What Does The Changing PA Supreme Court Mean For Education Funding, Charter Schools?

Nov 9, 2015
Matt Rourke / AP Photo

  The results of last week's Pennsylvania Supreme Court election could have wide-ranging implications for a number of high-profile cases related to education issues in Pennsylvania.

Three Democrats swept the open seats on the state's highest court – shifting the balance of power 5-to-2 in their favor when they assume the bench in January.

An annual commonwealth tradition may take a backseat to state budget negotiations.

Every December, the state’s top politicians head to New York City to see and be seen at a long weekend of fundraisers, parties and one swanky gala collectively referred to as Pennsylvania Society. But some are already talking about skipping the trip if the state doesn’t have a budget by the date of the main event on December 12.

Matt Rourke / AP File Photo

Pennsylvania schools have borrowed at least $431 million since the state’s budget impasse began in July.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said his office has now heard from more than half of the state’s school districts in an effort to track the fiscal effects of the state’s budget stalemate.

“It’s bad now, but we go from bad to borderline disastrous if something isn’t done by Thanksgiving,” DePasquale said.

Dylan Lovan / AP Photo

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is wrapping up his week-long, 10-city "Ready for Success" bus tour in Pittsburgh today. Duncan held a rally this afternoon for students at Barack Obama Academy of International Studies in East Liberty and appeared at Carnegie Mellon University to discuss college access and STEM education. He spoke with Essential Pittsburgh host Paul Guggenheimer about why he felt it was important to make Pittsburgh part of the tour.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Many Pennsylvania public schools are starting the school year with a worried eye toward Harrisburg.

Some are putting off bills. Some plan to borrow money. But Education Secretary Pedro Rivera said Monday he's not sure how much longer the budget impasse can continue before school operations are compromised.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania school districts whose communities are similar economically are supposed to receive about the same amount of money per student from the state.

But officials have long complained that isn't happening.

A new state report puts to bed the notion that merging all of the school districts in York County would save taxpayers' money.

York County state lawmakers asked the Independent Fiscal Office to consider the issue, frequently cited as a possible solution to climbing property tax rates to support schools.

"Generally, every town hall meeting we had people ask, 'Why not consolidate school districts?'" said Rep. Seth Grove (R-York).

More than $300,000 has been awarded to western Pennsylvania schools as part of the Highmark Foundation’s “Creating a Healthy School Environment” initiative.

Grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 were given to 55 programs ranging from bullying and injury prevention to healthy eating and physical education.

The Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School was given $5,000 for its “Wii Love to be Fit” program, which looks to bring fitness and sports-themed video games into the classroom to make up for the school’s lack of gymnasium space.

Cornell, Moon School Districts Discuss Merger

Aug 11, 2014

This evening marks the first time in 15 years that the Cornell Area School Board will seriously discuss the possibility of a merger with the Moon Area School District, following the surprise suggestion put forward by the Moon Area School Board in June.

Not everyone thinks schools in Pennsylvania are hurting for money.

For years, Republican lawmakers and officials have insisted that school districts have more money than they're letting on — in the form of rainy day funds. According to the state Department of Education, school districts reported having $4.27 billion leftover in their fund balances as of the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Pennsylvania House Republican leaders today called off a vote planned for next week that would authorize a cigarette tax to fund Philadelphia schools in the coming year.

The bill would impose a two-dollar-a-pack tax on cigarettes to help close a $93 million budget gap that could delay the start of Philadelphia’s school year, leading to larger class sizes and employee layoffs.

Gov. Tom Corbett disagreed with the House decision and plans to talk with GOP leaders about their next move.

School shootings across the country have prompted studies on school safety in Pennsylvania, calls to boost security budgets and, now, legislation to allow school staff to carry firearms is on the table.

A year ago, top lawmakers and the Corbett administration said they didn't want to talk about arming teachers in a bid to deter gun violence in schools, but that's exactly the debate state Sen. Don White (R-Indiana) wants to have.

Private schools will be able to compete for state grants to pay for armed security guards in Pennsylvania under a law recently signed by the governor.

Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati introduced the proposal in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn. His spokesman, Drew Crompton, said the state already gives money to private schools, so allowing them to compete for the grants isn't so far removed from current practice.

A Pennsylvania senator is trying to make schools a little safer for children with life threatening allergies.

Pennsylvania Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny County) introduced legislation earlier this month that would require all Pennsylvania schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors, commonly known as EpiPens.

Senate Bill 898 is designed to help students going into anaphylactic shock after experiencing a potentially fatal allergic reaction.

A state House proposal aims to make the state attach a simple letter grade to each school and school district in the commonwealth.

The A through F grades would be based on data that’s already being collected.

National education reform organization StudentsFirst supports the proposal.

State director Ashley DeMauro said the report cards would be based on student and teacher performance, relative progress and things like attendance and graduation rates.