Friday, September 20, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept. 20: Test question: how many cyber students do you need to register in order to purchase a $300K twin engine airplane? How about a $933K Florida condo?


Started in November 2010, 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, charter school leaders, 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

If any of your colleagues would like to be added to the email list please have them send their name, title and affiliation to KeystoneStateEdCoalition@gmail.com

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept. 20, 2019



Test Question: If the average regular ed cyber tuition is $11K/student but it only costs $5K/student to provide the services, how many students do you need to register in order to purchase a $300K twin engine airplane?  How about a $933K Florida condo?



Editorial: There must be a better way to fund Pennsylvania charter schools
Bucks County Courier Times Editorial Posted at 5:20 AM September 20, 2019
In 1997, Pennsylvania passed Act 22, which allowed for charter schools, public educational institutions that offered students an alternative to enrolling in their traditional public school districts. The nonprofit charters — many run by for-profit management companies — get their funding from the school districts where their students live. Districts are obligated to educate the school-aged children in the towns they serve. For every student who attends a charter school, the home school district must pay the charter what it spent to educate the typical student the previous year. For special education students, the per-child payments are increased using a formula. During the 2018-19 school year, school districts in Bucks and Montgomery counties paid charter schools anywhere from $12,000 to $16,000 per student. Special education student payments mostly ranged from $30,000 to $35,000, according to data on the state department of education’s website. The numbers do add up. At Bensalem School District, for instance, the total is more than $15 million per year. Everyone from the governor to local school board members and charter officials seems to agree that Pennsylvania must change how charter and cyber charter schools are funded. School board members across the Commonwealth have decried how much money they’re sending to charters at a time when they’re also struggling with unfunded mandates from the state and contractual requirements. Many charter school officials, while arguing that districts have to shoulder the cost to educate those students either way and to do it at district schools could mean hiring teachers and building classrooms, nonetheless agree the current funding mechanisms are flawed.

‘More options and opportunities’: At Harrisburg Catholic school, DeVos pushes $5 billion program for private, religious school scholarships
PA Capital Star By  Stephen Caruso September 19, 2019
A few dozen Catholic school students learned about geographic coordinates and constellations Thursday with two special guests — U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny. The two champions of school choice toured Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School, a stone’s throw from the Capitol building, before plugging a plan to get students out of the troubled city school district and into private schools. DeVos said the visit’s aim was to bring “focus to the need to provide more options and opportunities for students to find their right education future.”  Before joining the Trump administration, DeVos and her husband, Dick, founded the Great Lakes Education Project, which has pushed charter school expansion in Michigan. The couple’s foundation also supported private religious schools.  The visit was part of a nationwide tour by DeVos that has focused on private schools. She started the tour Monday in Milwaukee to honor a city program that provides taxpayer-funded scholarships to send kids to private or religious schools — the first such program in the U.S. 

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos promotes school choice programs in Harrisburg school visit
Penn Live By Steve Marroni | smarroni@pennlive.com Updated 2:36 PM; Today 1:02 PM
HARRISBURG – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited the Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School today as part of her back-to-school tour, promoting a proposed federal tax-credit program that would allow for scholarships for more underprivileged students to have a choice of schools. Her visit comes after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill that, similarly, would have nearly doubled the amount of tax credits the state makes available to businesses and other donors who make gifts to scholarship funds for private, parochial and other schools. One of her hosts for the event, Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, also informally introduced a new proposal to revitalize his vetoed efforts to increase the amount of available scholarship funds. If both the federal and state programs are passed, DeVos and Turzai said that could mean millions of dollars in scholarship funds and choice of schools for students in need, particularly in under-performing schools like the Harrisburg School District. “Why wouldn’t we try it?” he asked. But opponents say programs like those DeVos and Turzai are promoting only harm public schools.

Pa. House Speaker Mike Turzai: public schools are a monopoly and teachers are "special interest people" 
Pittsburgh CityPaper By Ryan Deto @RyanDeto September 19, 2019
In a video posted on Twitter today, Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Marshall) called two apparent public educators “special interest people” and said they “don’t really care about the kids.” The video was posted by advocacy group Pennsylvania Spotlight, a left-leaning nonprofit advocating for statewide issues. The incident occurred outside of a Catholic School in Harrisburg, where Turzai was attending an event for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. In the video, Turzai praised charter schools, which receive government funding but operate independently of the public school system, saying that in charter schools. “you have to care about each child, not about the monopoly.” He then claimed that the public school advocates were part of a monopoly. “What you care about is a monopoly and special interests,” said Turzai, whose district encompasses the North Hills municipalities of McCandless, Pine, Marshall, Bradford Woods, and Franklin Park. One of the advocates then said, “I am little offended from that,” to which Turzai responded, pointing to the posters they were holding, “Oh, I am offended by your posters.” One poster read “I love public schools.” The other read “Public Money for Public Schools.”

PA HOUSE SPEAKER TO RETIRED TEACHER: “YOU DON’T REALLY CARE ABOUT THE KIDS”
PA Spotlight Video SEP 19, 2019 | FeaturedReleasesStories |
Pennsylvania House Speaker Rep. Mike Turzai, a close ally of the anti-union Commonwealth Foundation, attended a Harrisburg event with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this morning. While there, he dismissed dedicated public educators as “special interest people” who don’t care about students. Watch for yourself below:
DeVos, whose family funds the Commonwealth Foundation through their national dark money network, the State Policy Network, was in town promoting a proposed federal tax-credit program similar to the one included in a bill vetoed by Gov. Wolf earlier this year. That bill would have massively expanded Pennsylvania’s Education Investment Tax Credit (EITC), one of the most generous tax giveaways in the country dressed up as education reform. Programs like the EITC allow corporations and the rich to profit at the expense of children in public schools. One of the biggest backers of this tax scheme? You guessed it — the Commonwealth Foundation.
Earlier this year we exposed the Commonwealth Foundation’s true intention behind their support for EITC expansion: through an LLC called Commonwealth Kids, the Commonwealth Foundation has finagled almost $3 million in tax write-offs to undisclosed entities or individuals. Not only are the Commonwealth Foundation and their supporters like Turzai and DeVos advocating for policies that intentionally defund public schools, the Commonwealth Foundation also offers their donors a way to profit off the backs of Pennsylvania’s kids.

Blogger note: Emily Skopov is running against Mike Turzai for the 28th district legislative seat in Allegheny County. Here’s a link to her education platform:
If a community cannot provide excellence in its public education, then it is failing not only the children of that community, but the future of that community. A strong education empowers students and equips them to be self-reliant, and to become the change-makers of tomorrow. I envision a Pennsylvania in which every single child can access the high quality public education that they deserve, regardless of their zip code. Through programs like EITC and OSTC, funding has been diverted to charter schools and private education at the expense of our public education system. Rather than repairing fundamental problems in too many of our districts, the current policies simply continue the neglect.   Programs that claim to provide families with choice but that actually move people from quality public education to less accountable for-profit schools both increase inequality and undermine the very premise of a commonwealth.  As a result of the House leadership’s programs, Pennsylvania’s funding gap between rich and poor school districts is higher than any other state in the nation. The state’s poorest school districts receive 33.5% fewer dollars per pupil than the richest districts — a figure made even more stark in comparison to the next worst state figures, Vermont’s gap of only (!) 18.1%.  We can do better for our children.

New Report: Cyber Charter Waste Grows to $290 Million in Taxpayer Money Annually
Education Voters PA Published by EDVOPA on September 16, 2019

State board sides with Philly charter in appeal of school district restrictions
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: September 19, 2019- 1:29 PM
A state board has rejected conditions the Philadelphia School District placed on a new charter school’s approval, raising questions about how the district and others may handle charter applications and renewals in the future. In addition to reducing enrollment, the district’s conditions had included a requirement that likely would have made the Franklin Towne Charter Middle School student body more diverse than the charter operator’s other predominantly white schools. But the Charter Appeals Board voted 5-0 Tuesday to grant Franklin Towne’s appeal of those conditions, according to the state Department of Education. The applicants had argued that even though the former School Reform Commission voted to grant them a charter in April 2018, it didn’t actually act on their application. That’s because the conditions the SRC placed on the new school — including reducing its anticipated enrollment from 450 to 300 — “materially” altered its application, according to the appeal, which said the school wouldn’t be able to operate financially under the requirements.

Lowman S. Henry: The education establishment strikes back
Pottstown Mercury Opinion By Lowman S. Henry Columnist September 19, 2019
Let's begin by stating up front what public education policy in Pennsylvania today is not about: it is not about children, families, or proving a quality education to all students regardless of the zip code in which they live. Public education policy in Pennsylvania is about one thing and one thing only and that is protecting the wealth and power of the education establishment. That education establishment includes a powerful labor union, school boards — on which sit many union members who teach in other districts, the state Department of Education, and of course, elected officials who sup at the trough of union political dollars. First and foremost among those whose campaigns have been substantially financed by labor is Gov. Tom Wolf who recently repaid his benefactors by placing onerous new restrictions and fees on charter schools. Charter schools are like kryptonite to the education establishment. They are, however, a lifeline to many students who otherwise are trapped in failing schools, forced into a one-size-fits-all education system, or otherwise ill-served by public schools. Students in charter schools are disproportionately low income (62%), and minority (67%).

Amid concerns about dangerous building conditions, Philly school board approves charter renewals
Several of the approved charters had gone without agreements for years.
The notebook by Bill Hangley Jr. September 19 — 11:17 pm, 2019
As parents and staff shared their worries about toxic buildings, the Board of Education unanimously approved a cluster of long-delayed charter renewals for Mastery Charter Schools, with no indication of what caused the delays or whether any specific issues had been resolved. The board unanimously approved seven Mastery schools for renewal, including four that had been operating under expired agreements for several years, apparently ensnared in debate about the details of their renewal agreements. Exactly what those issues were, or if they were met, revised or dismissed, the board and District officials did not say. Board members asked no questions during the renewal votes, and District staff offered no details. “What changed? We don’t know, and you’re not telling us,” said Lynda Rubin of the advocate group Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, (APPS), in public testimony prior to the board’s vote.

WEEK 3:JASON KELCE’S EAGLES EDUCATION SEASON
Each week this season, the Super Bowl-winning offensive lineman compares Philly schools to those of our on-field competitors—and celebrates a local education innovation. This week, he looks at Detroit
Philadelphia Citizen BY JASON KELCE
Hey, Philly! As we prepare to play the Detroit Lions this weekend, my mind immediately thinks of Motown’s roots there, and the strong legacy of music in that city. This summer, Detroit public schools put a call out for people’s gently used instruments, with the intention of repairing them and getting them to students. As a lifelong music lover, I love hearing news like that. See, back when I was in high school, I not only loved football, I spent all four years playing baritone sax in the jazz ensemble and symphonic band! Music has always been a big part of my life. You may picture me spring-breaking in Daytona, but in reality I spent every spring break traveling to compete against other schools’ jazz bands. To this day, I still keep in touch with my music teacher, Mr. Baker. There is no doubt that I wouldn’t have been able to play baritone sax without the school providing my instrument, and that was the case for a large percentage of my classmates as well. And that’s why I was psyched to learn about some awesome work being done to bring music into the lives of Philly students.

Boomers take note: The kids are right about climate change | Opinion
Opinion by Mike Weilbacher, For the Inquirer Updated: September 20, 2019 - 5:00 AM
On Friday, hundreds — maybe even thousands — of Philadelphia-area high school and college students will purposefully not do the one thing adults ask them to do. They will not go to school. Instead, they will strike, kids protesting adult inaction on climate change, what some presidential candidates correctly call the “greatest existential threat of our time.” These millennials and Gen Zers will gather at City Hall, and will be joined by kids across the world at 2,500 events from more than 150 countries. The last time a student climate strike of this magnitude occurred, last March, 1.6 million kids in 125 countries, including 100,000 in Milan, 40,000 in Paris, 10,000 in New York, 150,000 in Australia, protested the devastating and woeful lack of action on this issue by us adults. This one promises to be bigger.


After years of debate, top Mass. lawmakers unveil school funding plan
Boston Globe By Matt Stout and James Vaznis Globe Staff September 19, 2019, an hour ago
House and Senate leaders on Thursday unveiled long-awaited legislation they say will overhaul the state’s antiquated school-funding formula by funneling $1.4 billion more in state aid toward cities and towns over seven years, and committing more money to districts serving high numbers of low-income students. The sweeping bill — jointly announced by House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, Senate President Karen E. Spilka, and other legislative leaders — also gradually kicks in tens of millions more in special education funding, and provides up to $10 million annually in grants for school improvement efforts. It also will increase the annual spending cap on what the state reimburses for school construction projects. Lawmakers also said they’d make a renewed commitment to fully fund what the state reimburses districts for students who attend charter schools. The state Senate is expected to first debate the bill in early October, followed by the House. DeLeo told reporters that even in increasing school aid, the legislation will not rely on any new taxes. Instead, lawmakers “plan to stay within the present confines of our budget,” said DeLeo, a Winthrop Democrat. Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. James Vaznis can be reached at james.vaznis@globe.com

Colt suspends production of AR-15 for civilian market
AP Wire September 19, 2019
WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gunmaker Colt says it is suspending its production of rifles for the civilian market including the popular AR-15. Colt’s chief executive officer, Dennis Veilleux, says it is not permanently ending production but believes there is already an adequate supply of sporting rifles on the market. He said in a statement Thursday the company will concentrate on fulfilling military and law enforcement contracts with its rifle manufacturing. The West Hartford, Connecticut-based company has received some criticism from gun rights advocates for moving away from the civilian market. Veilleux said in the statement the company remains committed to the Second Amendment and is adapting to consumer demand. A national gun control debate has focused on access to AR-15s and other assault-style rifles because of their use in mass shootings.


Information about the education sessions for the 2019 @PasaSupts @PSBA School Leadership Conference are now live on our website! We hope to see you there! #PASLC2019

What: Informal discussion on cyber charter schools
When: 9 a.m. refreshments, 9:30 a.m. panel, Oct. 7
Where: Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, 800 E. Park Ave., State College
AAUW State College Branch invites you to attend an informational panel discussion to learn more about background and issues connected with cyber charter schools. Join us on Oct. 7, at the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800 E. Park Ave., State College (visitor center off Porter Road). Refreshments, 9 a.m.; panel discussion, 9:30 a.m.
The American Association of University Women State College Branch is part of a nationwide network of about 1,000 branches that are dedicated to advancing equity for women and girls.

Adolescent Health and School Start Times:  Science, Strategies, Tactics, & Logistics  Workshop Nov 13, Exton
Join school administrators and staff, including superintendents, transportation directors, principals, athletic directors, teachers, counselors, nurses, and school board members, parents, guardians, health professionals and other concerned community members for an interactive and solutions-oriented workshop on  Wednesday, November 13, 2019 9:30 am to 3:00 pm 
Clarion Hotel in Exton, PA
The science is clear. Many middle and high school days in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, start too early in the morning. The American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other major health and education leaders agree and have issued policy statements recommending that secondary schools start no earlier than 8:30 am to allow for sleep, health, and learning. Implementing these recommendations, however, can seem daunting.  Discussions will include the science of sleep and its connection to school start times, as well as proven strategies for successfully making change--how to generate optimum community support and work through implementation challenges such as bus routes, athletics, and more.   Register for the workshop here: 
https://ssl-workshop-pa.eventbrite.com Thanks to our generous sponsors, we are able to offer early bird registration for $25, which includes a box-lunch and coffee service. Seating is limited and early bird registration ends on Friday, September 13.
For more information visit the workshop website 
www.startschoollater.net/workshop---pa  or email contact@startschoollater.net

“Each member entity will have one vote for each officer. This will require boards of the various school entities to come to a consensus on each candidate and cast their vote electronically during the open voting period (Aug. 23 – Oct. 11, 2019).”
PSBA Officer Elections: Slate of Candidates
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than June 1, 2019, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 15th at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person’s name with an asterisk (*).

WHERE: Hershey Lodge and Convention Center 325 University Drive, Hershey, PA
WHEN: Wednesday, October 16 to Friday, October 18, 201
Registration is now open!
Growth from knowledge acquired. Vision inspired by innovation. Impact created by a synergized leadership community. You are called upon to be the drivers of a thriving public education system. It’s a complex and challenging role. Expand your skillset and give yourself the tools needed for the challenge. Packed into two and a half daysꟷꟷgain access to top-notch education and insights, dynamic speakers, peer learning opportunities and the latest product and service innovations. Come to the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference to grow!

Any comments contained herein are my comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept. 19: Sec’y DeVos brings her school privatization tour to Harrisburg


Started in November 2010, 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, charter school leaders, 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

If any of your colleagues would like to be added to the email list please have them send their name, title and affiliation to KeystoneStateEdCoalition@gmail.com

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept. 19, 2019


“Most striking and troubling in these reports is the finding of large-scale underperformance by full-time virtual charter schools. If traditional public schools were producing such results, we would rightly be outraged. We should not feel any different just because these are charter schools.”
REPRISE: A CALL TO ACTION TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF FULL-TIME VIRTUAL CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS JUNE 2016
A Report by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools,
The National Association of Charter School Authorizers
and 50CAN
…Most significantly, though, three research organizations – the Center for Reinventing Public Education, Mathematica Policy Research, and the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) – released three separate reports in October 2015 that represented the most complete and comprehensive examination of full-time virtual charter schools to date. These reports examined the characteristics and the performance of full-time virtual charter schools, as well as the policy frameworks in which they operate. Most striking and troubling in these reports is the finding of large-scale underperformance by full-time virtual charter schools. If traditional public schools were producing such results, we would rightly be outraged. We should not feel any different just because these are charter schools.
·         The well-documented, disturbingly low performance by too many full-time virtual charter public schools should serve as a call to action to state leaders and authorizers across the country. 
·         It is time for state leaders to make the tough policy changes necessary to ensure that this model works more effectively than it currently does for the students it serves. 
·         It is also time for authorizers to close chronically low-performing virtual charter schools. 
·         Our organizations plan to work actively with state leaders and authorizers as they embark on these efforts.

New Report: Cyber Charter Waste Grows to $290 Million in Taxpayer Money Annually
Education Voters PA Published by EDVOPA on September 16, 2019

Blogger note: According to the PA Dept. of State’s Campaign Finance website, DeVos’s American Federation for Children contributed $1.2 million in 2012 via the Students First PAC (Yass, Dantchik, Greenberg) to fund Pennsylvania candidates who support school privatization, including Speaker Turzai and the House Republican Campaign Committee.
Secretary DeVos to Visit Pennsylvania, Participate in Roundtable Where State Legislators are Fighting to Expand Education Freedom
U.S. Department of Education Website September 18, 2019
Contact:   Press Office, (202) 401-1576, press@ed.gov
Event Date : September 19, 2019 - 8:30am
HARRISBURG, Pa.—U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will travel to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, Sept. 19 to visit Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School and participate in an Education Freedom roundtable. The school visit and roundtable are hosted by Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and the Diocese of Harrisburg. Pennsylvania made headlines in recent months after Governor Tom Wolf vetoed House Bill 800, which would have doubled the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) to $210 million annually. The program provides low- and middle-income families private school and prekindergarten scholarships and currently serves more than 50,000 students. Unfortunately, due to current limits on the program, an estimated 52,000 students were turned away last year.
Who :
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
What :
School tour and education freedom roundtable discussion
When :
Thursday, September 19 8:30 – 10:00 a.m. ET Media Avail – 9:55 a.m. Open Press
Where :
Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School Cathedral Campus
220 Liberty St.
Harrisburg, PA
RSVP: Please RSVP no later than 7:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, Sept. 19 to 
press@ed.gov. Press must arrive no later than 20 minutes before the event start time and bring a valid media credential and/or photo ID to ensure entry.

“Keystone Crossroads compared the contributions received by 151 schools that administer their own EITC/OSTC programs, and compared it with the demographic data that the schools report for other purposes to the state Department of Education.  It found that 57 of those schools reported that they had not enrolled any low-income students, and that another 15 reported low-income enrollment of less than 5%. The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, for example, reported zero low-income enrollment and $500,000 in EITC/OSTC contributions eligible for publicly funded tax credits.”
EITC/OSTC: Require data on tax-credit scholarships
Citizens Voice by THE EDITORIAL BOARD / PUBLISHED: SEPTEMBER 11, 2019
Advocates of Pennsylvania’s two backdoor voucher programs, which provide public tax credits for private contributions to private schools, say that they help poor kids who are trapped in poorly performing public schools. Well, some of the contributions do so. But as demonstrated by the Keystone Crossroads, a left-leaning policy think tank in Harrisburg, some of the money helps kids who are “trapped” in some of the state’s toniest neighborhoods amid some of its best-performing public schools. Under the Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs, the state awards tax credits to companies that contribute to nonprofit scholarship organizations, most of which are attached to private schools, including religious and secular institutions. The tax credit is 100% for the first $10,000, 75% for anything above that, and 90% for maintaining the contributions for two consecutive years. Credits are capped at $200,000 a year per donor, for two years.

Betsy DeVos To Promote School That Bans Transgender Students And Staff
The education secretary is set to visit a Catholic elementary school in Pennsylvania that has an explicit anti-trans policy.
HuffPost By Rebecca Klein09/18/2019 02:22 pm ET
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hit the road this week for what her department calls a “2019 Back-to-School tour.” Her itinerary includes a school that bans transgender students and staff.  DeVos on Thursday is scheduled to visit Harrisburg Catholic Elementary School in Pennsylvania, part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg. The diocese has a specific policy for students and staff who may be experiencing “gender identity questions,” applicable in situations where a person wants to “chemically and/or surgically alter” their biological sex.   “This is understood in Catholic moral terms as self-mutilation and therefore immoral. To attempt to make accommodations for such persons would be to cooperate in the immoral action,” says the policy, posted on the diocese website.  The policy says students will be unable to enroll or continue to attend diocese schools if they undergo or have undergone such a procedure. The policy similarly applies to staff.  The diocese also forbids its schools from employing any individual “who promotes, procures, assists, or performs an abortion.” The diocese did not immediately respond to questions about the policy. 

Where Betsy DeVos started her 2019 back-to-school tour says it all about her agenda
And she explains her view of ‘education freedom.’
Washington Post Answer Sheet By  Valerie Strauss  September 16, 2019 at 5:05 p.m. EDT
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos began her 2019 back-to-school tour Monday. Given that she runs a publicly funded department and that most U.S. students attend schools in traditional public systems, you might think she would go to one in a district working hard to improve its academic performance. Nope. She didn’t go to a public school, and she didn’t choose a city because of the achievements of its public schools. Rather, Devos went to St. Marcus Lutheran School in Milwaukee and touted that city as the “birthplace of modern education freedom.” That is a reference to a program started under a 1989 law that was the first in the country to give substantial public funding for students to use for private, nonsectarian schools. It later expanded to include religious schools. That program was part of what grew to be known as the “school choice” movement, which seeks to find alternatives to traditional public school districts so families can decide for themselves where to send their children and to serve as an escape for children who have poor educational options in their neighborhoods. For decades, DeVos has played a key role in that movement, pushing against critics who argue that using public funds to support choice schools undermines the traditional public system, and that it aims at privatizing the nation’s most important civic institution.

“This situation is the result of legislative malpractice. Lawmakers in 2001 shamelessly increased their own pension benefits by an unheard-of 50% and increased the public employees’ benefits by 25%, grandly and erroneously declaring that investment income would pay for the largess. That created absurd spectacles such as former Sen. Robert Mellow of Lackawanna County — a veteran of the state Legislature and federal prison — receiving a $245,000 annual pension. Then, they increased benefits for existing retirees the following year on the same faulty premise. When a recession quickly exposed the folly of that premise, the politicians deferred the crisis for a decade, until 2012, and still have not corrected the blunder. Now, even when the pension plans meet their investment goals, they cannot keep up with the guaranteed growth in benefits.”
Editorial: Your growing pension bill
Scranton Times-Tribune BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD / PUBLISHED: SEPTEMBER 18, 2019
Public pension reform is not even on the Legislature’s agenda this fall because many legislators, almost all of whom are prime beneficiaries of the status quo, claim that they already have enacted meaningful pension reforms. The results of that handiwork are not impressive, however. So far, they have “contained” the costs of the state employees’ and school employees’ pension systems to more than $4 billion every year of the $32 billion budget at the state level, and to an astonishing 34.7% of total payroll for each of 500 school districts. This year new school and state employees are required to choose a 401(k)-like defined contribution plan or a hybrid defined-contribution/defined benefit plan, a change that is projected to produce savings in the distant future. Meanwhile, the big state plans for state and school employees are underfunded by more than $70 billion, thus requiring the massive taxpayer contribution rates for 30 more years.

In first hearing in 3 years, activists agree Pa. redistricting needs a fix. They disagree on how to get there
By  Stephen Caruso September 18, 2019
David Thornburgh has a message about the state of Pennsylvania’s political maps, and he wants lawmakers to hear it whether they want to or not. “It sometimes feels there’s just too much cheating going on,” Thornburgh, president of the good-government group Committee of Seventy and son of former Republican Gov. Dick Thornburgh, said Wednesday. Thornburgh made the remarks during an appearance before the House State Government Committee, as the panel held its first hearing in three years on redistricting reform. The standing-room-only session featured Thornburgh, as well as Fair Districts PA Executive Director Carol Kuniholm and three members of California’s redistricting commission. Their testimony near-universally decried gerrymandering — or the drawing of district boundaries for political gain by a political party — for increasing partisanship, leaving Pennsylvanians feeling disenfranchised and reducing their trust in government. Currently, the General Assembly draws a new congressional map every 10 years that is approved by the governor. A panel of legislative leaders, meanwhile, is tasked with creating the districts they and their colleagues represent. 

“Folmer leaves office with nearly two years left in his term, which expires in 2022. That will require Lt. Gov. John Fetterman to call a special election later this year to fill the seat representing the 48th Senate district, which includes all of Lebanon and parts of York and Dauphin counties. …Folmer was also considered one of the most conservative members of the General Assembly. He was one of just two state senators in Pennsylvania to receive an “Award of Excellence” in 2018 from the American Conservative Union Foundation, which reviews lawmakers’ voting records in an annual ranking exercise.”
Pennsylvania state Sen. Mike Folmer resigns after child pornography charge
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison September 18, 2019
Pennsylvania state Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, has resigned from the General Assembly one day after he was charged with possession of child pornography, Republican leaders announced Wednesday. “We are sickened and disturbed by the charges brought against Mike Folmer yesterday,” Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said in an emailed statement shortly after noon on Wednesday. “We have reviewed the criminal complaint and spoke with Mike Folmer early this morning to insist on his resignation from the Senate. We are in receipt of his letter of resignation and the 48th Senatorial District seat is now vacant.” Scarnati and Corman stripped Folmer of his chairmanship on the Senate State Government Committee and removed him from other committee assignments on Tuesday night after Pennsylvania Attorney Josh Shapiro announced the charges. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and members of Folmer’s caucus called publicly for his resignation Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The county Republican and Democratic committees in the senatorial district will select their party’s nominee whose name will appear on the special election ballot. The winner will serve out the remainder of Folmer’s term, which expires Nov. 30, 2022.   Folmer’s departure shrinks the Senate Republicans’ majority to 27 while the Democrats hold 22 seats.”
Scheduling special election date to fill former Sen. Folmer’s seat is a balancing act: LG Fetterman
State Sen. Mike Folmer's resignation from the Senate creates a vacancy in the 48th state senatorial district that must be filled by special election.
By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Updated Sep 18, 4:40 PM; Posted Sep 18, 4:07 PM
With Sen. Mike Folmer’s sudden resignation now official, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has to decide when a special election will take place to fill the vacant 48th state senatorial district seat representing Lebanon County and parts of Dauphin and York counties. The election code provides Fetterman 10 days to set the date from when the resignation takes effect, which was Wednesday. The special election has to be at least 60 days from the resignation date, which eliminates the possibility of holding it on the same day as the Nov. 5 general election. Fetterman said he plans to confer with Gov. Tom Wolf and Senate leaders about what date makes the most sense. “Certainly a priority of mine would be balancing the expense of special election ... with how important it is that we minimize the amount of time voters are left without a senator,” Fetterman told PennLive. Special elections held on dates separate from the primary or general election day can cost in the six-figures.

A look inside a new Philly charter school where kindergartners learn Hebrew
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: September 18, 2019- 1:03 PM
One morning last week, parents led their kindergartners and first-graders to the doors of a former East Falls medical center. “Say ‘Shalom,’” one woman instructed her son, kissing him on the head. “See you at 3.” It was the second week at Philadelphia Hebrew Public Charter School, which opened this month in the Falls Center on Henry Avenue, part of a network of charters that started in New York and teach modern Hebrew. The publicly funded schools are non-religious, though the network’s largest philanthropic supporter, billionaire Michael Steinhardt, has described charters as a way to build Jewish identity. While the schools promote modern Hebrew, “the primary goal” is “to provide an amazing education to our kids,” said Hebrew Public CEO Jon Rosenberg. He said he is “constantly in the position” of explaining that the network — which started in 2009 with one school in Brooklyn and now manages four locations and supports six affiliates across the country — is not a religious or advocacy organization.

Thursday’s Philly school board meeting promises to be contentious
Building safety and charter expansion expected to dominate the discussion
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa September 18 — 6:31 pm, 2019
When the Board of Education meets Thursday, the members will have to confront two of its most contentious issues: building safety and charter expansion. Several speakers among the 50 who signed up by 4 p.m Wednesday are expected to address school conditions and teacher and student safety, especially after a teacher was diagnosed with the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma. The teacher has not been identified, but it is known that she spent 17 years at Meredith Elementary School. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers released a “Healthy Schools Action Plan” for dealing with asbestos in schools. Asbestos, long used in insulation through the 1970s, becomes dangerous when damage causes it to flake and create airborne fibers that can damage lungs. PFT president Jerry Jordan, with some elected leaders, toured another school Wednesday morning with exposed pipes and damaged ceilings that could lead to asbestos exposure. “This isn’t a problem at one or two schools. That’s why we’ve developed a comprehensive action plan for every building where children and educators are in danger,” said Jordan. He and the officials earlier asked for $100 million in funding to immediately correct hazardous conditions in the city’s school buildings.

Philly District’s Comprehensive School Planning process is just getting off the ground
Concerns about building safety are taking center stage.
The notebook by Bill Hangley Jr. September 18 — 2:29 pm, 2019
Last week’s announcement of a teacher’s cancer diagnosis has highlighted an old problem for the School District of Philadelphia: Its aging buildings are riddled with asbestos, lead, and other toxins. But in the discussion that followed, little mention was made of the fact that four months ago, District officials launched a process that’s meant to eventually address those concerns: a data-driven assessment designed to identify the most pressing needs in the most heavily used buildings. If that planning process is drawing little attention now, it’s because it has barely begun. Key hires are yet to be made, communities and parents have yet to be engaged, and major questions about priorities and process have yet to be addressed.   That leaves stakeholders feeling that any solutions offered by the District’s new process are a long way off – too long, for some.  “What I hear from the people in my district is, what are you doing right now?” said State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, whose South Philadelphia district will be the planners’ first area of focus. Announced in May, the District’s Comprehensive School Planning Review (CSPR) is an ambitious effort that aims to use detailed demographic data to prioritize infrastructure spending.

Philly students will be marked absent if they join climate strike
WHYY By Catalina Jaramillo September 18, 2019
The School District of Philadelphia says it will not allow public school students to skip classes on Friday to join a march to press action on climate change. The climate strike is part of coordinated action in cities across the globe.  The district says students interested in participating in the youth climate strikes should work with administrators to hold events on campus. “We will mark students absent if they are not in class,” said Megan Lello, a spokesperson for the school district, in an email. On Monday, New York City authorities announced they would allow students to skip classes without penalties to join the strike.  Philadelphia’s decision disappointed the student activists.  “This statement illustrates ignorance and apathy towards the students’ wellbeing,” wrote Vyshnavi Kosigishroff of Pennsylvania’s Youth Climate Lobby, one of the organizers of the Philly protest. 

Neshaminy teachers ratify new five-year contract
Bucks County Courier Times By Chris English Posted Sep 18, 2019 at 1:59 PMUpdated Sep 18, 2019 at 3:15 PM
Teachers and other professionals in the 620-member union will get annual pay raises averaging 2.4% under the proposed deal.
Neshaminy School District teachers and other professionals in their union will get annual salary increases averaging 2.4% under a new five-year contract overwhelmingly ratified by the 620-member Neshaminy Federation of Teachers on Tuesday night. The school board is scheduled to vote on the proposed deal at its meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday at the district administrative offices, 2250 Langhorne-Yardley Road, Middletown. District officials released details of the proposed deal and a full copy Wednesday, nearly a week before the board’s scheduled vote. They can be viewed on the district website, neshaminy.org. The new contract is retroactive to July 1 and runs through June 30, 2024. It gives NFT members salary increases of 3.1%, 2.4%, 2.1%, 2% and 2.3%. Those numbers include both step increases, or movement along a vertical matrix based on years of service, and also column increases, which is horizontal movement based on college credits and degrees earned. The deal will mean $1.4 million in additional annual costs, or a total of $7 million, district officials estimated.

Administration plan on gun background checks draws NRA opposition
Inquirer by Seung Min Kim, Paul Kane, Josh Dawsey, The Washington Post, Updated: September 18, 2019- 8:16 PM
WASHINGTON - A leaked document outlining one Trump administration proposal to expand background checks on firearms sales prompted an uproar from the right on Wednesday - underscoring the significant challenges the White House will face on any additional gun restrictions it tries to advance in Congress. The National Rifle Association, weakened but still influential among conservatives, immediately dismissed the plan drafted by the Justice Department as a non-starter. A White House spokesman denied that the document was a White House product - even though its top legislative official was briefing GOP senators on the plan's details. Many Republicans who reviewed the specifics of the background checks measure remained lukewarm about it, and a handful of GOP senators who had been directly briefed by Attorney General William Barr on the plan acknowledged that the proposal was incomplete - at best. "I don't know who leaked it," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who discussed the proposal with Barr on Tuesday. "But obviously that wasn't the idea."

New Mexico Announces Plan for Free College for State Residents
Under the plan, tuition to all state colleges would be free for students regardless of family income.
New York Times By Simon Romero and Dana Goldstein Sept. 18, 2019
ALBUQUERQUE — In one of the boldest state-led efforts to expand access to higher education, New Mexico is unveiling a plan on Wednesday to make tuition at its public colleges and universities free for all state residents, regardless of family income. The move comes as many American families grapple with the rising cost of higher education and as discussions about free public college gain momentum in state legislatures and on the presidential debate stage. Nearly half of the states, including New York, Oregon and Tennessee, have guaranteed free two- or four-year public college to some students. But the New Mexico proposal goes further, promising four years of tuition even to students whose families can afford to pay the sticker price. The program, which is expected to be formally announced by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday and still requires legislative approval, would apply to all 29 of the state’s two- and four-year public institutions. Long one of the poorest states in the country, New Mexico plans to use climbing revenues from oil production to pay for much of the costs.

Senate Education Spending Bill Would Increase Aid for School Safety, Charters
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa on September 18, 2019 11:59 AM
The Senate's bill to fund the U.S. Department of Education would keep overall spending virtually flat, although grants for charter schools would get a relatively small increase, as would programs intended to improve school safety.  The legislation to fund the Education Department would provide $71.4 billion in discretionary funding to the agency for fiscal 2020, which starts Oct. 1. Another winner in the bill is the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program—officially known as Title IV Part A in the Every Student Succeeds Act—intended to provide more well-rounded school experiences to students. The Senate bill would provide a $50 million boost to these grants, bringing total funding to just over $1.2 billion. However, one relatively small program popular among Democrats would lose out; see more on that below. Given how different the Senate bill is from the education funding legislation passed by the Democratically-controlled House earlier this year, it's fair to expect a significant amount of political wrangling before Congress finally reaches a deal on how much Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will have to spend next year. Just to name one example, the House legislation seeks to cut charter school aid by nearly 10 percent.

Watch Robbie Robertson Play ‘The Weight’ With Ringo Starr and Musicians Across Five Continents
The epic Playing for Change video was the result two years of work across ten countries
Rolling Stone By  PATRICK DOYLE  SEPTEMBER 18, 2019 9:53AM ET
 “What key is it in, Robbie?” Ringo Starr, sitting behind a drum set, asks Robbie Robertson over the phone. Ringo nods. “F-demented!” What happens next is a a joyous cover of “The Weight,” with Robertson reprising the recording’s soulful intro lick. A series of musicians from all over the world – Marcus King, Lucas Nelson, the Japanese guitar virtuoso Char, Congo soul singer Mermens Mosengo and more – all add their own flavor to the classic from different locations. The project comes from Playing For Change, a group that dedicated to “break down the boundaries and overcome distances between people.”


Information about the education sessions for the 2019 @PasaSupts @PSBA School Leadership Conference are now live on our website! We hope to see you there! #PASLC2019

What: Informal discussion on cyber charter schools
When: 9 a.m. refreshments, 9:30 a.m. panel, Oct. 7
Where: Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, 800 E. Park Ave., State College
AAUW State College Branch invites you to attend an informational panel discussion to learn more about background and issues connected with cyber charter schools. Join us on Oct. 7, at the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800 E. Park Ave., State College (visitor center off Porter Road). Refreshments, 9 a.m.; panel discussion, 9:30 a.m.
The American Association of University Women State College Branch is part of a nationwide network of about 1,000 branches that are dedicated to advancing equity for women and girls.

Adolescent Health and School Start Times:  Science, Strategies, Tactics, & Logistics  Workshop Nov 13, Exton
Join school administrators and staff, including superintendents, transportation directors, principals, athletic directors, teachers, counselors, nurses, and school board members, parents, guardians, health professionals and other concerned community members for an interactive and solutions-oriented workshop on  Wednesday, November 13, 2019 9:30 am to 3:00 pm 
Clarion Hotel in Exton, PA
The science is clear. Many middle and high school days in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, start too early in the morning. The American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other major health and education leaders agree and have issued policy statements recommending that secondary schools start no earlier than 8:30 am to allow for sleep, health, and learning. Implementing these recommendations, however, can seem daunting.  Discussions will include the science of sleep and its connection to school start times, as well as proven strategies for successfully making change--how to generate optimum community support and work through implementation challenges such as bus routes, athletics, and more.   Register for the workshop here: 
https://ssl-workshop-pa.eventbrite.com Thanks to our generous sponsors, we are able to offer early bird registration for $25, which includes a box-lunch and coffee service. Seating is limited and early bird registration ends on Friday, September 13.
For more information visit the workshop website 
www.startschoollater.net/workshop---pa  or email contact@startschoollater.net

“Each member entity will have one vote for each officer. This will require boards of the various school entities to come to a consensus on each candidate and cast their vote electronically during the open voting period (Aug. 23 – Oct. 11, 2019).”
PSBA Officer Elections: Slate of Candidates
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than June 1, 2019, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 15th at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person’s name with an asterisk (*).

WHERE: Hershey Lodge and Convention Center 325 University Drive, Hershey, PA
WHEN: Wednesday, October 16 to Friday, October 18, 201
Registration is now open!
Growth from knowledge acquired. Vision inspired by innovation. Impact created by a synergized leadership community. You are called upon to be the drivers of a thriving public education system. It’s a complex and challenging role. Expand your skillset and give yourself the tools needed for the challenge. Packed into two and a half daysꟷꟷgain access to top-notch education and insights, dynamic speakers, peer learning opportunities and the latest product and service innovations. Come to the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference to grow!

Any comments contained herein are my comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.