Friday, May 26, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 26: Proposed PA education funding hike: $125M; anticipated increased pension costs: $144M; districts cutting programs, raising taxes, using fund balances

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 26, 2017:
Proposed PA education funding hike: $125M; anticipated increased pension costs: $144M; districts cutting programs, raising taxes, using fund balances



The Bipartisan Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee released “Public Charter School Fiscal Impact on School Districts” on Wednesday with a wide range of findings and recommended changes in the state charter school system, including revamping how charter schools are paid, and how much they get.
PA Legislative Budget and Finance Committee May 2017 Report:
Public Charter School Fiscal Impact on School Districts



“When will state House legislators and especially Speaker Turzai realize that they are running a state that has the biggest disparity between wealthy and poor school districts in the nation?
When will they embrace the fact that they shouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing that they refuse to implement a fair funding formula with current state funds - money that would benefit the most vulnerable members of our society, our children?”
A Philly response to Turzai letter to SRC
Inquirer Letter by Michael Roth Updated: MAY 26, 2017 — 3:01 AM EDT
Michael Roth is the principal of Olney Elementary School. He has worked as an administrator in traditional and charter public schools.
As a citizen of Philadelphia, a parent of a public school student, and a committed Philadelphia principal, I feel compelled to respond to the May 1 letter written by House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) to School Reform Commission Chair Joyce S. Wilkerson.  In that letter, Turzai condescendingly questioned when Philadelphia will "embrace" what is best for us and our city's children. He naively suggested that the efforts of the SRC to responsibly manage charter schools is an assault on our own citizens.  Since he felt compelled to question how the people of Philadelphia govern our education system, I feel obliged to ask him a few questions:
When will they embrace the fact that they shouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing that they refuse to implement a fair funding formula with current state funds - money that would benefit the most vulnerable members of our society, our children?
When will they accept, that intentionally or not, they are supporting a system of institutional racism that allows predominantly minority students in Philadelphia to attend schools that do not compare in resources to the well-funded educational settings of the predominantly white Philadelphia suburbs and Marshall Township, which Turzai represents?

HB1213: New bill will prevent school districts, municipalities and counties from filing assessment appeals
MARK BELKO Pittsburgh Post-Gazette mbelko@post-gazette.com 12:00 AM MAY 26, 2017
It’s a bill that probably will get the wholehearted support of anyone who has bought a house only to be welcomed to the neighborhood by a property assessment appeal filed by the local school district or municipality.  House Bill 1213 now pending before the state Legislature would prevent Pennsylvania school districts, municipalities and counties from filing assessment appeals in such situations, as well as in others.  While the legislation may be greeted with applause by homeowners who have been subjected to such appeals, critics say it may actually end up working against them — and could have costly consequences for taxing bodies as well.

Bipartisan work underway on pensions, but bill likely won't pay down debt
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | May 25, 2017 10:08 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- A bipartisan group of legislative leaders has been working on a major proposal to change how state employee pensions are structured.  The commonwealth's roughly $70 billion unfunded pension liability has been dogging lawmakers for years. But the plan most likely to move forward won't attempt to reduce that debt significantly.  Instead, leaders say the measure will look similar to one they attempted to pass last session, which disintegrated without a vote because Democrats refused to support it.  It would give state employees a few retirement options to choose from, including a 401k-style plan and two defined benefit/defined contribution hybrids.  Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, who's sponsoring it, has long held that the point of this reform should be to shift some risk away from taxpayers and onto state employees.

In surprise, SRC approves Deep Roots charter, with conditions
It also approves a revised budget that will make new investments, including more ESL teachers and bilingual counseling assistance. But future deficits loom.
The notebook by Darryl Murphy May 25, 2017 — 11:13pm
The School Reform Commission made another unexpected move Thursday night with the approval of Deep Roots Charter School, which was approved with conditions by a 4-1 vote.
Christopher McGinley, the lone nay vote, said he felt the resolution was neither “realistic nor sustainable.”  The SRC also adopted a revised budget for next year that will add 76 new teaching positions, including 10 more for English learners, and 18 additional bilingual counseling assistants. The investments are being made while the District's finances are momentarily in balance, but the future picture remains precarious -- and made more uncertain by President Trump's plans to slash federal education spending.  Before the meeting, a coalition of activists led by Councilwoman Helen Gym urged the SRC to adopt an “equity agenda,” and assure that all students have access to instrumental music teaches. An analysis by Gym’s office determined that 51 schools in the city, most in North and West Philadelphia that serve low income students of color, have no instrumental music teachers.  Deep Roots’ application was denied in February; at the time,  SRC chair Joyce Wilkerson said that the application had “glaring concerns.”  When SRC chair Joyce Wilkerson called for a motion to approve the revised charter application, there were murmurs of displeasure from the crowd. But at least one parent spoke in favor, said the school was planning to locate in an “education desert.”

Philly approves school budget and a new charter schools
WHYY Newsworks BY AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT MAY 26, 2017
It may prove to be the calm before the storm, but for the second year running Philadelphia's public school system passed a budget that puts resources back into schools and projects a small, year-end surplus.  The School District of Philadelphia even threw in a bonus on the day the School Reform Commission passed its 2017-18 budget: 18 new bilingual counseling assistants and 11 new English-as-a-second-language teachers. The late additions were partially in response to community requests for more immigrant services.  The district is also adding extra classroom teachers and socking away money to cover gaps created by the Trump administration's proposed budget, which includes plans to end a federal program the district uses to fund early literacy initiatives.  But as district officials continue to warn, there are fiscal troubles looming.  In fact, the budget passed for the upcoming school year contains slightly higher obligations ($2.950 billion) than it does revenues ($2.949 billion). A small surplus carried over from last year will plug that gap, but by 2019 the district expects rising charter and pension costs to plunge it back into a deficit. Add to that a still-unresolved teacher's contract, and the district's relatively drama-free budget season could end up an anomaly.  The budget wasn't the only item to merit scrutiny at Thursday's SRC meeting--far from it.  By a 4-1 vote the SRC approved an application for Deep Roots Charter School, a school it previously rejected.

Philly's Del Val charter school could close in June
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda |  martha.woodall@phillynews.com Updated: MAY 25, 2017 — 3:34 PM EDT
Nearly 500 students who attend the Delaware Valley Charter High School in Logan may have to start looking for new schools for the fall.  The troubled charter school lost its bid to remain open when the state Charter Appeal Board voted 6-0 last week to uphold a decision of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, which said the school did not merit a renewal due to fiscal management problems and poor academic performance. State Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera, who chairs the appeals board, ordered the school to close by June 30.   But Delaware Valley, which is located at 5201 Old York Road, has not given up its fight.
Harold Kurtz, the school’s acting CEO, said that the school is considering asking the SRC to allow it to remain open for a year to show that both test scores and finances are improving.
“Why not give us a year?” wondered Kurtz, who became CEO of Delaware Valley in August of 2015--two months after the SRC turned down the school’s request for a new charter.
“They really are focused on what happened between 2010 and 2014 with no credit that we have done a pretty masterful job trying to engineer a turnaround.”  He added: “Why not sit down and develop a one-year school-improvement plan?”  But it is not clear whether the SRC has the authority to set aside an order signed by Rivera.    A district spokesman said the appeals board had ordered  Delaware Valley to close and noted that state law says the school's avenue of appeal lies with the Commonwealth Court.

Blogger commentary: It would be great if wealthy business owners were making tax deductible contributions to sectarian schools instead of diverting tax dollars, circumventing the PA constitution and reducing funds potentially available for funding our constitutionally mandated public schools.

“In 2001, the commonwealth had created the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, which gave businesses tax benefits for donating to nonprofits that could award up to $60 million in K-12 scholarships. Then, in 2012, Pennsylvania approved the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program, giving additional tax credits for donations to private school scholarships for students in underperforming public schools. Since then, about three-quarters of the funds for the tax credit programs have gone to religious schools, according to a recent report.  The result: Two outside organizations have managed to turn around a centuries-old school system using modern-day business practices — a feat that few dioceses around the country have been able to accomplish.
From 2012 to 2015, scholarship donations to Independence Mission Schools increased from $1.8 million to $9.7 million and enrollment grew from 3,800 to 4,800, according to a recent financial report.
For Faith in the Future, better fundraising from alumni and the tax credit scholarship programs allowed for a boost in financial aid from $10.9 million in the 2011–12 school year to $20.8 million in 2015–16. The annual decline in student enrollment has slowed, and the foundation projects modest growth for next academic year.”
EITC/OSTC: How 2 Business-Savvy Nonprofits Are Breathing New Life Into Philadelphia’s Struggling Catholic Schools
NAOMI NIX  Naomi@the74million.org nsnix87 May 24, 2017
On a recent Monday morning, Chyna Foster was touring the halls of West Catholic Preparatory High School on Philadelphia’s working-class West Side. Dressed in her uniform — a gray skirt and blue cardigan — she offered a “Good morning, Sister” to a teacher, passing portraits of alumni who had made their mark on the school since its founding in 1916.  A friend and relative of many alums, Foster, 17, had little doubt she would enroll at West Catholic rather than her neighborhood high school when she graduated from middle school three years ago.  But had it been just two years earlier, Foster might not have been able to follow in their footsteps.  In 2012, the school was one of nearly 50 put on the chopping block by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in the face of a 35 percent drop in Catholic school enrollment over the previous decade. At West Catholic, the building that had once held about 3,000 students had just 236.  But today, due to the efforts of entrepreneurs and educators — and a surprising willingness by the archdiocese to hand control of every high school and more than one-quarter of its K-8 schools to two nonprofits — things have turned around dramatically.

Philly's SRC approves nearly $3 billion budget
Inquirer by Martha Woodall & Kristen A. Graham - Staff Writers Updated: MAY 25, 2017 9:49 PM
The School Reform Commission adopted a $2.9 billion operating budget Thursday night that contains some victories for classrooms — but comes with a major red flag.  The spending plan will allow the district to add 76 new teaching jobs plus some new counselors and bilingual aides to help students who are learning English. It also will allow the district to cover a cut to federal aid proposed by the Trump administration.  The spending plan's major caveat, however, driven in large part by rising charter and pension costs, is that spending is outpacing revenues. Officials have been warning that they will run a deficit beginning in 2018-19 that rises to $800 million over five years.  Without any taxing powers of its own, the district will have to again turn to the city and state, its major funding sources, to fill those gaps in the very near future.  “This is not long-term sustainable,” said Uri Monson, the district’s chief financial officer. “Our revenues are growing half as fast as our expenditures, and we’re going to need help. We don’t want to have the Chicken Little budget discussion.”

“Lonardi said the district is working to improve its financial footing, but it will be without much help from the state.  “We’re 46th out of 50 states in state funding for public schools,” she said. “If they would fund us like other states (do), we’d be in a much better place (financially).”
'When is enough enough?': West York district approves max tax hike
York Dispatch by Junior Gonzalez , 505-5439/@JuniorG_YDPublished 12:32 a.m. ET May 24, 2017 | Updated 7:31 p.m. ET May 24, 2017
A divided West York school board passed a budget Tuesday night with the highest tax hike allowed by the state, prompting some members to ask, "When is enough enough?"  The $56.8 million budget has essentially the same programs and allocations as last year’s budget, but costs went up for existing programs and services, according to district Superintendent Emilie Lonardi.  The board approved the plan with a 6-3 vote.  The millage rate in the West York district will rise from 23.47 to 24.22 mills, an increase of 3.2 percent — the same as the tax cap assigned to the district by the state Department of Education.  For a home assessed at $100,000, the hike will equate to an extra $72 in next year's tax bill.

Hazleton Area board OKs tentative $147M budget
Standard Speaker by KENT JACKSON / PUBLISHED: MAY 26, 2017
Listening to the pleas of students, Hazleton Area School Board on Thursday preserved German classes, but the members still seek to cut a tentative budget in which spending outweighs revenues by $2.8 million and taxes climb in two of three counties.  The board will have to vote at least once more on the budget that lists spending of $146,711,244, increases taxes in Luzerne and Carbon counties but reduces taxes in Schuylkill County.  During a budget workshop Wednesday, the German program appeared to be kaput.  Although it “hurts the heart,” Superintendent Craig Butler recommended phasing out German as one of the least painful cuts. He also described money-saving proposals to raise class sizes and relax graduation requirements to 26 courses from 28 courses. The board didn’t vote on grad requirements or class size, but did eliminate an introduction to foreign languages for middle school students.

Pottstown School Board adopts $62.2M budget with no tax hike
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 05/23/17, 5:20 PM EDT
POTTSTOWN >> For the third consecutive year, the Pottstown School Board has adopted a preliminary budget that will not raise real estate taxes.  The unanimous vote came Monday night after Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez reported that he and board members Kim Stilwell, Emanuel Wilkerson and Ron Williams were joined by several students in Harrisburg that day lobbying state legislators for fairer funding for Pottstown schools.  The $62,201,819 preliminary budget was adopted with little to idea of what Harrisburg will provide in terms of funding.  Last week, state Sen. Robert Mensch, R-24th Dist., told the audience at an Upper Pottsgrove Township Commissioners meeting that with a $3 billion gap between revenues and expenses, this is one of the most difficult state budget scenarios Pennsylvania has ever faced.  The Pottstown schools budget has its own gap between revenues and expenses — just under $750,000 — which the administration has recommended closing with the use of money out of the reserve set aside for increasing pension payments.

Pottsgrove School District tax hike for $66.3M budget slips under 1 percent
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 05/24/17, 6:54 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
LOWER POTTSGROVE >> The Pottsgrove School Board adopted a $66.3 million preliminary budget Tuesday night in which the tax hike for the coming year was whittled down to .8 percent.  Business Manager David Nester had initially proposed a budget which would have raised taxes by 1.1 percent and cost the owner of a home assessed at $120,000 — the district average — about $50 more in the coming fiscal year.  However, the board voted 6-2 to accept an amendment offered by member Rick Rabinowitz which uses curriculum and reserve money in the current year’s budget to pay off the more than $700,000 cost of new math and language arts curriculum, costs for which were initially to be paid off over two years.

Teachers union wants new contract; No tax hike proposed in $157M Spring-Ford budget
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 05/21/17, 5:39 PM EDT | UPDATED: 4 DAYS AGO
ROYERSFORD >> About 225 members of the Spring-Ford Education Association filled the cafeteria at the high school recently to show members of the school board they’re waiting to begin talks on a new contract.  The demonstration by the teachers union, with all 225 members dressed in matching blue T-shirts, came just as the board reviewed the proposed 2017-18 budget of $157.7 million, which calls for a zero-percent tax hike.  The district anticipates an estimated $151 million in revenue, leaving a gap of approximately $6 million, Chief Financial Officer James Fink said last week. To fill this, the budget calls for a fund balance appropriation of $4 million, an $860,000 transfer of committed retirement funds from reserve and an approximately $1.5 million allocation from reserves.  Personnel-related costs take up nearly 70 percent of the total budget, with salaries and benefits totaling approximately $106 million. The contract calls for no staffing or programming cuts.  A zero-percent tax increase hasn’t been seen in Spring-Ford for over 15 years and has been a priority for the board.

 “Additionally, the cost of pension contributions has steadily increased in the past 10 years, up to $1.6 million this school year from $350,000 in 2007-08.”
New-Ken Arnold: More teacher furloughs possible
TRIBUNE-REVIEW by MATTHEW MEDSGER | Thursday, May 25, 2017, 10:09 p.m.
The New Kensington-Arnold School Board gave notice Thursday of the district's intent to furlough four additional teachers at the end of the school year.   Dozens of teachers filled the seats and lined the walls of the board room as five directors, a mere quorum, voted 5-0 to approve the additional furloughs.  Last month, the board voted to furlough 33 teachers.  The board cited declining student enrollment, the consolidation project that closed two schools three years ago and curtailment of programs.  Student population has been steadily declining. According to information provided by Superintendent John Pallone, the student population at the end of 2004 was 2,520. This year 1,958 students were enrolled.  According to Jeff McVey, director of administrative services, falling district home values have resulted in lower tax revenue.

Chartiers Valley approves proposed budget with tax increase
Post Gazette by DEANA CARPENTER 12:00 AM MAY 26, 2017
The Chartiers Valley school board is moving forward with a tax increase for the 2017-18 school year.  The board voted 7-0 on Tuesday to approve a $62.8 million preliminary budget that would increase the property tax rate by 0.3437 mills, raising the rate from 16.6067 to 16.9504 mills. A homeowner with property valued at $100,000 would pay about $1,695 per year in school taxes. Board members Julie Murphy and Jamie Stevenson were absent.  The district is using $792,846 of its fund balance, leaving the fund balance with $715,949 remaining.  “We’ve been very fortunate to have the lowest tax rate in the county,” superintendent Brian White said at the meeting.

“Among the increased expenditures is a $381,000 jump because of the rising costs of employee retirement contributions and $200,000 more for employee medical benefits. Zahand said the budget was balanced without any cuts to services or employees.”
Charleroi school board approves budget with tax increase
Observer Reporter By Beth Hope-Cushey May 24, 2017
CHARLEROI – Taxes will be going up in the Charleroi Area School District, but the exact amount is not yet known because of the recent Washington County reassessment.  School directors unanimously passed the $23.55 million preliminary 2017-18 budget at Tuesday’s meeting, which represents a 2 percent spending increase of $453,813 over last year’s budget of $23,096,187. Millage will be set at the allowable state index increase of 3.7 percent. The millage rate last year was 143 mills, but with the recent reassessment, the millage rate will be recalculated and will be in double digits, yet represent the same tax revenue amount. Business manager Crystal Zahand said that the district will not have the information on the final property tax assessments until June 1.

McGuffey cutting eight faculty jobs, two others
Observer Reporter By Rick Shrum May 25, 2017
McGuffey School District is eliminating the equivalent of eight faculty positions and two other jobs for the 2017-18 academic year because of decreased enrollment and to help offset a $1.1 million budget deficit.  At its monthly meeting Thursday, the school board voted 9-0 to cut the full-time equivalent of 2 ½ elementary instructors; one teacher each in computer, technology education, music and social studies; a part-time Spanish teacher; and a full-time secondary librarian. The board also voted unanimously to drop a full-time secretary and the security guard position.  In the meeting minutes, posted on the district website, the board cited “substantial” decreases in pupil enrollment and class and course enrollment as reasons for the personnel moves.

Radnor Township School Board adopts $96.3 million budget for 2017-18
Includes a 3.03 real estate tax increase
Main Line Media By Linda Stein lstein@21st-centurymedia.com @lsteinreporter on Twitter
Radnor >> The Radnor Township School Board unanimously approved a $96.3 million budget for the 2017-18 school year at its May 23 meeting.  Some 83 percent of the budget is from local sources and 15 percent is from the state. Less than 1 percent comes from the federal government, officials said.  The millage rate was set at 23.6199 mills, a .6937 mills increase or 3.03 percent. The district also used the maximum 2.5 percent real estate tax increase under the Act 1 index plus $387,982 of approved Act 1 exceptions for special education and retirement for a total increase of 3.03 percent.  A homeowner with a home assessed at $274,000 will pay an additional $193 in school real estate taxes; the average Radnor homeowner with an assessment of $472,000 will pay $328 more; and a property owner with an assessment of $700,000 would pay $486 more, according to Michelle Diekow, business administrator. Also, $490,110 was taken from the district’s retirement account escrow fund and put toward the district’s share of employee pension costs.

U.D. school board OK’s proposed budget
News of Delaware County By Kevin Tustin ktustin@21st-centurymedia.com @KevinTustin on Twitter May 23, 2017 Updated May 24, 2017
Upper Darby>> The proposed $199 million final budget for the 2017-18 Upper Darby school year that introduces the first tax increase in two years received unanimous approval by the district board of school directors.  Adopted during a special May 23 voting session of the board following a public May 18 presentation of the proposed budget, the proposed final budget raises taxes 2.99 percent and uses approximately $7 million of fund balance. Additional staff and security personnel have been added in the budget, while not cutting existing programs or staff.  Public comment was non-existent before the board voted, but a bulk of the school directors – save for an absent Manjit Singh – addressed concerns of the district’s financial sustainability and how to be fair to the taxpayers in what is reported to be the 13th most underfunded school district in the state.

“Superintendent Stephen Butz noted that contributions to the state retirement system (PSERS), health care and charter and special education costs as major expense drivers. Those three areas alone add up to $20 million.”
Southeast Delco approves final budget with tax increase
Delco News Network By Kevin Tustin ktustin@21st-centurymedia.com @KevinTustin on Twitter May 25, 2017 Updated 8 hrs ago
Folcroft>> A tax increase and fund balance usage will be used to balance a $77.3 million budget for the Southeast Delco School District.  The district school board approved the final budget unanimously on May 25 with the aforementioned provisions. School board President Theresa Harris-Johnson was not present at the meeting to vote.  Taxes are set to increase 2.75 percent to a millage rate of 41.5784, increasing the tax bill for the averagely assessed property of $70,000 about $80 to approximately $2,550. The tax increase will generate a little less than $1 million in revenue.  The school board chose not to raise taxes to its highest legal limit of 3.7 percent under the state’s Act 1 index. Instead, the district chose to use $1 million in fund balance to supplement the budget. School board directors said raising taxes at 3.7 percent would not have been supported and would affect to many homeowners.  The tax increase and fund balance usage were lower than was presented in the proposed final budget last month from 3.0 percent and $1.1 million, respectively. A decrease in these areas was attributed to savings found in retirements and resignations in district staff, positions that will not be replaced in the next school year.

Taxes to rise in Interboro budget
Delco News Network By Kevin Tustin ktustin@21st-centurymedia.com @KevinTustin on Twitter
Prospect Park>> A proposed final budget for the Interboro School District passed 7-2 by the board of school directors on May 17 with a tax increase higher than last year’s 2.9 percent.
The $66 million budget includes a 3.4 tax increase that, if adopted in the final budget next month, would be the highest such tax increase for the district in sometime. According to a proposed final budget at a glance sheet, district taxes have never been raised higher than 2.9 percent in one year since at least 2007-08.  The millage rate would increase to 36.1076, adding $105 to the tax bill of an averagely assessed home of $85,000.  Directors Paul Eckert and Michael Burns voted against the proposed final budget.  Although last year’s budget was prolific in its move to furlough positions throughout the district to make ends meet, drastic cuts to staffing or programs have not been included in the budget. However, some furloughed positions in the current year’s budget are reported to have since been brought back.


Signe Wilkinson on Betsy DeVos and Public Education GoComics May 26, 2017

“Even modest donations to individual lawmakers can add up to have a big effect. In Florida, K12 Inc.—one of the few online learning companies required to publicly disclose its political contributions—has made regular contributions of between $500 and $2,000 to individual lawmakers’ election and re-election campaigns while Connections Education has tipped at least $24,000 on state-level campaigns in the state since 2006. In 2011, lawmakers in Florida voted to require all graduating seniors to have completed at least one online course. At least 32 of the state lawmakers who backed the statute had received donations from K12 the previous year. In fact, all but one Florida lawmaker who received contributions—however small—from K12 in 2010 voted in favor of virtual learning in 2011.”
Why Bad Online Courses Are Still Taught in Schools
Because many of the laws regulating them are toothless—and because of an aggressive political effort to maintain that status quo.
Slate.com By Zoë Kirsch and Stephen Smiley May 25, 2017
This article is part of the Big Shortcut, an eight-part series exploring the exponential rise in online learning for high school students who have failed traditional classes.
An increasing number of states are getting serious about vetting the online education companies that are now responsible for instructing a growing number of their kids. And Florida, at first glance, would seem to be one of them.  Each year, state officials scrutinize these online courses to ensure they meet state academic standards, as well as several other criteria. Last year, the Florida Department of Education rejected the company Online Education Ventures, which failed to provide descriptions of its virtual courses in science, social studies, and English (it provided descriptions of the math courses, but they didn’t meet state standards). A year earlier, the state disqualified Mosaica Online because the company didn’t show it could provide timely information about its courses. And it said no to Odysseyware, since it failed to outline student anti-discrimination policies or show how its products could meet the needs of students with disabilities.  But here’s the rub: Those companies are still allowed to sell their products to schools in Florida. Public school districts can still use public money to educate students with discredited products like Online Education Ventures’. And the state says it has no idea how many of its 75 school districts—if any—are doing just that.


Public hearing on the Keystone Exams: West Chester June 2nd 12:30 pm
Senate Education Committee Meeting FRIDAY - 6/2/17 12:30 p.m., West Chester University, Business and Public Management Center, 50 Sharpless Street, West Chester

Public hearing on graduation requirements as tools for assessments and accountability June 5th 10 am Capitol
Senate Education Committee Meeting MONDAY - 6/5/17 10:00 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building

Nominations for PSBA Allwein Advocacy Award due by July 16th
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  In addition to being a highly respected lobbyist, Timothy Allwein served to help our members be effective advocates in their own right. Many have said that Tim inspired them to become active in our Legislative Action Program and to develop personal working relationships with their legislators.  The 2017 Allwein Award nomination process will begin on Monday, May 15, 2017. The application due date is July 16, 2017 in the honor of Tim’s birth date of July 16.
https://www.psba.org/2017/05/nominations-allwein-advocacy-award/

Electing PSBA Officers; Applications Due June 1
All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall send applications to the attention of the chair of the Leadership Development Committee, during the months of April and May an Application for Nomination to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. “The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by June 1 to be considered and timely filed.” (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5.E.).
Open positions are:
·         2017-19 Central Section at Large Representative – includes Regions 4, 5, 6, 9 and 12  (for the remaining two years of a three-year term)
·         2018-20 Western At Large Representative – includes   Regions 1, 2, 3, 13 and 14 (three-year term)
In addition to the application form, PSBA Governing Board Policy 302 asks that all candidates furnish with their application a recent, print quality photograph and letters of application. The application form specifies no less than three letters of recommendation and no more than four, and are specifically requested as follows:
o    One from superintendent or school director of home entity
o    One from a school director from another school district
o    Other individuals familiar with the candidate's leadership skills
PSBA Governing Board Policy 108 also outlines the campaign procedures of candidates.
All terms of office commence January 1 following election.
https://www.psba.org/about/governance/electing-psba-officers/

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!

Pennsylvania Education Leadership Summit July 23-25, 2017 Blair County Convention Center - Altoona
A three-day event providing an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together
co-sponsored by PASA, the Pennsylvania Principals Association, PASCD and the PA Association for Middle Level Education
**REGISTRATION IS OPEN**Early Bird Registration Ends after April 30!
Keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics, and district team planning and job-alike sessions will provide practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit and utilized at the district level.
Keynote Speakers:
Thomas Murray
, Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools, a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education
Kristen Swanson, Director of Learning at Slack and one of the founding members of the Edcamp movement 
Breakout session strands:
*Strategic/Cultural Leadership
*Systems Leadership
*Leadership for Learning
*Professional and Community Leadership 
CLICK HERE to access the Summit website for program, hotel and registration information.

Save the Date 2017 PA Principals Association State Conference October 14. 15, 16, 2017
Doubletree Hotel Cranberry Township, PA



Thursday, May 25, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 25: Billionaires Trump & DeVos place no value on public education; largest cut to DOE since Reagan ’83 budget

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 25, 2017:
Billionaires Trump & DeVos place no value on public education; largest cut to DOE since Reagan ’83 budget



The Bipartisan Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee released “Public Charter School Fiscal Impact on School Districts” on Wednesday with a wide range of findings and recommended changes in the state charter school system, including revamping how charter schools are paid, and how much they get.
PA Legislative Budget and Finance Committee May 2017 Report:
Public Charter School Fiscal Impact on School Districts



Public hearing on the Keystone Exams: West Chester June 2nd 12:30 pm
Senate Education Committee Meeting FRIDAY - 6/2/17 12:30 p.m., West Chester University, Business and Public Management Center, 50 Sharpless Street, West Chester

Public hearing on graduation requirements as tools for assessments and accountability June 5th 10 am Capitol
Senate Education Committee Meeting MONDAY - 6/5/17 10:00 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building

“Many of the report’s recommendations around transparency and accountability are already part of two pieces of legislation sponsored by Hughes and Brewster.
Hughes’ legislation, Senate Bill 198, would give more oversight to local school boards to better regulate charter schools in their district.
“There are many ideas to incorporate and plenty of work to do to achieve a better charter law,” Hughes said in a statement. “Our local school district and charter schools both need to be treated fairly. We can strike that balance.”
Brewster’s legislation, Senate Bill 670, would redefine how local school districts interact with charter schools; allowing districts to impose limitations on newly authorized charters, among other things.
“The law needs to be changed to include financial reforms, accountability measures and alterations to how the charter school appeal board operates,” Brewster said in a statement. “The recommendations made by the [Legislative Budget and Finance Committee], combined with provisions in my legislation, Senator Hughes’ bill and others would go a long way toward improving how charters interact with local school districts.”
Legislative committee finds that charters cause financial issues for many districts
The notebook by Greg Windle May 24, 2017 — 6:36pm
A state Senate report found that while almost all school districts in the state have at least one charter school, half of those districts account for over 80 percent of Pennsylvania’s charters, and 40 percent of districts with “significant” charter enrollments are facing financial troubles.  The report, authored by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, was based on surveys and interviews with 36 school district superintendents. Four of them identified positive impacts of charter schools within their district, while 29 cited negative impacts.  “The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee study gives the General Assembly an excellent analysis of how charter schools operate vis-à-vis local school districts and where improvements can be made,” said a statement from Sen. James Brewster (D-Allegheny, Westmoreland), who commissioned the report. “The report includes a long list of recommendations that, if adopted, will aid public schools and provide charters with a reasonable path forward.”  The common theme throughout the report’s findings is that the current public education funding system is unsustainable—especially since the elimination of the charter school reimbursement line item within the state budget, along with several other block grants, under Republican Governor Tom Corbett.  “Our charter law needs to be changed significantly with reforms that make sense,” said Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia, Mongtomery), a longtime advocate for reform of the state’s charter law. “Charter schools play a role in our education system and have a place, but they cannot be positioned in such a way that they financially put our traditional public schools in a bind.”  The report found issues with the state’s funding of charter school transportation, special education payments, cyber school payments, and the state’s practice of sending funding to charter schools without first independently verifying what they are owed.
http://thenotebook.org/articles/2017/05/24/legislative-committee-finds-that-charters-cause-financial-issues-for-many-districts

Some of the recommendations in the PA Legislative Budget and Finance Committee Charter Report, and reasons for them:
• Change the charter funding mechanism so the state pays a larger share. In Pennsylvania, charter school funding depends heavily on local taxes, even for cyber charters which are authorized by the state (brick-and-mortar charters are authorized by the district where they are built). State-wide, 84 percent of charter funding came from local taxes, compared to 23 percent in New Jersey.
• Change the tuition payment formula for special education services. Statewide, in 2014-15 school districts paid $294.8 million to charter schools as special education tuition supplements, yet the charters reported spending $193.1 million on those services.
• Change the state mandates for transportation to charter schools. Pennsylvania is “unique” among states in requiring districts to provide transportation services for charter school students that the districts are not required to provide for their own students.
• Require multi-district charter schools to seek authorization as “regional charters” as provided by the state charter law. As a result of a court ruling, a school district that had nothing to do with the authorization of a charter school can end up paying tuition for students attending that school even if it is not in that district.
• Require parents to register their children in their home school district before enrolling in a charter school. Billing issues between charter schools and the school district paying them have developed when charter school students never attended a school in that district.
• Create clear conflict of interest policies, audit funds received by a charter school but transferred to associated entities, and close loopholes that have allowed what the report called “widely reported cases of fraud and abuse involving several Pennsylvania charter schools.”
New legislative report: WB Area has area’s highest charter school enrollment
By Mark Guydish - mguydish@timesleader.com MAY 24, 2017 BY TIMESLEADER
Wilkes-Barre Area has by far the highest percentage of students enrolled in charter schools among Luzerne County’s 11 school districts, and pays the most per student for those charter school students, according to a new state report.  The Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee released “Public Charter School Fiscal Impact on School Districts” on Wednesday with a wide range of findings and recommended changes in the state charter school system, including revamping how charter schools are paid, and how much they get.  The report included data on how many students in each of the state’s 500 school districts attend charter schools, comparing that number to the district’s “Average Daily Membership” — the state measure of enrollment.
http://timesleader.com/news/660032/new-legislative-report-wb-area-has-areas-highest-charter-school-enrollment

“Millions of taxpayers are paying the price for these sweetheart deals we’ve given to the charter industry,” Summers said. “Who’s running the show in Harrisburg?”
Eastburg school board opposes charter school bill
Pocono Record By Bill Cameron Posted at 5:00 AM
Editor’s note: This article is part two of a series on charter schools in Pennsylvania.
On Monday, the East Stroudsburg school board adopted two resolutions on charter school reform. One calls for a massive overhaul of charter school funding practices. The other opposes House Bill 97, a draft reform currently circulating in Harrisburg.  Both resolutions passed unanimously.  “It’s bad legislation,” said Board President Gary Summers. “It was drafted by the charter school industry, their lobbyists — and it does nothing to fix the problem.”  Rep. Mike Reese (R-59) introduced the bill in April. One of its provisions would let school districts make more deductions from their charter school payments.  That won’t be enough to help East Stroudsburg, said Summers.  “We’ll get a couple of bucks, but it doesn’t fix the problem,” he said. “It doesn’t get to the root of the problem: we need a completely new formula.”  The bill would also expand the state Charter School Appeal Board — which reviews decisions to renew or revoke charters — from six to nine members. Those additions would stack the board in charter schools’ favor, Summers said.  One of the new members must be a public school principal. Two must be affiliated with charter schools. An existing seat would now have to be occupied by the parent of a child enrolled in a charter school
http://www.poconorecord.com/news/20170525/eastburg-school-board-opposes-charter-school-bill

Charters and Open Books
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Wednesday, May 24, 2017
My school district's board of directors held their regular meeting two days ago and passed a tentative budget for the coming year. I could link you to the newspaper report of the meeting, but it's behind a paywall. So let me just copy out the two important paragraphs:
Now that the tentative budget has been approved, members of the general public have an opportunity to review and/or comment on the spending plan until June 26, which is the day the board is slated to vote on the budget.
Anyone who would like to see a copy of the budget can access one either at the school district's administrative building or online at www.fasd.K12.pa.us.
Just to be clear. For a month, any citizen in the area can look at the proposed budget. They could then attend a board meeting or call a board member or stop a board member when they encounter them out and about in the community, and that citizen could express an opinion about the budget. Any citizen, parent, voter or taxpayer can both see the budget and offer feedback on it. That's a thing that can happen here in our public school district.  This is different from the charter school business world, where budgets are proposed and passed in private and where the people who create those budgets may not even live anywhere nearby at all.

HB97: It's time to set the record straight on charter school reform: Mike Reese
PENNLIVE OP-ED By Mike Reese Updated on May 24, 2017 at 8:04 AM
State Rep. Mike Reese, a Republican, represents the 59th House District, which includes parts of Somerset and Westmoreland counties.
Over the past few weeks I have read many articles and emails that contain falsehoods regarding my comprehensive charter reform legislation (HB97) that passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support in April.  Charter education in Pennsylvania is nearly 20 years old. When first considered, charter education was deemed an innovative approach to expanding educational opportunities for children and families.  Over the past two decades, as Pennsylvania has gained more experience with charter schools, it has become necessary to consider revisions to the way these schools are chartered, operated and funded.  The bill proposes revisions to the current Charter School Law that would strengthen oversight of charter schools that are not performing adequately.  The bill also assembles a Charter School Funding Advisory Commission, which would evaluate the current funding mechanisms and recommend much-needed overhauls to make certain that education dollars are spent in the most fiscally responsible manner.

NPE TOOLKIT: Are online charter schools good options for families?
Network for Public Education School Privatization Explained
No. Online charter schools, also called cyber schools and virtual schools, are a poor choice for students almost every time. They’re mostly a way for for-profit education operators to cash in by exploiting the most vulnerable families in the public education system.

“In the meantime, meaningful changes in terms of school funding, as well as the elephant in the room when it comes to school district spending – ballooning pension fund payouts – continue to elude state legislators.
And this is in two of the county’s more well-to-do school districts. If things are this tough in Penncrest and Garnet Valley, pity the poor folks in places like William Penn and Southeast Delco, where a diminished tax bases leaves little other place to go for revenue aside from homeowners.”
Editorial: More talk, same bottom line on school budgets
Delco Times POSTED: 05/24/17, 9:16 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
In the always contentious discussion concerning the Rose Tree Media School District budget, officials this year decided to take a different route.  Didn’t much matter. They still wound up in the same place.  Taxes are going up.  That should not belittle the process. It just underscores the difficult every school district faces balancing their books these days.
When their preliminary budget arrived with a thud back in February – with both spending and taxes going up – the Rose Tree Media School Board did not circle the wagons. Instead they circled the desks. They decided to open up the discussion on school spending, something they’ve taken heat about for a long time from a vociferous group of local numbers crunchers.  Actually, they were taking a page from the Upper Darby School District. Still shaken over the outrage sparked in the community by a proposal for serious cuts – including the district’s much-beloved music and arts programs – a few years back, Upper Darby officials reached out for help. They brought in the Penn Project for Civic Engagement to hold a series of public hearings focused on school taxes.  This year it was Rose Tree Media’s turn.

School choice supporters downplay new voucher research, saying schools are more than a test score
Chalkbeat BY MATT BARNUM  -  May 24, 2017
At this week’s gathering of school choice supporters, there was an awkward fact in their midst: A wave of new studies had shown that students receiving a voucher did worse, sometimes much worse, on standardized tests.  That was the inconvenient verdict of studies examining programs in LouisianaOhioWashington, D.C., and in Indianapolis, where the advocates had convened for the annual conference of the American Federation for Children. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the group’s former leader, gave the keynote address.  But many of the school choice proponents, who had long made the case that their favored reform works, had an explanation at the ready.  Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, only alluded to the recent studies. “In spite of a few research projects of a narrowly identified group of students, the simple fact is when you create a marketplace of choices and informed parents … the children do better,” he told the audience.  Other leading supporters emphasized the impact the programs have beyond test scores, as well as the shortcomings of recent studies.

Here's What Betsy DeVos Said Today On Capitol Hill
NPR by CLAUDIO SANCHEZ May 24, 20173:03 PM ET
There were few fireworks today as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified before the House appropriations subcommittee on the Trump administration's 2018 budget proposal. DeVos deflected much of the skepticism she received and continued to push the administration's support of school choice.  Trump's proposal, which has drawn sharp criticism from educators and lawmakers alike, calls for $1.4 billion to expand school choice — namely vouchers and charter schools — but slashes $10.6 billion from after-school programs, teacher training, and federal student loans and grants.  Democrats, including New York congresswoman Nita Lowey, accused DeVos of taking money from public schools to fund school choice.  "We're not proposing any shifting of funding from public schools to private schools," DeVos responded. "In fact, all of the proposals set forth in the budget commit to fully funding public schools as we have."  "If you're pouring money into vouchers, the money is coming from somewhere," Lowey said.  Many republicans, while upset about proposed cuts to career and technical training programs, expressed support for DeVos.  DeVos's appearance before Congress was her first public seating since a rough confirmation hearing before the Senate in January.

“Among other things critics blasted the spending bill for:
·         A $1 billion boost to Title I for low income students, specifically to be awarded to local school districts that promise to allow those dollars to follow students to the school of their choice
·         A new $250 million federal program for states to replicate, expand and research the effectiveness of private school voucher programs
·         The elimination of $1.2 billion for after-school programs
·         The elimination of $2.4 billion for teacher preparation and class size reduction”
Opposition to Trump's Education Budget Mounts
The proposal has prompted outcry from dozens of education organizations.
US News By Lauren Camera, Education Reporter | May 23, 2017, at 5:04 p.m.
More than 20,000 people emailed the Department of Education to voice opposition to the president’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal Tuesday afternoon in the hours after it was released, mirroring the deluge of public outcry that flooded Congress during the confirmation process for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.  The spending plan, which would slash education funding by more than $9 billion and eliminate dozens of programs, also proposes a handful of new spending measures aimed at increasing school choice as well as a new private school voucher program.  The emails to the Education Department were prompted in part by the National Education Association, which urged members to express concern with the funding proposal.  The proposal also prompted outcry from dozens of education organizations, including teachers unions, civil rights groups, the education reform camp, and associations representing state education chiefs, superintendents, school boards and principals. Even charter school organizations, which would get a $167 million boost under Trump’s budget, decried the overall gutting of education, health care and other social service programs.

"President Trump’s proposed $9.2 billion cut to education initiatives will deliver a devastating blow to the country’s public education system if enacted by Congress. The proposed cut is a disinvestment in schoolchildren that harms students and the country.”
NSBA Statement on Trump administration's proposed education budget
NSBA Wire May 23, 2017
NSBA Executive Director & CEO Thomas J. Gentzel today released the following statement in response to the Trump Administration's Proposed FY 2018 Education Budget:
"Over 50 million children attend public schools and our primary mission should be supporting their education. Funding for teacher training, career and technical education, student support services and innovative programs that boost college and career readiness are urgently needed, especially as neighborhood public schools continue to cope with financial challenges.  "The proposed budget disregards the need to prepare students so they can lead fulfilling and secure lives and secure the country’s economic future. Proposals for vouchers, tuition tax credits, and the Title I portability will not advance student learning or help close achievement and opportunity gaps. They will, however, effectively redirect taxpayers’ dollars from public to private schools, effectively creating a second system of taxpayer-funded education.  "NSBA is committed to keeping public schools as a top priority in the upcoming budget deliberations. The Association will vigorously oppose the cuts proposed by the Administration."

NSBA Initial analysis of Administration's FY2018 Budget request to Congress
NSBA Wire May 24, 2017
Tuesday, May 23, President Trump released the Administration’s FY2018 budget request to Congress which calls for a number of program eliminations within the U.S. Department of Education, a few of which would impact K-12 programs. For a number of programmatic changes that are proposed, the Administration is urging school districts and states to utilize existing Title I funding to address priority areas, such as those for effective teachers and leaders (Title II), tutoring, and extended day learning opportunities (Title IV). While the budget request calls for a record increase of $1 billion to Title I grants for disadvantaged students, the increase in funding would be targeted to school choice.
It’s important to note that there may be discrepancies in budget documents, as some were prepared before the enactment of the FY2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act earlier this month. Therefore, when comparing final budget allocations with those proposed for FY2018, not all program levels may reflect the final enacted allocation.  For example, the Appendix for the budget request shows Title II (Supporting effective instruction state grants) receiving funding, but the Major  Savings and Reforms document confirms the program is deleted.
In the coming days, NSBA will be engaged in congressional hearings with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to influence the discussions and highlight the policy priorities for education investments adopted by the NSBA Delegate Assembly.
Following is our initial summary of the Trump administration’s budget request as prepared by our Federal Advocacy & Public Policy team:

“Teacher development grants, after-school enrichment funding, and a new block grant for education technology and school health and safety are would be eliminated under Trump's budget, which would represent the largest single-year cut to the department proposed by a president since the fiscal 1983 budget proposed by President Ronald Reagan.”
DeVos, Democrats Wage War Over Budget Cuts, Students' Rights Under Vouchers
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on May 24, 2017 2:21 PM
Washington Democrats sparred with U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about the budget proposal from President Donald Trump that would direct $1.4 billion to expand school choice and sharply questioning her commitment to protecting students with federal vouchers from discrimination during a House subcommittee hearing Tuesday.  Meanwhile, Republicans questioned the education secretary more gently, focusing on special education and applauding the fiscal 2018 budget plan's emphasis on new resources for school choice.   Democratic lawmakers pushed DeVos to explain why public schools wouldn't suffer and lose out because of a proposed $1 billion in new Title I for public school choice, as well as $250 million for a new research program to study the impact of vouchers on needy students.  "Quite frankly, this puts us on the path to privatization of public education," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the committee's top Democrat, in her opening statement.  

In heated hearing, DeVos doesn't rule out federal funds for private schools that discriminate
By Wade Payson-Denney, CNN Updated 3:26 PM ET, Wed May 24, 2017
(CNN)Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to say Wednesday whether she would deny federal funds to private schools that discriminate against admitting students based on sexuality, race or even special needs.  DeVos has made expanding school choice the centerpiece of the Trump administration's education policy, and recently called opponents of school choice "flat Earthers" who have "chilled creativity" and held American students back.  During a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark brought up a school in Indiana — Lighthouse Christian Academy — that receives more than $600,000 in state voucher funds and explicitly denies access to students with LGBT parents in its literature.  President Donald Trump's budget proposal, released on Monday, proposes $250 million for vouchers that would help students get into similar private and religious schools.

Five startling things Betsy DeVos just told Congress
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss May 24 at 4:34 PM 
Does this sound familiar? Betsy DeVos went to Capitol Hill to testify before U.S. lawmakers. She didn’t answer a lot of direct questions and engaged in some contentious debates with some members.  That happened in January when she went before the Senate Education Committee for her confirmation hearing, during which she said schools needed guns to protect against grizzly bears. This time, though, she didn’t talk about guns, but she did say that states should have the right to decide whether private schools that accept publicly funded voucher students should be allowed to discriminate against students for whatever reason they want.  DeVos testified before the House subcommittee on labor, health and human services, education and related agencies about the Trump administration’s 2018 budget proposal, which cuts $10.6 billion — or more than 13 percent — from education programs and re-invests $1.4 billion of the savings into promoting school choice.  Both DeVos and President Trump have said expanding alternatives to traditional public schools are their top priority, and during tough questioning from some committee members, DeVos doubled down on that as well as on giving states and local communities flexibility to do what they want with their education programs. It is worth noting, however, that she said recently that people who don’t agree with expanding school choice are “flat Earthers,” people who refuse to face the facts.

Don’t Like Betsy DeVos? Blame the Democrats.
The Democratic Party paved the way for the education secretary's efforts to privatize our public schools.
The New Republic BY DIANE RAVITCH May 23, 2017
Of all the corrupt, unqualified, and extremist characters Donald Trump has tapped to lead his administration, none has generated the tsunami of liberal outrage whipped up by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And with all due respect to Jeff Sessions, there’s good reason for the backlash: The billionaire Amway heiress from Michigan, who long ago made “school choice” her passion project, is the first education secretary in history to be hostile to the very idea of public education.  Prodded by grassroots activists and what’s left of teachers’ unions, Democrats went all out to defeat DeVos. George Miller, the former congressman from California, slammed her plan to create a $20 billion “school choice” program that would underwrite private and religious schools, calling it “a perfect storm of ignorance, money, and power.” Senator Al Frankengrilled DeVos at her confirmation hearing, drawing out her jaw-dropping ignorance of federal programs. Senator Michael Bennet called her nomination an “insult to schoolchildren and their families, to teachers and principals and communities fighting to improve their public schools all across the country.” And when DeVos was confirmed by a vote of 51 to 50, over unanimous Democratic opposition, Senator Cory Booker went on Facebook, “frustrated and saddened,” to sound a sorrowful note: “Somewhere in America, right now, there is a child who is wondering if this country stands up for them.”  Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America’s undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative “school reform” agenda for the past three decades.

DeVos surprises committee by saying feds would fully fund special education
EdSource by JANE MEREDITH ADAMS MAY 24, 2017
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appeared to surprise a House Republican subcommittee chair Wednesday when she said that the proposed White House budget would fully fund a landmark piece of special education legislation that has not been fully funded since its inception in 1975.  DeVos appeared unaware of the funding history of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the cornerstone of special education in the U.S., in an appearance before the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee. The act authorizes Congress to fund up to 40 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities, but federal funding has never come close to that amount. In California, the federal government pays about 9 percent of the cost, with the state and school districts paying the rest. The Council for Exceptional Children and other advocacy groups have pushed for decades for full funding of the act.  Nor was DeVos well versed in the potential financial fallout for school districts from a March U.S. Supreme Court decision, 8-0, in the case of Endrew F. vs. Douglas County involving the intent of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The ruling requires schools to provide a “truly meaningful education opportunity” for students with disabilities, not a “de minimis” level of basic services.

Months in, Betsy DeVos still has no answers on major education issues
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos answered a battery of tough questions Wednesday for the first time since her confirmation hearing.  She hasn’t taken questions from reporters at mainstream news outlets, and she recently declined an invitation to address a conference of education writers in Washington, D.C.  On Wednesday, she was cross-examined by lawmakers in a House appropriation subcommittee as she sought to justify the education cuts in President Trump’s proposed budget.  “This budget lays out a series of proposals and priorities that work toward ensuring every student has an equal opportunity to receive a great education,” DeVos told them “It focuses on returning decision-making power and flexibility to the states, where it belongs, and giving parents more control over their child’s education.”
Here are a few moments that stood out.

Board passes resolution encouraging standardized test reform
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.com May 23, 2017
Some local teachers believe that the weight of evaluations of schools, students and teachers should fall more on individual school districts, and less on state standardized tests.  And the State College Area school board is doing its part to advocate for state standardized testing reform.  The board unanimously passed a resolution earlier this month to send to state education representatives detailing how the district believes the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments and Keystone exams should be adjusted.   “The resolution is essentially a statement of the board’s position in support of legislation that would give school districts a better alternative than the current PSSA and Keystone exam requirements,” board member David Hutchinson said in an email. “We have heard a great deal of interest on the part of our local legislators in support of this, so our hope is that as a result of legislative action, by this time next year, the PSSAs will be a thing of the past, and the Keystone exams will be permanently removed as a high school graduation requirement.”

 “The editorial criticizes the $4.4 billion in reserve for fiscal year 2015-16, citing that it is up $1 billion over five years. However, it fails to mention that in that same time period, pension costs increased 337 percent, rising $521 million in 2015-16 to $2.8 billion. Pension costs are projected to continue to climb over the next several years and remain at those levels for more than a decade.”
Applaud school districts for wise financial planning
Intelligencer Letter by Nathan Mains May 24, 2017
Nathan Mains is executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Assn.
Your May 23 editorial on school fund balances leaves out some critical details. The editorial criticizes the $4.4 billion in reserve for fiscal year 2015-16, citing that it is up $1 billion over five years. However, it fails to mention that in that same time period, pension costs increased 337 percent, rising $521 million in 2015-16 to $2.8 billion. Pension costs are projected to continue to climb over the next several years and remain at those levels for more than a decade.  The pension tsunami is upon our schools, and they are wisely planning for that. Lack of political will in Harrisburg has left the pension crisis unresolved, so districts have no alternative other than to save now.  The article did accurately point out the potential loss of $677 million a year to public schools if a new legislative proposal to limit a district’s right to appeal property assessments is passed. The editorial brushes this aside as of little consequence in light of current fund balances. However, this loss would be devastating to most schools in Pennsylvania with or without fund balances.  Even though fund balance dollars have increased, the opinion piece fails to look at details. The most recent numbers show that 227 districts, or 45 percent, saw a reduction or no change in their total fund balances, and 74 decreased by more than $1 million. Thirty-four districts still have a zero or negative fund balance. Seven out of 13 districts in Bucks County had a reduction in fund balances; five of those were reduced more than $900,000.
http://www.theintell.com/opinion/letters/applaud-school-districts-for-wise-financial-planning/article_33761a04-0ec2-57d5-8250-639ab4fd3ff4.html

Report seeks to set baseline for education debate
WITF Written by Rachel McDevitt | May 23, 2017 6:16 PM
(Harrisburg) -- A recent report from public education advocates seeks to set the baseline for discussion on how to address challenges facing Pennsylvania schools.  The inaugural State of Education report from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) used public data and surveys to identify issues. Not surprisingly, 86% of school administrators say budget pressures are one of the biggest challenges facing public schools. They also share concerns over building maintenance and teacher shortages.  PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains says they made a point not to draw conclusions in the report.  "We wanted to try and gather up as much data as possible and put it out there, and say to folks, here's kind of the base-level of information," Mains said. "If we can at least all agree that these are the numbers, this is the starting point for us, then we can engage in some discussions around potential solutions."  Mains does hopes state lawmakers will take a serious look at the report as they craft the coming year's budget, especially the section on student achievement.
http://www.witf.org/news/2017/05/report-seeks-to-set-baseline-for-education-debate.php#.WSV6Le1r3Ew.twitter

Pittsburgh Public Schools OKs first five 'community schools'
MOLLY BORN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette mborn@post-gazette.com 9:28 PM  MAY 24, 2017
The board of Pittsburgh Public Schools Wednesday formally signed off establishing its first five “community schools.”   The vote passed despite District 8 board member Kevin Carter abstaining, and District 4 board member Lynda Wrenn voting against the designation in which school buildings provide social services for students and, eventually, the surrounding community.  “It just doesn’t sound like it’s fleshed out,” Ms. Wrenn said. “I don’t believe the costs will be confined to just personnel in the first year.”  Arsenal 6-8 in Lawrenceville, Langley K-8 in the West End, Lincoln PreK-5 in Larimer, and Faison K-5 and Westinghouse 6-12 in Homewood topped 21 schools that applied for the title earlier this year. A committee studying the topic selected 10, which members visited and narrowed to five, which the district announced last week.
http://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2017/05/24/community-schools-pittsburgh-public-schools-arsenal-6-8-lawrenceville-langley-k-8/stories/201705240203

Potential school board vacancies loom as primary ballots go unfilled
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer May 23, 2017
That wasn’t white-out on your primary ballot last week; there just weren’t enough candidates to fill vacant seats in some districts.  Such was the case in Columbia Borough, Manheim Central, Pequea Valley and Solanco school districts, where incomplete slates of candidates were seeking the unpaid, often thankless position of school board director.  The paucity of candidates begs the question whether fewer residents are willing to put their public image on the line by serving on a school board.  “You might be able to answer why residents aren’t running by asking yourself,” Pennsylvania School Boards Association spokesman Steve Robinson said.  Robinson said that although becoming a public servant is “very rewarding,” school board directors often receive more flak than they might deserve.  “A lot of those positions are maybe not given the proper thanks that is due to them,” he said. “They’re looking into sometimes challenging finances that requires them to really take a look at things and make some tough decisions.”  Perhaps the toughest decision of all: raising property taxes.  “I don’t think anybody wants to take the blame for raising property taxes,” Jonathan Lutz, Columbia’s Republican committee chair, said.
http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/potential-school-board-vacancies-loom-as-primary-ballots-go-unfilled/article_e6fb8f6c-3f30-11e7-b89e-eb26fe59b0e9.html

Charleroi school board approves budget with tax increase
Observer Reporter By Beth Hope-Cushey May 24, 2017
CHARLEROI – Taxes will be going up in the Charleroi Area School District, but the exact amount is not yet known due to the recent Washington County reassessment.  School directors unanimously passed the $23.55 million preliminary 2017-18 budget at Tuesday’s meeting, which represents a 2 percent spending increase of $453,813 over last year’s budget of $23,096,187. Millage will be set at the allowable state index increase of 3.7 percent. The millage rate last year was 143 mills, but with the recent reassessment, the millage rate will be recalculated and will be in double digits, yet represent the same tax revenue amount. Business manager Crystal Zahand said that the district will not have the information on the final property tax assessments until June 1.  Among the increased expenditures is a $381,000 jump due to the rising costs of employee retirement contributions and $200,000 more for employee medical benefits. Zahand said the budget was balanced without any cuts to services or employees.
http://www.observer-reporter.com/20170524/charleroi_school_board_approves_budget_with_tax_increase#.WSXiJ7bO8Bw.twitter

East Penn dilemma: Spend extra money on technology or reducing tax rate
With new tax assessments coming in and other updated figures in revenue and expenses, East Penn School District is looking at a fund balance at the end of this fiscal year that is about $1.3 million higher than predicted, school officials said.
Margie Peterson Special to The Morning Call May 24, 2017
Technology or a smaller tax hike?  Those were the main options on the table in a debate Monday by the East Penn School Board and the district administration over what to do with better-than-expected revenue projections for the 2017-18 budget.  With new tax assessments coming in and other updated figures in revenue and expenses, the district is looking at a fund balance at the end of this fiscal year that is about $1.3 million higher than predicted, school officials said.  Superintendent Michael Schilder would like the additional money to go to funding more technology priorities, such as Chromebooks for students and an upgrade of the district's technology infrastructure.  Several school directors said they would like to see part or all of the money used to lower the proposed 2.9 percent tax increase.
http://www.mcall.com/news/local/eastpenn/mc-east-penn-budget-extra-money-20170524-story.html


“Under the proposed budget, Medicaid loses $610 billion over the next decade, which the administration suggests is on top of the $839 billion expected to be cut from Medicaid by the American Health Care Act. That means Medicaid funding would be cut nearly in half by 2028.”
Trumponomics: The philosophy that it doesn’t suck enough to be poor
Washington Post By Catherine Rampell May 23 at 4:55 PM 
For months, pundits and political advisers have tried to figure out what “Trumponomics” really stands for. Even President Trump himself struggled to characterize it, saying, “It really has to do with self-respect as a nation.”  Now that we have the president’s budget in hand, we have a more definitive answer: Trumponomics — like Ryanonomics — is based on the principle that living in poverty doesn’t suck quite enough. That is, more people would be motivated to become rich if only being poor weren’t so much fun.  Presidential budgets should be read as statements of political ideology, not determinations for what will ultimately become law. (Congress, after all, does the appropriating.) In this case, the political ideology is reflected in major cuts to anti-poverty programs and the social safety net, all in the name of not “discourag[ing] able-bodied adults from working.” And so, with the “compassionate” goal of making the poor a little less comfortable and a little more motivated, this budget savages nearly every anti-poverty program you can imagine.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/rampage/wp/2017/05/23/trumponomics-the-philosophy-that-it-doesnt-suck-enough-to-be-poor/?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.f0ba19a47670


Nominations for PSBA Allwein Advocacy Award due by July 16th
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  In addition to being a highly respected lobbyist, Timothy Allwein served to help our members be effective advocates in their own right. Many have said that Tim inspired them to become active in our Legislative Action Program and to develop personal working relationships with their legislators.  The 2017 Allwein Award nomination process will begin on Monday, May 15, 2017. The application due date is July 16, 2017 in the honor of Tim’s birth date of July 16.
https://www.psba.org/2017/05/nominations-allwein-advocacy-award/

Electing PSBA Officers; Applications Due June 1
All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall send applications to the attention of the chair of the Leadership Development Committee, during the months of April and May an Application for Nomination to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. “The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by June 1 to be considered and timely filed.” (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5.E.).
Open positions are:
·         2017-19 Central Section at Large Representative – includes Regions 4, 5, 6, 9 and 12  (for the remaining two years of a three-year term)
·         2018-20 Western At Large Representative – includes   Regions 1, 2, 3, 13 and 14 (three-year term)
In addition to the application form, PSBA Governing Board Policy 302 asks that all candidates furnish with their application a recent, print quality photograph and letters of application. The application form specifies no less than three letters of recommendation and no more than four, and are specifically requested as follows:
o    One from superintendent or school director of home entity
o    One from a school director from another school district
o    Other individuals familiar with the candidate's leadership skills
PSBA Governing Board Policy 108 also outlines the campaign procedures of candidates.
All terms of office commence January 1 following election.
https://www.psba.org/about/governance/electing-psba-officers/

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!

Pennsylvania Education Leadership Summit July 23-25, 2017 Blair County Convention Center - Altoona
A three-day event providing an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together
co-sponsored by PASA, the Pennsylvania Principals Association, PASCD and the PA Association for Middle Level Education
**REGISTRATION IS OPEN**Early Bird Registration Ends after April 30!
Keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics, and district team planning and job-alike sessions will provide practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit and utilized at the district level.
Keynote Speakers:
Thomas Murray
, Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools, a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education
Kristen Swanson, Director of Learning at Slack and one of the founding members of the Edcamp movement 
Breakout session strands:
*Strategic/Cultural Leadership
*Systems Leadership
*Leadership for Learning
*Professional and Community Leadership 
CLICK HERE to access the Summit website for program, hotel and registration information.

Save the Date 2017 PA Principals Association State Conference October 14. 15, 16, 2017
Doubletree Hotel Cranberry Township, PA