Letter to the Editor: How Pa. students are being shortchanged
Some say the state Legislature isn’t doing enough to fairly fund public schools in the state.
Delco Times Letter to the Editor by Laura Johnson, Raymond Rose, Marisa Swiderski, Parents of Pottstown Students December 11, 2018
To the Times: We are writing to you because the state of Pennsylvania should be doing right by all her students, not just half of them. Unfortunately, half of our public school children are being shortchanged, including the children of Pottstown. In Pottstown, a borough outside of Philadelphia, our property taxes are among the highest in the state and still our schools are underfunded to the tune of more than $13M per year. This means we struggle with overcrowded classes and buildings. We also have a tough time holding on to teachers since we can’t pay them what they deserve. We do the best with what we have, but we are hurting and have been for years. Why are we so underfunded you might ask?
There are three main reasons:
One, “Hold Harmless.” This is a rule that the state Legislature created that says you can never give a district less than they got the year before. If a school district was getting a lot of money when it had a higher student population, it gets the same amount even if the population has dropped . This means that the state is providing more money per student to districts with shrinking populations and less per student to growing districts and to urban districts with a higher minority populations. This is not only bad public policy, it is morally indefensible.
“The campaign called for annual increases in each of the next four years of $400 million in basic education, $100 in special education and $10 million in career and technical education.”
PA Schools Work urges Governor Wolf to continue investing in Pennsylvania’s students in next state budget
Calls for $510 million state increase for basic, special, and career and technical education
HARRISBURG (December 6, 2018) – The statewide education advocacy campaign PA Schools Work today delivered a letter to Governor Tom Wolf urging him to increase state funding for public education in his 2019-20 budget proposal. While thanking Gov. Wolf for his continued commitment to Pennsylvania students, including his restoration of past state funding cuts, PA Schools Work noted that the “work has just begun” to achieve an adequate and equitable school funding system in the state. Even with recent increases under the Wolf Administration, Pennsylvania ranks 46th in the country in state share for K-12 education.
Court Date Ahead For PA School Funding Battle
It’s taken years of legal battles to get the education “fair funding” litigation this far
Sanatoga Post by Joe Zlomek | December 10, 2018
By Avi Wolfman-Arent, Keystone Crossroads Republished by The Sanatoga Post
HARRISBURG PA – The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has tentatively scheduled a hearing in a landmark education funding lawsuit for the summer of 2020, according to trial schedule released Thursday (Dec. 6, 2018). It took four years of legal battles for the plaintiffs to get to this point, but it appears this lawsuit will finally receive a trial on the merits. In 2014, a group of districts and parents sued the state government, accusing it of underfunding public schools. The level of underfunding and the disparities among districts were so severe, they argued, that the legislature and the governor had violated the state constitution. The state Supreme Court reversed decades of precedent in late 2017 when it declared that the courts could get involved in this issue. Through the following year, the Commonwealth Court waded through a series of preliminary objections filed by Republican legislative leaders, ultimately deciding that the case should go to a full trial.
The author of this letter is a former school director and friend of this blog….
Letter: Pa. Legislature lacks representation
Post-Gazette Letter by Maureen Grosheider, Marshall DEC 11, 2018 12:00 AM
Elections are over and the Pennsylvania Legislature’s makeup for the 2019-2020 session has been set. The question is whether this new Legislature will be any more effective than the old Legislature, particularly on the issues of gerrymandering and election reform. Voters in four other states overwhelmingly approved significant changes to both during the November elections. Yet Pennsylvania lags behind because of the reluctance of our Legislature to address the issues, as well as the fact that Pennsylvania has no means by which citizens can get initiatives on the ballot.
This can change if our state House of Representatives, particularly the newer members, demand changes to the general operating rules. A vote on the rules the first item scheduled for a vote on the first day of the new session, which is Jan. 1.
Suggested reforms include:
1. Bills with bipartisan support should be given a vote in committee. Had this rule been in place, HB722, which created an independent citizens redistricting commission would have been brought to a vote in the State Government committee.
2. Bills reported favorably from committee should be guaranteed debate and a vote on the House floor.
3. A bipartisan committee in the House should be convened to review the committee process.
4. A mechanism to remove committee chairs unable to moderate fairly should be explored.
It’s far past time for Pennsylvania’s statehouse to return to being a truly representative body, presenting the concerns of its citizens and legislating on our behalf. Reform the rules.
Pennsylvania court: School bus video of altercation can be a public record
A Pennsylvania court has ruled that some school bus video can be considered public under the Right to Know Law in a case involving a principal’s wife who accosted a student in 2016.
Steve Esack Contact Reporter Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau December 10, 2018
A Pennsylvania court has ruled that some school bus video can be considered public under the state’s Right to Know Law in a 2016 case involving a principal’s wife charged with accosting a student. In its order Monday, Commonwealth Court rejected a central Pennsylvania school district’s argument that all surveillance videos must remain secret because they contain private student information, pertain to funding and are related to investigations. The ruling could lead to another round of lobbying to get the Legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf to change the public records law involving school videos — just as they did with police videos after a different court ruling in 2017. The ruling did not address a broader policy question about balancing the public’s right to know with a school district’s right to protect students’ privacy and safety, said Ellen C. Schurdak, a school solicitor with the Bethlehem firm King, Spry, Herman Freund & Faul.
Wilmagination program brings theater training to local high schools
The Wilma's education outreach program was honored with a special award at the Barrymores.
The notebook by Naomi Elegant December 10 — 6:02 am, 2018
The auditorium of the Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber buzzes with noise as high school seniors filter in, chattering and laughing, for their morning theater class. It is their penultimate practice before they showcase what they’ve been working on for the last two months, an original set of skits that they created after seeing the Wilma Theater’s production of the post-apocalyptic dark comedy Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play. After a round of warm-up exercises, the students launch into rehearsal. In keeping with the tone and plot of Mr. Burns, their skits are offbeat and funny, taking place in post-apocalyptic settings: In one, two passengers get into an argument on a broken bus about the source of the screams they hear through the window. In another, apocalypse survivors rifle through the music section at Walmart, searching for their friend’s album. The students are in an elective theater class operated through Wilmagination, the Wilma Theater’s residency program for Philadelphia high schools. Through the program, high school students watch a Wilma Theater production, then spend a semester creating their own production in weekly classes taught by two Wilma artists. The residency culminates with a student performance at the Wilma in Center City.
Philly Goes to School; Lessons in Inclusive, Universal Pre-K
Oklahoma’s done it longer; New York City does it bigger. What Philadelphia can learn in crafting a pre-K program to close the achievement gap for kids from economically disadvantaged communities.
Next City STORY BY Melanie Bavaria PUBLISHED ON Dec 10, 2018
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was reported in collaboration with the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, an independent, nonprofit news service that serves as an information source and voice for parents, students, teachers and other members of the community who work for quality and equality in Philadelphia’s public schools.
To outsiders, Oklahoma may seem like an odd place to look for a shining example of public education policy. This deep-red state has seen numerous cuts to public education funding over the last 30 years; stagnant teacher salaries over the past decade; and most recently a heated election cycle dominated by the aftermath of a massive statewide teacher strike. But Oklahoma also happens to lead the country in one particular public-education initiative: state-funded universal pre-Kindergarten. Since the program was established in 1998, education researchers have been intrigued by the experiment. And as one of the earliest and most comprehensive sites for longitudinal data on the impacts of pre-K, policymakers across the country have taken notice of Oklahoma’s model.
High school English teacher wins Pennsylvania's state award
Morning Call December 10, 2018
A high school teacher from the Scranton area is Pennsylvania's 2019 teacher of the year. Abington Heights High School teacher Marilyn Pryle was given the honor Monday by state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera at a professional development conference in Hershey. Pryle teaches English literature and is the author of seven books for teachers, including "50 Writing Activities for Meeting Higher Standards." She beat out 11 other finalists. Pryle graduated from the University of Scranton and completed a master's degree in creative writing at Emerson College in Boston. She'll be Pennsylvania's entrant in next year's national teacher-of-the-year competition. The Department of Education says nominations were submitted by students, parents, peers and others.
As Pa. names Teacher of the Year, Penn Manor finalist heartened by tributes to educators' dedication
Lancaster Online by TIM STUHLDREHER | Staff Writer December 10, 2018
It's been a privilege to represent Penn Manor School District in the running for Pennsylvania’s Teacher of the Year, Maria Vita said. “The whole experience has been a celebration of what we do,” the high school psychology teacher said. On Monday, Vita and 11 other finalists took part in a luncheon at Hershey Lodge & Convention Center, held in the course of the SAS Institute, the Department of Education’s annual professional development conference. Each of the 12 was introduced by a present or former student. There were some “tear-jerking moments” that underscored the power teachers have in students’ lives, Vita said. Vita was introduced by Grace Rhine, Penn Manor Class of 2017. Now a sophomore studying psychology and special education at Millersville University, Rhine called Vita her “hero” and recounted some of the many ways she goes above and beyond in her work. An English teacher from Lackawanna County, Marilyn Pryle, was ultimately named state Teacher of the Year for 2019. Pryle, who teaches at Abington Heights High School, will travel the state over the next year and will represent Pennsylvania in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
Philly City Council scrutinizes residential placements
The District spends millions on these facilities and their attached schools, but does not oversee them.
The notebook by Greg Windle December 10 — 9:55 am, 2018
new City Council task force is examining the residential facilities for children who have been removed from their homes by the court system, including the quality of the education they provide. The task force is searching for ways to reduce the number of children sent to these facilities and to improve their experience if they are sent there. City Council members Helen Gym and Kenyatta Johnson established the task force after a Council hearing in May where students testified about abuse and neglect in such facilities. That hearing was the culmination of a years-long push from advocates and activists. Children reported living in an environment of fear and frequent strip-searches. Staff sometimes sexually abused them, they said, and encouraged fighting among the young residents. Gym first became aware of the problems in these facilities during her work as a parent activist before being elected to Council in 2016. “I had a lot of concerns about this even before I came in,” Gym said. “But following the death of David Hess at Wordsworth [residential treatment center in Philadelphia], the multiple sexual assaults, the ongoing problems with these facilities makes this even more incumbent — that this is not just an issue for a small subset of young people, but a very serious issue for our entire city, the school system and our state.”
2018 was by far the worst year on record for gun violence in schools
A database, going back to 1970, shows there were more incidents and more deaths in 2018 than any other year on record.
Vox.com By German Lopez@firstname.lastname@example.org Dec 10, 2018, 1:20pm EST
If it seemed like 2018 was a particularly bad year for gun violence in schools, that’s because it was. According to data from the US Naval Postgraduate School, there were 94 school gun violence incidents this year — a record high since 1970, which is as far back as the data goes, and 59 percent higher than the previous record of 59 in 2006. The database counts “each and every instance a gun is brandished, is fired, or a bullet hits school property for any reason, regardless of the number of victims, time of day, or day of week,” according to the project. The project pulls from a variety of sources, including media reports and government agencies, to collect its data.
Which gun bills could be important in Congress next year?
Inquirer by Justine McDaniel, Updated: December 10, 2018- 9:59 AM
The November midterm elections will bring a wave of new faces into Congress — 100 new House members who make up a class with more diversity and more women than ever before. It is also more pro-gun-control. That’s a byproduct of the new Democratic majority creating what advocates call a gun-sense majority. According to the group Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, 39 seats that belonged to politicians backed by the NRA were flipped by candidates who support gun control. “One of my top priorities on day one will be passing common-sense gun legislation to save lives and reduce gun violence in our nation,” Rep.-elect Madeleine Dean (D., Montgomery) tweeted in late November. She and other incoming freshmen from the Philadelphia region have pledged support for gun-related legislation. “We need federal funding for gun safety research to address this public health crisis,” tweeted Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D., Delaware). Democrats have announced that their first effort will be an anti-corruption bill, including campaign finance overhaul, expanded voting rights, and stronger government ethics rules. But Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and others have said a background-checks bill would be among the first orders of business for the new House. Meanwhile, the last year saw a push for some gun-rights legislation, including various school safety measures such as arming teachers. They’re likely to come up again this session. Here are four bills that gun-control groups have made a top priority, and one gun-rights bill that’s more likely than others to resurface in 2019.
“In October, Congress authorized $50 million a year for the next five years to fund mental health services to help school districts treat students who have experienced trauma due to the opioid epidemic. And an increasing number of school districts across the country are starting not only to screen and treat at-risk kids for opioid addiction, but also access mental health counseling specifically for students whose families and communities are consumed by opioid abuse.”
School-Based Counselors Help Kids Cope With Fallout From Drug Addiction
NPR by RACHEL GOTBAUM December 5, 20185:00 AM ET
When Maddy Nadeau was a toddler, her mother wasn't able to care for her. "I remember Mom was always locking herself in her room and she didn't take care of me. My mom just wasn't around at the time," she says. Every day, her older sister Devon came home from elementary school and made sure Maddy had something to eat. "Devon would come home from school and fix them cold hot dogs or a bowl of cereal — very simple items that both of them could eat," says Sarah Nadeau, who fostered the girls and later adopted them. The girls' parents struggled with drug addiction, and for several years, the sisters moved in with different relatives and eventually, foster homes. Nadeau says when they arrived at her home, both girls were anxious and depressed and had a hard time focusing in school — especially Maddy, who had been exposed to drugs in utero. "That makes it very difficult for her brain to settle down enough to do more than one task at a time," Nadeau says. The Nadeaus live on Cape Cod, which has some of the highest numbers of deaths due to opioid overdoses in Massachusetts. It's also where a growing number of schools are hiring treatment counselors to work with teachers and their students whose families are battling addiction. The counselors work at the schools but are employed by Gosnold, the largest provider of addiction services on the Cape.
Rutgers researcher finds no evidence N.J. superintendent salary cap saved school districts money
WHYY By Joe Hernandez December 8, 2018
Initially billed as a cost-cutting measure, the New Jersey superintendent salary cap failed to save money and instead resulted in a higher probability that superintendents across the state would quit, according to new research from Rutgers University. “There’s no evidence of a reduction in costs for schools,” said Michael Hayes, an assistant professor of public policy at Rutgers-Camden, who scrutinized school district budget data from 2004 to 2014. “All we see is this negative cost in terms of higher rates of superintendent turnover as a result of the New Jersey superintendent salary cap.” Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie instituted a cap on superintendent pay in 2011 — ranging from $125,000 to $175,000 depending on enrollment — as a belt-tightening measure amid increasingly shrinking state and local budgets. The maximum salary for a New Jersey superintendent increased with new rules in 2017, but the cap system remains in place. Hayes said that the policy, which only limits the salary of one person in districts with sometimes hundreds of employees and massive budgets, was never a smart way to cut costs. “This is not a surprising result.” Hayes found that, in the first year after the cap was implemented, there was a 16 percent increase in the likelihood that superintendents immediately facing a pay cut would leave, suggesting the cap was a driver of higher turnover.
The first U.S. charter school teacher strike just landed a deal
The victory sends a message to operators of privately-run charter schools that educators can unionize to get what they want.
Think Progress by ELHAM KHATAMI DEC 10, 2018, 10:25 AM
Days after hundreds of Chicago-area teachers became the first charter school educators in the country to go on strike, they reached a tentative deal on Sunday that addresses their concerns with low pay, large class sizes, and protections for the largely Latinx student body. The deal with Acero charter school management, which is expected to pass when teachers vote on it on Monday, sends a message to privately-run school operators across the country that educators can unionize to get what they want. Only about 11 percent of the charter schools in the United States are currently unionized. Acero is one of the largest charter school networks in Chicago, with more than 7,000 students — more than 90 percent of whom are Latinx. More than 500 Acero teachers went on strike last week, demanding pay raises, more bilingual teachers, improved special education resources, reductions in the 32-student class size, and sanctuary schools, or a safe zone for undocumented immigrants who may be a risk for deportation.
“But the company has a checkered past when it comes to delivering a quality product. "They haven't been able to demonstrate very good results on academics, so the proof is in the pudding," says Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning education policy organization in Washington that published a report in 2016 documenting poor academic results of students enrolled in virtual charters schools in Ohio, where more than 35,000 students take classes online. In fact, in 2016, K12 reached a $168.5 million settlement with the state of California after the company made false claims about its affiliated schools' performance and also falsely advertised its schools.”
Controversial Virtual School Operator K12, Inc. Pivots to Job Training
The for-profit educator has been under fire for years over charges that it has provided degrees and certificates that have been of little worth to students.
USNews By Lauren Camera, Education Reporter Dec. 10, 2018, at 1:16 p.m.
K12 INC., THE controversial for-profit virtual charter school operator, plans to pivot its entire platform to career education and has laid the groundwork to offer the new programs in 40 states over the next three years. "This is a pivot, absolutely," says Kevin Chavous, president of academics, policy and schools at K12. "We were the first ones to do the online education in a big way. Now, this is a pivot where we have a laser focus on academics and student growth, but the corresponding focus on [career] gives kids more opportunity than they otherwise wouldn't have." In an interview with U.S. News, Chavous and Executive Vice President Shaun McAlmont, who was hired in August to direct the shift toward career readiness, outlined K12's new direction.The company is focusing on a handful of core industries, including information technology, business, manufacturing, health sciences or health care, and agriculture. McAlmont says they plan to peg different industry course offerings to specific parts of the country. Schools in Ohio and Michigan will offer specialized courses IT and health care, for example, while its schools in California will offer specialized courses in all the industries.
Pennsylvania schools work – for students, communities and the economy when adequate resources are available to give all students an equal opportunity to succeed.
Join A Movement that Supports our Schools & Communities
PA Schools Work website
Our students are in classrooms that are underfunded and overcrowded. Teachers are paying out of pocket and picking up the slack. And public education is suffering. Each child in Pennsylvania has a right to an excellent public education. Every child, regardless of zip code, deserves access to a full curriculum, art and music classes, technical opportunities and a safe, clean, stable environment. All children must be provided a level chance to succeed. PA Schools Work is fighting for equitable, adequate funding necessary to support educational excellence. Investing in public education excellence is the path to thriving communities, a stable economy and successful students.
Build on finance, policy, board culture skills at PSBA’s Applied School Director Training
Four convenient locations in December and January
Take the next step in your professional development with Applied School Director Training. Building upon topics broadly covered in New School Director Training, this new, interactive evening event asks district leaders to dive deeper into three areas of school governance: school finance, board policy and working collaboratively as a governance team. Prepare for future leadership positions and committee work in this workshop-style training led by experts and practitioners. Learn how to:
Dec.11, 2018 — Seneca Valley SD
Dec. 12, 2018 — Selinsgrove, Selinsgrove Area Middle School
Jan. 10, 2019 — Bethlehem, Nitschmann Middle School
Jan. 17, 2019 — State College
Cost: This event is complimentary for All-Access members or $75 per person with standard membership and $150 per person for nonmembers. Register online by logging in to myPSBA.
PASBO is looking for leaders! The deadline for board seats is Dec 31st, 2018.
PASBO members who desire to seek election as Director or Vice President should send a letter of intent with a current resume and picture to the Immediate Past President Edward G. Poprik, PCSBO, who is chair of the PASBO Nominations and Elections Committee.
NSBA 2019 Advocacy Institute January 27-29 Washington Hilton, Washington D.C.
The upcoming midterm elections will usher in the 116th Congress at a critical time in public education. Join us at the 2019 NSBA Advocacy Institute for insight into what the new Congress will mean for your school district. And, of course, learn about techniques and tools to sharpen your advocacy skills, and prepare for effective meetings with your representatives. Save the date to join school board members from across the country on Capitol Hill to influence the new legislative agenda and shape the decisions made inside the Beltway that directly impact our students. For more information contact .
PSBA Board Presidents’ Panel
Nine locations around the state running Jan 29, 30 and 31st.
Share your leadership experience and learn from others in your area at this event designed for board presidents, superintendents and board members with interest in pursuing leadership roles. Workshop real solutions to the specific challenges you face with a PSBA-moderated panel of school leaders. Discussion will address the most pressing challenges facing PA public schools.
Annual PenSPRA Symposium set for March 28-29, 2019
Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association Website
Once again, PenSPRA will hold its annual symposium with nationally-recognized speakers on hot topics for school communicators. The symposium, held at the Conference Center at Shippensburg University, promises to provide time for collegial sharing and networking opportunities. Mark you calendars now!
We hope you can join us. Plans are underway, so check back for more information.
2019 NSBA Annual Conference Philadelphia March 30 - April 1, 2019
Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19107
Registration Questions or Assistance: 1-800-950-6722
The NSBA Annual Conference & Exposition is the one national event that brings together education leaders at a time when domestic policies and global trends are combining to shape the future of the students. Join us in Philadelphia for a robust offering of over 250 educational programs, including three inspirational general sessions that will give you new ideas and tools to help drive your district forward.
Save the Date: PARSS Annual Conference May 1-3, 2019
Wyndham Garden Hotel, Mountainview Country Club
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools