Senator DiSanto’s website Posted on Aug 08, 2017
Harrisburg—Senator John DiSanto joined parents, students, school officials and community leaders at the Joshua Learning Center today to announce his Education Savings Account (ESA) legislation, Senate Bill 2, for students attending public schools performing in the bottom 15 percent statewide. ESAs are state-funded, flexible spending accounts that parents can use to pay for Department of Education-approved educational expenses such as private school tuition, higher education tuition, textbooks and curriculum, testing and industry certifications. Eligible expenses for children with disabilities would also include occupational, physical, speech and behavioral therapies. Parents will receive the statewide average funding per pupil, between $5,000 and $6,000, and students with special needs will be eligible for additional support based on their disability. Unused funds roll over from one year to the next. Unspent ESA dollars can even be used to pay for college.
Here are the sponsors of SB2:
DiSANTO, SCARNATI, EICHELBERGER, ARGALL, ALLOWAY, MENSCH, AUMENT, BAKER, BARTOLOTTA, FOLMER, KILLION, MARTIN, McGARRIGLE, RAFFERTY, REGAN, RESCHENTHALER, SCAVELLO, STEFANO, WAGNER, WARD and WHITE
“Three consecutive reports, each studying one of the largest new state voucher programs, found that vouchers hurt student learning.”
Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins
New York Times by Kevin Carey FEB. 23, 2017
The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation’s highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform. But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling — the worst in the history of the field, researchers say.
Critics say Education Savings Accounts proposed in Pa. are just vouchers by another name
ELIZABETH BEHRMAN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Lbehrman@post-gazette.com 4:48 PM
AUG 8, 2017
School vouchers have failed multiple times to get enough support in Pennsylvania, but some GOP legislators are hoping a new school choice program may be the next accompaniment to charter schools and scholarship tax credits: Education Savings Accounts. Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin County, announced Tuesday that he intends to introduce legislation in September to create a program that will allow students in Pennsylvania’s struggling school districts to use state money for private school tuition, tutoring services and other pre-approved education expenses.
“I believe the ESA really is a lifeline for at-risk youth and low-income families that, based on where they live, do not have the opportunity to have educational options,” Mr. DiSanto said.
With Pa. budget unbalanced, power struggle in Capitol - and maybe in court
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis, Harrisburg Bureau @AngelasInk | email@example.com Updated: OCTOBER 20, 2017 — 6:50 PM EDT
HARRISBURG – In the face of the legislature’s continuing failure to balance Pennsylvania’s $32 billion budget, Gov. Wolf is taking unilateral action to finance and reorganize state government, raising political tensions and legal questions over the limits of executive authority. That threatens a new battle over raw power, four months into a budget stalemate that seems to have no end. “We are concerned about the separation of powers,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R., Centre) told reporters Wednesday when asked whether Senate Republicans would sue Wolf over some of his recent decisions to balance the budget. Steve Miskin, spokesman for Republicans who control the House of Representatives, put it this way: “You can’t just say, to heck with the Constitution, to heck with the rule of law, to heck with people, I’m doing it my way because I know best.” Wolf administration officials counter that the governor has been left with little choice. Some in the GOP legislature, they say, are paralyzed by partisan politics — Wolf is a Democrat — and have failed to complete the most fundamental responsibility of their job.
“There is one thing the sides agree on, if unhappily: borrowing more than $1 billion as the primary source of money to fill the deficit. That could require more than $500 million in interest payments over 20 years, plus transaction fees.
Add to that last month's Standard and Poor's downgrade of Pennsylvania's already battered credit rating. Wolf's administration calculates the downgrade will immediately add more than $50 million a year to the state's borrowing costs -- making it more expensive to borrow money to cover a deficit that helped spur the downgrade in the first place.”
Pennsylvania's budget fight will come with its own price tag
Penn Live By Marc Levy The Associated Press Updated on October 21, 2017 at 1:01 PM Posted on October 21, 2017 at 11:53 AM
HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania state government's projected $2.2 billion deficit, and a protracted fight over how to fix it, will come with its own special price tag. The final cost is a moving target, and whether or how the fight will end remains unclear, now nearly four months into the state's fiscal year. But the state stands to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years, considering the prospect of long-term borrowing to finance the deficit, compounded by a credit downgrade last month. "That's almost undeniable when you've got the downgrade and the borrowing," said Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat who is the state's independently elected fiscal watchdog. "And regardless of the merits of any of the proposals, there's extra costs that wouldn't exist if you had a balanced budget passed."
PA House takes aim at teacher seniority protection
Daily Item By John Finnerty CNHI Harrisburg Bureau October 20, 2017
HARRISBURG — The state House has passed a rewrite of the state’s school law that would allow school districts to lay off teachers based on job performance instead of just seniority when economic crises force schools to shed jobs. The same measure would also direct another $10 million in tax credits to donors who give to private schools and other nonprofit organizations. That’s an 8 percent increase over the $125 million the state set aside in tax credits for the Educational Improvement Tax Credits last year. Wolf vetoed a bill that was focused on making changes to the teacher seniority protections last year. But the changes this time are included in a broader bill making a number of updates to the state’s school law. Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott didn't respond to an email Friday about whether the governor might consider vetoing this bill if it reaches his desk in its current form. It passed the Republican-controlled state House, 105-81, on a mostly party-line vote Wednesday night. The measure now goes to the Senate, which also has a commanding Republican majority.
Courts must draw the line on gerrymandering | Editorial
By Express-Times opinion staff Updated on October 22, 2017 at 7:07 AM Posted on October 22, 2017 at 7:00 AM
Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania is a joke -- a bad joke that needs a constitutional correction. The good news is that court and legislative scalpels are being sharpened that could -- the key word being "could" -- cut up distorted voting-district maps and inject some fairness into this process. But first, a quiz: What do U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, and a nonprofit group called Fair Districts PAhave in common? They hold the future of democracy in their hands -- at least the part that says the people's representatives in Washington and state capitols should, proportionately, reflect the feelings and leanings of the folks back home. Gerrymandering defeats this principle. It allows a party in power (Republicans or Democrats, they're equally opportunistic), to pack legislative and congressional districts by party registration to dominate elections. Pennsylvania is considered by many observers the most gerrymandered state in the U.S.
“The new community schools program is equally impactful. Community schools are neighborhood public schools that become community centers with help from a dedicated coordinator and strategic partnerships with the city, and business, and nonprofit partners. More than 70 percent of our 6,000 community school students live at or below the poverty line. Targeted services in schools address health, economic stability, and basic needs, supporting youth and community development. To date, Philadelphians have received from our 11 community schools 7,000 pounds of food, and 1,180 items of clothing. Coordinators created 120 summer job and career exposure experiences for students, and over the summer 75 neighborhood residents gained employment through a training hosted by community schools.”
Standing by beverage tax and with pre-K, community schools, and Rebuild
Inquirer Opinion by Jim Kenney & Darrell Clarke Updated: OCTOBER 20, 2017 — 11:22 AM EDT
In June 2016, after nearly four months of vigorous debate, City Council passed the Philadelphia Beverage Tax and it was signed into law. The tax was enacted to fund free, quality preschool education for children; expand community schools in high-needs neighborhoods; and Rebuild, a $500 million capital improvement program for the city’s parks, recreational centers, and libraries. While several funding alternatives were proposed and considered, an overwhelming majority of Council determined that a 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages was the broadest, fairest funding option. We stand by our choice. The city has already begun to reap some of the intended benefits of the tax. Of the more than 2,000 children who enrolled in PHLpreK between January and today, the average family income was $31,776 annually. By enrolling their children in a free, safe, and stable child-care environment, many parents have been able to return to work and their children are now much more likely to graduate from high school and find a living-wage job.
Was Thursday the beginning of the end for the SRC?
At the commission's meeting, a District lawyer gave a presentation about what would happen if it voted to dissolve itself. It also voted not to renew Richard Allen Prep's charter, one of the city's oldest.
The notebook by Avi Wolfman-Arent and Dale Mezzacappa October 19, 2017 — 5:34pm
Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission has heard hundreds of presentations over its 16 years, but none as existentially important as the one delivered Thursday by District lawyer Miles Shore. The topic? How to self-destruct. Speaking before the five-member panel, Shore explained how the commission could vote itself out of existence. The commissioners almost certainly knew much of what Shore told them. The significance was that this conversation happened in public, the clearest signal yet that the SRC could soon be replaced by a locally controlled school board. SRC Chair Joyce Wilkerson described the presentation as "purely informational," meant to outline the legal considerations regarding the SRC's potential dissolution. “The public has been talking around it,” Wilkerson said. “We owe them some indication of what we see as the issues inherent in the decision.” As Shore explained, a lot has to happen before this bold-but-divisive experiment in state control over Philadelphia’s schools ends.
What comes after the SRC? City likely to move soon on new Philly school board
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham & Chris Brennan - Staff Writers Updated: OCTOBER 20, 2017 — 8:12 PM EDT
The School Reform Commission is on track to self-destruct by the end of the year, and Mayor Kenney and City Council are in active talks to shape what the succeeding governing body will look like. Sources with knowledge of the discussions say Council is likely to introduce legislation — possibly by early November — proposing a change to the City Charter to create a school board whose members are selected by the mayor and approved by Council. The SRC dissolution “is a done deal,” said one source, who, like others, declined to be publicly identified because of the delicate political nature of the talks. There are many moving pieces in the Council conversations, but the sources said legislation sooner rather than later is a safe bet. Joyce Wilkerson, the SRC chair, on Thursday night said the five-member panel could soon vote on its future, though she made no promises around an issue that has been gaining public momentum for months. Wilkerson said the SRC was in talks with various players about the issues surrounding dissolution, but declined to say who they were or describe the nature of the talks. The Council legislation, which is expected to have Kenney’s support, would pave the way for the SRC to vote itself out of existence by the end of the year, as required to have the changes take effect for the 2018-19 school year. Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania’s education secretary, would certify the dissolution by Jan. 1; city voters would consider a charter change in the May election, and presumably bless it. A new school board would then be put in place for the next school year. If the SRC dissolves without the charter change, Kenney would appoint a nine-member school board.
Do Communities Truly Have A Say in the Future of Priority Schools?
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools Opinion by Lisa Haver October 22, 2017 appsphilly.net
In mid-September, just weeks after the start of the new school year, Superintendent William Hite announced this year’s list of schools targeted for some type of turnaround through his “System of Great Schools”: Rhoads Elementary, Steel Elementary, Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences, Penn Treaty Middle/High School, Gideon Elementary, and Wagner Middle School. This is the second year the district has engaged in a months-long process of data collection, choice of schools, community hearings, in-school focus groups, and determination of the fate of these schools. The district has again contracted with Cambridge Education for consulting services, this year for $100,000, to conduct focus groups with teachers and students. Temple University has been hired for $70,000 to conduct the public outreach and facilitate meetings. Last year, eleven schools were designated Priority Schools. After the hearing and focus group period, three schools forced out principals and most faculty after being placed in the district Turnaround Network. Two other schools developed internal turnaround plans which mandated that teachers reapply for their jobs.
EDITORIAL: State must shore up charter law
York Dispatch Published 9:56 a.m. ET Oct. 20, 2017 | Updated 10:48 a.m. ET Oct. 20, 2017
As the York City School District and Helen Thackston Charter School close a messy chapter marked by financial chaos and declining educational performance with the agreement to close Thackston in 2019, a number of questions remain unanswered. Chief among them is what happened to taxpayers’ money earmarked to run the charter school. That’s because three years of back audits — and the current audit — remain undone, meaning thousands in taxpayer dollars remain unaccounted for. The school may close after the 2017-18 school year if the three back audits aren’t submitted to YCSD by Jan. 31, 2018 ,and the 2016-17 audit is not submitted by April 2018. The boards of both schools each unanimously voted on the dissolution agreement during separate special board meetings on Oct. 19.
With Thackston closing, its CEO already planning new charter school
York Dispatch by David Weissman, 505-5431/@DispatchDavid Published 2:35 p.m. ET Oct. 20, 2017 | Updated 2:31 p.m. ET Oct. 21, 2017
As one door closes, another opens — and when it comes to Helen Thackston Charter School's students and staff, that might even be the same door. Just a day after the school boards for Thackston and York City School District finalized an agreement to close the embattled charter school after the 2018-19 school year, Thackston's CEO told The York Dispatch he's hoping to start another charter school, possibly in the same building. Ideally, he said, the new charter school would be ready to accept students the day after Thackston closes. Carlos Lopez, a former York City district superintendent who was hired as Thackston's CEO in late February, said he's in the early stages of working on a new charter plan with a group of community leaders. He declined to list any of his potential partners. Asked whether he was considering locating the new charter school at the same location as Thackston's current building, he said he considers Thackston to be a fine facility, and it would depend on whether they could work out a reasonable lease agreement with the property owners. The building, at 625 E. Philadelphia St. in York City, is currently owned by Charter School Property Solutions, a Nevada-based organization that had bought and funded renovations to the property in 2012 as Thackston prepared to add high school grades.
Racial incidents rock area schools. Now what?
Inquirer by William Bender, Valerie Russ & Tricia L. Nadolny - Staff Writers Updated: OCTOBER 21, 2017 — 5:23 AM EDT
Racist texts. A fight before homeroom. Cheerleaders called the N-word. A black doll hanging by a tie. Pumpkins carved with a swastika and a reference to the Ku Klux Klan. Student protests. Police in the hallways. That was just this month. In three area school districts. Across the region, schools are grappling with a wave of disturbing racial incidents and attempting to chart a peaceful path forward. But experts say teachers and administrators should brace for more clashes – and prepare students to survive and counteract them – as the nation’s racially charged politics continues to turn Americans and their children against one another. “This is not just a one-time incident. We have a problem,” Quakertown Superintendent Bill Harner said last week, speaking about his own district. He was responding to an Oct. 6 incident in which Cheltenham High School cheerleaders were subjected to racial epithets during a football game at Quakertown Community High School. Rocks were reportedly thrown at Cheltenham school buses.
Pa. Senate committee proposes ban on trans-related health care for children on CHIP
Penn Live By Daniel Simmons-Ritchie firstname.lastname@example.org Updated on October 21, 2017 at 10:33 AM Posted on October 20, 2017 at 8:58 PM
A state Senate committee has approved a legislative amendment that would bar children on the state's CHIP program from getting coverage for transgender heath care services. The bill, HB 1388, was introduced into the House in May with the intention of re-authorizing the CHIP program before it expires in December. The program provides healthcare coverage to children of low-income Pennsylvanian families. But the bill's path took a contentious turn this week after Sen. Donald White, R-Indiana County, added an amendment that would prohibit the program from covering gender re-assignment surgery or gender transition services, including outpatient hospital visits, counseling, and prescription drugs. The amendment was approved by the Senate's Banking and Insurance Committee, which White chairs, in a 14-1 vote on Wednesday. The bill is now in the hands of the House Appropriations committee.
Senator Pat Browne receives William Howard Day Award for service to public education
PSBA Website October 18, 2017
State Senator Pat Browne (Lehigh Co.) will be presented with the William Howard Day Award from the Pennsylvania Public Education Foundation (PaPEF). This award seeks to recognize outstanding contributions from individuals, groups or organizations to public education across the commonwealth. This is the second year the award has been given. Last year’s recipient was State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. The PaPEF board of directors selected Sen. Browne because of his commitment to the children of Pennsylvania through his chairmanship of the Early Childhood Education Caucus, the PA Public School Building Construction and Reconstruction Advisory Committee as well as his chairmanship of the Basic Education Funding and Special Education Funding Commissions. Sen. Browne’s commitment “steered us toward more fair and equitable education funding for our students,” the PaPEF board of directors said. “Your years of tireless work introducing and developing policy that supports students across the state are worth celebrating.” The award is named in honor of the first African-American school board president in the United States. Day served the Harrisburg City School Board for six terms starting in 1878, and was a member of the Pennsylvania State Directors’ Association, the predecessor of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA).
“Harrisburg struggles to balance its own budget. The General Assembly currently doesn’t have a revenue budget for the current year. How can we leave our own school funding up to them?”
Letter to editor: Schools oppose state ballot question
Daily Local Letter by Dr. Jim Scanlon Superintendent, West Chester Area School District POSTED: 10/22/17, 7:13 PM EDT
As a supporter of our public schools and the belief that every American child deserves the right to a quality public education, I’m writing to ask for your action at the polls regarding a legislative proposal that could seriously impact the quality of our schools. Many educators are very concerned about a November 7 ballot question that asks whether the Pennsylvania Constitution should be amended to allow local taxing authorities to exempt homeowners from paying property taxes. We strongly feel the answer to this question should be “NO.” This ballot question doesn’t include the critical piece of information that according to state law, another source of revenue must be created to replace local property taxes. Legislators are considering that the new revenue source could come from increases in other taxes, in the form of Senate Bill 76. Under SB 76, Income Tax will go up from 3.07% currently to 4.95%, sales tax will go from 6% to 7% and the list of items to be taxed would increase. Those new revenue sources would go directly to the state, and it would be up to the state to determine how much each school district would receive. This means that under this new funding formula, the state could decide to give more money to urban districts and less to suburban ones, like West Chester. Or, they could determine another complicated funding formula that would once again leave funding up to the state and take away our local control.
Webinar: Get the Facts on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment
OCT 31, 2017 • 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM Registration Required
Recently passed through the General Assembly as House Bill 1285, Joint Resolution 1 proposes to amend the constitution by authorizing the General Assembly to enact legislation allowing local taxing authorities (counties, municipalities and school districts) to exclude from property taxation up to the full assessed value of each homestead/farmstead property within the taxing jurisdiction. If approved, what does this change mean for schools in PA? In this complimentary webinar, learn about the legislative history, facts and implications of the amendment so you can make the decision that is right for you on Nov. 7.
Register online here: GoToWebinar.com
PSBA members elect new leadership for 2018
Members of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association heard the election results for new officers at its Delegate Assembly on Friday, Oct. 20, at The Hershey Lodge & Convention Center. Open voting for members of PSBA was held from Aug. 24 to Oct. 12 through a secure, online voting website. The new officers will take their offices on Jan. 1, 2018, as part of the 12-member PSBA Governing Board. Officers of the 2018 Governing Board are listed below with (*) indicating positions that were up for election this year.
President – Michael Faccinetto, Bethlehem Area SD (Northampton Co.)
* President-elect – David Hutchinson, State College Area SD (Centre Co.)
* Vice President – Eric Wolfgang, Central York SD (York Co.)
*Treasurer – Mike Gossert, Cumberland Valley SD (Cumberland Co.)
Immediate Past President – Kathy Swope, Lewisburg Area SD (Union Co.)
Eastern At-Large Representative – Larry Feinberg, SD of Haverford Township (Delaware Co.)
*Central At-Large Representative – Larry Augustine, Selinsgrove Area SD (Snyder Co.)
*Western At-Large Representative – Daniel O’Keefe, Northgate SD (Allegheny Co.)
States may roll back children’s health coverage without money from Congress
Coverage for millions of kids could be at risk.
Politico By RACHANA PRADHAN and SARAH FROSTENSON | 10/23/17 05:00 AM EDT
Federal funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired Sept. 30, leaving states to come up with short-term fixes to keep their programs going. CHIP, now in its 20th year, primarily covers children from low-income families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. The program has long had bipartisan support, but lawmakers — consumed by the fight over Obamacare — blew past a key funding deadline and have been slow to extend new money. States haven’t started to pare back coverage yet, but they’re relying on short-term patches to keep their CHIP programs afloat. Here’s where things stand.
DeVos rescinds 72 guidance documents outlining rights for students with disabilities
Chicago Tribune by Moriah Balingit Washington Post October 21, 2017
The Education Department has rescinded 72 policy documents that outline the rights of students with disabilities as part of the Trump administration's effort to eliminate regulations it deems superfluous. The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services wrote in a newsletter Friday that it had "a total of 72 guidance documents that have been rescinded due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective - 63 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)." The documents, which fleshed out students' rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act, were rescinded Oct. 2. A spokeswoman for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos did not respond to requests for comment. Advocates for students with disabilities were still reviewing the changes to determine their impact. Lindsay Jones, the chief policy and advocacy officer for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, said she was particularly concerned to see guidance documents outlining how schools could use federal special education money removed. "All of these are meant to be very useful . . . in helping schools and parents understand and fill in with concrete examples the way the law is meant to work when it's being implemented in various situations," said Jones.
Bill Gates has a(nother) plan for K-12 public education. The others didn’t go so well.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss October 19 at 3:52 PM
Bill Gates has a(nother) plan for K-12 public education. The others didn’t go so well, but the man, if anything, is persistent. Gates announced Thursday that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would spend more than $1.7 billion over the next five years to pay for new initiatives in public education, with all but 15 percent of it going to traditional public school districts and the rest to charter schools. (When he said this, the audience at the 2017 conference of the nonprofit Council of the Great City Schools applauded, perhaps because many education philanthropists direct the bulk of their education giving on charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. Gates supports them as well.) He said most of the new money — about 60 percent — will be used to develop new curriculums and “networks of schools” that work together to identify local problems and solutions, using data to drive “continuous improvement.” He said that over the next several years, about 30 such networks would be supported, though he didn’t describe exactly what they are. The first grants will go to high-needs schools and districts in six to eight states, which went unnamed.
Pennsylvania Bulletin Saturday, October 14, 2017 NOTICES - DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The 2017 Pennsylvania Arts and Education will be held on Thursday, November 2, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg Convention Center in Camp Hill. See the agenda here.
Early Bird Registration ends September 30.
Support the Notebook and see Springsteen on Broadway
The notebook October 2, 2017 — 10:57am
Donate $50 or more until Nov. 10, enter to win – and have your donation doubled!
"This music is forever for me. It's the stage thing, that rush moment that you live for. It never lasts, but that's what you live for." – Bruce Springsteen
You can be a part of a unique Bruce Springsteen show in his career – and support local, nonprofit education journalism! Donate $50 or more to the Notebook through Nov. 10, and your donation will be doubled, up to $1,000, through the Knight News Match. Plus, you will be automatically entered to win a pair of prime tickets to see Springsteen on Broadway! One winner will receive two tickets to the 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24, show at the Walter Kerr Theatre. These are amazing orchestra section seats to this incredible sold-out solo performance. Don't miss out on your chance to see the Boss in his Broadway debut. Donate to the Notebook today online or by mail at 699 Ranstead St., 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19106.
Registration Opens Tuesday, September 26, 2017