Friday, December 9, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 9: In 1974 PA legislature provided 54% of education funding. Now it provides just 37%, exacerbating local property tax burden.

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

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 9, 2016
In 1974 PA legislature provided 54% of education funding. Now it provides just 37%, exacerbating local property tax burden.

EPLC's "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN
Sunday, Dec. 11 at 3 p.m.
Topic: challenges of being a school director

Guest Column: Pa. cyber charter schools need more oversight
Delco Times By Lawrence A. Feinberg, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 12/07/16, 9:01 PM EST
In reading several news and commentary pieces covering the policy positions of the Trump Administration’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, my impression is this: That parental choice is paramount regardless of resulting academic performance or fiscal transparency, and that taxpayers who are footing the bill should have virtually no say, via their locally elected school boards, in how their tax dollars are spent. I was particularly struck by the fact that 80 percent of charters in Michigan are run by for-profit organizations, in no small part due to lobbying and contributions by the DeVos family. In Pennsylvania, for-profit charters have been a wellspring of fraud, waste and abuse of tax dollars.
What does accountability look like? Tomorrow evening, I will begin my 18th year as a member of a locally elected, volunteer school board. About twice a month, at public board meetings that have been advertised in advance, we review and vote upon pending disbursements of our neighbors’ tax dollars. The meeting agendas are public and posted in advance. Members of the public have an opportunity to speak on any topic of concern. Local press provides coverage. We review and vote on check registers, spending our neighbors’ tax dollars. Each year, members of the school board complete and submit detailed financial disclosure forms to the state. Our meetings are televised and stream on our website. They are run in strict accordance with the state’s sunshine laws.

Pension costs will continue to climb for school districts
The Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer December 8, 2016
The pension problem that has plagued Pennsylvania school boards for more than a decade will get even worse in 2017-18.  The board of trustees that runs Pennsylvania's Public School Employees’ Retirement System has certified that districts must pay 32.57 percent of an employee's salary into the fund.  And while a PSERS' press release touts the new number as the "smallest percentage increase" since the 2009-10 fiscal year, the 8.5 percent jump from 30.03 percent is higher than the initial projection of a 32.04 percent contribution after the fund returned 1.29 percent for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The fund's break-even point is 7.5 percent. "This is the first arctic blast of the 2017-18 budget development cycle," Centennial business manager Chris Berdnik said of the higher than expected increase.

PSERS rate for 2017-18 set at 32.57%. Updated projections for other years are available here.

Wolf pledges to 'make system better'
But says Legislature must also help Erie schools
GoErie By Ed Palattella
Gov. Tom Wolf offered his support and sympathy to the Erie School District on Thursday.
But after a tour of Erie's Emerson-Gridley Elementary School, the Democrat also made clear that whether the financially troubled district gets increased state aid is not a decision that he can make by himself.  Wolf said the Republican-controlled General Assembly must also decide. And Wolf said he is more inclined to try to rescue the Erie School District - which wants $38.1 million more in state funding a year, according to its state-mandated financial recovery plan - by increasing state funding for all struggling Pennsylvania school districts.  "What their plan calls for is basically a one-off: Look at Erie, help us," Wolf said in an interview after the tour. "We have a democracy, so I can't just do that, and there is a limited amount of money. The extent to which I can do that for Erie or for any other school district is limited."

The Full 2016 PA Society List of Events
PoliticsPA Written by Nick Field, Managing Editor
It’s that time of year, politicos: Pennsylvania Society! Here’s a rundown of the events at the weekend-long marathon of dinners and cocktails.  The annual celebration brings together political, civic and business leaders from across Pennsylvania and across the aisle.
The biggest stories to watch are the fallout of the 2016 presidential election and the initial maneuverings for the 2018 contests for Governor and Senate.
Here are the weekend’s events. See you in NYC!

In tight Chesco 156th race, judge orders 14 provisional ballots to be opened
Inquirer by Michaelle Bond, STAFF WRITER Updated: DECEMBER 8, 2016 5:46 PM EST
Chester County will count 14 of the 15 unopened provisional ballots in a tight state House race, following a county court order.  West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta is 18 votes ahead of Republican incumbent state Rep. Dan Truitt in the contest for the 156th District seat. Comitta said the county should count every eligible vote, which she argued included the 15 provisional ballots. County officials said 14 of the voters' registration applications arrived too late and the 15th voter was registered in another county. Judge Jacqueline Cody agreed with those officials about the 15th voter and instructed them not to count her provisional ballot.  Sam Stretton, Comitta's lawyer, and Guy Donatelli, Truitt's lawyer, said they accepted the judge's decision and will not appeal. Officials will open the sealed provisional ballots within the next few days.

Back off: State senator leading unemployment office fight told to stay out of Allentown
Tom Shortell Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call December 8, 2016
Sen. Pat Browne tells colleague leading fight against unemployment office funding to stay out of his district.
The state senator credited with holding up a bill paying for approximately 600 jobs at Unemployment Compensation offices was warned to stay out of Allentown this week by one of his own colleagues.  Sen. Scott Wagner, a vocal critic of Gov. Tom Wolf who is eyeing his own run for governor, planned to meet Wednesday with employees at an Allentown office scheduled for closure. Wagner, however, backed out Tuesday night after getting an earful from Sen. Pat Browne, who represents most of Lehigh County. In an email to a Department of Labor and Industry employee, Wagner canceled the visit after informing Browne he would be stopping in his district. Wagner's heads up was intended to be a courtesy, but Browne called him and explicitly instructed him to steer clear from the Allentown office.  "We continued our conversation for a few minutes as he became more irritated — bottom line — he made it clear to me to stay out of his Senate district," Wagner wrote in the email, which was reviewed by The Morning Call. Requests for comment to Wagner and his office were not immediately returned Thursday, although Browne confirmed the conversation took place. The meeting, Browne said, was an encroachment on his responsibilities as the elected senator of District 16. Browne and Wagner both are Republicans. Wolf is a Democrat.

Amid protests, panelists talk about replacing Philadelphia's SRC
A well-attended forum on who should govern Philadelphia's schools turned testy Thursday night as parent activists repeatedly disrupted the proceedings to protest poor conditions in city schools. The conversation laid bare just how thorny the issue of school governance is in Pennsylvania's largest city, and the protests reminded all that even if Philadelphians can agree on a governance structure there are still big issues looming in public education.  The forum, co-hosted by the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, Philadelphia Media Network, and Drexel University, was billed as a conversation on who should run Philadelphia's public schools. Since 2001, the city system has been overseen by the School Reform Commission, a five-person body whose membership consists of three gubernatorial appointees and two mayoral appointees.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Education and State Representatives Visit Dover Area High School
Dover Area School District Website December 8, 2016  
The Dover Area High School was honored today with a visit from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education Mr. Pedro Rivera. The purpose of Mr. Rivera's visit was to conduct a “Schools that Teach” roundtable with members of the Dover Area School District. In addition, Representative Seth Grove, Representative Kristin Phillips-Hill, and Senator-elect Mike Regan were in attendance. The roundtable also consisted of students, staff, administrators, and board of directors’ members with topics ranging from the future of education, funding, initiatives being implemented for the Commonwealth’s Department of Education as well as potential endeavors by the department. Following the roundtable discussion, Mr. Rivera had the opportunity to visit several classrooms. The Dover Area School District is appreciative of the experience today and looks forward to more opportunities such as this in the future.

School watch: All eyes on the city schools and its elected board
Post Gazette By the Editorial Board December 9, 2016 12:00 AM
Unlike the city, which is progressing on numerous fronts, the Pittsburgh Public Schools seems only to struggle. The milestones of the past year include a troubled search for a new superintendent, vexing questions about the credentials of the person ultimately hired to lead the district and the release of sobering data on student achievement, especially among minority students.  If school directors wanted to send a signal about the seriousness of the situation, they missed an opportunity to do so Monday at the board’s annual reorganization meeting. The board voted 7-1 to keep Regina Holley as board president for another year. Electing new leadership would have sent the message that the district must rededicate itself to its mission and that the commitment to change would flow from the top down.

"We would expect that the board of Khepera did their due diligence before bringing Mr. Palmer aboard, given his past leadership of a charter school that failed financially and was forced to close in the middle of the school year," she said.  Richard Isaac, Khepera's board president, could not be reached for comment.  Some administrators at Palmer's shuttered charter took the Fifth Amendment 77 times during a School Reform Commission hearing in 2014 on revoking the school's operating agreement for financial mismanagement and academic shortcomings.  At the hearing, administrators cited the Fifth Amendment in response to questions ranging from "Isn't it true that you lied . . . about accurately submitting invoices?" to "Do you have a master's degree?"
Founder of shuttered charter school named acting CEO at Khepera
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda Updated: DECEMBER 8, 2016 10:59 PM
Walter D. Palmer, founder and former board president of a city charter school that closed in 2014 amid crushing financial woes, has a new job.  He is now acting CEO of Khepera, a financially troubled charter school in North Philadelphia.  Previously, Palmer was the face of the Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Partners charter, which had campuses in Frankford and Northern Liberties.  Khepera, 926 W. Sedgley Ave., is an African-centered school with about 370 students from kindergarten through the eighth grade.  The school is permitted to have 450 students, and it initially contracted with Palmer as a consultant to help boost enrollment.   Palmer, 82, said he was named acting CEO about a month ago.

Upper Darby considers applications for two charter schools
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, on Twitter POSTED: 12/09/16, 4:49 AM EST | UPDATED: 19 SECS AGO
Upper Darby >> The Upper Darby school community is still not warming up to the idea of charter schools opening in their school district.  Daniel Torres Charter Middle School and Health Careers Academy Charter School, proposed middle school and high school charters, respectively, set to open in the 2017-18 school year at 4 Rockbourne Road in Clifton Heights, yielded hesitance from the few speakers during public comment after a hearing on the two charter applications Tuesday evening.  “It’s time to put the brakes on charter expansion and focus our attention, which you all do so well and admire, on public policy on providing, or should I say sustaining, the excellent public schools that we have in the Upper Darby School District,” said Drexel Hill resident Kimberly Lacoste, who cited how charters have affected the Chester-Upland and Philadelphia school districts.

Neshaminy appeals to state Supreme Court to keep out charter school
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, STAFF WRITER Updated: DECEMBER 8, 2016 1:50 PM EST
A three-year fight to prevent a Northeast Philadelphia charter school from opening in the Neshaminy School District could be headed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  The Neshaminy school board voted 7-2 this week to ask the court to hear its appeal of a Nov. 10 Commonwealth Court decision allowing MaST Community Charter to open a K-12 school focused on technology. It would be the first charter school for the Bucks County district, according to a spokesman.  Board members Mike Morris, a long-time supporter of MaST, and Bob Feather cast the two dissenting votes. Morris said Thursday that he thought the charter school could provide a better technology program than the 8,900-student Neshaminy district because MaST would not be constrained by teacher contracts.  "I believe in choice," Morris said, adding that the charter school's program was "set up and designed for technology. They can make changes" to programs and staffing when needed, without having to engage in labor negotiations.

Editorial: Lawmakers should establish fair natural gas extraction tax
When industry-friendly state lawmakers gave a gift to gas drillers in the form of a “local impact fee” rather than a fair tax on extraction, they covered their special-interest largess by saying that they did not want the big, bad state government determining distribution of the money. A performance audit of the local impact fee system by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reveals the folly of that argument and illustrates the need for a fair and clearly accountable tax on gas extraction.  Every state other than Pennsylvania that hosts a significant gas-drilling industry imposes a tax on gas as it leaves the well and enters the distribution system, a “severance” tax. Instead, Pennsylvania has adopted the local impact fee, a flat per-well charge that produces far less revenue than a severance tax would generate.

Blogger note: In 1974 the PA legislature provided 54%of education funding. Now it provides just 37%, exacerbating local property tax burden.
Letter: Pennsylvanians want changes in school tax, too
By Express-Times Letters to the Editor  by Ed Kihm, Quakertown on December 08, 2016 at 9:09 AM, updated December 08, 2016 at 9:12 AM
The results of the recent election make a clear statement that people in Pennsylvania want change from the status quo. This state has been in economic decline for more than two decades, with businesses and people leaving. The only increase we can count on is school property taxes, which have increased more than 140 percent since 1994, outpacing wages and greatly contributing to the rise in tax-delinquent home foreclosures.  The property tax is the opiate of the school districts' insatiable appetite to spend. Legislators who are well-funded by special interests, such as the Pennsylvania State Education Association, have seen to it that the steady supply of ransomed homes continues. Harrisburg has a spending problem, but the school districts do also, and the solution to the problem needs to be the number one priority. Call your state representative, senator and the governor and tell them to them to pass the solution, the Property Tax Independence Act (HB/SB 76). It would  completely eliminate school property taxes and shift the way schools are funded with increases in the income and sales tax, expanding the latter. The bill has been reintroduced in the state House of Representatives. No other legislation has ever been so thoroughly vetted, and it has bipartisan support.

Fair funding of education is the first step toward property tax reform
Lancaster Online Opinion by MARTIN HUDACS | Special to LNP Dec 2, 2016
Soon, school districts throughout the state will vote on preliminary property tax proposals for the 2017-18 school year. Districts are forced to develop these proposals in a virtual vacuum of information related to revenues for the 2017-18 school year.  The proposals, which are generally higher than the final decision, will generate renewed urgency to address property tax reform. Property tax reform, which is sorely needed in Pennsylvania, cannot occur overnight. It must be a well-planned transition from local to state revenues that requires deliberate, impactful steps. The most effective road to immediately impacting property tax reform is through the sustained and adequate funding distributed through the education funding formula, approved by Gov. Tom Wolf and the state Legislature earlier this year.  School boards must balance their expenses and revenues in any proposed budget. Expenses are difficult to predict, and revenues are almost impossible. So, boards must use the only asset afforded to them, which is the property tax. If the state can adequately and consistently fund education through the formula, legislators will have a path to more significant property tax reform. Anything that restricts local revenues must be offset by state-provided revenues.  Of the 16 school districts in Lancaster County, 13 depend on local taxes for 68 percent or more of their revenues. Changing the rules on property taxes will have a significant impact on these districts. If the state is neither prepared nor willing to address the revenue deficit that property tax reform creates, what does that say about its view of public education?

How Community Schools Coordinators Identify Needs
City of Philadelphia December 7, 2016 by Mayor’s Office of Education.
Feedback is key to creating a strategic plan for community schools. Over the past months, community schools coordinators have been holding focus groups and meetings, as well as conducting surveys to community members, parents, students, and school staff. The goal is to get the full picture of the challenges facing each school as well as the needs and wants of the surrounding community. Once coordinators can identify areas for growth and opportunity, they can begin putting together a strategic plan for the school.  Recently, more than 40 parents and guardians filled the auditorium for a community feedback night at F.S. Edmonds. Over the course of two hours, community members discussed how Edmonds’ designation as a community school can not only benefit the school but also the surrounding Cedarbrook section of Mount Airy.
Some concerns voiced included:

stARTing Something through art at local schools
York Dispatch by  Alyssa Pressler , 505-5438/@AlyssaPressYD8:33 p.m. EST December 8, 2016
stART Something brings local artists to York County school districts to incorporate art into all learning.
The nation is focused on incorporating science, technology, engineering and math into all content areas right now, but local schools are working hard not to forget about the arts.  stART Something is an organization that helps schools keep art as an educational priority through artist-in-residence programs, where artists stay and work with a school district for a period of time. It is a subset of Artists in Education, which is a statewide network of artists through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. stART Something partners with the PCA and the Cultural Alliance of York County to reach different schools.  Local artists spend time with school districts and teach their particular art form while incorporating different Common Core standards and other subjects. This year, Northern York School District is among a number of schools participating in an artist-in-residence program through stART Something.

Listen: Kara Newhouse talks with Emily Landis of the Lancaster Science Factory on the Women in STEM podcast
LANCASTERONLINE | Staff December 8, 2016
Podcast with Emily Landis, executive director of the Lancaster Science Factory.
In this week's episode, reporter Kara Newhouse speaks with Emily Landis, executive director at the Lancaster Science Factory, an interactive science center. Landis has a master's degree in forensic anthropology and spent six years at the National Geographic Society, directing their grant-making in research, conservation and exploration.
Some of the things she talks about in this podcast are:
• the year she spent dissecting a human cadaver and what it taught her about interdisciplinary work.
• why her mom once let her skip class to go to the library.
• her vow to keep the number of countries she's visited higher than her age.
• ways to make STEM learning accessible for kids and adults.

Invitation or not, Quigley snubs Spring-Ford school board meetings
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 12/08/16, 6:06 PM EST | UPDATED: 9 HRS AGO
ROYERSFORD >> Tom DiBello, vice president of the Spring-Ford-Area School Board, doesn’t see why his state representative needs an invitation to come to a school board meeting, but after hearing Tom Quigley’s response to a question, he’s offering one anyway.  But Quigley says DiBello and newly appointed board President Joe Ciresi just want to use the opportunity for political theater and “to deflect blame away from their tax-and-spend policies.”  That, plus the fact that Ciresi just lost an election trying to unseat Quigley in the 146th state House District, makes it unlikely he’ll accept that invitation any time soon, Quigley told Digital First Media.

School District of Lancaster: ACLU wants nearly $2M to recoup refugee education lawsuit costs
Lancaster Online by DAN NEPHIN | Staff Writer December8, 2016
The American Civil Liberties Union wants more than $1.88 million in attorney fees to settle claims that the School District of Lancaster violated refugee students’ rights by putting them in a private alternative school, the district said.  Superintendent Damaris Rau called the demand outrageous and hypocritical in a statement Thursday.  The case relates to six refugees, ages 17 to 20, suing the city school district this summer, alleging the alternative school, Phoenix Academy, lacks the support they need to learn English and subjects them to “unchecked, persistent bullying in a severe, authoritarian environment  ACLU’s demand for legal fees is hypocritical, Rau told LNP, because the civil rights group said early on that it’s handling the case pro bono, meaning free of charge.  Vic Walczak, legal director for the ACLU, countered that the parties involved — the ACLU, the Education Law Center and attorneys from the law firm Pepper Hamilton — are working free for the refugees.

“Local supporters of school choice are happy with the decision. State Rep. Stan Saylor, R-Windsor Township, said DeVos is an advocate for children and will help improve education in areas that are currently struggling. He pointed to the York City School District as an example.
State Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, was also pleased with Trump's pick, saying he met DeVos a few weeks ago at a the Republican Governors Association's annual conference in Orlando, Florida, and felt that she would be a great choice based on their interactions. Like Saylor, Wagner said he was happy she is such a strong supporter of school choice, like himself.”
A local take on Trump's education secretary pick, Betsy DeVos
York Dispatch by  Alyssa Pressler , 505-5438/@AlyssaPressYD2:03 p.m. EST December 8, 2016
There are mixed local feelings about President-elect Donald Trump's choice for education secretary, Betsy DeVos.  DeVos is a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman who leads the American Federation for Children, which seeks to improve education in the nation by offering parents more education choices.  Trump has been a staunch supporter of school choice, which essentially means that students and parents would have alternative options to public schools in their area, such as charter schools or private schools. He has also said he hopes to add an additional federal investment of $20 billion toward school choice. His choice of DeVos, announced Nov. 23, may further the initiative.  "Under her leadership we will reform the U.S. education system and break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families," the incoming president said.

Trump's Ed. Sec. Pick Betsy DeVos and School Choice in Michigan: a Timeline
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on December 8, 2016 9:30 AM
Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the U.S. Department Education, has a long and controversial record of advocating for school choice nationally, but especially in her home state of Michigan. DeVos and her family members have collectively spent tens of millions of dollars to further the issue.   What's her win/loss record? What kinds of tactics does she use? And why did she even get involved in education in the first place? We break it down in this timeline. 1980s - Early inspiration—Betsy DeVos and her husband, Dick, then the parents of school-aged children, visit Potter's House Christian School in Grand Rapids, a private religious school that intentionally serves a diverse student body. Betsy DeVos credits this visit with awakening her to the power of school choice, including for parents who she said were struggling financially. "We met parents who were doing everything in their power to have their kids in an environment that was safe, where they were learning, and where the atmosphere was just electric with curiosity, with love for one another," she told the Philanthropy Roundtable in 20131993 - Charter schools— The DeVoses helped support a drive by then-Gov. John Engler to overhaul school funding in the state. The effort, which was ultimately successful, also allowed for the creation of charter schools.

“President-elect Donald Trump has made a number of controversial cabinet nominations already. But none seems more inappropriate, or more contrary to reason, than his choice of DeVos to lead the Department of Education.
DeVos isn’t an educator, or an education leader. She’s not an expert in pedagogy or curriculum or school governance. In fact, she has no relevant credentials or experience for a job setting standards and guiding dollars for the nation’s public schools.  She is, in essence, a lobbyist — someone who has used her extraordinary wealth to influence the conversation about education reform, and to bend that conversation to her ideological convictions despite the dearth of evidence supporting them.  For 20 years, the lobby her family bankrolls has propped up the billion-dollar charter school industry and insulated it from commonsense oversight, even as charter schools repeatedly failed to deliver on their promises to parents and children.”
A sobering look at what Betsy DeVos did to education in Michigan — and what she might do as secretary of education
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 8 at 2:29 PM 
The people who best know the education advocacy work of Betsy DeVos, the billionaire tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to be his education secretary, are in Michigan, where she has been involved in reform for decades.  DeVos is a former Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan and chair of the pro-school-choice advocacy group American Federation for Children, and she has been a shining light to members of the movement to privatize public education by working to create programs and pass laws that require the use of public funds to pay for private school tuition in the form of vouchers and similar programs. She has also been a force behind the spread of charter schools in Michigan, most of which have recorded student test scores in reading and math below the state average.  [What’s the worst that can happen with Betsy DeVos as education secretary? Two scenarios.Many pro-school-choice groups have praised the choice, saying DeVos will work hard to grow new programs that give parents more school choice. But public education advocates say that they fear she will help propel America’s public education system toward destruction.  The Detroit Free Press has written a number of articles about DeVos’s education record in Michigan. Here is an important piece looking at what a DeVos Education Department could be expected to do, written by someone who has watched her work for some time. He is Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Free Press, where this first appeared.  He gave me permission to republish it.

DeVos' Michigan schools experiment gets poor grades
Despite two decades of charter-school growth, the state’s overall academic progress has failed to keep pace with other states.
Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Education Department, Betsy DeVos, has spent two decades successfully pushing "school choice" in her home state of Michigan — a policy that she and her husband vowed in 1999 would “fundamentally improve education.”  Except the track record in that state shows that it hasn’t.  Despite two decades of charter-school growth, the state’s overall academic progress has failed to keep pace with other states: Michigan ranks near the bottom for fourth- and eighth-grade math and fourth-grade reading on a nationally representative test, nicknamed the “Nation’s Report Card.” Notably, the state’s charter schools scored worse on that test than their traditional public-school counterparts, according to an analysis of federal data. Critics say Michigan’s laissez-faire attitude about charter-school regulation has led to marginal and, in some cases, terrible schools in the state’s poorest communities as part of a system dominated by for-profit operators. Charter-school growth has also weakened the finances and enrollment of traditional public-school districts like Detroit’s, at a time when many communities are still recovering from the economic downturn that hit Michigan’s auto industry particularly hard.
The results in Michigan are so disappointing that even some supporters of school choice are critical of the state’s policies.

How to Find Teachers of Color Who Want to Stay on the Job
A charter network is leveraging its pool of former students in an effort to get more educators of color on staff.
The Atlantic by JAMIE MARTINES  DEC 6, 2016
LOS ANGELES—When students at one California charter network graduate from high school, they get more than just a diploma. They’re offered a job, too. “We need people who look like we do, who come from our neighborhoods and who understand what it is like to be the first, to become role models for future young people,” reads the letter students receive on graduation day, signed by the co-founder of Partnerships to Uplift Communities Schools (PUC Schools), Ref Rodriguez. “Your duty is to be a role model and encourage more young people to follow in your footsteps, so that they, too, graduate from high school and then from a college or university.”
The letter goes on to encourage graduates to return after completing a bachelor’s degree and consider a job teaching at one of the 16 campuses in the PUC Schools network. It’s a nonprofit charter system that serves about 5,000 students, mostly Hispanic and primarily in the San Fernando Valley and Northeast Los Angeles. Charters like PUC Schools and district school systems across the country are facing a common problem: Even though students of color represent half of the public-school student population, the teacher workforce is still overwhelmingly white.

Education Department civil rights officials urged to work through ‘tough times ahead’
Washington Post By Emma Brown December 8 at 3:46 PM 
A celebration of the Education Department’s civil rights work morphed into a pep rally Thursday to bolster federal workers and advocates who are expecting difficult years ahead under president-elect Donald Trump.  “We’ve got some tough times ahead, but we are up to it,” Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund and an education civil rights icon, told the audience at the department’s D.C. headquarters. “You might as well hunker down, do your crying at nights and on the weekends. We are not going backwards.”  Edelman — who is also a mentor of failed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — thanked the career employees at the department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and asked them to stay in their jobs: “You’re more important than ever.”  Under President Obama, OCR has aggressively stepped up its investigation and enforcement efforts, handling a skyrocketing number of complaints even as the number of its staff has declined. The office also has issued guidance documents that have reshaped expectations for how K-12 schools and colleges handle sexual assault, deal with discipline and accommodate transgender students.

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

EPLC's "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - this Sunday, Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. 
Part 1: Guests will be:
Larry A. Wittig, Chairman, Pennsylvania State Board of Education
Karen Molchanow, Executive Director, Pennsylvania State Board of Education
Part 2: Guests will be:
Kathy Swope, President, Pennsylvania School Boards Association
School Board President, Lewisburg Area School District

Mark B. Miller, President Elect, Pennsylvania School Boards Association
Assistant Secretary, Centennial School Board

Barbara L. Bolas, Member, Upper St. Clair School Board
Past President, Pennsylvania School Boards Association

All EPLC "Focus on Education" TV shows are hosted by EPLC President Ron Cowell.
Visit the EPLC and the Pennsylvania School Funding Project web sites for various resources related to education and school funding issues.

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:
Friday, December 9- Lock Haven- 1 pm- Lock Haven University
Time and specific locations for the following events, TBA
Friday, December 16- Philadelphia
Wednesday, January 4- Quakertown
Tuesday, January 10- Scranton

“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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