Tuesday, December 27, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 27: Meaningful PA pension reform relative to current costs? Fuggedaboutit

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4000 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, 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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 27, 2016
Meaningful PA pension reform relative to current costs? Fuggedaboutit

Confirmation hearing for @BetsyDeVos tentatively scheduled for Jan. 11, @khefling of @PoliticoPro reports

In a constituent response letter regarding the nomination of Betsy DeVos dated December 2, 2016, Senator Toomey stated: “I believe she is a great pick.”  His Washington, D.C. Phone number is (202) 224-4254

For Wolf, next 2 years may be more difficult than first 2
Inquirer by MARC LEVY, The Associated Press Updated: DECEMBER 25, 2016 12:51 PM EST
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will head into 2017 with perhaps bigger challenges than his first two years in office.  He is facing Pennsylvania's largest Republican legislative majorities in decades, the state government's stubborn post-recession deficit looks as bad as ever and Wolf's upcoming re-election campaign is in view.  Meanwhile, fear is rife in the Capitol that 2017 will bring a second drawn-out budget stalemate, similar to the record-breaking fight that ended last spring, more than nine months into Wolf's first full fiscal year as governor.  For now, Wolf is changing strategy. For the first time, Wolf will give lawmakers a budget proposal - his third - that does not include a major sales or income tax increase, he said. That has received a warm embrace from Republicans, and skepticism from Democrats that it can be done.

Governor, lawmakers in tug of war over budget
HARRISBURG — A sidelight to the partisan state budget fight of the past two years is the effort by the Republican-controlled legislative branch to increase its oversight of the Democratic-held executive branch.  The GOP majorities in the Senate and House passed several bills this past session to expand legislative power namely by requiring Senate confirmation of gubernatorial appointees. These measures were met with vetoes from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.  The system of checks and balances in the state Constitution guarantees a continual tug-of-war between the executive and legislative branches. But this latest effort gained momentum after Wolf took office in 2015 facing large GOP majorities in both chambers. GOP lawmakers were less inclined to challenge fellow Gov. Tom Corbett’s authority except for a legal fight in late 2014 over his veto of portions of a fiscal code bill.

Blogger note: The Foundation for Excellence in Education is a think tank on education reform based in Tallahassee, Florida.  The foundation was established by Jeb Bush, shortly after his tenure as Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. It has received donations from Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and Eli Broad, as well as Connections Education, a subsidiary of Pearson PLC, and Amplify, a subsidiary of NewsCorp.
Commentary: DeVos is a champion for students and parents
Inquirer By Phil Handy Updated: DECEMBER 27, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
Phil Handy is a member of the Foundation for Excellence in Education's Board of Directors. He served as the chairman of the Florida Board of Education for six years. He wrote this for the Orlando Sentinel.
It's fair to say that the nomination of Betsy DeVos as U.S. secretary of education is creating some controversy.  And the reason for that is simple. She is a longtime advocate for the decentralization of education decisions to the family level. That makes her a pariah to the education establishment and a blessing to children trapped in failing schools.  I've known DeVos for 10 years and have had the privilege of serving with her on the Foundation for Excellence in Education's Board of Directors. Her primary focus always has been on low-income children, a cause to which she had donated considerable time and resources.  She is smart, determined, and a strong leader. She was chosen to be a disruptive change agent in a public education system that for decades has failed America's most disadvantaged students and perpetuated cycles of poverty.

“In some cases, in addition to the transition teams, outside advisers have stepped in to publicly defend the nominees. Friends and supporters of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for education secretary, for instance, have set up an informal coalition to push back on negative stories. The group’s spokesman Ed Patru, a vice president at DCI Group, sends regular emails to reporters touting DeVos’ record.”
Trump readies war room to defend Cabinet picks
With fights looming on Treasury, EPA and State, the team builds out a rapid response operation.
Politico By ANDREW RESTUCCIA and NANCY COOK 12/26/16 05:58 AM EST
Donald Trump’s transition team is taking zero chances with the president-elect’s Cabinet picks, assembling a “war room” to promote their strengths and fend off criticism before next month’s confirmation hearings.  The transition team has recruited dozens of Republican public relations veterans and policy experts to help sell the public and the Senate on Trump’s selections, according to sources close to the transition. Their task will be to convince Americans that the billionaires, generals, donors and CEOs chosen by the president-elect have the expertise to manage the federal government — even if they have no Washington experience.  “One of the things Americans wanted was a change election, so you have some unconventional candidates,” said a senior transition official.  Several of those candidates are expected to come under intense scrutiny for their policy views or potential conflicts of interest. While top transition officials say they’re confident that a Republican-controlled Senate will greenlight all of them, they’re taking pains to make the confirmation process as smooth as possible — and to shoot down problems quickly, especially after several early missteps

Did you catch our Christmas Eve postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 24: Senator Toomey re DeVos nomination: “I believe she is a great pick.”

“Lawmakers also must finally enact meaningful pension reform relative to current costs, rather than limiting benefits only for new employees and deferring any potential savings far into the future. The Scranton district’s pension bill, for example, is about 32.5 percent of its total payroll costs — a formula for bankruptcy.  The same legislators who created the crisis through unsustainable benefit increases coupled with unrealistic contribution requirements refuse to resolve it for the worst possible reason — doing so would adversely affect their own Rolls Royce-level benefits.”
Editorial: School issues plague state
Long before legislators return to the Capitol for the new legislative session in January, they will be reminded of major problems regarding public schools that they have failed to resolve for decades.  Teachers in the Dallas School District in Luzerne County broke off their strike just before Christmas but, absent a settlement, might resume the walkout in February.  And students in the Stroudsburg Area School District might get an extended holiday break because teachers there might strike unless they have a new contract by then.  Scranton’s school board, meanwhile, appears to have no idea how it will close a $17 million budget hole by the end of the year, much less cover an even larger long-term deficit.  Strikes and funding shortfalls are not exclusive to those three districts. Rather, the problems are matters of degree for individual districts statewide. And much of that flows back to the state Legislature’s refusal to bring school governance, including pension reform, into the 21st century.

Changes to School Performance Profiles welcomed, but questions remain about impact on standardized testing
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer Dec 23, 2016
As far as Lancaster County superintendents are concerned, any step toward making the state’s evaluation of schools more holistic is positive.  “What I am seeing now shows promise and a move in the right direction,” said Conestoga Valley Superintendent Gerald Huesken, responding to recently proposed changes to the annual report card given to Pennsylvania’s public and charter schools.  The current report cards, called School Performance Profiles, also were expected to be an improvement over the system they replaced in 2013. While the old ratings relied almost entirely on students’ raw scores on standardized tests, the profiles added academic growth to the mix.  But many administrators, teachers and parents said the profiles still paint a narrow and sometimes inconsistent picture of school success.

South Eastern school sees results with hybrid learning
York Dispatch by Alyssa Pressler , 505-5438/@AlyssaPressYD8:33 p.m. December 26, 2016
Before South Eastern Middle School adopted the hybrid learning model, seventh-grade English teacher Jillian Watto shied away from having her students work together. Like many teachers, she was concerned they would get distracted easily and wouldn't learn.  Now, groups of her students work together every day.  "Watching them thrive with peers is interesting to see," she said, adding most of her students tend to prefer a collaborative setting now.  Watto's room is divided into two groups: students along the perimeter of the room working independently on their reading assignments and answering questions, and groups of students paired together in the center of the room.  The room is quiet except for the hushed chatter of the students grouped together, all discussing their assignment fervently. All conversation is focused on the work, not on Christmas, the latest middle-school gossip or what they have planned for the upcoming weekend.
This is what the hybrid model looks like at South Eastern Middle School.

EDITORIAL: Teachers have become all-too-easy targets
York Dispatch 6:18 p.m. EST December 26, 2016
They've become easy targets.  Every year, when the property tax bills come out, they get blamed for the latest increase.  Every year, when the latest test scores are revealed, they get blasted for the most recent decrease.  Whatever problems plague our public schools — and there are many — often get placed at the feet of convenient scapegoats.  We're talking, of course, about public school teachers.  Decades ago, teachers were among the most respected members of our community.  Today, they're often among the most vilified.  To their critics, they've become overpaid and underworked, more committed to their union bosses than to the students they teach.  No matter the forum — social media, newspaper letters to the editor, radio talk shows — teachers have found themselves in the crosshairs of their detractors.  So last week's report in The York Dispatch about a shortage of qualified teachers in York County, especially in math and sciences, should surprise absolutely no one.

Main Line autism school beats the odds, greets mid-century milestone
Inquirer by Maria Panaritis, Staff Writer Updated: DECEMBER 26, 2016 — 1:07 AM EST
Gavin Moynagh was having a not-so-great morning at the Timothy School. Battling a stubborn cold, the 16-year-old thrashed in a hallway and bellowed, "I don't feel very well!"  The thorniest part of Gavin's autism had won the upper hand.  And yet, none of the teachers and aides standing with Gavin so much as flinched as they worked to soothe the nearly 6-foot-tall teenager. This was a boy they knew well. A student at the Berwyn school going on 10 years now. The same one who, in more tranquil moments, harmonizes to music in perfect pitch or splashes and dives into deep water with his younger brothers.  "Anyplace else, I would have had to be explaining his behavior," said Kathy Moynagh, Gavin's mother, who had come to pick up her son for a doctor's appointment. But at the Timothy School, "they understand that these kids have good days and bad days, but the behaviors don't define their potential."

Kenney says his weekly school visits remind him of what's important
WHYY Newsworks by Tom MacDonald DECEMBER 26, 2016
The end of Mayor Jim Kenney's first year in office is almost here.    Philadelphia’s chief executive still believes he has plenty of work to do.  On January 4th Jim Kenney will have been mayor for a year, and he says during his time in the job he's found the good in the children of the city.  "It's been a momentous year," he said. "There's been a lot of success and some disappointment.  But the thing that has been cemented in my own mind in the last year, that has been totally proven to me beyond a doubt, [is] that every single child in this city can succeed."  Kenney says he makes it part of each week to go to a city school.  "In an effort to maintain my sanity I have to go to a school every week to remind myself as to why we do what we do," he said.  The mayor's soda tax initiative takes effect next year. It's designed to help fund his goal of providing pre-K for every child in the city.

Center for the Performing Arts, Mid-State Literacy Council team up to collect books for BEA schools
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.com December 25, 2016
Elementary schools in the Bald Eagle Area School District are poised to receive a pretty big donation that will help promote reading among its students.  The four elementary schools will be the recipients of a long-term book drive hosted by the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State, which runs through April.  CPA’s Education and Community Programs manager Medora Ebersole said her department is working with Amy Wilson, executive director of the Mid-State Literacy Council, to help with the donations, which will go to Howard, Mountaintop Area, Port Matilda and Wingate elementary schools.  People are encouraged to stop by Eisenhower Auditorium on Penn State’s campus to donate new or gently used nonfiction books that might be good for primary school students.

 “Department of Education pick, Betsy DeVos' family donated millions to anti-LGBT groups in support of conversion therapy.  She herself personally donated $250,000 to fight marriage equality in Michigan and her husband sat on the Board of rabidly anti-LGBT group Focus on the Family.”
Trump's cabinet is filled with people who oppose LGBTQ equality: Ted Martin
PennLive Op-Ed   By Ted Martin on December 24, 2016 at 8:38 AM
Ted Martin is the executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, a civil rights group representing the state's LGBTQ residents.
Over the course of the campaign, President-elect Donald Trump took several conflicting positions on LGBT equality, but now that he is selecting his cabinet the picture is becoming clear.  We always knew his vice presidential pick, Mike Pence, was one of the most anti-LGBT governors in the country. And now, Vice President-elect Pence will be joined by other anti-LGBT leaders in Washington.   Just to review, as Indiana's governor, Mike Pence proposed diverting HIV/AIDS prevention funds to so-called "conversion therapy," a medically discredited practice.

“But five years after the program was established, more than half of the state’s voucher recipients have never attended Indiana public schools, meaning that taxpayers are now covering private and religious school tuition for children whose parents had previously footed that bill. Many vouchers also are going to wealthier families, those earning up to $90,000 for a household of four.”
How Indiana’s school voucher program soared, and what it says about education in the Trump era
Washington Post By Emma Brown and Mandy McLaren December 26 at 4:53 PM 
Indiana lawmakers originally promoted the state’s school voucher program as a way to make good on America’s promise of equal opportunity, offering children from poor and lower-middle-class families an escape from public schools that failed to meet their needs.
But five years after the program was established, more than half of the state’s voucher recipients have never attended Indiana public schools, meaning that taxpayers are now covering private and religious school tuition for children whose parents had previously footed that bill. Many vouchers also are going to wealthier families, those earning up to $90,000 for a household of four.  The voucher program, one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing, serves more than 32,000 children and provides an early glimpse of what education policy could look like in Donald Trump’s presidency.

How Hedge Funds Will Profit from School Privatization
Huffington Post By Alan Singer Social studies educator, Hofstra University, my opinions, of course, are my own 12/26/2016 06:51 am ET
In the News: A number of news items in recent weeks show how powerful money-brokers work inside and outside the law in their war on public education in the United States.
(1) In the State of Washington, a State Supreme Court Judge up for reelection sided with a 6-to-3 court majority in a ruling that declared a state law directing tax dollars to independently run charter schools unconstitutional. To remake the court in their image hundreds of thousands of pro-charter Bill Gates and Paul Allen “Microsoft money” was donated to support his opponents campaign. Fortunately Washington voters rejected the charter judge, this time.
(2) Federal authorities charged seven leaders of the Platinum Partners hedge fund with fraud for operating what was alleged to be a “Ponzi scheme.” They kept the fund afloat by continually using money from new investors to pay off older investors who wanted out. Mark Nordlicht, founder and the chief investment officer for Platinum, also dabbles in operating low-cost religious schools that would benefit from the Trump-Amway DeVos voucher give-away
(3) The New York Times Business pages featured Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Holdings in an article they called “Hedge Fund Math: Heads or Tails, They Win.” It seems that even when his hedge fund performs poorly, Ackman always takes a profitable slice of the pie. According to the Los Angeles Times, Ackman’s Pershing Square Foundation has poured millions of dollars into promoting charter schools in their city. Ackman, through his foundation, is also a major donor to private schools and to Teach for America.

The NPE Toolkit: Stop Betsy DeVos
Network for Public Education December 16, 2016 by admin
The more we learn, the more we are certain that Betsy DeVos is bad for public schools and for kids.
When De Vos has to choose between quality schools and “the free market,” she chooses “the free market” of privatized choice every time. The best interests of children take a back seat.
And we know the DeVos endgame–shut down our neighborhood public schools, and replace them with a patchwork of charters, private schools and online learning.  We can’t let that happen and we need your help. Present and future generations of children are depending on us to act now.  We now know that some Senators have grave doubts. It is our job to make those doubts grow into active resistance to DeVos. Our senators are in district offices from 12/17 – 1/2.
Here are our three toolkits to help you do your part.
Toolkit 1. Call your senators’ offices. The toolkit with numbers and a phone script can be found here. It includes a link to phone numbers.
Toolkit 2. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can find a model here.
Toolkit 3. Visit your senators’ offices. If you cannot get an appointment, hand deliver a letter. Our toolkit, which you can find here has a model to use, and directions to find local offices. If you cannot hand deliver it, send your letter in the mail.

In a constituent response letter regarding the nomination of Betsy DeVos dated December 2, 2016, Senator Toomey stated: “I believe she is a great pick.”

Blogger note: Have an opinion about the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education?  Call these three senators today.
1. Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Washington, D.C. Phone:(202) 224-4944
2. Senator Toomey's Offices
Washington, D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4254
Senator Casey is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
3. Senator Casey’s Offices
Washington, D.C. Phone: (202) 224-6324
Toll Free: (866) 802-2833

PHLpreK Now Enrolling!
Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Education
Did you know that quality early childhood education sets our children up for success? It reduces the need for special education, raises graduation rates, and narrows the achievement gap. These benefits ripple throughout our schools, neighborhoods, and local economy.
That’s why the City of Philadelphia is expanding free, quality pre-K for 6,500 three- and four-year-olds over the next five years. In fact, the first 2,000 pre-K seats are available now. Families should act fast because classes begin on January 4th at more than 80 locations.
Please help us spread the word. Parents/caregivers can call 844-PHL-PREK (844-745-7735) to speak with a trained professional who will help them apply and locate quality pre-K programs nearby.  For more information, visit www.PHLprek.org

Pennsylvania Every Student Succeeds Act Public Tour
The Department of Education (PDE) is holding a series of public events to engage the public on important education topics in Pennsylvania.  The primary focus of these events will be the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law signed by President Barack Obama in late 2015. A senior leader from the department will provide background on the law, and discuss the ongoing
development of Pennsylvania’s State Plan for its implementation, which will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in 2017.  Feedback is important to PDE; to provide the best avenue for public comment as well as provide an opportunity for those who cannot attend an event, members of the community are encouraged to review materials and offer comments at http://www.education.pa.gov/Pages/tour.aspx#tab-1
Upcoming Public Events:
Wednesday, January 4- Quakertown- 5:30 pm- Bucks County Free Library
Bucks County Free Library Quakertown Branch
401 West Mill Street Quakertown, PA  18951
Tuesday, January 10- Scranton- 4:00 pm- Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County
Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County
3201 Rockwell Avenue Scranton, PA  18508

“The “Success Starts Here” campaign is a multi-year statewide effort to share the positive news about public education through advertising, web, social media, traditional media and word-of-mouth with the goal of raising understanding of the value of public education in Pennsylvania. The campaign is led by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, but relies on the support of a wide variety of participating organizations.”
Share Your School’s Story: Success Starts Here Needs You!
Success Starts Here needs you! Show your support by sharing stories, using social media and applying window clings to all of your school buildings. Below are some links to resources to help you help us.
Not sure where to start? This simple tool kit will provide to you everything you need to get involved in the campaign, including ways to work with the media, social media tips, a campaign article to post, downloadable campaign logos, and photo release forms.
We know you have great stories, and it’s easy to share them! Just use our simple form to send your success story to be featured on our website. Help spread the word about how Success Starts Here in today’s public schools.
All school entities have been sent a supply of window clings for school building entrances. Need more? No problem! Just complete the online order form and more will quickly be on their way to you.

PASBO is seeking eager leaders! Ready to serve on the board? Deadline for intent letter is 12/31.
PASBO members who desire to seek election as Director or Vice President should send a letter of intent with a current resume and picture to the Immediate Past President Wanda M. Erb, PRSBA, who is chair of the PASBO Nominations and Elections Committee.

PSBA Virtual New School Director Training, Part 1
JAN 4, 2017 • 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
The job of a school board director is challenging.  Changing laws, policies, and pressures from your community make serving on your school board demanding, yet rewarding at the same time.  Most school directors – even those with many years of experience – say that PSBA training is one of the most important and valuable things they have done in order to understand their roles and responsibilities.  If you are a new school board director and didn’t have the opportunity to attend one of PSBA’s live New School Director Training events, you can now attend via your computer, either by yourself from your home or office, or with a group of other school directors.
This is the same New School Director Training content we offer in a live classroom format, but adjusted for virtual training.
Part 1
·         Role and responsibilities of the school board director.
·         How to work with PSBA’s member services team.
·         Your role as an advocate for public education.
·         The school board’s role in policy.
(See also: Part 2, Jan. 11Part 3, Jan. 18)
Fee: $149 per person includes all three programs. Materials may be downloaded free, or $25 for materials to be mailed to your home (log in to the Members Area and purchase through the Store/Registration link).
Register online: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6607237329490796034

PSBA Third Annual Board Presidents Day
JAN 28, 2017 • 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM Nine Locations Statewide
Jan. 28, 2017 (Snow date: Feb. 11, 2017)
Calling all school board presidents, vice-presidents, and superintendents — Join us for the 3rd Annual PSBA Board Presidents Day held at nine convenient locations around the state.
This is a day of meeting fellow board members from your area and taking part in thought-provoking dialogue about the issues every board faces.  PSBA Past President Kathy Swope will start things off with an engaging presentation based on her years as board president at the Lewistown Area School District.  Bring your own scenarios to this event to gain perspective from other districts.  Cost: $109 per person – includes registration, lunch and materials. All-Access Package applies.  Register online by logging in to the Members Area (see the Store/Registration link to view open event registrations, https://www.psba.org/members-area/store-registration/)

NSBA Advocacy Institute 2017 -- Jan. 29-31, Washington, D.C.
Join school directors around the country at the conference designed to give you the tools to advocate successfully on behalf of public education.
  • NSBA will help you develop a winning advocacy strategy to help you in Washington, D.C. and at home.
  • Attend timely and topical breakout sessions lead by NSBA’s knowledgeable staff and outside experts.
  • Expand your advocacy network by swapping best practices, challenges, and successes with other school board members from across the country.
This event is open to members of the Federal Relations Network. To find out how you can join, contact Jamie.Zuvich@psba.org. Learn more about the Advocacy Institute at https://www.nsba.org/events/advocacy-institute.

Register now for the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference 
Plan to join public education leaders for networking and learning at the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference, March 25-27 in Denver, CO. General registration is now open at https://www.nsba.org/conference/registration. A conference schedule, including pre-conference workshops, is available on the NSBA website.

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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