Friday, July 27, 2012

Details/reaction to PA's new EITC 2.0 Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit “Supervoucher” Program

“Only public schools, operated by school districts with elected school boards are open to all children and fully accountable to all taxpayers.”
Baruch Kintisch, Director of Policy Advocacy, Education Law Center, in testimony before the PA House Democratic Policy Committee, July 17, 2012

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 1600 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, members of the press and a broad array of education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook and Twitter.

These daily emails are archived at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Details on Act 85 of 2012, PA’s new EITC 2.0 Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit “Supervoucher” Program.

Pennsylvania’s "Failing Schools" List For the 2012-2013 school year.
Here the list of low achieving schools released by PDE this week

What makes a “failing school”?  In 2011 we ran this analysis; no surprise that most of these are still on the list……

From 2011: Poverty Level at 144 SB1 Failing Schools is 80.8% vs State Avg of 39.1%

This chart lists the poverty level (percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch) for each of the 144 schools on the "failing schools" list under Senate Bill 1.
The statewide average was 39.1%.  For these 144 schools the average was 80.8%

School chiefs decry state’s failure ranking
Sharon Herald By Joy Leiker Herald Staff Writer July 26, 2012
SHENANGO VALLEY — Leaders of the Mercer County schools counted among the state’s lowest-performing are fighting back, calling the list, released Wednesday, nothing more than another political attack on impoverished public schools by the governor and his Republican counterparts.

Delaware County superintendents riled by list of low-achieving schools
Published: Friday, July 27, 2012
By JEFF WOLFE @delcoreporter
To be put on a low achieving list can be a bit disheartening for anyone. But it can be especially discouraging if you don’t think you belong there.
That’s the case with at least one Delaware County school that was put on the state’s list of the lowest-achieving 15 percent of schools in the state. The list was released Wednesday as part of the state’s new school tax credit program that will allow students in the lowest 15 percent of schools the possibility of receiving funding to attend a private school.

Some students in Central Dauphin, Harrisburg, Steelton schools may transfer as part of state program
Published: Thursday, July 26, 2012, 9:22 AM
By ERIC VERONIKIS, The Patriot-News 
The midstate’s largest school district has four schools on the state’s list of lowest-achieving schools.  Central Dauphin East High School, East Middle School, Swatara Middle School and Tri-Community Elementary School made the unenviable list that allows some students to apply for scholarships to transfer to other schools.

W.Pa. districts say kids will stay
TribLive By Bobby Kerlik  and Tory N. Parrish Published: Friday, July 27, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated 6 hours ago 
Officials from some of the region’s lowest-performing public schools said Thursday they don’t expect an exodus of students this year because of a state program that will allow transfers with the help of a scholarship.

Allentown, Bethlehem schools make state's low-achievers list
But officials question their ranking, noting many of them passed federal benchmarks.
By Marion Callahan and Steve Esack, Of The Morning Call
11:21 p.m. EDT, July 26, 2012
As early as this year, some students attending what the state considers low-achieving schools may head elsewhere for their education.
Seven Bethlehem Area schools and 15 Allentown schools made the newly published list of 414 Pennsylvania schools. All scored in the bottom 15 percent on standardized math and reading tests their students took in the spring of 2011.
That means students in those elementary and secondary schools will be able to apply for a financial aid grant, funded by $50 million in business tax credits, to go to another school.
But how the state Department of Education devised its list is leaving local school officials scratching their heads and worrying about losing state money if students sign up for the grant through the new Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program.

AP coverage: Pa. releases list of 414 worst-performing schools

KATHY MATHESON, Associated Press
Updated 05:54 p.m., Wednesday, July 25, 2012
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — State education officials published a list Wednesday of Pennsylvania's worst-performing schools, a move that makes students in hundreds of buildings eligible for new scholarship money and new learning environments.
The list, based on last year's standardized test scores in reading and math, includes 414 public schools in 74 districts. Nearly 40 percent of the lowest-achieving schools are in Philadelphia, the state's largest district.
Students who live within the affected schools' attendance areas — and whose families meet income guidelines — can apply for scholarships of up to $8,500, or up to $15,000 for special education students.
The money can pay for a private education, including at Catholic schools, or be used as tuition in another public district with an open enrollment policy.

Pittsburgh schools push science, technology, engineering and math into lower grades
July 27, 2012 1:19 am
By Deborah M. Todd / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Story time and building blocks aren't exactly extinct in the nation's youngest classrooms, but an increasing emphasis toward early science, technology, engineering and math -- or STEM -- education could mean those early children staples may be paired with a biology or physics lesson.
With the world's top-paying jobs increasingly tied to technological, scientific or mathematic innovation -- and with American teens ranking 23rd in science and 31st in math among 70 developed nations -- school districts have been scrambling over the past few years to improve student interest and knowledge of STEM subjects.
While most schools are taking the incremental approach of expanding course offerings at the highest levels, several in the Pittsburgh region are reshaping their entire curriculum or introducing programs where high-level concepts trickle down to the youngest students.

Head Start Fears Impact of Potential Budget Cuts
Published: July 26, 2012
WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of young children from low-income families could be dropped from Head Start programs if Congress cannot find a way to prevent automatic cuts to the federal budget in 2013.
Supporters of Head Start fear the cuts would put more children at a disadvantage even before they reach kindergarten. Critics, including Congressional Republicans who tried to slash the Head Start budget in 2011, say the cuts would help rein in an overpriced program whose benefits have not been proven.

Sequestration: Lawmakers Explore Impact of Automatic Cuts on Education

 Alyson Klein  
A set of sweeping, across-the-board trigger cuts set to go into effect in January would be "devastating" to education programs, particularly if Congress decides to spare only defense programs while allowing K-12 cuts to go through, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Democratic lawmakers said at a hearing today.
Right now, domestic spending programs—like education and defense programs are supposed to share the pain of the trigger cuts equally, with all programs facing a cut of up about 7.8 percent on January 2, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
But, if Congress reaches some sort of deal that exempts only defense, the cuts to domestic programs would be much steeper, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees education spending, said at hearing today on the impact of the cuts. They could be as high as 17.6 percent, across-the-board, he estimated.

States With Education Waivers Offer Varied Goals
New York Times By MOTOKO RICH Published: July 26, 2012
In excusing more than half of the states from meeting crucial requirements of the No Child Left Behind education law, the Obama administration sought to require states to develop more realistic tools to improve and measure the progress of schools and teachers.
report being issued on Friday by the liberal Center for American Progress shows that while some states have proposed reforms aimed at spurring schools and teachers to improve student performance, others may be introducing weaker measures of accountability.

Absentee ballot procedures for election of PSBA officers
Absentee ballot requests must be received no later than August 15
PSBA website 6/1/2012
All school directors and school board secretaries who are eligible to vote and who do not plan to attend the association's annual business meeting during the 2012 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference in Hershey, Oct. 16-19, may request an absentee ballot for election purposes.
The absentee ballot must be requested from the PSBA executive director in accordance with the PSBA Bylaws provisions (see PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 4, J-Q.). Specify the name and home mailing address of each individual for whom a ballot is requested.
Requests must be in writing, e-mailed or mailed first class and postmarked or marked received at PSBA Headquarters no later than Aug. 15. Mail to Executive Director, P.O. Box 2042, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055 or e-mail

NSBA Federal Relations Network seeking new members for 2013-14
School directors are invited to advocate for public education at the federal level through the National School Boards Association’s Federal Relations Network. The National School Boards Association is seeking school directors interested in serving on the Federal Relations Network (FRN), its grass roots advocacy program that brings local board members on the front line of pending issues before Congress. If you are a school director and willing to carry the public education message to Washington, D.C., FRN membership is a good place to start. 
Click here for more information.

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