Wednesday, September 21, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Sept 21: Senator Hughes: Courts must step in to ensure fair funding of public education

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup September 21, 2016
Senator Hughes: Courts must step in to ensure fair funding of public education

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Southeastern PA Regional 2016 Legislative Roundtable: William Tennent High School (Bucks Co.) SEP 22, 2016 • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Auditor General DePasquale slated to be Keynote Speaker
School Leaders from Northampton, Lehigh, Bucks, Montco, Chesco, Delco and Philadelphia Counties encouraged to attend.

HB1858 would require PA students to pass United States Citizenship Test on Civics test prior to receiving a certificate of High School graduation or a GED equivalency.
Joint public hearing- HB 1858. Monday, September 26, 2016, 9:30 AM Room G50 Irvis Office
This legislation would require all high school students, attending public school, or a charter school, or a cyber/charter school, or a private school or a student seeking a general educational development (GED) equivalency, to take and receive a passing grade on the United States Citizenship Test on Civics, produced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.  The test would consist of 100 questions used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, all high school students would be tested on 100 questions and would be required to obtain a minimum score of 60%.  High school students may take the test as many times as necessary for passage, but must pass the test prior to receiving a certificate of High School graduation or a GED equivalency.

“The most damning statistic is from a recently released study that indicates at the current pace, it would take 20 years for poor school districts to reach equity and appropriate funding. A child starting in Pre-K and moving through the system to a 12th grade graduation would spend their entire school career in a drastically underfunded school. This cannot be the new normal.”
Courts must step in to ensure fair funding of public education
Huffington Post by Senator Vincent Hughes Democratic Chairman of PA Senate Appropriations Committee 09/19/2016 10:11 am ET | Updated 17 hours ago
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court sat in session in Philadelphia last week to hear a case that provides the opportunity for the court to act affirmatively on behalf of the several hundred thousand school children in Pennsylvania who have been denied an equitable education for their entire time in school. I became angry listening to the arguments offered by those who think that the court has no place in this battle for the appropriate and equitable funding of our children’s education. I was more infuriated when one lawyer said the only thing the state was responsible for was to make sure that there was a school and that its doors were open (Yes, you read that correctly). However, I felt a sense of hope when I reminded myself that favorable rulings have occurred in similar cases in 26 states, including most recently in Connecticut where the State Superior Court ruled that poor students were being left behind by the state’s current funding system.  Many of Pennsylvania’s students attend schools that have no textbooks, teachers, substitute teachers, counselors, teacher’s aides, nurses, or support staff. The Philadelphia School District identified 2,500 students who did not have a permanent, certified teacher for two-thirds of the past school year.

“It was time to really show the general public across the state of Pennsylvania the amazing things that happen across schools,” PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains said. “With an eye toward the fact that every public school—not just in Pennsylvania but around the country—really goes about their work in different ways and has different tools and opportunities with their students, but all of them, when you look at it, are relatively unique and make a lifelong impact on public school students.”
Associations Now BY ALEX BEALL / SEP 20, 2016 (Pennsylvania School Boards Association)
The Success Starts Here campaign, organized by the Pennsylvania Schools Boards Association, seeks to raise positive awareness of the public school system.  Last week, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) launched its Success Starts Here campaign to share success stories from the state’s 500 school districts.  The two-year push will use social media and paid and donated television, billboard, and radio advertising to showcase the interesting, unique things schools are doing to educate the next generation.

“The state’s contribution to school pensions doubled from roughly $500 million to $1 billion from 2010 to 2012. It doubled again to $2 billion by 2014. And doubled again to $4 billion this year. Over the next two years, pension costs are expected to slow and only increase about 15 percent.”
Why are property taxes going up? Blame school pensions.
By Eric Holmberg PublicSource September 19, 2016
Pennsylvania legislators about a decade ago passed a law to protect homeowners by limiting property tax hikes to the rate of inflation. Has the law, known as Act 1, worked?  Not for some homeowners. Exceptions were built into the law so school districts could raise property taxes as much as they needed only to cover certain rising costs, like pensions.  As a result, school districts have increased property taxes $465 million above the rate of inflation in the past decade and requested raising property taxes much higher.  What has been driving tax increases? Pensions. A 2010 pension reform law increased how much school districts and the state paid into the underfunded school pension system. That helped the pension fund, but increased the burden on schools. The result?

Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera to Make Two Stops on Schools That Teach Tour
Yahoo News/PDE Press Release September 20, 2016
HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 20, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- State Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera visited two schools in southeastern Pennsylvania Tuesday to speak with administrators, teachers, and students as part of the Wolf Administration's Schools That Teach tour.  During Rivera's tours of Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) in Downingtown and the AIM Academy in Conshohocken, he shared with the schools' stakeholders Governor Wolf's vision for improving education for every student regardless of zip code.  "Schools across the state have made great strides in improving student growth and outcomes," Rivera said. "On school visits like these, I look for best practices that I can share with educators across the commonwealth, I listen and gather feedback about what is working and what is not working regarding state education policy, and I communicate the vision that Governor Wolf and I share for helping every student achieve."

Commentary: Extra money for Pa. schools may fall short
Inquirer Commentary by  Rand Quinn, Matthew Steinberg, and Cameron Anglum Updated: SEPTEMBER 21, 2016 — 3:01 AM EDT
Rand Quinn ( and Matthew Steinberg ( are professors and Cameron Anglum ( is a doctoral student, all at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Their latest paper in the National Tax Journal examined the impact of Pennsylvania's Act 61.
Gov. Wolf, legislative leaders from both parties, and some Pennsylvania education advocates have championed Act 35, the public school funding formula that passed in June, as an important step forward in creating an equitable school-finance system.  Through the formula, $352 million in new state funding will be distributed to school districts across the state this year. Much of that money will go to districts serving the most economically disadvantaged student populations. For example, Philadelphia will receive an additional $50.2 million through Act 35.  But Pennsylvania tried something very similar less than a decade ago, and our research on that funding formula suggests that Act 35 will still leave our most impoverished districts with far less money than they need to adequately educate their students. As long as districts can't afford to meet the education needs of all Pennsylvania schoolchildren, we shouldn't expect student performance to significantly improve.

“Pennsylvania is in the midst of an extreme teacher shortage.  In 2013, 16,631 people graduated from teacher-training programs. In 2015, that number had dropped to 6,125, according to data from the state's Department of Education.”
In face of Pa. teacher shortage, staffing services struggle to meet demand for substitutes
On average before they graduate high school, American kids sit in class without their regular teacher for what adds up to most of a school year.  But what happens if there aren't enough substitutes?  Hundreds of school districts in Pennsylvania have turned to private staffing companies amidst a substitute teacher drought, but outsourcing alone hasn't fixed a broken pipeline.

“This allows us to prove that this inquiry-based model can and will work with children in neighborhoods,” said district superintendent William Hite.”
With new middle school, Science Leadership Academy looks to prove itself
Though students arrived two weeks ago, Science Leadership Academy Middle School in West Philadelphia held its official ribbon-cutting Tuesday.  And with that, so begins one of the more intriguing experiments in Philadelphia education.  Science Leadership Academy Middle School — or SLA-MS as it is affectionately known — will serve 88 fifth-graders this year, with plans to become a 360-student, fifth- through eighth-grade middle school over the next three years.  In style and substance, the school will largely resemble Science Leadership Academy, the experimental high school in Center City that has become one of Philadelphia’s academic bright spots in the decade since its founding.  SLA-MS — like SLA — will be run by the nonprofit Inquiry Schools and focus on project-based learning where students pose and solve their own problems.
There is, however, one key difference. SLA is a special admission school that accepts only relatively high-performing students. SLA-MS will be a neighborhood school, with its doors opened to any child in the surrounding area who wants to attend.

Why kids are raving about 'cool' new W. Philly school
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer Updated: SEPTEMBER 21, 2016 — 1:08 AM EDT
A funny thing happened to Zaid Johnson when he entered fifth grade earlier this month: He started wanting to go to school.  Zaid, 11, is a hands-on learner, and the brand-new Science Leadership Academy Middle School (SLAMS) has been a revelation for him, the boy and his parents said - hands-on work centered on projects, opportunities to solve problems and expand the way he thinks.  "It's cool, a fun school, different," Zaid said.  Dignitaries converged on SLAMS on Tuesday, marking the formal opening of a school several years in the making. It's a middle school patterned after Science Leadership Academy, a nationally renowned, project-based Philadelphia School District high school opened 11 years ago.  The original SLA, in Center City, and its second high school, in West Philadelphia, have selective admission criteria. But SLAMS is different: a school for neighborhood students, no matter their learning needs or achievement levels.

Refugee lawsuit: Federal judge calls School District of Lancaster back to court
Lancaster Online KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer September 21, 2016
The next stage in a battle over refugee education at School District of Lancaster will play out in federal court next week.  Attorneys for six refugee students who sued the district this summer say the district is not fully complying with U.S. District Judge Edward G. Smith's order regarding where the district places older refugee students with limited English proficiency.  A district spokeswoman denied that claim and said the district stands by its educational decisions.  Smith has ordered both sides to appear before him in Easton on Wednesday,  Sept. 28 — a month after a preliminary ruling against the district.  In August, Smith ordered the district to admit six refugee students ages 17 and older to McCaskey, the district's regular 2,600-student high school. Five of those students had previously been assigned to the district's privately-run accelerated credit program at Phoenix Academy. The sixth student said he was denied enrollment altogether.

Federal grant to increase AP test access for low income students
Beaver County Times By Katherine Schaeffer September 21, 2016
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has received $750,963 in federal grant funding that will go towards defraying Advanced Placement test fees for low-income students.  The U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday that it had awarded a total of $28.4 million in grant funding to 41 states and Washington, D.C., as part of an initiative to expand college and career readiness for underserved students.  The program aims to reduce financial barriers that might otherwise prevent low-income students from jumpstarting their college education through AP courses, said James Cole, general counsel delegated the duties of the deputy secretary of education.  “The cost of a test should never prevent students from taking their first step towards higher education through advanced placement courses,” Cole said.  The Advanced Placement Test Fee grants will subsidize test fees for students who qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch and register to take advanced placement tests administered by the College Board, the International Baccalaureate Organization and Cambridge International Examinations.

PA school lunch worker quits after being forced to refuse hot meal to poor student
Washington Post By T. Rees Shapiro September 20 at 4:00 PM 
Stacy Koltiska said that she will never forget the look in the little boy’s eyes. As an elementary school lunchroom staffer, her job was to work the register for the children when they paid for their meals.  But the boy had a negative balance on his account, and a new policy in the Canon-McMillan, Pa. school district this year prevents cafeteria workers from serving a hot meal to students who owe more than $25. Koltiska said she had to follow the policy and was ordered to refuse the boy his hot meal because he couldn’t pay for it.  “As a Christian, I have an issue with this,” said Koltiska, of Canonsburg, Pa. “It’s sinful and shameful is what it is.”  Rather than continue to enforce the policy at Wylandville Elementary School in Eighty Four, Pa., Koltiska tendered her resignation last week. Koltiska said in an interview that she had worked for the school district for two years. She said she was stunned by the new policy, which began this fall.

Mylan CEO's mother used position with education group to boost EpiPen sales nationwide
Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY1:46 p.m. EDT September 20, 2016
5 EpiPen execs raked in almost $300 million after huge price hikes
It wasn’t just the CEO of Mylan, Heather Bresch, who got a huge pay raise after the massive EpiPen price hike scandal.  After Gayle Manchin took over the National Association of State Boards of Education in 2012, she spearheaded an unprecedented effort that encouraged states to require schools to purchase medical devices that fight life-threatening allergic reactions.  The association’s move helped pave the way for Mylan Specialty, maker of EpiPens, to develop a near monopoly in school nurses’ offices. Eleven states drafted laws requiring epinephrine auto-injectors. Nearly every other state recommended schools stock them after what the White House called the "EpiPen Law" in 2013 gave funding preference to those that did.  The CEO of Mylan then, and now, was Heather Bresch. Gayle Manchin is Heather Bresch’s mother.  Mylan is the subject of congressional investigations related to huge price hikes the company announced last month. It also faces an antitrust probe by the New York attorney general stemming from its EpiPen sales contracts with schools.  Bresch is testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday at a hearing called by Republican and Democratic members of the panel.

Mylan CEO Behind EpiPen Price Furor Praised by Senator Father by Steven T. Dennis @StevenTDennis September 7, 2016 — 5:00 AM EDT
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin admits he’s a proud father seeing his daughter run a drug company, but he says he didn’t know much about the business decisions Mylan NV made as it raised prices more than 400 percent on the EpiPen -- and kept it that way on purpose.  Heather Bresch, Manchin’s daughter and Mylan’s chief executive officer, has come under fire from lawmakers, including many of his fellow Democrats, for her pricing decisions on the life-saving anti-allergy drug.  "We make a point ever since I’ve been in this position, and when I was governor, we made a point, we just didn’t get involved. It’s so convoluted. I don’t understand," he said. "To get into something you don’t understand and your daughter being in this type of industry it was best I stayed away."  Bresch, 47, is facing demands from Manchin’s colleagues to appear before Congress and explain the price increases, which came as her pay rose substantially.

As Students Join National Anthem Protests, How Should Schools Respond?
Education Week Rules for Engagement Blog By Evie Blad on September 20, 2016 1:15 PM
A silent act of protest started by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has spread beyond the NFL and onto the sidelines of many high schools in recent weeks as young players join in.   Kaepernick, troubled by police treatment of black Americans, has stirred up both admiration and controversy for his decision to kneel during the national anthem rather than stand with his hand over his heart.  And, as news stories from around the country show, some educators have been troubled by student athletes' decisions to follow his lead.  "Let me be crystal clear: When that anthem is being played, you are to stand and you are to be quiet," Ryan Nemeth, principal of Lely High School in Naples, Fla., told students in a video announcement, according to the Miami Herald. Students who don't stand will be removed from games, the Herald reports.  Is this the right response? How should schools handle the tension between a collective act of patriotism and their students' acts of personal expression?

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 9/21/2016

Testing Resistance & Reform News: September 14 - 20, 2016
Submitted by fairtest on September 20, 2016 - 2:04pm 
The 2016-2017 academic year is barely underway, but grassroots assessment reform pressure is already producing positive changes in both K-12 schools and university admission policies.
Remember that back issues of these weekly updates are archived at: -- friends and colleagues can sign up at:

Southeastern PA Regional 2016 Legislative Roundtable: William Tennent High School (Bucks Co.) SEP 22, 2016 • 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
PSBA website August 25, 2016
Take a more active role in public education advocacy by joining our Legislative Roundtable
This is your opportunity for a seat at the table (literally) with fellow public education advocates to take an active role in educating each other and policymakers.  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, along with regional legislators, will be in attendance to work with you to support public education in Pennsylvania.  Use the form below to send your registration information!

Thursday, September 29, 2016 at 5:30 PM
The Crystal Tea Room, The Wanamaker Building
100 Penn Square East, Philadelphia, PA
Honoring: Pepper Hamilton LLP, Signe Wilkinson, Dr. Monique W. Morris
And presenting the ELC PRO BONO AWARD  to Paul Saint-Antoine & Chanda Miller
of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

Registration for the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 13-15 is now open
The conference is your opportunity to learn, network and be inspired by peers and experts.
TO REGISTER: See   (you must be logged in to the Members Area to register). You can read more on How to Register for a PSBA Event here.   CONFERENCE WEBSITE: For all other program details, schedules, exhibits, etc., see the conference

The Sixth Annual Arts and Education Symposium – October 27, 2016
The 2016 Arts and Education Symposium will be held on October 27 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg Convention Center.  Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Arts Education network and EPLC, the Symposium is a Unique Networking and Learning Opportunity for:
·         Arts Educators
·         School Leaders
·         Artists
·         Arts and Culture Community Leaders
·         Arts-related Business Leaders
·         Arts Education Faculty and Administrators in Higher Education
·         Advocates
·         State and Local Policy Leaders
Act 48 Credit is available.
Program and registration information are available here.

REGISTER NOW for the 2016 PA Principals Association State Conference, October 30 - November 1, at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College.
PA Principals Association website Tuesday, August 2, 2016 10:43 AM
To receive the Early Bird Discount, you must be registered by August 31, 2016:
Members: $300  Non-Members: $400
Featuring Three National Keynote Speakers: Eric Sheninger, Jill Jackson & Salome Thomas-EL

SAVE THE DATE LWVPA Convention 2017 June 1-4, 2017
Join the League of Women Voters of PA for our 2017 Biennial Convention at the beautiful Inn at Pocono Manor!

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