Thursday, December 29, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 29: Ed Sec’y Nominee .@BetsyDeVos - Uniquely Unqualified

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 29, 2016
Ed Sec’y Nominee Betsy DeVos - Uniquely Unqualified

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

More than 90% of all American children attend public schools.

DeVos would be the first Secretary of Education who has not been a public school parent or student; she has never worked in a public school, attended one, or sent her children to one.  She has never served in any educational or governmental capacity.

Thus far, I have been unable to find any press coverage of her ever having visited a traditional public school.

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

Senator Casey is a member of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee that will be holding the confirmation hearing.  His Washington, D.C. phone number is (202) 224-6324

Blogger note: this chart includes details of over $1.5 million in political contributions by Betsy DeVos and over $6.2 million by her husband Richard DeVos, Jr. from 1990 through 2016.
Follow the Money: Trump Administration Appointee Giving
The Center for Responsive Politics
Will Donald Trump "drain the swamp?" As he fills out his administration and raises inaugural funds, the public will be watching to see whether Trump changes the culture in D.C.
Many of the men and women Donald Trump has named to his Cabinet have been big political donors for years. Below is a breakdown. Please note that the "Favorite Politicians" for each nominee were tabulated without including money given to joint fundraising committees or political parties.

Follow the Money: Super PACs and school reform in Pennsylvania
A pro-charter group – started by Trump’s nominee for education secretary – has given millions to Pennsylvania lawmakers.
The notebook by Greg Windle December 19, 2016 — 12:22pm
President-elect Donald Trump has selected billionaire Betsy DeVos as his Secretary of Education. DeVos has poured money into Pennsylvania state politics to promote school reform and vouchers.  There's an old saying for those who want to understand political influence: Follow the money.  In the case of Harrisburg’s interest in the governance of Philadelphia’s schools, that trail leads from pro-charter political action committees to the millions of dollars they donate to support the campaigns of state legislators and leaders.  Super PACs – political action committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money for causes but cannot donate directly to a campaign – play key roles in decisions that affect Philadelphia’s school system, from input on the wording of proposed legislation to financial support for pro-reform candidates, . The pro-charter super PAC called Students First PA – which was started by President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos – drew attention during the 2014 election cycle by donating a total of $7.6 million to groups supporting at least 10 Republican and Democratic candidates around the state. Students First PA raises most of its money from just four local millionaires and American Federation for Children, an organization run by DeVos’ out-of-state billionaire family.

Federal judges mulling Lancaster school appeal of refugee ruling
About 17,000 of refugees arriving each year in the U.S. are children, yet their education — in particular, how public schools might accommodate them — plays a surprisingly minor role in placing families.  Federal law says public schools have to adjust to meet any number of students' varying needs, including overcoming language barriers.  But that doesn't always happenA few lawsuits have been filed in recent years on behalf of student refugees suffering the consequences of systematic shortcomings.  Schools have settled out of court in most cases. Not Lancaster.  Decision and appeal - Lawyers for the Pennsylvania ACLU and Philadelphia-based Education Law Center sued the School District of Lancaster last summer.  The lawsuit claims that, despite the city's robust tradition of resettlement, several teenage refugees waited months to enroll in public school. Ultimately, they were denied outright or diverted to magnet school Phoenix Academy, which has less support for nonnative English speakers than mainstream McCaskey High School.  Judge Edward Smith ruled in August that the district must let the students choose whether to remain at Phoenix or switch to McCaskey's International School (designed for first-year students with limited English proficiency).

 “Pennsylvania ranks eighth in the country for the number of students scoring three or higher on AP computer science exams, according to the National Math and Science Institutes, which is partnering with TEALS. The AP exam is graded on a five-point scale, and a score of three or higher is considered passing. But of the more than 1,100 students in the state who passed the exam last year, only 21 were from Pittsburgh Public. “
Pittsburgh high schools working to close computer literacy gap
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 29, 2016 12:25 AM
In a first-period classroom at Pittsburgh Carrick High School this month, software engineers Sarah Storck and Mario Signore walked a group of students through a lengthy rubric for the day’s assignment.  OK, now you guys can start designing your scene,” Mr. Signore concluded, amid groans.  “We just wanna code!” junior Asia Parker protested.  “There’s a lot of planning that goes into writing code!” he said.   This room of budding computer programmers, co-taught for free by young professionals in the field, is a scene that didn’t exist last school year at Carrick. Pittsburgh Public Schools is the first district in the state to implement this volunteer program, Technology Education and Literacy in Schools, aimed at closing the computer science gap in high schools and increasing the number of women and students of color enrolled in a such a course. 

Wagner's wallet: $pending a negative trend (editorial)
YDR Editorial Board 8:05 a.m. EST December 28, 2016
Ed Mahon lists Scott Wagner's top 5 campaign contributions and explains what that means for his run for governor. Sean Heisey, York Daily Record
Here’s our wish for the new year: Campaign finance limits in Pennsylvania.
It’s certainly no secret that state Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, donates a lot of money to political campaigns. But it was interesting to learn just how much he spends on politics. A recent YDR story found he has given more than $3.2 million in direct contributions or loans to elect state lawmakers, judges and other candidates in Pennsylvania since 2007.  The story raised the question: Is Wagner’s wallet buying a Legislature that will allow him to achieve his conservative agenda?  Maybe – and it might pay off for him if he becomes governor.  The story showed that Sen. Wagner’s track record of shaping the Legislature is pretty good.

Year in Review: Secretary Pedro Rivera Outlines Pennsylvania Education Department’s 2016 Achievements
12/08/2016 Harrisburg, PA - Today, Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera outlined the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s most significant achievements of 2016.  “The Wolf Administration, the Department of Education, stakeholders, and the state’s communities have a lot of be proud of this year,” Rivera said. “Together we’ve worked to move education forward to better serve students and to foster a culture that values teaching and learning.  “Governor Wolf has been a tireless advocate for Pennsylvania’s schools and students, and the record investment that he and the legislature dedicated in this year’s budget – including over $350 million driven through the new basic education funding formula - is supporting quality programs aimed at ensuring our students, regardless of zip code, have access to the tools they need to grow and to graduate prepared for postsecondary success.”  Take a look at some of the accomplishments below:

Construction projects, new leadership top 2016 Centre County education stories
BY BRITNEY MILAZZO Centre Daily Times December 28, 2016
It was a busy year for news in education.  From leadership changing hands to school constructions and everything in between, here are the five top read stories of 2016.

York Dispatch education highlights from 2016
York Dispatch by Alyssa Pressler , 505-5438/@AlyssaPressYD 8:11 p.m. December 28, 2016
A lot has changed for local school districts since January. With the new year almost upon us, The York Dispatch took a look at the major education-related news of 2016.

Top Philadelphia education stories of 2016
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa December 27, 2016 — 5:39pm
As usual, the Notebook is on hiatus for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so we have prepared a review of the year in education. The top stories here, in no particular order, are a combination of the most important and the most read on our site.

Academics rank Pa. near bottom of electoral integrity scale
An independent report from an academic group has given Pennsylvania a dismal ranking in how well it conducts its elections.  The Electoral Integrity Project — which is based out of Harvard University and the University of Sydney — has the Keystone State tied for fifth-worst in the country.  The group ranked states based on 12 criteria, including electoral laws and procedures, media coverage, campaign finance, and district boundaries.  Like most states, Pennsylvania did well in areas concerning the actual running of the election, scoring well above 50 percent in areas like vote counting.  But it scored near the bottom — just 11 out of 100 — in district boundaries. Only Wisconsin and North Carolina were worse in that category.  Basically, the problem is gerrymandering — redrawing district lines to favor a certain political party. The last time congressional districts were redrawn, in 2012, Republicans controlled more state legislatures (as they still do today), so the gerrymandering tends to favor them.

Philly schools' legal bills for camera cases top $2 million
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer Updated: DECEMBER 29, 2016 — 1:07 AM EST
The Philadelphia School District has spent more than $2 million to defend itself in lawsuits resulting from a $7.5 million no-bid contract for school surveillance cameras.  The amount covers district payments to outside lawyers in connection with four suits and brings the total cost of the fallout from the contract, including damages, to nearly $6.4 million.  The suits were filed after the Inquirer reported in November 2010 that Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman had pushed aside a Bucks County company that had begun preliminary work on the emergency contract to install the cameras, and directed that the contract be awarded to a small, minority-owned firm instead.

Top 10 EdWeek Politics K12 Blog Posts of 2016: DeVos, Trump, and the Every Student Succeeds Act
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on December 27, 2016 8:42 AM
It's been a busy year at Politics K-12. We've covered the rollout of the Every Student Succeeds Act extensively, after President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2015. But the list of our most popular blog posts for the outgoing year is dominated by President-elect Donald Trump. He didn't talk about education a lot on the campaign trail, but Trump's election could portend a major shift in how Washington handles K-12.  Below are the blog posts we wrote this year with the highest number of page views, starting with the most-read one:

“The move could benefit The 74 not just based on the addition of a lively daily aggregation of top education stories. The 74 was funded in part by the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, the Michigan-based philanthropy that has been a strong supporter of charter schools and private school vouchers. Betsy DeVos is Trump's pick for education secretary.”
Real Clear Education Editors Leaving to Bring Aggregation to The 74
Education Week By Mark Walsh on December 27, 2016 1:43 PM | No comments
The two top editors of Real Clear Education, the news site offering an aggregation of top education stories from across the country as well as original content, are moving to The 74, the education news website partly funded by the family foundation of President-elect Donald J. Trump's nominee for U.S. secretary of education.   Andrew J. Rotherham, who served as a White House domestic-policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, launched Real Clear Education in 2014 as a joint venture between his Bellwether Education Partners and, a site offering aggregation of various topics.  Emmeline Zhao, a former editor at the Huffington Post, has been Real Clear Education's editor since its inception, with Rotherham serving as executive editor.  "When we launched RealClearEducation in 2014 the idea was to create a go-to place for the highest quality news and analysis each day," Rotherham wrote on Dec. 23 in what he described as his last newsletter from that site. "We're moving to the education news site The 74 where, starting in early 2017, we'll continue to produce the kind of news aggregation you're used to here and also more original content."  In an interview on Tuesday, Rotherham said that he and Zhao have had a good relationship with RealClearPolitics, but they believe that for the long run affiliating with an education site made sense.  "Real Clear [Education] is terrific, but we felt it was find a good education home," he said. "And this will be a good add for The 74 in terms of offerings."

Testing Resistance & Reform News: Dec 21 - 27, 2016
Submitted by fairtest on December 27, 2016 - 1:31pm 
This is the final issue of "Testing Resistance & Reform News" for 2016. It's been a good year  -- a record number of colleges eliminated ACT/SAT admissions exam requirement, driving the total to more than 900, the number of states requiring graduation tests plunged to a multi-decade low, and grassroots assessment reformers grew more powerful

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.

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

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
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:

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,

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 Learn more about the Advocacy Institute at

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 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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