASA members.


As we gear up for another potential round of sequester cuts and as Congress remains unable to replace sequester, this survey is designed to generate real-time, current data on school districts’ fiscal health.


Please take a few moments to complete the survey. To participate in the survey, you can either please click on this link.  Full survey URL: “”.


Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to complete the survey.







Noelle Ellerson

Associate Executive Director, Policy & Advocacy

AASA, The School Superintendents Association

1615 Duke Street

Alexandria VA 22314

(C) 703-774-6935

Twitter: @Noellerson


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Worth Reading

As the state budget impasse continues, area school districts are being pushed ever closer to the financial danger zone.

While the first wave of local tax dollars are helping to carry districts through the budget stalemate, officials could be forced to borrow money — as early as October.

“Without a budget it makes it extremely difficult to operate,” Galeton Area School District Superintendent Brenda Freeman told The Era on Tuesday. “We are using our fund balance currently to pay our bills. That will only last until December.”

She said school officials have made a move to look into a tax and revenue anticipation note, money which would need to be acquired in November.

“Spending has been restricted and materials that were budgeted for are now on hold,” she said. “We continue to strive to do what is best for our students, but a budget impasse is making it very difficult.”

When no state money gets doled out, Freeman said the students get hit the hardest.

“Our focus is on maintaining operations locally for our students,” Otto-Eldred School District Superintendent Matt Splain said. “If the state cannot make its obligations, why should districts still need to do so?”

That school board was slated to approve bill payments for September during a meeting Tuesday evening, and Splain said with the bills prioritized for this month, the district’s portion of Public School Employees' Retirement System ended up at the bottom of the pile.

In fact, Splan said many district officials are considering withholding a PSERS payment, a move that would mean districts would face a fine.

“The state has an obligation to maintain a thorough and efficient public school system,” he said. “This requires a budget, which requires cooperation of the governor and Legislature, which will only happen if they are in session. The Pennsylvania Senate returned to session this week after the summer recess, the House returns next week. What message does that send Pennsylvania?”

All in all, he figures his school district would be able to maintain status quo until November. That’s when a major debt service is due for the Otto-Eldred district, he said. School officials may be forced to open a line of credit through the Pennsylvania School District Liquid Asset Fund if a state budget isn’t given the green light within a month, Splain said.

“Key revenue sources will be local property taxes, and federal money (has been) already expended,” he said. “For some reason, payment of 2014-15 federal money has been stopped.”

Meanwhile, in neighboring Cameron County, school district business manager Carl Mitchell said the state budget impasse impact has been minor, and the district has withheld large purchases, such as new football bleachers, in addition payments to other education agencies.

This month is the biggest for the receipt for property taxes, so Mitchell said the district has enough cash through at least the middle of October.

“If there is no budget by then, the district has two options: liquidate our fund balance investments or borrow,” Mitchell said.

Putting the budget impasse into perspective, Coudersport Area School District Superintendent Alanna Huck said a year ago the school district received about $775,000 in state funds.

“This year, we are using fund balance to pay bills and to make payroll,” she said. “The biggest expenses facing the district each month are payroll, health insurance and PSERS (Public School Employees' Retirement System) contributions.”

But a continuation of the the impasse, Huck fears that major cuts could be made to the district, impacting extra-curricular events and transportation.

In Elk County,  St. Marys Area School District Superintendent Brian Toth said a lack of state funds makes planning difficult beyond December.

“We are still under a variety of state mandates that cost money and I think that any of these should be suspended until a budget is passed,” he said.

With the school district spending, Toth said cyber-charter school bills are not being paid, and that would instead be deducted from state subsidy the district would receive.

“We are holding on investing any reserves in case we need to use them for operations,” Toth said.

Elsewhere, Port Allegany School District Superintendent Gary Buchsen said financial obligations are being been paid — yet, school officials have chosen to not reinvest a mature CD worth $894,000.

Meanwhile, Bradford Area School District officials have been able to maintain what Superintendent Katharine Pude calls a healthy fund balance.

“Tax collections have also been a positive cash flow source during this time,” she said. “We have been able to pay all of our bills and have not yet had to secure a line of credit in order to do so.”

As a matter of fact, Pude said that at the onset of the new school year, officials made needed purchases, including books, supplies and technology. Meanwhile, officials have requested the administration avoid purchasing non-essential items.

In the Kane Area School District, business manager Steve Perry said many measures have been eyed in bringing in more money, including certificates of deposit in the retirement rate stabilization fund worth more than $5 million; a capital reserve fund that has more than $3 million; and a loan through local financial institutions.

And come Nov. 1, the  district’s semi-annual debt service payment of $824,645 is due, and that could be paid from the district’s capital reserve fund, Perry said.

“Our hopes are that if a budget is not passed in the near future, a stop-gap budget will be approved by our elected officials which will allow for districts to avoid the unnecessary costs of borrowing,” Perry said.

As for the smallest school district in the state, Austin, business manager Peggy Derr said she is hoping that $1.2 million, which includes local tax dollars, will be enough to sustain the district until December. Otherwise, she said, a tax anticipation note could be taken out.

“We’re still hanging in there,” she said.

For Oswayo Valley School District (Shinglehouse) business manager Jackie Fosmer, she said she has been approved by the school board to secure a line of credit if the time comes. In the interim, payments are being met, thanks to the fund balance.

And as the budget stalemate drags on, Huck has some words of advice for area residents.

“I would encourage everyone to please contact their senator, representative and the governor to pressure them to get a budget completed and meet their constitutional duty to our students,” she said. “Our students should not be a pawn in the political fight in Harrisburg.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Kids Hurting

Budget impasse is the cause for debt at Carbondale Area SD

The Carbondale Area SD (Lackawanna Co.) is feeling the effects of the budget impasse. The district has borrowed $900,000 just to make payroll. Its cash balance is currently $200,000 but with the borrowed money, it actually owes $700,000. There are doubts that Carbondale will be able to make its mid-September payroll. The district is currently still waiting on $1.2 million in PlanCon reimbursements and has spent $2.4 million on 200 charter school students in the past four years. The district is unable to replace 18 teachers who were cut four years ago. Additionally, the district is currently six months behind on its PSERS payments and has not paid any non-essential bills in 45 days. Now is the time to pass a state budget, for the students and staff of the Carbondale Area SD and all school districts in Pennsylvania.

No Jack... No payment!

Without money from state, Parkland won't pay tuition for charter students

By Kevin Duffy Special to The Morning Call September 15, 2015

With state lawmakers now well past the deadline to pass a budget, Parkland School District will not be making tuition payments for its students who attend charter schools.  Citing the absence of state subsidies coming into the district, the school board voted unanimously Tuesday to withhold payments for the 226 students who attend brick-and-mortar charter schools and cybercharter schools.  "We are taking fiscal responsibility within our district regardless of the fiscal irresponsibility of our state legislators," Director Robert Cohen said.  Last year, Parkland paid the equivalent of approximately $2.4 million, or $200,000 per month, to cover the tuition of 126 students at brick-and-mortar charter schools and 100 who are home-schooled through cybercharters.  That amount does not account for transportation costs associated with busing students to charter school campuses within a 10-mile radius of Parkland's district boundaries — Lincoln Leadership Academy and Roberto Clemente Charter School, both in Allentown.

School districts are required to make 12 monthly payments equal to the amount owed per year for a resident student attending a charter school. If districts opt not to pay, that amount is deducted from their state subsidy.  "We're just saying deduct it from our subsidy," Superintendent Richard T. Sniscak said.  With the pipeline of state aid having run dry, Parkland has decided to pull the plug on paying into the charter system.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Stopgap? We don't need no stinking stopgap.

We need a budget, a full-on, long-term, no-tricks budget. And we don't think lawmakers – or voters – should put up with a proposal that stops short of that.

Passage of a stopgap measure would provide a portion of the state's yearly funding for social service providers and schools – "essential services." Republican senators plan to introduce such legislation when they return to session Wednesday, PennLive's Christian Alexandersenreported.

On the surface, we appreciate that Republican lawmakers are attempting to do something in light of the budget impasse, which is nearing 80 days. We assume that both sides are quite frustrated by a lack of apparent progress. And we are well aware that is was Gov. Tom Wolf, by choosing to veto the entire Republican-approved budget earlier this summer instead of using his line-item powers, who caused this situation.

We realize that as we call for a rejection of a stopgap budget, it makes it sound as though we are rejecting compromise, and we are rejecting money for essential services, agencies and schools that need it. On the second point, you would be right. It's unfortunate that these groups continue to be the most affected pawn in this budget game, and we are sensitive to the fact that without a budget being approved, they will struggle.

We need a budget, a full-on, long-term, no-tricks budget. And we don't think lawmakers – or voters – should put up with a proposal that stops short of that.

However, what urgency would there be to pass a full budget with a stopgap measure in place? 

We are not rejecting compromise. In fact, rejecting a stopgap budget is a call for more compromise. With a stopgap measure in place, this impasse could drag on for many more months without compromise because there would be fewer reasons to do so – namely, groups complaining about a lack of funds.

Politically, the Republicans are in good position because they can approve a stopgap measure and put Wolf in position to – once again – stand in the way of agencies and schools getting their money. Don't think they don't know that. If they pass a stopgap budget, they have the high ground again. They can tell everyone that they initially passed a full budget and Wolf rejected it. Then they passed a stopgap measure, and Wolf ... well, we aren't sure what he would do, and he's not tipping his hand.

Regardless of what Wolf does with that piece of legislation, however, Republicans win. If he signs it, then they have led the governor to approve what they brought forth. If he rejects it ... heaven forbid, Republicans can say, he has done it again and stood in the way of funds for those who need it.

We know this will fall on deaf ears: But please, Republican senators, don't bring forth a stopgap budget this week. It's not the answer to Pennsylvania's budget impasse. Even bringing it up for a vote is a bad idea. Refocus that energy on a full budget agreement.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Testing, testing and more testing

Good afternoon all


AASA colleague/friend Scott Sargrad (formerly of USED, now at Center for American Progress) is working on a research project on improving assessment, following up on their overtesting report from last year. As part of this project, they’re trying to highlight examples of districts that are doing particularly interesting and positive work in this area that they could highlight in an upcoming paper. In particular, they are thinking about things like: 

·         Inventorying current assessments and reducing unnecessary tests

·         Improving communication with parents about the tests (timing, purpose, etc.)

·         Increasing value of assessments for students and parents (e.g., recognizing student/school success)

·         Creating systems of formative and interim assessments that are aligned with state standards and with state summative tests


They’d love to learn more about how districts are addressing issues around testing and sharing best practices, so any information or examples would be very helpful. If you/your district is doing work on testing and you’d like to share your story, please let me know and I can put you in touch with Scott, or you can reach out to Scott yourself.


Scott Sargrad

Director for Standards and Accountability


Thank you.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

CoSN survey

Good afternoon all.  We need your help


I hope this note finds you well! AASA is pleased to once again partner with our friends at Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) on the annual school infrastructure survey.


We're working with CoSN to gather data from school districts around the country on E-rate, broadband, and internal network infrastructure in order to communicate your needs and priorities to Congress and the FCC. Fill us in: What are your future bandwidth needs? How is the E-rate working for you? Anything else we should know?


The survey is live now and closes this Friday Sept 18. I am including the link here, and encourage you to take a few moments to submit a response:

CoSN survey

Good afternoon all.  We need your help


I hope this note finds you well! AASA is pleased to once again partner with our friends at Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) on the annual school infrastructure survey.


We're working with CoSN to gather data from school districts around the country on E-rate, broadband, and internal network infrastructure in order to communicate your needs and priorities to Congress and the FCC. Fill us in: What are your future bandwidth needs? How is the E-rate working for you? Anything else we should know?


The survey is live now and closes this Friday Sept 18. I am including the link here, and encourage you to take a few moments to submit a response:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

We need your help?

Dear Advocacy Network,


As Congress moves forward with its work on ESEA, there is still support for the portability of Title I dollars, meaning Title I dollars would follow the child to the public school of their choice. In coordination with Association of School Business Officials (ASBO), we have put together a very brief survey that we would appreciate you completing (preferably with the help of your school business official) during the next week. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey and/or pass the survey onto your school business official:

The information we collect from this survey will be shared with key figures on Capitol Hill engaged in the ESEA Conference process. Your articulation of the specific impacts and obstacles portability represents will be of great assistance to AASA’s advocacy efforts in keeping Title I portability out of the final ESEA bill.  


Thank you in advance for your help. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, Noelle or Leslie.






Sasha Pudelski

Assistant Director, Policy & Advocacy

AASA: The School Superintendents Association       @spudelski

(703) 875-0733 (office)  (703) 774-6933 (cell)



Quiet Capitol preludes busy session weeks to come

Author: Jason Gottesman/Tuesday, September 8, 2015/Categories: News and Views

As budget meetings between Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative Republican leaders continue in private out of Pennsylvania’s capital on the day following the extended Labor Day weekend, the Capitol’s main rotunda took on a hush reminiscent of the first few days post-budget veto.

To the outward observer, not much would appear to be going on at Pennsylvania’s seat of government.

Tuesday morning, a group representing the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania even took advantage of the hushed atmosphere and moved rotunda press conference chairs into a circle for a prayer session.

Despite its outward appearance, those in the Capitol were working behind the scenes to prepare for a ramp up in legislative action as the Senate returns to session next week and the House the following week.

Republican sources confirmed to The PLS Reporter Tuesday reports that the caucuses are anticipating moving on a stop gap budget measure in the coming weeks.

Such a move could take up the bulk of legislative session time at the end of September and add a little fire and intrigue to what has turned into subdued shuttle diplomacy.

At this point, Gov. Wolf’s press secretary Jeff Sheridan said the governor has not made any final decision as to whether or not he’ll support a stop-gap measure.

"Gov. Wolf is committed to working expeditiously toward a final budget agreement that funds education through a commonsense severance tax, provides property tax relief to middle-class families and seniors and fixes our deficit without gimmicks," he said in an email.

The budget impasse is about to crest the 70-day mark.

Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015



Pennsylvania’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Waiver Receives Federal Approval

Harrisburg, PA - Governor Tom Wolf announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has approved Pennsylvania’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver which allows for a one-year pause in the use of the state’s School Performance Profile (SPP). Governor Wolf and Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera had requested the waiver in using the 2015 PSSA scores to calculate SPP and teacher effectiveness ratings due to sweeping changes to the assessment that took effect in the 2014-15 school year. 

"Fixing our schools is my top priority, and part of improvement is having fair and consistent accountability standards,” Governor Wolf said “We must prepare students to be college and career ready in the 21st century, and we need accountability measures that ensure we are on track to do so, but we cannot over burden our students and teachers with measures that do not fairly account for performance or improvement.” 

The SPP is a significant part of Pennsylvania’s obligations under the federal accountability system established by the ESEA. The SPP was first used in the 2012-13 academic year to provide students, families, school districts, and the general public with information to review the performance of Pennsylvania schools using a common measure. The SPP relies heavily on student scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), measuring both achievement and growth. The PSSA, administered in grades 3 through 8 in English Language Arts and math, was fully-aligned to the more rigorous PA Core Standards for the first time in 2015, and the results on the most recent assessment cannot fairly be compared to those in previous years.

The waiver means schools that administer Keystone Exams will continue to receive SPP scores. That means the only schools that administered PSSAs in 2015 that will have SPP scores will be those that also administered Keystone Exams. The Keystone Exams will be the only test used to help establish the SPP scores.

The 2015 PSSA was a brand new assessment, aligned for the first time to the new and more rigorous PA Core Standards, adopted by the State Board of Education in 2013. Performance level scores for the new 2015 PSSAs, adopted by the State Board in July, resulted in significant drops in student performance across the state. 

“While it is critically important to hold our schools and educators accountable for student success, we must take care to do so with indicators that are fair and accurate,” said Secretary Rivera. “This year’s PSSA scores establish the new baseline from which we can most effectively measure student progress in future years.” 

In the absence of SPP scores this year for most schools with grades kindergarten through 8, PSSA achievement scores will not be part of the evaluations of teachers and principals in these schools. Evaluations will continue to include student growth scores.

Secretary Rivera also noted that the pause in use of the SPP is part of a broader discussion regarding potential revisions to the SPP. Governor Wolf has directed PDE to consider how the tool could be adjusted to be a more comprehensive measure of school and student performance beyond single, high-stakes test performance.

In its approval of the one-year waiver, USDE noted the progress Pennsylvania has made toward improving students’ college and career readiness.

According to a press release, USDE said, “The state is taking important steps toward ensuring that every child has the opportunity they deserve but needs more time to make adjustments to its flexibility plans in order to fully meet its commitments. To that end, the state is receiving a one-year renewal while it continues finalizing its plans for the future.”

“Successfully measuring school performance is an important part of ensuring our students are prepared for the future,” said Secretary Rivera. “With a new PSSA baseline in place, we can ensure the SPP is an accurate, useful tool that helps educators, administrators, community members, and leaders evaluate schools’ progress and performance for years to come.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Nicole Reigelman - 717-783-9802

# # #

Legislators without pay???

At least two area legislators agree.

State Sen. John C. Rafferty Jr., R-44th Dist, and state Sen. Judy Schwank, D-11th Dist. have both confirmed they will not take a salary until Pennsylvania has a budget

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

PARSS lending a helping hand

Dear Members,



I hope your school year is off to a terrific start and of course I wish you a continued successful 2015-16 school year. The board of directors, in the fall of 2014, had participated in a planning retreat for the purpose of defining the PARSS organization. The session was broken into four major components which consisted of the following; What do small and rural schools need, What does PARSS need to do now, What is the role of the board and what is the purpose of PARSS. 


My new role of Assistant Executive Director of PARSS is multifaceted. I will continue to be an advocate for small and rural districts, build relationships among members, between members and Legislators. With that said, I am beginning to take my show on the road to carry out initiatives we developed at the board retreat.  I am going to reach out to new and current superintendents, by visiting with you. I try to cluster my visits throughout the state as I begin to accomplishment this task. 


My primary purpose will be to meet with you so I can introduce myself to you, give you updates about PARSS and ask you how we may help you. The question of helping you and your district is going to be far-reaching and based on your individual needs. For example, you may have inquires about administrative/board retreats, leadership development for your administrators, budget development, curriculum issues, staff development concerns, help with current mandates developed by PDE or what ever you deem necessary. I would like to emphasize we are just reaching out to you to personalize and be very sincere in helping you and your district have continued success. 


In conclusion, I look forward to meeting with you and getting to know you. In the mean time feel free to reach out to me immediately for a visit or any other way can provide assistance to you.







Edward Albert

Assistant Executive Director


Budget talks

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015
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Budget talks will happen this week, but just in smaller, private meetings.

Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders are planning to meet to discuss the state budget situation, just not in the “big table” groups seen during the last few weeks, and – this is equally as important to the governor – in private.

Not that the public was allowed into the other budget meetings, but the news media was alerted about the when and where of those past meetings.

Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan said the hope is the smaller, private meetings will offer advantages over the larger meetings: fewer people who, as Sheridan put it, aren’t clamoring to make their talking points to the media once the meeting ends. 

House Republicans confirmed the plans to have smaller meetings sometime this week, although none had been held as of noon on Monday. 

House GOP spokesman Steve Miskin said the meetings could produce results that have been elusive at the larger meetings. 

However, he qualified that appraisal, saying if the Wolf administration continues its political campaigning against those who don’t agree with the governor’s budget ideas, on which Miskin said there has been little effort by the Wolf administration to compromise, the size and transparency of the meetings aren’t likely to produce different results.