Tuesday, November 21, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 21: PA House OKs children’s health insurance bill without argument

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 21, 2017:
PA House OKs children’s health insurance bill without argument


Do you have newly elected board members? Have them send their email addresses to sign up for the PA Ed Policy Roundup and/or follow us on twitter: @lfeinberg



Philadelphia takes control of schools, but state still owes pupils
Inquirer Commentary by Vincent Hughes Updated: NOVEMBER 20, 2017 — 7:00 PM EST
State Sen. Vincent Hughes represents portions of Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties. He is the Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Mayor Kenney said he wanted to end state oversight of the School District of Philadelphia as a necessary step toward reclaiming local control of our public schools.  Now, with the action by the School Reform Commission to disband, control of the schools will be placed in local hands. This move is overdue.  It’s time for our city to take ownership. Putting the school district under the direct control of the mayor allows for a central point of accountability.  Evidence from other cities shows that performance increases with direct accountability. Under local control, the city can better integrate new services into the schools.  Counselors, health professionals, librarians, school building repairs, and more can be provided for the schoolchildren.  That’s a good thing, because our children deserve more. Be clear, local control does not take the state off the hook for properly funding schools. This is the fundamental issue.  No matter who controls, the state has the constitutional responsibility to fund the schools adequately and equitably.

Pa. House leaders strip transgender controversy from Children's Health Insurance Program renewal
Penn Live By Charles Thompson cthompson@pennlive.com Updated 4:43 PM; Posted 3:52 PM
This post was updated at 4:43 p.m. with comments from Gov. Wolf's office and news of action by the House Health Committee on a related bill.
Leaders of the state House of Representatives have taken steps to defuse a looming fight over transgender services that could have imperiled health insurance coverage for tens of thousands of Pennsylvania children. The House Rules Committee Monday voted to strip out language in a Childrens Health Insurance Program reauthorization bill that would have barred CHIP coverage for gender reassignment surgery. The deletion leaves the CHIP program in position - assuming final House and Senate passage - to be reauthorized as is through 2019 with no fear of a potential veto from Gov. Tom Wolf, whose administration expanded the program last year to include transgender services.

Delco Times By The Associated Press POSTED: 11/20/17, 8:21 PM EST 
HARRISBURG >> The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is advancing legislation to reauthorize the federally subsidized Children’s Health Insurance Program after removing wording to prohibit coverage for gender or sex reassignment surgery. The House unanimously passed the bill Monday and sent it to the Senate. The Senate had inserted the Republican-penned prohibition three weeks ago, sparking opposition by Democrats. The bill reauthorizes the program for 2018 and beyond. It currently covers 177,000 children in Pennsylvania. Senate Republicans say Pennsylvania can’t legally extend coverage for gender reassignment surgery. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration says it expanded the coverage last year to comply with a new Obama administration rule. That rule is on hold in federal court and isn’t being enforced by the Trump administration. Separate legislation is now pending in the House to prohibit the coverage.

Less is more when it comes to the Pennsylvania Legislature
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board November 21, 2017
THE ISSUE - In Pennsylvania’s last legislative session, the state House and Senate approved legislation calling for a state constitutional amendment that would reduce the size of the House from 203 to 151 seats. If both chambers approve it again during the 2017-18 session, voters will get to decide the matter in a statewide referendum. House Bill 153 was introduced by Rep. Jerry Knowles, a Schuylkill County Republican. One of the co-sponsors is Rep. Steve Mentzer, a Republican whose district includes Lititz, all of Warwick Township and most of Manheim Township. Sometimes bigger is better — a piece of pie, your high-definition TV, a first-class seat on an airplane. But sometimes bigger equals bloated, excessive and unnecessary. Such is the condition of our oversized state Legislature. Pennsylvania has the second largest legislature in the nation, trailing only New Hampshire. This is not a good thing. The push to reduce the size of the General Assembly is not new. Lawmakers tried it in 2012 and 2013. Like just about everything else in Harrisburg, it’s a complicated process.

Radio Times: SRC ends, Philly schools get local control
WHYY Radio Times Guests: Donna Copper and Bill Green Air Date: November 21, 2017
After nearly 16 years of contentions debates, including walkouts and other forms of demonstrations by political leaders, education advocates, parents and students, the School Reform Commission (SRC) has voted to end its control of the School District of Philadelphia. On Thursday, the five-member body approved an end to the commission after this academic year. On July 1, the District will return to a local Board of Education which will be made up of nine members. So, what comes next? In this hour, Marty talks with DONNA COOPER, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, and BILL GREEN, SRC commissioner about the history of the state takeover, charter school expansion and the future of Philadelphia’s schools.

Departing Suburban board members say public education is under threat
York Dispatch Junior Gonzalez, 505-5439/@JuniorG_YD Published 3:53 p.m. ET Nov. 20, 2017 | Updated 3:53 p.m. ET Nov. 20, 2017
Among the changes occurring at the York Suburban School district are changes to the district’s school board. Three longtime members — President Lynne Leopold-Sharp, Vice President Cathy Shaffer and Emily Bates — are attending their final school board meeting Monday, Nov. 20, at the Ronald H. Provard Education Center starting at 7 p.m. With their departures come many questions regarding the exit of former district superintendent Michele Merkle, who resigned on Sept. 25, 11 days after she took a medical leave of absence. While repeated requests for comment from board members have not been returned or were deferred to a district administrator, the three departing members accepted a request for questions asking them to reflect on their nearly 60 years of collective experience on the York Suburban school board.

Long-serving Jeannette board members step down
TRIBUNE-REVIEW by DEBRA ERDLEY  | Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
The Vietnam War was raging and Americans were cheering the Apollo 11 moon landing when Bill Brasco made his first bid for election to the Jeannette school board in 1969. “My kids were starting school, and I wanted to make sure everything was just right. So, I thought I'd give it a shot,” he said. Brasco, 84, stepped down Monday from the board after 48 years, ending his run as the second longest-serving school board member in Pennsylvania — trailing only Arden Tewksbury, who has logged 56 years on a school board in Wyoming County, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. Morrison “Moe” Lewis, who also retired from the board Monday, might have beat Brasco's record. But the 81-year-old lawyer, who was elected to the board in the early 1960s, left the board temporarily to serve as an assistant district attorney in the 1970s.

Central York schools head named Pa. Superintendent of the Year
York Dispatch Junior Gonzalez, 505-5439/@JuniorG_YD Published 1:19 p.m. ET Nov. 20, 2017
The superintendent of the Central York School District was given the year’s top honor by the statewide association for public school administrators. Michael Snell, now in his eighth year leading Central York schools, was named the 2018 Pennsylvania Superintendent of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA). Snell was recognized for the award at a PASA luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 16, in Harrisburg, the release states. The award is selected by a panel of school administrators. In a news release by PASA, Snell is praised as a leader in an educational concept known as mass customized learning (MCL), which uses teachers’ expertise to come up with individualized learning plans for students. Snell will be the Pennsylvania honoree for the American Association of School Administrators’ National Conference on Education in Nashville. He is now eligible for the national AASA Superintendent of the Year Award.

Temple gets its first Rhodes Scholar: A North Philly kid
Inquirer by Susan Snyder, Staff Writer  @ssnyderinq |  ssnyder@phillynews.com Updated: NOVEMBER 19, 2017 — 8:51 PM EST
Hazim Hardeman’s mother wanted a better school than the family’s North Philadelphia neighborhood could offer her son. So she falsified the family’s address and sent him to Shawmont in Roxborough. “For her, it was a life-and-death situation,” said Hardeman, now 23. “She understood that having access to this education at such an early age would really be formative and could shape or even determine the trajectory that my brother and I would be on.” For Hardeman, a 2017 magna cum laude graduate of Temple University, her choice might have been life-altering. This weekend, Hardeman was awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship – the first student in Temple’s history to receive the honor. He will pursue his studies in sociology or political theory next fall at Oxford University in England.

“Studies since the 1950s have consistently shown that segregated schools largely serving minority students tend to produce weaker academic results, which limit students’ opportunities to succeed later in life. That’s not because the students are black or brown. It’s because apartheid schools typically are found in impoverished communities with limited resources to spend on public education.”
Why 'apartheid schools' have become common in Philly and NJ | Editorial
by The Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: NOVEMBER 20, 2017 — 7:28 PM EST
More than 60 years after the Brown v. Board of Education  decision, segregated schools persist across America. They can be found in largely white rural and suburban towns, in minority-majority cities like Philadelphia, and in supposedly progressive, ethnically diverse states like New Jersey, where what a new study calls “apartheid schools” have become common. Apartheid, the legal term for the system of segregation that once existed in South Africa, was used by the UCLA Civil Rights Project to describe schools in which less than 1 percent of the students are white. More than a quarter of New Jersey’s black students attend apartheid schools, said the report, released last Wednesday. That ranks it sixth among states with the highest segregation of black students and seventh in segregation of Latinos.

Honoring the 50th anniversary of a pivotal student protest in Philadelphia
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent November 20, 2017
On Nov. 17, 1967, thousands of students rallied outside the old Board of Education building along Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. It wasn’t the first student protest, and it would hardly be the last. But the happenings that day — now 50 years in the rearview — have lingered in the city’s collective consciousness like few other education-related events. That’s in part because the cause that brought students out that day — increased representation for African-Americans in the curriculum and the classroom — remains. But it’s also because of how the authorities responded to the November ’67 protest, and what would become of the man who directed that response.

Commission Overseeing Philly Schools Votes to Disband. What Happens Next?
Education Week District Dossier Blog By Denisa R. Superville on November 17, 2017 12:01 PM
Cheers, chants, and applause broke out in Philadelphia on Thursday night after a majority of the members on the School Reform Commission—the state created body that oversees the city's school system—voted to dissolve. "The people united, will never be defeated, the people united, will never be defeated," meeting attendees chanted after the 3-1-1 vote to dissolve the School Reform Commission on the grounds that the district was no longer in "distress." That was the term the state used 16 years ago, when then-Republican Gov. Mark S. Schweiker and Democratic Mayor John F. Street agreed to a state takeover of the school system. The move to dissolve the School Reform Commission, which had become increasingly unpopular in recent years, jumped into high gear about two weeks ago when Philadelphia's Democratic Mayor James Kenney publicly called for the SRC to dissolve itself and return the school board to local governance.  But Kenney is not proposing an elected school board—which some speakers at the meeting on Thursday said was their ultimate goal. Instead, the mayor is proposing a return to the kind of board outlined in the city's charter, in which a nominating committee will recommend potential board members to the mayor. The city council has called for getting a say in who gets to serve on the board.

Another View: A call to stand against some school ‘progress’
Delco Times Letter by John Haenn, Delaware County POSTED: 11/20/17, 7:52 PM EST
To the Editor We’d like to believe that governmental bodies all the way from our local school boards to the looming federal level have the best interests of the people in mind. In some cases, they do. In some cases, the intent is good but the execution gets botched. Common is this result when many minds are contributing to one end. Pennsylvania is beginning to tackle one of these issues, and local school boards are faced with a tough question. Progressive legislation has been introduced that would allow people to use male/female facilities in places of public use based on the gender that they identify with. This is the polite way of saying that the legislation will allow girls and boys to use any locker room or bathroom that they choose. And it’s already happening.

“The federal government has a unique role to play, mainly in reducing the cost of capital for them to acquire these buildings,” Christy Wolfe, senior policy adviser at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, told The 74. But three of those key programs — tax-exempt private activity bonds for nonprofits, New Markets Tax Credits, and Qualified Zone Academy Bonds — would be eliminated under the tax reform the House passed last week.”
Educators Warn of ‘Devastating’ Consequences for Charter Schools in New GOP Tax Bill
The74 by Carolyn Phenice November19, 2017
When KIPP Academy of Opportunity in Los Angeles opened its doors at the start of this school year, its 400 students were, for the first time in several years, all under one roof. The school opened in 2003, but Los Angeles’s tight real estate market forced the network to split the students, fifth- through eighth-graders, between two campuses, three miles apart, for the past six or seven years. That meant higher costs to operate two buildings, stress on kids who had to change buildings frequently, and logistical woes for administrators stretched between two campuses, Marcia Aaron, CEO of KIPP LA, told The 74. Charter schools in Los Angeles, and around the country, usually must find — and pay for — their own facilities, a tricky prospect given their specific design needs and the high cost of real estate in big cities where many charters are located. Instead of taxpayer-backed bonds that school districts can float, charters that are ready to construct their own schools rely on a mix of financing tools, often aided by federal tax breaks, to fund construction of their schools.

“More than three million children attend charter schools in 44 states and the District of Columbia. The charters include national business chains, questionable “non-profits,” mysterious cyber-schools, “mom and pop” small schools, and far too few innovative quasi-public schools. About 20% of the charters operate directly to make a profit off of children and local governments. But there are many ways for charters to make money including high salaries to sponsors, sub-contracting to friendly vendors, and elaborate real estate ruses that allow charters to essentially rent facilities at exorbitant rates from their corporate partners.”
Network for Public Education Study Exposes Charter School Scams
Huffington Post by Alan Singer, Contributor 11/20/2017 06:30 am ET
Six months into its first year of operation, Innovative Arts Academy Charter School in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania was forced to restructure its leadership when student enrollment dropped. It replaced another charter school in the same building. The previous tenant, Medical Academy Charter School closed because of financial problems and low enrollment. The just released Network for Public Education (NPE) report, Charters and Consequences, documents charter school scams supported by wealthy “philanthropists,” powerful political interests, and an assortment of entrepreneurs looking to make money off of education. Eleven studies look at the charter school assault on public education from Oakland, California to Brooklyn, New York with stops in Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Washington DC. Operating “behind a wall of secrecy,” the dark side of the charter movement includes “mismanagement, failure, nepotism or outright theft and fraud” and “abuse of taxpayer funds.” The full report is available online. Unless otherwise noted, information in this blog comes from the report.

NPE: Charter Effects Are Alarming
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Sunday, November 19, 2017
We can talk all day about the intentions of charter operators, about the possible ramifications of various charter policy decisions. Heck, on occasion I can talk about the conditions under which I would welcome charter schools (because I don't automatically default to the position that they're a Bad Thing). There is a pattern in the ed reform movement. Reformsters hold up a bright shiny polished reform idea, people hop up to say, "Wow, that looks great! Let's have some of that!" And then something else entirely is delivered. So when we talk about any reform policy, we need to talk about what is actually happening on the ground. And what is happening on the ground is fairly alarming. The Network for Public Education has now done that for charter schools. Full disclosures-- first, I'm a member of NPE and second, NPE is not predisposed to be kind to charter schools. Nevertheless, I recommend you read their new report Charters and Consequences and judge for yourself. NPE has taken a look at what is actually happening in the charter world, and it's not good. The report is a collection of eleven separate pieces of investigation, created over the span of a year

Court throws out landmark SC school equity lawsuit
The State BY JAMIE SELF AND BRISTOW MARCHANT jself@thestate.com, bmarchant@thestate.com NOVEMBER 20, 2017 01:04 PM
After 24 years of court battles, a landmark school equity lawsuit aimed at improving education opportunities in the state’s poorest, rural schools has been dismissed. The S.C. Supreme Court closed the case in a 3-2 order, praising state lawmakers for responding in “good faith” to the court’s 2014 mandate to find ways to fix South Carolina’s failing public schools. State House leaders, who asked the court to dismiss them from the case, applauded the ruling. “Today’s order confirms that the Supreme Court is satisfied by the House’s transformative efforts to improve South Carolina’s education system,” House Speaker Jay Lucas said after the court’s decision was handed down Friday. . “Providing every child in every part of our state access to a 21st century education has and will continue to be a priority for the South Carolina House of Representatives.” Meanwhile, the ruling was disappointing to an attorney representing the more than 30 poor, rural school districts that sued the state in 1993, arguing they did not have the money or resources to provide children with a quality education.

Stuff They Don't Want You to Know episode: The Gulen Movement 
Stuff Network Podcast Runtime 1:01 POSTED SEP 29, 2017
What do private schools and revolution have in common? The answer may surprise you. Join the guys as they bring on their intern Sam Teegardin and for a firsthand look at a strange and insidious conspiracy reaching from the Eastern US seaboard and journeying through locations across the world to fundamentally rock the political foundations of the Turkish state.



Register for New School Director Training in December and January
PSBA Website October 2017
You’ve started a challenging and exciting new role as a school director. Let us help you narrow the learning curve! PSBA’s New School Director Training provides school directors with foundational knowledge about their role, responsibilities and ethical obligations. At this live workshop, participants will learn about key laws, policies, and processes that guide school board governance and leadership, and develop skills for becoming strong advocates in their community. Get the tools you need from experts during this visually engaging and interactive event.
Choose from any of these 10 locations and dates (note: all sessions are held 8 a.m.-4 p.m., unless specified otherwise.):
·         Dec. 8, Bedford CTC
·         Dec. 8, Montoursville Area High School
·         Dec. 9, Upper St. Clair High School
·         Dec. 9, West Side CTC
·         Dec. 15, Crawford County CTC
·         Dec. 15, Upper Merion MS (8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m)
·         Dec. 16, PSBA Mechanicsburg
·         Dec. 16, Seneca Highlands IU 9
·                              Jan. 6, Haverford Middle School
·         Jan. 13, A W Beattie Career Center
·         Jan. 13, Parkland HS
Fees: Complimentary to All-Access members or $170 per person for standard membership. All registrations will be billed to the listed district, IU or CTC. To request billing to an individual, please contact Michelle Kunkel at michelle.kunkel@psba.org. Registration also includes a box lunch on site and printed resources.

Save the Date! NSBA 2018 Advocacy Institute February 4-6, 2018 Marriott Marquis, Washington D.C.
Registration Opens Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Monday, November 20, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 20: Property taxes likely here to stay in Pa. Here's why

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 20, 2017:



Do you have newly elected board members? Have them send their email addresses to sign up for the PA Ed Policy Roundup and/or follow us on twitter: @lfeinberg



Update: the PA Department of Education hearing on a new cyber charter application scheduled for Monday November 20th has been cancelled. The applicant has withdrawn the application.


CHIP: Pennsylvania wrestles with uncertainty over children’s health insurance funding
WHYY By Elana Gordon November 18, 2017
For more than two decades, The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, has provided health coverage to millions of kids nationwide. But lawmakers have yet to reauthorize it, and that’s putting states whose funding expires soon in a bind. In Pennsylvania, that could jeopardize health care for upwards of 150,000 kids come February. “It’s really frustrating,” Teresa Miller, Pennsylvania’s acting Human Services Secretary, said. “We really thought we would see action taken before the end of September.” CHIP’s budget runs at about $450 million in Pennsylvania, with 90 percent of that coming from the federal government. The state has one of the biggest programs in the country, with more than 176,241 kids enrolled, according to Miller.

Blogger note: SB2, an Education Savings Account” voucher bill was blocked coming out of the PA Senate Education Committee by a tie vote back on October 24th.  It is anticipated that we will see another attempt to move the bill.
'Precious Little Evidence' That Vouchers Improve Achievement, Recent Research Finds
Education Week By Arianna Prothero on November 17, 2017 1:15 PM
There's been surging national interest in private-school-voucher programs with the Trump administration's embrace of the idea. But newer research on large-scale voucher programs has complicated the debate over private-school choice—policies which allow families to use public money or aid to attend private schools, including religious ones. What does the research say? In a nutshell: The most recent findings are mixed, but they lean more toward negative. I spoke at length with researchers from most of these studies for story I did on how private schools receiving public money in Florida face little state oversight.

HB722: Redistricting reform plan stalled in committee by Rep. Metcalfe
Morning Call Letter by Mary Jo and Russell Miserendino, Bethlehem November 18, 2017
In spite of a growing bipartisan citizens' movement across Pennsylvania for redistricting reform to end gerrymandering, House Bill 722 is stalled in committee. As the majority chairman of the House State Government Committee, Rep. Metcalfe is the only person who can move this bill forward. We are urging him to schedule HB 722 for action. A call to his office to find out why he has not moved on a bill that will restore integrity to our election process so that every person's vote counts has gone unanswered. Without changes to the process of redistricting, Pennsylvania will remain the third most politically gerrymandered state in the nation. As participants in three of the educational presentations on gerrymandering in Easton, Bethlehem and Allentown as well as the Oct. 14 conference in Harrisburg attended by 275 people, we know firsthand that more and more Pennsylvania citizens are clamoring for redistricting reform. In addition, HB 722 has an impressive number of bipartisan cosponsors — 98 House members already support the bill. For comprehensive information on gerrymandering in Pennsylvania go to FairDistrictsPA.com.

“Virtually every state relies on property taxes to some degree,” he said. “Nobody likes taxes, but as far as taxes go, property taxes are a pretty efficient way to raise revenue.” Michigan confronted the issue in a dramatic manner in the 1990s, when state lawmakers eliminated the school property tax without having any replacement revenue in place. “We jumped out of the plane without a parachute and knitted it on the way down,” said Doug Roberts, who served as the state treasurer at the time under then-Gov. John Engler. Michigan today still uses the solution that lawmakers found and voters approved — but it does still involve some property taxes.”
Property taxes likely here to stay in Pa. Here's why
Inquirer by Laura McCrystal, Staff Writer  @LMcCrystal |  lmccrystal@phillynews.com Updated: NOVEMBER 19, 2017 — 8:42 AM EST
The earliest known property tax records were kept on clay tablets.
Now some Pennsylvania lawmakers and grassroots groups — along with a majority of voters who approved a constitutional amendment on Election Day — want to go against about 8,000 years of history and eliminate a tax that today is a primary means of paying for schools and local government. But if history is any indication, property taxes are here to stay in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s constitutional amendment grew out of the efforts of homeowners who organized groups and attracted attention from lawmakers in Harrisburg. Keystone State residents are hardly the first to rally against the wildly unpopular real estate levy. Yet it remains a staple in all 50 states. It is a predictable source of revenue, less susceptible to the caprices of the economy than sales or income taxes. And efforts to move away from it bump into a reality, said Isaac Martin, a sociology professor at the University of California San Diego. “The reason that no one has gone whole hog to get rid of the tax,” he said, “is that we need the things the tax pays for.”

The Network for Public Education releases Charters and Consequencesa 48 page report that is the result of investigations, visits and interviews over the course of a year. 
Network for Public Education November 2017
From San Diego, California to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, NPE learned about the consequences of loosely regulated charter policy and the effects that charters are having on democratically controlled, true public schools.  We have concluded that this unregulated, taxpayer-funded business model of education is a fiscal and educational disaster. Whatever the benefits it offers to the few, the overall negative consequences must be addressed.

“You can find a complete list of charter applications here. The table below shows all new proposed schools and the number of students they would serve at capacity.  The new charter applications will be reviewed by the Charter Schools Office. The SRC is expected to decide on the nine applications in February.”
Nine new charter schools apply to open in Philly
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent November 17, 2017
The School District of Philadelphia received applications for nine new charter schools that would, if approved, open up more than 7,000 new charter seats. The nine applications represent a spike from last year, when just four schools asked for a charter — and only one was approved. Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission has final say over application approval, but this is likely the commission’s last year before it’s replaced by a local school board. This year’s batch of applications features some familiar names, including Mastery, the city’s largest charter network.

"We are excited about Pittsburgh’s emergence as a global innovation center. However, we cannot watch another generation of low-income and African-American students be shut out of opportunity because they don’t have access to a high-quality public school," he said in a press release.
Two new charter schools hope to open within Pittsburgh Public
MOLLY BORN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette mborn@post-gazette.com 11:27 AM NOV 17, 2017
​Two new proposed charter schools have applied to open within the boundaries of Pittsburgh Public Schools starting in the 2019-20 school year. Catalyst Academy wants to set up in the former Urban League Charter School building in East Liberty, and Career Tech is eyeing the Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District. The brick-and-mortar charter school application deadline was Wednesday. Catalyst has planned a fall 2019 debut serving kindergartners and first-graders and eventually including students up to 8th grade, said its founder and CEO Brian Smith, formerly an administrator in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“Cooper and others like her might have a point-- if there were a speck of evidence that the PSSA was a valid measure of what is needed for a kid to succeed in today's economy, or college, or anything. There was no such evidence for the PSSA, nor is there any such evidence for the Keystone. And the PSSA, which is still given in lower grades, is a norm-referenced test with cut scores reset every year -- so somebody has to fail.”
PA: Graduation Test In Trouble (Again)
Pennsylvania's education bureaucrats had high hopes for the Keystone exams.
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Saturday, November 18, 2017

Back in 2010, the idea was that there would be at least ten of them-- one for each major course-- and students would take them at the end of the year as a final qualifying test for course credit (and therefor graduation). Donna Cooper (now of Public Citizens for Children and Youth) was part of the Rendell administration pushing for the tests, and like all good reformsters of the era, all she wanted was perfect standardization so that every student in every state was learning exactly the same thing.  "It would seem to me that a parent in Norristown and a parent in Johnstown, their kids should know the same things to graduate.”  And like good reformy bureaucrats, neither the Rendell administration that cooked this up, nor the Corbett administration that cemented it into law, envisioned the state providing any resources at all to help students over this new hurdle. The Keystone exam system was the biggest unfunded mandate the state had ever seen. The fiddling began immediately. Maybe the Keystones would count for a third of the full year grade. And somehow we'd have to roll the tests out over several years, only they turned out to be hard to just whip up quickly. And they were expensive, too.

Wolf Starting to Look Like 'Two-Term Tom' as 2018 Approaches
He's starting to look like two-term Tom, as Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's polls now resemble those of former Gov. Ed Rendell's, the Democrat who won a second term in 2006.
US News by By MARC LEVY, Associated Press Nov. 18, 2017, at 2:09 p.m.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — He's starting to look like two-term Tom. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf likely has wrapped up his biggest first-term fights with the Legislature's huge Republican majorities and his record is largely set a year before voters decide whether to give him a second term. He now heads into the 2018 election year with political winds at his back. Wolf's polls currently resemble those of former Gov. Ed Rendell's, the Democrat who won a second term in 2006, rather than former Gov. Tom Corbett's, the Republican who Wolf beat in 2014 to make the first Pennsylvania governor to lose re-election and the original "one-term Tom." "That is a decent spot to be in for an incumbent governor who's been through lots of fiscal battles the last three years," said Christopher Borick, a pollster and political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. "All in all, you probably take that if you're Tom Wolf." In recent days, eyes increasingly have turned to next year's election. The budget battle of 2017 ended, if four months late, and the four-candidate Republican primary field appears set with the entry of House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny.

Mike Turzai is running for governor. But why? | John L. Micek
Penn Live By John L. Micek jmicek@pennlive.com Updated Nov 17; Posted Nov 17
Conversations with two candidates this week drove home for me the choices that Pennsylvania voters will have to make during next year's very important campaign for the Governor's office. We'll start with Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, who, this week, finally stopped talking to the bleached skull, dropped the Hamlet act, and jumped into a now four-way race for the Republican nomination to the top spot. So there's this: Turzai is holding himself out as the reform candidate in the race. Yes, that Mike Turzai. He's the same one who's been serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 2001; the one who stood athwart Budget Debacle 2017 hollering "No!" even as he kited off (briefly) to Atlantafor a conference; the one who more than occasionally drives Senate Republicans bonkers during negotiations on the big-ticket issues. Putting aside the sheer ludicrousness of casting yourself as the reformist outsider when you're the senior Republican in the state House and have spent years raising geysers of largely unregulated cash for yourself and other Republicans, Turzai is doing the least reform-y thing that any reformer can do. Namely, hedging his bets to the absolute max by running for both the GOP guv nomination and his 28th House District House seat at the same time.

John Baer: Pa. Lt. Gov. Democratic primary may be exciting - really
Morning Call Opinion by John Baer, Philly Daily News November 17, 2017
Oh, the possibilities. A race for an office nobody cares about. An incumbent who only got attention through misbehavior. And the prospect of The Hulk of Pa. politics vs. the dandy of the Democratic Party. Also, with women candidates on the rise, it could include a savvy, popular Montgomery County pol who, while a member of the horrid Legislature, really isn't one of them. It's all too much to hope for. But it sure could make for tons of fun. Which is odd, since we're talking about a primary for lieutenant governor, something that never gets noticed and rarely affects the race for governor. Yet here we are on the cusp of Democratic Gov. Wolf's re-election bid with a genuine battle taking shape over who will run with him. Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, he of national note and mountainous mien, on Tuesday announced he's in — black work clothes, tats, shaved head and all. Madeleine Dean, former LaSalle assistant prof, lawyer and progressive Montco lawmaker, tells me she's seriously thinking about getting in. (By the way, she too has ink. On her foot. The signature of John Baptist de la Salle, patron saint of teachers.) And Philly's Mike Stack, current occupant of the office, former ward leader and state senator, part-time thespian and colorful fashionista, is, says his spokesman, running for re-election.

For a better Pennsylvania: Part 2 - reduce incumbent protections
Philly Daily News by John Baer, STAFF COLUMNIST  baerj@phillynews.com Updated: NOVEMBER 20, 2017 — 5:00 AM EST
This is the second of five planned weekly columns, each dealing with one area that, if reformed, would make state government and politics better.
If you’re a state lawmaker or member of Congress seeking reelection, odds are with you.
In fact, odds suggest you can stay in office as long as you want. Just look at Pennsylvania.
During the last 30 years, over 15 election cycles, the average reelection rate for state House and Senate incumbents is 97.5 percent. Why so high? Three choices: first, voters are wildly appreciative of their elected lawmakers; second, voters don’t know or care about their elected lawmakers; third, there are powerful advantages to incumbency. Let me suggest there’s little of the first, lots of the second and tons of the third. This column focuses on the third. It links to last week’s column on campaign finance that noted there are no limits on what’s raised or spent in Pennsylvania — one of only 11 such states, and the lone Northeastern state.

Governor looks to emphasize computer science studies
By Eric Scicchitano and Rick Dandes The Daily Item November 19, 2017
HARRISBURG — The Wolf Administration seeks the adoption of computer science standards for Pennsylvania schoolchildren, a request that comes with the support of local educators. Gov. Tom Wolf asked the State Board of Education to adopt “Computer Science for All” standards, a set of learning objectives designed to develop a foundation for a computer science curriculum at all grade levels, kindergarten through 12th. The standards would be voluntary for schools to adopt but the governor said he’ll seek mandates, too. “I have asked the Department of Education to work closely with the State Board of Education to adopt Computer Science for All standards for Pennsylvania and I will work with the legislature to codify computer science standards into law,” Wolf said. In urging the State Board to adopt the standards, the Wolf Administration pitched its push on the future of the state’s economy. According to a press release from the governor’s office, approximately 300,000 jobs will require STEM skills and knowledge by 2018 — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. According to the Wolf Administration, seven in 10 new jobs will require computer science skills over the next decade.

Erie schools wait on financial monitor
GoErie By Ed Palattella November 20, 2017 Posted at 12:01 AM Updated at 4:44 AM
State expected to start selection process soon.
If the state put out an advertisement to fill the job of financial administrator for the Erie School District, the notice might look something like this: WANTED: Someone with a background in business administration and budget development to monitor the finances of the largest school district in northwestern Pennsylvania as the district emerges from a protracted budget crisis. Would work for governor and state secretary of education. Length of service to be determined. Those are some of the key details listed in the legislation, passed in Harrisburg in late October, that created the state-paid post of financial administrator for the 11,500-student Erie School District. Not yet clear is who will fill the job and when, and how much the state will pay the person. The General Assembly passed the financial-administrator legislation in conjunction with another bill that guarantees the Erie School District will receive $14 million in additional annual state funding starting this fiscal year.

Springfield (Delco), teachers OK new five-year labor contract
Delco Times By Susan L. Serbin, Times Correspondent POSTED: 11/19/17, 11:04 PM EST 
SPRINGFIELD >> A five-year contract was approved by the school board and ratified by the Springfield Education Association teachers. The parties were nearly a year in negotiations which led to the agreement effective Nov. 17, 2017-June 30, 2022. Among the agreement’s major factors are 2.5 percent salary hikes in each year of the contract. Progressive increases are structured in employee costs for health care from 13 percent currently to about 15 percent. In years four and five of the contract, the district will implement a health care plan with a higher deductible but no employee contribution to premiums. Although some minor changes were made in the other areas, salaries and benefits constituted the major elements of the agreement. School Director Bruce Lord is chairman of the personnel committee and leader of the board’s negotiating team. He called the contract a win-win. “The teachers have the increases they wanted and very competitive salaries which they deserve. They play the key role in what we have done in the district. On the board side, we were able to implement the health care plan with a high deductible which will result in significant cost savings.”

Perk Valley caps tax hike at 2.8%, but 5.6% hike would close $4M budget gap
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 11/16/17, 7:47 PM EST 
A 7-1 vote of the Perkiomen Valley School Board Monday night capped any potential tax hike in next year’s budget at 2.8 percent, but a big budget deficit remains. The 2.8 percent cap is the limit set by the state, beyond which the board would need to seek voter approval. Outgoing board member Lynn Bigelow cast the only dissenting vote, arguing the decision about whether to live within the limit — called the index — or seek exceptions that would allow the budget to raise taxes above 2.8 percent without a public vote, is a decision that should be made by the incoming board.

Philly area students travel to Syria, visit Mars - virtually
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer  @Kathy_Boccella |  kboccella@phillynews.com Updated: NOVEMBER 19, 2017 — 10:29 AM EST
The sixth grade English class at the Westtown School in West Chester was buzzing with kids eager to talk about all the things they’d just seen in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp – one of the world’s largest, teeming with people fleeing violent conflict in neighboring Somalia. “In the camp, it was so crowded,” said Stella Costabile, talking about the family of seven she’d seen sleeping on the floor of the cramped living quarters. A classmate voiced surprise at the large buses and trucks rolling down streets, just like in a large city, while others talked about how most of the people they saw were women and children. The sixth-graders had plunged themselves into the refugees’ world without ever leaving the comforts of their Chester County classroom: They explored the Dadaab camp through the computer-generated technology of virtual reality – donning high-tech goggles and headphones to explore 360-degree footage of the camp shot by the New York Times. The students at the K-12 Quaker school this fall joined a small but rapidly growing number of classrooms in the Philadelphia region turning to virtual reality (VR), or its less immersive cousin, augmented reality (AR), as a teaching tool that energizes kids by taking their class on artificial field trips to ancient cities halfway around the world, and on expeditions to Mars, scuba dives on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, or on fantastic voyages inside the human body.

“On Monday night, the school board is poised to pass a new program of studies that adds American Sign Language as a foreign language option for high school students.”
How a Liberty student helped bring sign language into Bethlehem schools
By Sara K. Satullo ssatullo@lehighvalleylive.com, For lehighvalleylive.com Updated Nov 19, 8:36 AM; Posted Nov 19, 8:36 AM
Learning sign language broadened and enriched Liberty High Schoolsenior Jake Weikert's circle of friends so much it got him thinking.  Weikert, 17, of Hanover Township, started teaching himself sign language the summer before his freshman year. Seeing his interest, his mom Courtney Weikert, a Bethlehem Area School District kindergarten teacher, suggested they take lessons along with his sister. Weikert picked up American Sign Language quickly and began volunteering at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, where his mom taught, with both deaf and hearing students. At Liberty, he began eating lunch with some of his classmates, who were deaf and hard of hearing, leading some of his friends to pick up some sign language as well.  "It was amazing to see how it changed their daily lives," Weikert said. "If two or three kids can make that much of a difference to them, what difference could it be for an entire school?" So, Weikert began researching if school districts offered American Sign Language as a foreign language like Spanish or French. Turned out that the Parkland School District did.

Schools have become adept at rapidly shoring up security at any hint of danger
Post-Gazette by CAROLYN THOMPSON Associated Press 6:00 AM NOV 20, 2017
It’s a familiar scenario: A school official, hearing about a potential danger that’s too close for comfort, locks down the building. A nearby bank may have been robbed. Officers might be serving a warrant in the neighborhood. There are reports of shots fired in the area.
For a northern California elementary school, the quick action is credited with thwarting greater disaster Tuesday when a gunman on a deadly rampage was kept from walking through the school’s doors. Schools have become adept at rapidly shoring up security, measuring responses against the toll it could take on students’ learning and sense of safety.

“Prior to Sandy Hook, architects would mainly integrate with administrators, such as Ed Poprik, who is the director of the Office of Physical Plant for the State College Area School District, but now architects are including aspects in the design process such as school safety personnel, local law enforcement and first responders. “It used to be that we would build a building and the police would come in afterward and have zero input through the process,” Straub said. “Now we have law enforcement and EMS walking the site and letting us know how they would approach a building and what are their concerns when you’re putting a building together.”
New SCASD schools are designed to protect against gun violence
Centre Daily Times BY LEON VALSECHI lvalsechi@centredaily.com NOVEMBER 18, 2017 04:40 PM UPDATED NOVEMBER 19, 2017 12:08 AM
When architect Jeff Straub was in the process of designing the new State College Area High School, the news of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary shocked the nation and changed the way school design was approached. The four SCASD projects he’s designed since each have elements that reflect a detailed approach to student safety. For almost 18 years, Straub has specialized in school design for the architectural firm Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates, where he led the design of the high school and more recently the three elementary school projects that are beginning next month. Design elements inside and outside of schools have changed to address a culture where school gun violence is on the rise, but the communal approach to design is what Straub says has changed the most.


California NAACP calls for the choice of community schools
Cloaking Inequity Blog Posted on November 16, 2017 by Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig 
When the words school choice are said… what comes to mind? We know that the majority of charter schools are privately-managed. The evolution of the school choice movement has resulted in charter-management organizations (CMOs) coming on the scene and essentially franchising schools like McDonalds and Burger King all over the United States. Considering that charter schools are becoming less popular and they often neglect to deal directly with the challenges of inequality and poverty while subscribing to the achievement ideology… there are many people searching for alternative school models. Are there democratically-controlled school choice alternatives to the private control that dominates the current education reform conversation (charters and vouchers) that address the needs of students faced with unequal conditions? YES! The California NAACP believes that community schools are one such option. At the recent California NAACP convention in Los Angeles, the following resolution was passed.

Meet the Texas pastor who opposes public funding of religious education — and fights the Koch agenda
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss November 17 
If you don’t know who Charles Foster Johnson is, here’s your chance to get acquainted. Johnson is the executive director of the nonprofit organization called Pastors for Texas Children, an independent ministry and outreach group that comprises nearly 2,000 pastors and church leaders from across Texas. Its mission, according to its website: To provide “wrap-around” care and ministry to local schools, principals, teachers, staff and schoolchildren, and to advocate for children by supporting our free, public education system, to promote social justice for children, and to advance legislation that enriches Texas children, families, and communities. Johnson and his organization come at their mission in a way that is very different from  that of other Christian faith leaders who support the use of public funds for private and religious education through voucher and similar programs. He doesn’t, and he has been a powerful voice in support of traditional public education in Texas. And that has made him a target for people who oppose his views, which Johnson addressed in a post this month on the organization’s website:

DeVos Won’t Publicize a School Voucher Downside, But It’s Leaking Out Anyway
Deutsch29 Blog by Mercedes Schneider November 18, 2017
US ed sec Betsy DeVos is willing to exploit individual stories to promote school choice. She wants to sell school choice no matter what, and she conceals any downside to that choice. Consider this story from Chalkbeat. It concerns a couple whose son DeVos used as an example of the wonders of school choice for students with special needs. In this case, the parents of a special needs student sued the school district regarding the rights of students with disabilities. It turns out that the parents did not appreciate DeVos using their son’s situation as a school voucher sales moment. I invite readers to read the entire article. However, in this post, I want to offer two critical issues noted by the parents in this particular case.

The ‘DeVos effect’ on the November elections
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss November 19 at 10:37 AM 
The slew of Democratic victories in November’s state and local elections were seen as a rebuke of President Trump, whose approval ratings have hit historical lows. This post looks at where his education policies, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, were part of the debate during the election season. This piece was written by Darcie Cimarusti, a  New Jersey public school activist who blogs at Mother Crusader and is communications director at the Network for Public Education, and Carol Burris, a former award-winning New York high school principal who is executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit advocacy group. Burris was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and the same organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year in 2013. Burris has been chronicling problems with modern school reform and school choice for years on this blog.

November School Leader Advocacy Training
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:
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


Register for New School Director Training in December and January
PSBA Website October 2017
You’ve started a challenging and exciting new role as a school director. Let us help you narrow the learning curve! PSBA’s New School Director Training provides school directors with foundational knowledge about their role, responsibilities and ethical obligations. At this live workshop, participants will learn about key laws, policies, and processes that guide school board governance and leadership, and develop skills for becoming strong advocates in their community. Get the tools you need from experts during this visually engaging and interactive event.
Choose from any of these 10 locations and dates (note: all sessions are held 8 a.m.-4 p.m., unless specified otherwise.):
·         Dec. 8, Bedford CTC
·         Dec. 8, Montoursville Area High School
·         Dec. 9, Upper St. Clair High School
·         Dec. 9, West Side CTC
·         Dec. 15, Crawford County CTC
·         Dec. 15, Upper Merion MS (8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m)
·         Dec. 16, PSBA Mechanicsburg
·         Dec. 16, Seneca Highlands IU 9
·         Jan. 6, Haverford Middle School
·         Jan. 13, A W Beattie Career Center
·         Jan. 13, Parkland HS
Fees: Complimentary to All-Access members or $170 per person for standard membership. All registrations will be billed to the listed district, IU or CTC. To request billing to an individual, please contact Michelle Kunkel at michelle.kunkel@psba.org. Registration also includes a box lunch on site and printed resources.

Save the Date! NSBA 2018 Advocacy Institute February 4-6, 2018 Marriott Marquis, Washington D.C.
Registration Opens Tuesday, September 26, 2017