Saturday, May 14, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 14: San Francisco gives TFA a timeout; Schools react to Transgender Directive

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3900 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, 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 and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 14, 2016:
San Francisco gives TFA a timeout; Schools react to Transgender Directive

Pennsylvania has the widest funding gap between wealthy and poor schools in the country
Campaign for Fair Education Funding Website
Make the new funding formula permanent; pass a budget for 2016-17 that increases funding for public schools by at least $400 million

LWVPA: Fund Pa.'s school districts
Trib Live LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Friday, May 13, 2016, 8:03 p.m.
By Susan Carty and Sharon Kletzien, Harrisburg
The authors are the president and vice president, respectively, of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania
The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania is asking the General Assembly to enact full and fair funding of the state's public schools in the 2016-17 budget.  Pennsylvania is failing its responsibility to provide an efficient and thorough education for all students. This a constitutional requirement and it's the right thing to do  Our state ranks among the worst in the spending gap between wealthy and poorer districts. This leads to great disparity in academic achievement. Poorer districts have had to increase class sizes, decrease teaching staff, eliminate programs and put off essential maintenance. Students should receive the same education regardless of their zip code.  During this year's budget impasse, some districts borrowed millions of dollars just to keep the doors open. Now they are paying interest on these loans, further diminishing the classroom instruction resources.  It's time for the legislature to start putting our children ahead of politics. We urge lawmakers to increase the state's investment in public schools by at least $400 million in the 2016-17 budget. Funding must be distributed based on a fair formula, removing politics from allocations and directing money to districts based on enrollment, student needs and districts' wealth and capacity to raise local revenues.

Audit Finds Charter School Law is Strangling Philly Schools
Senator Vincent Hughes Website
Yesterday, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released an audit of the Philadelphia School District. His report confirmed what I’ve been saying for years—the current district funding model is completely unsustainable. The district has a structural deficit of more than $500 million. The biggest reason is the state’s broken funding law for charter schools, which sucks dollars away from traditional public schools without any way to replace the lost revenue. Last month, the Auditor General, in his report on charter school accountability in Philadelphia, called the state's charter law "the worst charter school law in the United States." 
In addition to that report, which highlighted the lack of charter oversight and accountability permitted under law, previous reports have called out the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars lost due to the broken charter funding system, including:
  • The overpayment to cyber charters costing school districts an unnecessary $100 million each year.
  • The overcharging for charter school special education students costing school districts nearly $200 million each year.
  • The lack of detailed and regular financial reporting and oversite.
The Auditor General’s latest report makes clear that Philly’s public schools need additional funding, and a coordinated effort from local, state and federal lawmakers to provide resources and fix the broken charter funding system.

Wanted signs posted for Black, male teachers
Philadelphia Tribune Editorial Posted: Friday, May 13, 2016 12:00 am
Congrats to the Philadelphia School District and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers for coming together on at least one major issue: the explicit need for more African-American male teachers in the local public school system.  According to the Albert Shanker Institute, a think tank supported by the American Federation of Teachers, the city’s teaching force increased by 13 percent between 2001 and 2011. However, the percentage of Black teachers during that period dropped by 19 percent.  The decline is not just in Philadelphia. Nine major urban school districts have lost Black teachers since the 2000s, according to the report.  The Philadelphia School District says minority teachers currently account for 29 percent of its 8,400 teachers. Among minority teachers, about 49 percent are African American.  Although the teaching force in Philadelphia is overwhelmingly white, about 86 percent of youth in the classrooms are students of color, the Shanker report noted.  So with the public school system making ambitious plans to fill all 500-plus teacher vacancies by June 30 — a fete in an of itself – district and union officials are right to turn to the media, Historically Black Colleges and Universities as well as various community outreach opportunities to urge Black males to apply.

Catasauqua superintendent expresses 'legitimate concerns' with charter school filling Medical Academy's void
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call May 13, 2016
Catasauqua superintendent expresses 'legitimate concerns' with charter school filling Medical Academy's void
CATASAUQUA — Given the problems that led the Medical Academy Charter School to announce its closing, Catasauqua Area School District's superintendent will not endorse allowing another charter school that will open in the same building to absorb its curriculum.  Superintendent Robert Spengler also said Friday he opposes plans to have two members of the Medical Academy board — its co-founder, Dr. Craig Haytmanek, and Rosalee Sabo — serve as trustees of the Innovative Arts Academy Charter School, which will open in the fall.  Students leaving the Medical Academy Charter School, set to close by the end of June,were told by school leaders they could continue their health care-centered education at the Innovative Arts Academy. But Spengler called such encouragement "presumptive."  Although the new school has added a Health Care Arts focus on its website, Spengler said the school's leaders have not approached the Catasauqua Area School Board for approval to add such a program to their curriculum — a step required by law.

With Bethlehem Area already on board, Lehigh Valley school districts to gear up for Obama's transgender directive
Jacqueline Palochko , Michelle Merlin and Laura Olson Contact Reporters Of The Morning Call May 13, 2016
Back in April 2015, before North Carolina passed a law that says transgender people must use restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate, the Bethlehem Area School District added "gender identity and gender expression" to its anti-discrimination policy.  Now, with the federal government issuing guidelines on the use of restrooms and locker rooms and participation in athletics by transgender students, other Lehigh Valley schools will have to play catch-up.  On Friday, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education sent a letter to all public school districts saying if they don't comply with the directive, they could lose federal funding or face lawsuits.  Many school districts, which often handle transgender students on a case-by-case basis, have been awaiting help on crafting uniform policies. But school and elected officials in Texas, Arkansas and elsewhere vowed to defy it.  Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, said transgender students needed the Obama administration to remind school districts that they have rights.

Lancaster County schools want to be safe places for transgender students
Lancaster Online by JEFF HAWKES | Staff Writer May 13, 2016
Local public schools aren't raising objections to groundbreaking Obama administration guidelines issued Friday allowing transgender students use of bathrooms matching their gender identity.  But some school leaders Friday said they will be seeking legal advice to make sure they understand students’ rights and their obligations.  Public schools that don't comply could face loss of federal funding. On average, federal sources support about 11 percent of a Pennsylvania school district's budget.  "I think we've always been open to the needs of all our students," said Gerald Huesken, Conestoga Valley superintendent. "We will continue with that policy as we move forward."  Elsewhere, transgender rights are spurring controversy. In Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick cited family values and modesty issues in objecting vehemently to the new guidelines, saying they "force 8-year-old girls to have to endure boys coming into their bathroom." And Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, criticized the president for intervening in an issue he said should be handled at the local level.

Obama administration gives schools guidance on transgender students' rights
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Kathy Boccella, and Rita Giordano, STAFF WRITERS Updated: MAY 14, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
As promised, the Obama administration on Friday sent letters to school districts across the country outlining the civil rights of transgender students, including access to bathrooms and locker rooms.  Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal funds, the letter said, saying schools should allow transgender students to use bathrooms consistent with their chosen gender identity.  The sweeping guidance does not have the force of law, but it warns that schools that do not comply could face lawsuits or lose federal aid. It ups the ante in the debate over bathroom laws, which are the subject of a charged lawsuit between North Carolina and the U.S. Department of Justice.  The eight-page letter from the Department of Justice and the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights sent many school officials scrambling and provoked strong reaction from all sides.
School union leaders, national education groups and civil rights organizations, and transgender students lauded the move. Others did not.

Some embrace Obama administration’s transgender directive, others vow to fight
Washington Post By Emma BrownMoriah Balingit and Sarah Larimer May 13 at 3:42 PM 
The Obama administration’s instructions to schools on how they must accommodate transgender students prompted a mixed reaction Friday, with some politicians, districts and parents embracing the directive as an important civil rights protection. Others immediately vowed to fight back against what they consider an illegal federal intrusion into local matters that carries a threat of withholding billions of dollars in aid meant to help disadvantaged and disabled children.  The sweeping guidance from the Education and Justice departments details what K-12 schools and colleges that receive federal funding must do in order to comply with Title IX, the federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. Among its most controversial provisions is the requirement that schools allow students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.

Solace and Fury as Schools React to Transgender Policy
New York Times By JACK HEALY and RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA MAY 13, 2016
DENVER — The Obama administration’s directive Friday on the use of school bathrooms and locker rooms by transgender students intensified the latest fierce battle in the nation’s culture wars, with conservatives calling it an illegal overreach that will put children in danger and advocates for transgender rights hailing it as a breakthrough for civil rights.  The policy drew a swift backlash from conservative politicians, groups and parents.  In Texas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appealed to local school boards and superintendents not to abide by the directive, noting that there were just a few weeks left in the school year and time over the summer to fight the policy with legislation or legal action. “We will not be blackmailed,” he said.  “I believe it is the biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public schools,” Mr. Patrick, a Republican, said at a news conference. “Parents are not going to send their 14-year-old daughters into the shower or bathroom with 14-year-old boys. It’s not going to happen.”

The budget will take into account an increase in health care premiums by approximately 20 percent, as well as a 30.3 percent increase in retirement costs.
Proposed tax hike in Johnsonburg school budget
Bradford Era By CHUCK ABRAHAM Era Correspondent Posted: Friday, May 13, 2016 10:00 am
JOHNSONBURG — The Johnsonburg Area School Board passed the preliminary budget for the 2016-17 school year, containing a tax increase, a budget deficit and nearly $900,000 in cuts. The motion passed unanimously.  The budget was slashed $861,330, down to $10,820,111 for next year from $11,681,441 for the current year. With revenue of $10,390,299 expected for 2016-17, the district is projected to be short $429,812 for the coming school year.  Taxes are also expected to be raised next year in the district by two percent, which should garner them approximately $39,000. The tax hike would mean an additional $30 annually on a $50,000 home, and an average increase of $16 for homeowners in the district. 

Carbondale Area may delay hiring superintendent to save money
Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL Published: May 14, 2016
Carbondale Area School District may delay hiring a superintendent for a year to save much-needed money.  The district, which has struggled financially for several years, could save up to $150,000 by keeping the position vacant for 12 months.  “We’ve got to save every dollar we can,” school board President Gary Smedley said. “We’re pretty much treading water.”  With little hope that a state budget for 2016-17 will pass on time next month, the district is facing more tough decisions in the future, such as eliminating five or six teaching jobs through attrition. Not replacing the retiring teachers will mean larger class sizes this fall. Factors such as charter school costs and a lack of construction reimbursements have Carbondale struggling more than other local districts.  Across the state, a growing number of districts are appointing acting superintendents as a way to save money, said Jim Buckheit, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators. The acting leaders usually are employed already by the district and are expected to lead the district while continuing their usual roles. However, while districts avoid paying a superintendent’s salary, Mr. Buckheit warns that being without a permanent superintendent leads to a lack of stability.  “It’s a short-term solution, and the district may be able to save some dollars,” he said. “In the long term, it’s not the proper way to run a district.”

Philly teacher digs into own pocket to bring in art
Inquirer by Aubrey Whelan, Staff Writer Updated: MAY 13, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
For her 50th birthday party last fall, Patty Smith decided not to ask for presents for herself.
Instead, the 14-year veteran of the Philadelphia School District asked for a gift for her third graders at Anderson Elementary School.  Anderson, in West Philadelphia, has no art teacher; the position has sat vacant all school year. So Smith asked friends and family to donate money to bring the Claymobile - a traveling ceramic arts program - to her classroom.  On Thursday night, Smith's students exhibited their work and got a chance to see their creations for the first time after they had been fired in the kiln.

Unwilling to Help Schools, PA Legislature Attacks Teachers
GadflyOnTheWall Blog May 14, 2016 stevenmsinger 
If you live in Pennsylvania, as I do, you must be shaking your head at the shenanigans of our state legislature.  Faced with a school funding crisis of their own making, lawmakers voted this week to make it easier to fire school teachers.  Monday the state Senate passed their version of an anti-seniority bill that was given the thumbs up by the House last summer.  Thankfully, Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to veto it.  As usual, lawmakers (or more accurately their surrogates at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who actually wrote the bill) spent more time on branding the legislation than appealing to logic, sense or reason. The bill called HB 805 was given the euphemistic title “The Protecting Excellent Teachers Act.”
Yes, this is exactly how you protect excellent teachers – by making it easier to fire them.

Neshaminy H.S. newspaper staff says principal violating 1st Amendment rights over 'Redskins' ban
Student editors at the Neshaminy Playwickian in Bucks County say school leadership is now violating their constitutional right to free speech by ordering the paper publish the full name of the school's mascot: Redskins.  Since 2013, school administrators and the student newspaper disagreed about whether the paper can refuse to publish the name. That year, Neshaminy parent Brenda Boyle filed a complaint about the name with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). As a result, newspaper editors adopted a policy banning the word.  At issue is a story about a talent competition called the "Mr. Redskin" contest, which took place on March 31st.  Neshaminy School District spokesman Chris Stanley said the author of the article in the newspaper asked to have the full name kept in the published version of the article, and that's the version the administration approved.  "The principal and the advisor have to approve every article" as a matter of policy, he said. "Especially with the Redskins issue."  Following skirmishes over mascot which garnered national attention in 2014, the school enacted a policy new permitting the word under certain circumstances last year, according to Stanley, granting the principal "final authority" over stories. This is the first time that policy has been tested.

New trouble for Teach for America: San Francisco wants out
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss May 13 at 1:32 PM 
There’s more bad news for Teach for America, this time coming out of San Francisco.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the city’s school board has decided it doesn’t want any more Teach for America recruits — even though there are at least 500 teaching jobs that need to be filled by August. The board was supposed to vote on a contract to accept 15 TFA teachers for the 2016-2017 school year — in science, math, special ed and bilingual education classes — but Superintendent Richard Carranza realized he didn’t have enough support on the panel to get it approved and pulled it from the agenda.  There currently are 15 TFA corps members in their first year in San Francisco schools and they will continue to be supported in their second year. TFA recruits are required to agree to teach for two years, although many of them don’t make it through and many others stop teaching after the two-year requirement.

SF school leaders give Teach for America a time-out
San Francisco Chronicle By Jill Tucker May 12, 2016 Updated: May 12, 2016 7:00am
The taxpayer-supported Teach for America program, which supplies enthusiastic if inexperienced teachers to thousands of schools in lower-income areas across the country, has fallen out of favor in San Francisco.  The city’s school board made clear this week that staffing some of the city’s neediest classrooms with recent college graduates who are on a two-year teaching stint and with just five weeks of training is no longer acceptable.  The board had been set to vote Tuesday night on a new contract to obtain 15 teachers for the upcoming school year — after reaching similar agreements each of the last eight years with the national nonprofit, which receives federal grants, private donations and fees from districts.  But before the vote, Superintendent Richard Carranza pulled the contract from consideration, acknowledging he didn’t have support despite a statewide teacher shortage and a local need to fill at least 500 teaching jobs by August.

U.S. Department of Education Claims It Does Not Keep Records of Charters That Close or Never Open with Its Funding
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch May 13, 2016 //
The anti-privatization website “In the Public Interest” reports on an interesting development:
The Department of Education issued a press release boasting of its commitment to transparency and noting that the agency had committed $1.5 billion to support new charter schools since 2006. When the CMD requested a list of the schools that had been closed or never opened, the Department claimed it did not have any information. Some transparency.
 National: The Center for Media and Democracy files an appeal against the Department of Education’s claim that it has no records about closed or never-opened charter schools referenced in its “Commitment to Transparency” press release. “It strains credulity and common sense that, despite spending billions in taxpayer dollars on charters and putting out this press release—among several—on the accomplishments of the Charter Schools Program, the Department claims to have no databases, no data analyses, and no internal communications about the program mentioned in its press release,” CMD said in its appeal letter. CMD says it intends to file a lawsuit to compel disclosure if the DOE’s response to its FOIA appeal letter is inadequate.

“Sheehan is one of more than 30 educators seeking state office, running for a seat in the Senate. At least 60 of the more than 360 citizens who filed to run are either educators or their immediate family members, according to the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA).  The spate of pro-public education candidates entered the race with hopes of repairing the damage caused by years of decline in state school funding and attacks on public education in the form of voucher schemes and the deregulation of the profession.
“We’re sending a clear message to legislators,” said Sheehan: “If you aren’t doing your job and supporting our schools, we want your seats.”
Dozens of Oklahoma educators running for state office amid school funding crisis
Education Votes By Amanda Litvinov Posted May 12, 2016
In his role as the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, Shawn Sheehan has spent the past year touring the state to visit schools and meet with current and future teachers and other stakeholders of public education.  “Oklahoma has some of the brightest, most dedicated and resourceful people working in our public schools,” says Sheehan, who has taught special education and math at Norman High School for the past five years.  “But the truth is they are being asked to do so much with less and less every year. As much as I want to get back in the classroom, I can’t, in good conscience, not act on what I’ve seen.”

What Teachers Lose to Pension Debt
States have fallen behind in their obligations, spending more on retirement debt and less on educators’ pay.
The Atlantic by MIKHAIL ZINSHTEYN  MAY 13, 2016
Are teachers losing out on thousands of dollars in potential extra pay because states are behind on maintaining pensions?  In a new study released by, Chad Aldeman relied on federal data to compare the wages and benefits of public-school teachers to those of other workers. He found that states and districts on average put 12 percent of teacher salaries toward the pension programs millions of school employees rely on for their retirement. That means more than $6,800 public dollars per teacher go toward supporting the pension funds states and districts promised to maintain.  In addition to that 12 percent, states and districts contribute on average 5 percent of teacher pay toward the pension benefits they’ll actually see come retirement—a rate that’s considered above average in the private sector. Without the $6,800 in “pension debt,” Aldeman contends public-school systems could spend that money on teacher salaries or other instructional material to improve student outcomes.
“I don't think teachers fully recognize how much the retirement system is costing to essentially keep it afloat,” Aldeman said in an interview.

Joint public hearing on Every Student Succeeds Act Wednesday May 18th
PA House and PA Senate Education Committees
Harrisburg Wednesday May 18th 9:00 AM Hearing Room #1 North Office Building

Join the Pennsylvania Principals Association at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2016, at The Capitol in Harrisburg, PA, for its second annual Principals' Lobby Day.
Pennsylvania Principals Association Monday, March 21, 2016 9:31 AM
 To register, contact Dr. Joseph Clapper at by Tuesday, June 14, 2016. If you need assistance, we will provide information about how to contact your legislators to schedule meetings.  Click here for the informational flyer, which includes important issues to discuss with your legislators.

2016 PA Educational Leadership Summit July 24-26 State College
Summit Sponsors: PA Principals Association - PA Association of School Administrators - PA Association of Middle Level Educators - PA Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development 
The 2016 Educational Leadership Summit, co-sponsored by four leading Pennsylvania education associations, provides an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together at a quality venue in "Happy Valley." 
Featuring Grant Lichtman, author of EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera (invited), and Dana Lightman, author of POWER Optimism: Enjoy the Life You Have... Create the Success You Want, keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics and district team planning and job alike sessions provides practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit before returning back to your district.   Register and pay by April 30, 2016 for the discounted "early bird" registration rate:

When: September 9, 2016, 10:00 am PST/1:00pm EST
Where: Schools across America
Sponsor: American Public Education Foundation (APEF)
The National Anthem “Sing-A-Long” is a movement to teach K-12 students the words, meaning,
music and history of the Star-Spangled Banner. This annual event is held each year on the
second week of September to honor 9/11 families, victims and heroes and celebrate the historic
birthday of the National Anthem on September 14. Those who join the “Sing-A-Long” are singing in unison at the exact same time at multiple sites across the U.S. The APEF has also created a robust, companion curriculum recognized by numerous State Departments of Education, available online at (see the “Educate” tab) for free download.
The Foundation hopes to have the support of the Alabama Department of Education as we
commemorate the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 this year. Teachers are encouraged to sign up
before the end of the school year at Also online is a "how-to" guide on
holding an event at your school and sample press release. If you do not wish to hold a full
ceremony at the school, your students can simply stand up and sing at 10 am PST/1:00pm EST.
The Star-Spangled Banner Movement is a simple, elegant way to honor 9/11 while also teaching students how the world came together in the days, weeks and months after the September 2001 terrorist strikes. The APEF also offers a host of other free educational material on its website, including polls, contests and grant information.

Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (PPC), a statewide children's advocacy organization located in Harrisburg, PA has an immediate full-time opening for an Early Learning and K-12 Education Policy Manager.  PPC's vision is to be one of the top ten states in which to be a child and raise a child. Today, Pennsylvania ranks 17th in the nation for child well-being. Our early learning and K-12 education policy work is focused on ensuring all children enter school ready to learn and that all children have access to high-quality public education. Current initiatives include increasing the number of children served in publicly funded pre-k and implementing a fair basic education formula along with sustained, significant investments in education funding.

Interested in letting our elected leadership know your thoughts on education funding, a severance tax, property taxes and the budget?
Governor Tom Wolf, (717) 787-2500

Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, (717) 772-9943
House Majority Leader Rep. Dave Reed, (717) 705-7173
Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. Joe Scarnati, (717) 787-7084
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jake Corman, (717) 787-1377

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