Wednesday, April 26, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 26: House passes #HB97 charter reform 108-84; on to the Senate

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 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, Instagram and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 26, 2017:
House passes #HB97 charter reform 108-84; on to the Senate


Blogger comment: Please thank your State Reps who voted against HB97 and continue to engage your State Senators with concerns on this legislation
Roll Call Vote on House Bill 97
PA House Website April 25, 2017

House takes 'first step towards modernizing Pennsylvania's outdated charter law'
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on April 25, 2017 at 7:44 PM, updated April 25, 2017 at 7:47 PM
The House of Representatives on Tuesday sent a charter school reform bill to the Senate renewing the perennial effort to strengthen the state's 20-year-old charter law that state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale calls among the "worst in the nation."  Time will tell if this latest effort, which passed the House by a 108-84 vote, has a different outcome than ones tried during the past five years.  Senate Education Committee Chairman John Eichelberger, R-Blair County, said he has been keeping tabs on the bill's development in the House and views it generally favorably although there are further tweaks he'd like to see made to ensure it's fair to cyber charter schools.  "I appreciate their work and think it's been good work," Eichelberger said. He said his committee will bring the bill up for consideration.  The law that created these independent public schools opened the door to public school choice in Pennsylvania and led to the creation of what is now 162 brick and mortar charter schools and 14 cyber charter schools. But this separate system of public education has been controversial from the outset and provoked a lot of grumbling about funding from both charters and school districts.

Charter School Reform Legislation Approved by Pennsylvania House
Opposition to the reform package argue that the overhaul doesn't go nearly far enough to rein in charter spending. Strong divisions remain among the Philadelphia delegation as well.
NBC10 By Brian X. McCrone April 25, 2017
Charter school reform was approved by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives despite some staunch opposition, which called for more regulations and financial oversight than the current proposal would enforce.  An overhaul of charter school laws in Pennsylvania passed narrowly Tuesday in the state House of Representatives, sending the newest attempt in a series to update a two-decade old code to the state Senate.  Adding members to the state's charter oversight board, capping a surplus that charters could hold in reserve and changing the funding formula for cyber charters highlighted the legislation introduced by Republican Rep. Mike Reese. he bill passed 108-84 despite staunch opposition from traditional education advocacy groups and some Democrats, who didn't think the reform package went far enough in certain aspects like the surplus cap. Democrat Rep. James Roebuck of Philadelphia had amendments rejected before the vote took place.  Roebuck hoped the reforms would include stronger regulations governing charter school building leases and borrowing.

Reese Charter Education Reform Passes House
PA House GOP Website 4/25/2017
HARRISBURG – A bill authored by Rep. Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland/Somerset) aimed at improving charter and cyber charter education in Pennsylvania was passed by the House on Tuesday.   Reese said House Bill 97 meets two important objectives by strengthening school choice but also improving the formula used to fund charter and cyber charter education.
“It was groundbreaking when Pennsylvania established a charter education system 20 years ago, but the law has grown to be somewhat outdated,” Reese said. “This legislation strengthens the fiscal, transparency and academic aspects of charter school operations and will create more of a level playing field in comparison to traditional public schools.”
The bill proposes that charter schools use an academic performance matrix and that teacher evaluations be performed, which is similar to traditional public schools. It also aims to increase enforcement of current truancy laws. Charter schools meeting these objectives will be eligible for longer charter periods. Also included is language to improve public transparency and auditing requirements.
House Bill 97 also addresses a long-standing problem with the cyber charter funding formula by expanding the deductions that school districts use when calculating their per-pupil expenses paid to cyber charter schools. The deductions are estimated to save public school districts roughly $27 million annually.
The legislation calls for a Charter School Funding Advisory Commission to be assembled and work toward identifying further corrections. The commission will include members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate and various education professionals with equal representation from both charter entities and school districts.
Reese explained that revising cyber education funding is imperative.  “There are several flaws in the way we fund cyber charter schools and every day these flaws go unaddressed an unnecessary burden is placed on traditional public schools and taxpayers in general,” Reese added.
The bill, which passed with a bipartisan vote of 108-84, will now be considered by the Senate. During the 2015-16 legislative session, a similar bill was approved by bipartisan votes in the House and Senate but a final version was not advanced before the session expired.


PSBA concerned with House passage of HB 97
Today, the State House of Representatives passed House Bill 97 in an effort to reform charter schools in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, HB 97 falls short in addressing issues with charter schools related to academic performance, accountability, transparency and funding that are so critically needed.  School directors are concerned with the many ways HB 97 misses the mark of substantial reform, including adding more members to the Charter School Appeal Board and tipping control to charter schools; expanding charter renewals to 10 years; and establishing a Charter Funding Commission that lacks the proper focus and direction.
“The charter school law is now 20 years old and showing signs of its age,” said PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains. “It's time to stop the financial hemorrhaging charters are causing in school funding. In our recent State of Education report, charter funding was the second most mentioned budgetary concern among districts. Why do we refuse to listen to those who know best about the impact charters have on public education?”
Charters are a part of the public education landscape, but true transparency and accountability are needed. HB 97 does not address these issues fully. We look forward to working with the State Senate to amend HB 97 into a piece of legislation that works for all involved.

Education Advocates Call Charter-School Reform Bill Flawed
House Bill 97 continues a financial incentive for charters to underserve severely disabled children.
Public News Service April 25, 2017
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Legislation to reform charter schools in Pennsylvania could come up for a vote any day now, but education advocates say the bill doesn't fix the problem. House Bill 97 could be the first major reform of the state's charter-school law since it was enacted 20 years ago.   But, while it makes some improvements, such as creating a standard student-enrollment application, Kristina Moon, staff attorney at the Education Law Center, says it falls far short of being meaningful reform.  "This misses an opportunity to fix some serious problems that we see with the failure of charter schools to provide quality education in a transparent way that allows the authorizing school districts to hold them accountable," she explained.
Supporters of the bill say it mandates greater financial disclosure, increases transparency and strengthens accountability for charter-school operators.  But according to Moon, HB 97 would create a system for evaluating students, teachers and administrators at charters that would be separate from the system used in other public schools.  "We see this as a big problem because it would prevent families from accurately comparing the school options that are available for their students if there are two different systems," she added.   She says the law also doesn't fix provisions that allow charters to exclude most students with serious disabilities, leaving it up to the regular public schools to provide for their needs.    She says vague language in the bill appears to allow charters to expand into multiple buildings without district approval.  "It deprives the local school board of capping enrollment for charter schools that are not equitably serving all students in the district or providing a quality education," she said.   The Education Law Center says a responsible charter-school law would empower local districts to strategically control charter-school growth as a means to increase options and improve educational outcomes.

Pennsylvania: More on the Disastrous HB 97 for Charter $$$$$
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch April 25, 2017 //
Lawrence Feinberg of the Keystone State Education Coalition writes about HB 97, which is being considered today:
HB97 is on the House calendar for today.
Instead of insisting on an omnibus charter reform bill, the legislature should consider a stand-alone, separate bill creating a charter school funding commission modelled after the successful Basic Education Funding Commission and Special Education Funding Commission, with a task of work limited to charter school funding issues and comprised solely of legislators and executive branch members.  This would be a significant first step in untying the Gordian knot that PA charter reform has become.
HB97 would stack the state’s Charter Appeals Board in favor of charter proponents.
HB97 would increase the terms of charter authorizations and renewals; shouldn’t taxpayer’s elected officials be able to review and approve the expenditure of tax dollars annually?
HB97 does virtually nothing to address the total lack of transparency for public tax dollars spent by charter management companies.
Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts never authorized the 13 chronically underperforming cyber charters and many districts offer cyber programs at significant savings to taxpayers yet all 500 districts are required to send tax dollars to cyber charters.  The legislature should consider a separate piece of legislation dealing solely with cyber charter issues.

A closer look at charter renewal recommendations
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa and Greg Windle April 25, 2017 — 4:26pm
There is a graphic at the bottom of this story summarizing the recommendations and ratings school-by-school.
As Harrisburg considers significant changes to the state's 20-year-old charter law, Philadelphia's Office of Charter Schools has released detailed renewal reports on most of the 26 charters that the School Reform Commission will consider next week.   Any changes in the charter law will have a huge impact in Philadelphia -- more than 80 of the 160-plus charter schools in Pennsylvania are in the city.  Of the 21 with completed recommendations, only one, Alliance for Progress, was renewed for 5 years without conditions and one, Laboratory Charter of Communications and Languages, was recommended for nonrenewal. The other 19 were approved with conditions that were not specified.  The reviews use three rankings, from highest to lowest: “Meets standard,” “Approaches standard,” and “Does not meet standard.” And the charters were given rankings in three areas: academics, operations, and finances.

“All 86 charter schools in the city have been feeling a pinch since Uri Monson, the School District’s chief finance officer, told them in February that the district’s monthly payments would be reduced for the rest of the academic year.  State law contains a formula that determines the rate charter schools receive based on how much the district spent to educate its students the previous year.  An audit of the district’s books showed that the district had been overpaying charter schools more than $340 per student in regular classes and more than $1,000 for every special education student.  The district is reducing monthly payments to recover the money.”
Universal, Kenny Gamble's charter school company, in financial hot water?
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham & Martha Woodall - Staff Writers Updated: APRIL 25, 2017 — 5:04 PM EDT
Universal Companies, the Kenny Gamble-founded firm that runs seven charter schools in Philadelphia, appears to be in financial trouble.  Two months before the end of the school year, Universal laid off school staff and central office workers. And it recently sent a memo to employees saying that it needed to alter remaining employees’ pay schedule, pushing back a week’s salary with a promise to repay it before the end of the summer.  Company officials later rescinded the memo, which cited a recent Philadelphia School District edict withholding payments to all 86 charter schools in the city, and said changes were necessary to “ensure the stability of company operations” and “avoid greater near-term disruptions to employees.”  Devon Allen, a Universal spokesman, said the memo was “an accident” that was “issued in error.”  Officials confirmed the layoffs, but declined to specify the number of workers let go. They also would not disclose how employees’ pay would be adjusted.  Eve Lewis, a Universal vice president, said in a statement that the company “has made the necessary adjustments to staff based on the district’s recovery of funds. Classroom instruction was not affected by staff adjustments.”  Universal also abruptly stopped running a school it had been managing in Milwaukee, months after it ceased operating two other charter schools there.

Future of Laboratory Charter School in Philadelphia could be in doubt
WHYY Newsworks BY AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT APRIL 26, 2017
In a year where an unusually high number of charter schools face review, the School District of Philadelphia released renewal recommendations for 21 schools late Monday.  Of those 21, the district's charter school office recommended a standard five-year renewal for 20 schools.  But officials recommended that the School Reform Commission not renew Laboratory Charter School of Communication and Languages, which serves 637 children in three locations — Overbrook, Wynnfield, and Northern Liberties. The charter school office found strong academic performance at Laboratory Charter, but cited financial and organizational concerns in its report.  A recommendation of non-renewal is typically the first step in closing a charter school. If the SRC follows through on that recommendation and votes not to renew Laboratory Charter, the school can appeal to a state review board.

Bellefonte Area School District could see tax hike
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.com April 25, 2017
Residents in the Bellefonte Area School District could see a tax increase of up to 2.1 percent for the 2017-18 school year.  But that number is not yet set in stone, district Director of Fiscal Affairs Ken Bean said.  “We’re still analyzing numbers,” Bean said.  In order to have no tax increase, Bean said the district would need an extra $474,869.  According to a document from Bean, the proposed final budget, so far, calls for $50.25 million in expenditures.  That includes funding for four new positions; $19 million that could go toward salaries; health insurance estimated at at $6 million; Rogers Stadium future ADA project at $250,000; future capital projects at $250,000; $2.3 million in charter school funding — a $400,000 increase from the current school year; $1.82 million in tuition for Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology; and bond payments of more than $3 million.  The proposed final budget will be in the hands of the nine-member school board at the next board meeting May 9. By state law, a final budget must be adopted by June 30.  The current year’s budget is $48.825 million.

“More than $4 million of $6.9 million in increased expenses is due to unfunded state and federal mandates, according to Superintendent Dr. James Scanlon.  Scanlon attributed the proposed tax hike, in part, to a $2.7 unfunded mandate for pension expenses, a 10 percent increase over the current year’s budget.  State required expenses for special education students might jump $1.3 million, or 9.4 percent.  “Unfortunately the increase in mandated special education and pension makes it nearly impossible to avoid a tax increase without making cuts to our programs,” Scanlon said.”
Substantial tax hike proposed for West Chester Area School District
Daily Local By Bill Rettew Jr., brettew@dailylocal.com POSTED: 04/25/17, 4:30 PM EDT
WEST GOSHEN >> The West Chester Area School Board passed a proposed $244 million budget, for the 2017-18 school year, with a spending increase of 2.9 percent, during Monday’s meeting, at Spellman Administration Building.  Chester County property owners might realize a tax increase of 3.4 percent. Delaware County WCASD taxpayers might pay 3.9 percent more.  Average Chester County property owners might pay $127 more and Delaware County property owners in the district could be on the hook for an additional $163.  More than $4 million of $6.9 million in increased expenses is due to unfunded state and federal mandates, according to Superintendent Dr. James Scanlon.  Scanlon attributed the proposed tax hike, in part, to a $2.7 unfunded mandate for pension expenses, a 10 percent increase over the current year’s budget.  State required expenses for special education students might jump $1.3 million, or 9.4 percent.  “Unfortunately the increase in mandated special education and pension makes it nearly impossible to avoid a tax increase without making cuts to our programs,” Scanlon said. “We have worked very hard to keep our non-mandated operating expenses as low as possible.”
The district’s biggest expense is salary and benefits for 1,400 employees. The budget for staffers includes a 1.7 percent yearly increase, or about $2.1 million.

Sued once over school tax increases, Lower Merion calls for another hike above state cap
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer  @Kathy_Boccella |  kboccella@phillynews.com Updated: APRIL 25, 2017 — 1:06 PM EDT
After being sued for raising property taxes above the state cap last year, the Lower Merion School District — which lost the case — is proposing to do the same to fund next year's budget.  On Monday night, about 200 people packed district headquarters in Ardmore to hear administrators make a brief pitch for their $266 million budget proposal for 2017-18, a 2.7 percent increase over the current school year. The tax rate would rise 2.99 percent, meaning a homeowner with a property at the median assessed value of $250,000 -- an estimated market value of $445,000 -- would pay an additional $205.  Last August, a Montgomery County judge ordered Lower Merion to roll back its 2016-17 property tax increase from 4.4 percent to 2.5 percent, the maximum  permitted by the state without a special exception. The lawsuit had been brought by a group of township residents who alleged that the district had hidden large surpluses while raising taxes sharply since 2006. Last week, a Commonwealth Court panel dismissed the district's appeal, citing a procedural problem.

US News & World Report: Lancaster County home to 8 of the best high schools in Pennsylvania
ALEX GELI | Staff Writer
Lancaster County is home to eight of the best high schools in Pennsylvania, according to U.S. News & World Report.  Related: See complete Pennsylvania high school rankings
The publication released its annual Best High Schools rankings Tuesday. It considered 20,487 eligible schools in the U.S., including 675 in Pennsylvania.  The magazine awards gold, silver and bronze medals to schools based on college preparedness, standardized test scores and graduation rates.  Although no Lancaster County schools were awarded a gold medal – reserved for the top 500 in the country – five earned silver medals and three earned bronze medals. Silver medalists  Silver medal-earner Penn Manor High School, which has made the list for three consecutive years, ranked the highest of all county schools — 26th in Pennsylvania and 1,049th nationally.  Penn Manor Superintendent Mike Leichliter said the rankings reflect the improvements made over the years to serve students from all economic backgrounds.

PSBA 2016-17 State of Education Report
PSBA April 2017 Underwritten in part by the Pennsylvania Public Education Foundation.
The past few years have been challenging for public education. A nine-month state budget impasse, soaring pension costs, the adoption of common core academic standards, the enactment and soon to be implemented state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act are just a few of the more recent developments which have all been accompanied by a greater emphasis on accountability to the public supporting the state’s public schools. The annual State of Education report is intended to be a barometer of not only the key indicators of public school performance, such as standardized test scores, but also the timely challenges that public schools are facing and how they are coping with them. For the inaugural State of Education report, chief school administrators (CSAs) from school districts, career and technical centers (CTCs), and intermediate units (IUs)1 were surveyed; information from publicly available data sources were compiled; and opinions from the public were obtained to gauge Pennsylvanians’ perception of public education. While the goal of the report is to provide a high-level overview of some of the key indicators of the state of public education, some of the key challenges facing public education were further explored not only on a statewide basis, but by examining the responses and data for differences between rural, urban and suburban school districts. As integral pieces of Pennsylvania’s public education system, responses and data related to issues impacting intermediate units and career and technical centers were also examined. https://www.psba.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/SoE-report-041217.pdf

UPCOMING IFO PRESENTATIONS ON SCHOOL PROPERTY TAX REFORM
PA Independent Fiscal Office April 25, 2017 | Presentations
Throughout May, Director Matt Knittel and Deputy Director Mark Ryan will make five presentations on the potential implications of school district property tax reform. The events are sponsored by the Pennsylvania Economy League and will take place at various locations across the state. The full presentation will be posted on May 4th. Click on the links below for additional detail:
READING                  Thursday May 4th 7:30-9:00am
WILLIAMSPORT       Friday May 5th 12:00-1:30pm
YORK                        Thursday May 11th 12:00-1:30pm
WILKES-BARRE        Friday May 12th 12:00-1:30pm
LEHIGH VALLEY       Friday May 19th 12:00-1:30pm

Lawmakers want to walk away from Pa.'s graduation testing requirement before it ever takes effect
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on April 25, 2017 at 4:03 PM, updated April 25, 2017 at 4:13 PM
Momentum is building in the Pennsylvania Legislature to drive a stake through the heart of a controversial state rule now set to take effect in 2018-19 that requires high school students to pass the Keystone Exams, or a state-approved alternative, to graduate.  A growing bi-partisan group of lawmakers from the House or Senate prefer to leave it up to individual school districts whether they wanted to use a high-stakes test to determine graduation eligibility.  They also have an interest in making other reforms to the state's standardized testing policies. Among them:
·         Bar public schools from buying prep tests to predict a student's ability to succeed on the state exams;
·         Push back the administration of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments given in grades through eight to three weeks before Memorial Day and require results to be in school administrators' hands by Aug. 15;
·         Limit the use of the PSSAs and Keystone Exams for academic growth calculations and federal accountability purposes;
·         Expand the opt-out provisions beyond the current religious objections and allow parents to hold their children out of testing for health or philosophical concerns as well.
·         Allow local school districts - not the state - decide if passing the Keystone Exams should be a graduation requirement.

New Pennsylvania rules aim to get students vaccinated sooner
Trib Live by EMILY BALSER  | Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 11:54 p.m.
New school vaccination rules that take effect in August will require Pennsylvania children to be fully vaccinated within the first five days of school.  Parents who don't comply will have to provide a medical plan from a doctor outlining when the child will have all vaccinations, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  “If you can't get in within those five days, that's OK. We just want to know that you and your pediatrician have a plan to catch your kid up,” said Loren Robinson, the state's deputy secretary of health promotion and disease prevention. “Most of this relates to kindergarten registration, because that's when kids are really getting a lot of the vaccines.”  Parents previously had up to eight months to get their children vaccinated.  The changes are being implemented to ensure more accurate reporting of who is vaccinated to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to reduce the potential for outbreaks, Robinson said.

Helen Gym Wins Emily’s List “Rising Star” Contest!
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch April 25, 2017 //
I am delighted to share with you that Helen Gym won the Emily’s List “Rising Star” contest.
Helen has fought for the children and public schools of Philadelphia, first as a parent leader, now as a member of the City Council.  Helen is smart, fearless, eloquent, and dedicated. She is a tireless fighter for justice and the common good.
This was part of the Emily’s List description of Helen:
“Helen is a progressive champion for the people of Philadelphia,” said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List. “Her support for quality public education, immigrant rights, and sustainable investments in neighborhoods shows her deep commitment to improving the overall quality of life in her city. EMILY’s List is proud to recognize Helen’s dedication to public service as the EMILY’s List community nominates her for the Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award.”
Elected in 2015, Helen Gym became Philadelphia’s first Asian American woman elected to city council. She won her at-large seat after 20 years of grassroots organizing on behalf of Philadelphia’s public education system and immigrant communities. In her first year, she won historic investments toward universal pre-K and youth homelessness, and expanded resources for public schools. Helen is now leading the charge nationally around sanctuary cities and immigrant rights – and becoming a leading voice for cities resisting and winning with a progressive agenda.
Thanks to all who voted for this wonderful, courageous leader.
Congratulations, Helen!  I am adding Helen to the Honor Roll of this blog!


Trump expected to order study of federal role in education
Washington Post By Emma Brown April 26 at 12:05 AM 
President Trump is expected to sign an executive order Wednesday that would require Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to study how the federal government “has unlawfully overstepped state and local control,” according to a White House official.  Trump has repeatedly pledged to downsize the Education Department and its role in U.S. schools and colleges. The order he plans to sign is “intended to return authority to where Congress intended — state and local entities,” the White House official wrote in an e-mail.  The GOP has long been home to lawmakers who felt that the federal government should not be involved in public education. But complaints of federal overreach intensified during Barack Obama’s administration as the Education Department wielded billions of dollars in stimulus funds — and promises of relief from the much-reviled No Child Left Behind law — to push states toward adopting new teacher evaluations and Common Core academic standards.  A bipartisan 2015 law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, transferred much authority over public schools from the federal government to the states. But many on the right are looking for signs that the Trump administration will push further to unwind the federal role in education.

Trump to Issue Executive Order Calling for Local Control of K-12
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on April 25, 2017 10:17 PM
President Donald Trump plans to issue an executive order directing U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to conduct a study to "determine where the federal government has unlawfully overstepped overstepped on state and local control," a White House official said, The executive order is "intended to return authority to where Congress intended—state and local entities."  One such study is unlikely to have a dramatic impact on K-12 education policy.  But the directive is a way for the Trump administration to make it clear it supports local control of schools.  The executive order also seems to be a not-so-veiled shot at the Obama administration, which used $4 billion in Race to the Top funding to entice states to adopt the Common Core State Standards, teacher evaluations using test scores, and more. President Barack Obama's education department also offered states waivers from many mandates of the much-maligned No Child Left Behind Act, in exchange for adopting other policies, such as using dramatic strategies to turnaround low-performing schools.


PSBA Spring Town Hall Meetings coming in May!
Don’t be left in the dark on legislation that affects your district! Learn the latest from your legislators at PSBA Spring Town Hall Meetings. Conveniently offered at 10 locations around the state throughout May, this event will provide you with the opportunity to interact face-to-face with key lawmakers from your area. Enjoy refreshments, connect with colleagues, and learn what issues impact you and how you can make a difference. Log in to the Members Area to register today for this FREE event!
  • Monday, May 1, 6-8 p.m. — Parkway West CTC, 7101 Steubenville Pike, Oakdale, PA 15071
  • Tuesday, May 2, 7:30-9 a.m. — A W Beattie Career Center, 9600 Babcock Blvd, Allison Park, PA 15101
  • Tuesday, May 2, 6-8 p.m. — Crawford County CTC, 860 Thurston Road, Meadville, PA 16335
  • Wednesday, May 3, 6-8 p.m. — St. Marys Area School District, 977 S. St Marys Road, Saint Marys, PA 15857
  • Thursday, May 4, 6-8 p.m. — Central Montco Technical High School, 821 Plymouth Road, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
  • Friday, May 5, 7:30-9 a.m. — Lehigh Carbon Community College, 4525 Education Park Dr, Schnecksville, PA 18078
  • Monday, May 15, 6-8 p.m. — CTC of Lackawanna Co., 3201 Rockwell Avenue, Scranton, PA 18508
  • Tuesday, May 16, 6-8 p.m. — PSBA, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
  • Wednesday, May 17, 6-8 p.m. — Lycoming CTC, 293 Cemetery Street, Hughesville, PA 17737
  • Thursday, May 18, 6-8 p.m. — Chestnut Ridge SD, 3281 Valley Road, Fishertown, PA 15539
For assistance with registration, please contact Michelle Kunkel at 717-506-2450 ext. 3365.

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 25: Taxpayers shouldn’t lose their voice when parents make a choice; urge your legislators to vote “NO” on #HB97

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 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, Instagram and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 25, 2017:
Taxpayers shouldn’t lose their voice when parents make a choice; urge your legislators to vote “NO” on #HB97


Blogger Commentary:

HB97 is on the House calendar for today.

Instead of insisting on an omnibus charter reform bill, the legislature should consider a stand-alone, separate bill creating a charter school funding commission modelled after the successful Basic Education Funding Commission and Special Education Funding Commission, with a task of work limited to charter school funding issues and comprised solely of legislators and executive branch members.  This would be a significant first step in untying the Gordian knot that PA charter reform has become.

HB97 would stack the state’s Charter Appeals Board in favor of charter proponents.

HB97 would increase the terms of charter authorizations and renewals; shouldn’t taxpayer’s elected officials be able to review and approve the expenditure of tax dollars annually?

HB97 does virtually nothing to address the total lack of transparency for public tax dollars spent by charter management companies.

Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts never authorized the 13 chronically underperforming cyber charters and many districts offer cyber programs at significant savings to taxpayers yet all 500 districts are required to send tax dollars to cyber charters.  The legislature should consider a separate piece of legislation dealing solely with cyber charter issues.



Please call your legislators and urge them to work with PSBA/PASA to improve #HB97



#HB97 None of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman .@SenatorBrowne's school districts ever authorized a cyber charter.  In 2015-16 they had to pay over $19.5 million in cyber charter tuition.  Not one of Pennsylvania’s 13 cyber charter schools has ever achieved a passing score of 70 on the School Performance Profile.  Many school districts have in-house cyber programs that are able to serve students at considerable savings over cyber charter costs.

#HB97 None of House Appropriations Committee Chairman .@RepStanSaylor's school districts ever authorized a cyber charter.  In 2015-16 they had to pay over $3.8 million in cyber charter tuition. 

#HB97 None of gubernatorial candidate .@SenScottWagner's school districts ever authorized a cyber charter.  In 2015-16 they had to pay over $11.9 million in cyber charter tuition.

#HB97 None of Senate Education Committee Minority Chairman @SenatorDinniman's school districts ever authorized a cyber charter.  In 2015-16 they had to pay over $13.4 million in cyber charter tuition.

#HB97 None of House Education Committee Chairman Eichelberger's school districts ever authorized a cyber charter.  In 2015-16 they had to pay over $11.6 million in cyber charter tuition.

#HB97 Neither of House Speaker .@RepTurzai's school districts ever authorized a cyber charter.  In 2015-16 they had to pay over $1.8 million in cyber charter tuition.

#HB97 None of Senate President .@senatorscarnati's school districts ever authorized a cyber charter.  In 2015-16 they had to pay over $9.4 million in cyber charter tuition.

#HB97 None of Senate Majority Leader .@JakeCorman's school districts ever authorized a cyber charter.  In 2015-16 they had to pay over $5.1 million in cyber charter tuition.

Thanks to PCCY for compiling these cyber tuition figures from data on PDE’s website.


“While Pennsylvania ranks 12th nationally in terms of the amount of spending per student, it ranks near the bottom at 46th when looking at the amount of funding coming from the state, leaving local taxpayers to fill the void.”
PSBA 2016-17 State of Education report highlights success, challenges facing public education
PSBA Website April 24, 2017 
Representatives of several education leadership associations today released the 2016-17 State of Education report highlighting the many successes and challenges facing public education in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  This 72-page document covers a vast array of statistics gathered from data available from public sources, as well as responses from a survey sent to all school districts, career and technology centers, and intermediate units in the state in December 2016. The report delves into school finances, student achievement, budget pressures and teacher shortages, to name a few. This year’s report will establish a baseline which can be used moving forward to show changes and trends over time.  Some key findings: Survey respondents identified the top three challenges facing education as budget pressures (86%), bargaining issues (39%) and school construction/maintenance (26%). While pension costs (85%), charter school payments (66%) and inadequate state funding (53%) were identified as the top budget pressures.  The State of Education report also captures the huge disparities in funding between the richest and poorest districts and the unfortunate impacts of this disparity on student achievement. There was a 32.6% difference in the average eighth-grade PSSA proficiency between districts with the highest and lowest poverty and a 35.2% difference in fourth-grade PSSA proficiency.

Charter law vote postponed, District to vote on 26 renewals next week
Universal gave up its last charter in Milwaukee this month.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa April 24, 2017 — 6:14pm
The state House on Monday did not take an expected vote on HB97, legislation that would overhaul the state's 20-year-old charter school law. Advocates and District officials have been lobbying against parts of the bill they say will make it harder to regulate charter expansion and quality.  At the same time, the District announced that the School Reform Commission will vote on 26 charter renewals next Monday, May 1, at a special 3 p.m meeting. In addition, it said it would consider three charter amendments at its Thursday meeting, to Keystone Charter, Laboratory Charter, and Russell Byers Charter. it has not yet posted the content of the amendments.  Despite concerns expressed by advocates and school districts, including the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, legislators sought to fast-track HB97, which was voted out of committee last week. While its leading sponsors called it a "work in progress" when it left the committee, it has not been amended.   SRC Chair Joyce Wilkerson was among those in Harrisburg Monday talking to legislators about the bill, which would have a bigger effect on Philadelphia than anywhere else. Philadelphia has half the charter schools in the state.  A statement shared with legislators said that the District "is committed to supporting legislation that expands high achieving charter seats," but added that in this bill, largely supported by the charter sector, "a lack of standards, transparency and accountability" will make it difficult to promote quality. 

“The bills range in reforms from preventing conflicts of interest in building leases to stopping charter schools from using “free” or “tuition free” claims on advertisements.  “Public education shouldn’t be about private profit; in some cases, it has become that,” said Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer.  Longietti's bill would limit management fees to no more than 5 percent of tuition per pupil. Longietti said he hopes his bill will “shine a light” on what he claims are large amounts of public tax dollars going to for-profit management organizations.
At the moment, there is no limit beyond negotiation that dictates what management companies may charge charter schools in the commonwealth.
“When it comes to public tax dollars, (school management is) not what it should be about,” Longietti said.”
House Dems tackling charter school reform
David Weissman and Junior Gonzalez , York Dispatch 9:34 p.m. ET April 24, 2017
Unhappy with a comprehensive charter school reform bill being pushed by House Republicans, House Democrats recently unveiled a package of nine separate bills aimed at solving the issue.  Among the nine bills is one sponsored by Rep. Carol Hill-Evans, D-York City, that would prevent charter schools from continuing to enroll new students if the school has been notified its charter will be terminated or not renewed.  House Bill 1249, the first bill authored by the first-term representative, would allow a charter school to continue enrolling students if the school has filed an appeal but require it to immediately stop if that appeal is denied.  “In York, we know how difficult the closure of a charter school can be. We shouldn’t allow charter schools to continue enrolling students if they know they are going to close,” Hill-Evans said in the release. “It’s unfair to those children and unnecessarily disruptive to their education.”  New Hope Academy Charter School was closed in York City School District in 2014, and Helen Thackston Charter School is at risk of the same fate because of troubling test scores and a lack of financial transparency.

Who Pays for School Property Tax Elimination? An Analysis of School Property Tax Burdens in Pennsylvania
Keystone research Center Report by Mark Price  April 6, 2017
Executive Summary: Far from providing relief for working families, recent proposals to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania would increase taxes on the middle class while sabotaging the chance to adequately fund Pennsylvania schools for middle- and low-income families.  This report provides the first estimates of the impact of property tax elimination proposals on families in Pennsylvania. Echoing recent debates about U.S. health care policy, our findings demonstrate that, in the case of proposed property tax elimination in Pennsylvania, the devil is in the details.  Across all Pennsylvania families, property tax elimination would increase taxes by $334 per family. While property taxes would fall by an average of $1,685 per family, sales and income taxes would rise by over $2,000 on average per family.  Moderate-income families (earning between $22,000 and $63,000), many of who live in rural areas, would see the biggest increase in taxes as a share of their income (0.6 percent). In dollar terms, these moderate-income families would see an average increase in taxes of around $300 ($269 to $326).  There are two main reasons that the proposed property tax elimination increases taxes on middle-class families. First, the proposal would shift taxes from corporations to families, exacerbating a decades-old shift of taxes in Pennsylvania away from corporations.  Second, the largest amounts of property tax relief would go to affluent families in rich school districtsthat have the highest property taxes because those school districts choose to amply fund local schools:

“In fact, all over South Philadelphia — from Front Street to Broad, from South Street to Snyder — public school enrollments are swelling. The extent and consistency of the trend reaffirms that the urban revival begun in Center City a couple decades prior has advanced well past downtown. Jackson's overcrowding problem is, at least in part, the latest high-tide mark from a wave that seems to advance further south every year.”
In South Philadelphia, a public school revival pushes against its limits
WHYY Newsworks by Avi Wolfman-Arent April 24, 2017 — 4:00pm
On a rain-drenched Friday in late March, about 75 people pack into a cinder block room at South Philadelphia's Hawthorne Recreation Center just north of Washington Avenue.  The rhythmic blare of a nearby Mexican dance class bleeds through the walls. Along the room's perimeter women saddled with baby bjorns rock infants to sleep.  If ever a scene captured the new face of South Philadelphia this might be it: a room full of young, mostly white professionals chatting over the muffled hum of latin folk music.  The topic this evening is overcrowding at nearby Andrew Jackson School, a K-8 school about five blocks south that serves parts of Bella Vista and East Passyunk. Before the meeting starts I sidle up to Stephen Dunne, a lawyer who recently bought a house across the street from the school.  "Oh it's an incredible turnout," he said with an eager smile. "You'd think this was a private school. It's a public school in Philadelphia."  Dunne and his wife picked their house because of its proximity to Jackson, one of four or five public elementary schools they considered viable. That dynamic isn't new — there's long been a select band of schools deemed good enough by the city's middle class.  What is new is Jackson's presence among that group.  Less than a decade ago, Jackson sat half empty--just another three-story reminder of the city's crumbling public school system. Today it can barely contain the 567 children scurrying through its corridors.

Philly charter officials call for charters for 20 schools but not Laboratory
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda |  martha.woodall@phillynews.com Updated: APRIL 24, 2017 — 9:28 PM EDT
The Laboratory School of Communications and Languages was once the flagship of a group of charter schools founded by former district administrator Dorothy June Brown.  The academics at the K-8 charter school with campuses in West Philadelphia and Northern Liberties were so strong that Laboratory was awarded national Blue Ribbons from the U.S. Department of Education in 2004 and 2013.  But Laboratory has such serious problems with finances and governance that the Philadelphia School District office that oversees charters is recommending that the school  --  among the city’s first charter schools in 1997 -- not be granted a new five-year operating agreement.  Among other things, a report posted on the charter office’s website late Monday afternoon said the district had concerns about Laboratory’s special education screening, certification of its staff,  and school safety.  The office also found that Laboratory’s application process did not comply with state law; that auditors  raised questions about the school’s financial practices; and that Laboratory had failed five times to make timely payments to the state teachers’ retirement system.

#PHLed SRC to vote Thurs on 8 5-yr contracts w providers-Camelot, OIC, etc- to run alternative schools for $146M
Tweet from Paul Socolar @PaulSocolar April 24, 2017

Liguori Acad is up for a $6.7M alt school contract. Remember how their website looked b4 secular makeover 2 yrs ago?
Tweet from Paul Socolar @PaulSocolar April 24, 2017

“Universal Companies has eight campuses in Philadelphia, and its website noted the company operated 11 charter schools that served 5,000 students. The nonprofit was formed in 1993 by efforts of Gamble, the legendary songwriter and CEO of Philadelphia International Records, and his wife Faatimah. It expanded to Milwaukee when Greg Thornton, a Philadelphia native, was serving as MPS superintendent.”
Universal Companies exits from schools in Milwaukee
Philly Trib by Ryanne Persinger Tribune Staff Writer  Apr 22, 2017
In 2013, Universal Companies, the nonprofit education and community development firm co-founded by Kenny Gamble, expanded its charter schools outside of Philadelphia to Milwaukee, some 850 miles away.  But early this month, all three of the Universal schools were returned to Milwaukee Public Schools to operate and manage. Two campuses were turned over in November and the latest, Universal Academy for the College Bound, reverted to MPS’ control April 7.  The change followed a letter, dated March 9, to MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver from Universal’s Superintendent of Schools and Senior Executive Vice President of Education Penny Nixon that stated: “We believe that we have had a productive and positive partnership with the Milwaukee Public Schools in our efforts to provide a high quality education to the students of UACB.  “Despite our efforts, we believe that it would be in the best interest of the students and families of UACB to transition the management of operations to MPS,” the letter continued. “We are confident that MPS will maintain an academically sound, operationally efficient, safe and stable climate to continue to increase student achievement for our scholars.”  Universal said the company was proud of the work it started at UACB and thought it had made a positive impact on the students and their communities.

Charters host forum to hear from city school board
MOLLY BORN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette mborn@post-gazette.com 12:00 AM APR 24, 2017
The first candidate forum last week for those vying for a seat on the Pittsburgh Public Schools board had an unlikely host: A group of Pittsburgh charter schools.  Environmental Charter School at Frick Park held a similar forum for a single district race in 2015. But Thursday’s event is thought to be the first coordinated effort from a group of charters inviting all city school board candidates to share their views on topics — including the well-established tension between them.  “I think the culture around charters and the district is becoming unnecessarily contentious. At the end of the day, we all want great schools for our kids,” said Chase Patterson, business manager for Urban Academy of Greater Pittsburgh Charter School, which hosted the event.  Pittsburgh Public Schools has “tremendous authority” over the 11 charter schools serving nearly 3,500 students in the city, from determining whether a charter is renewed to authorizing a school’s move to a new site, noted Rachel Amankulor, deputy director of policy for the research and advocacy group Pennsylvania Campaign for Achievement Now (PennCAN).  “These elections matter as much for charter school families as they do for district school families,” she said.

Which Philly area high schools are the best in the U.S.?
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag |  kgraham@phillynews.com Updated: APRIL 25, 2017 — 5:00 AM EDT
Philadelphia’s Julia R. Masterman is among the nation’s best public high schools in 2017, U.S. News and World Report found in its annual rankings, released Tuesday.
Masterman, at No. 51, is the only school in the region in the top 100. It ranked 46th in the publication’s 2016 list of best high schools.  U.S. News and World Report also ranks the best high schools in every state. Schools in the region dominated the Pennsylvania list, with Masterman claiming the top spot. New Hope-Solebury, Conestoga, Unionville, Radnor, Strath Haven, Lower Moreland and Great Valley High Schools were all in the top 10.

One proposal to solve Pennsylvania's gerrymandering problem
Reading Eagle Sunday April 23, 2017 12:01 AM
Fair Districts PA wants to take the legislative district drawing process out of political leaders' hands and turn it over to an independent commission. Here's a look at the coalition's proposal.  Current system: GOP and Democratic leaders of the state House and Senate each select a member of a five-person commission that draws the maps. Those members select the fifth. If they can't agree, the state Supreme Court decides.  The state House and Senate district maps are finalized by the commission. The congressional map is crafted into a bill that must be passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. State courts decide legal challenges.  Proposed change: Redistricting would be handled by an 11-member commission that includes four members each from the two major parties and three not registered with either party. Citizens could apply to be among the pool of potential commission members.

“I'm annoyed as hell that we're still in a situation where the state makes trying to figure out what we're going to do so difficult,” school board President Jim Winslow said. “I think it's horrible that every year, we essentially have to start juggling the lesser of two evils. I hate it. I think it's wrong.”
Greencastle-Antrim school board struggles to fund new budget
Herald Mail Media by Joyce Nowell Apr 24, 2017
GREENCASTLE, Pa. — A longstanding feud between the Greencastle-Antrim School District and the state likely won't end this year as local officials struggle to find ways to maintain current programs for the 2017-18 school year.  The school system is in line to receive a little more than $6 million in basic education funding — an amount that officials believe falls below the growing district's needs.  In addition to covering increased costs for the public-employees pension fund, Franklin County (Pa.) Career and Technology Center and debt service, the school board is faced with how to staff its schools for the coming year and how to pay for it.  Four staffing options have been developed by the district's administrative team.

District director of business services Jeremy Melber presented a preliminary budget outline this month that showed total expenses of $64.9 million, $1.5 million more than this year's outlay. The budget total for 2016-2017 was $63.4 million.  He said pension costs accounted for 2 percent or about $900,000 of the increase.
Small Southern Lehigh property tax hike in preliminary budget
Charles Malinchak Special to The Morning Call April 24, 2017
CENTER VALLEY — Southern Lehigh School Board Directors narrowly approved a tiny property tax hike for 2017-18, but it may not be a hike etched in stone.  The board approved a preliminary budget in a 5-4 vote Monday night that woud raise taxes by 0.20-mill to 15.82 mills, generating about $500,000 more for the district. The 1.2 percent increase translates to a $40 jump to $3,164 for the owner of a home assessed at $200,000.  The district raised taxes last year by 1.6 percent and forecast similar hikes for the next five consecutive years.

“The budget represents a $3.5 million increase from the current budget of $81.2 million; $1.1 million more to cover benefits, a 4.91 percent increase; and nearly $200,000 more in transportation costs.  Also included is $1.7 million to fund tuition costs for 133 students to attend charter and cyber-charter schools, a 25.5 percent rise over the current budget.”
Nazareth Area schools budget to include property tax hike
Kevin Duffy Special to The Morning Call April 24, 2017
Will Nazareth Area School District property owners see a tax hike?
NAZARETH — School board members in the Nazareth Area School District formally adopted a budget and property tax rate for the 2017-18 school year, but not by unanimous vote.  School Directors on Monday voted 8-1 in favor of a millage rate increase of 1.238 mills, which takes the district to 53.268 mills, a 2.38 percent increase, as well as a 4.41 percent increase to its spending budget, setting it at $84.8 million for next year.  While the district did apply for exceptions to the allowable Act 1 index cap of 2.5 percent to raise taxes by up to 1.3 mills, it chose not to exercise them to meet special education and retirement obligations.  The tax increase equates to $8.24 more per month, or $98.92 more per year, for a homeowner in the district whose property is at the average assessed value of $79,900.

Proposal introduced to alter school day in State College area
Centre Daily Times From CDT staff reports APRIL 24, 2017 10:49 PM
Could school days be changing in the Centre Region?
That is what’s on the table at State College Area School District.
On the agenda for Monday’s school board meeting was a proposal to change the school day starting in 2018.  The change would move the elementary start from 8:44 a.m. back to 8 a.m., and see the day end at 3 p.m. instead of 2:50 p.m., a move that would put an extra 54 minutes into kids’ days.  At the middle and high school levels, the day would start at 8:40 a.m. instead of 8:10 a.m., ending at 3:44 p.m. and 3:40 p.m. respectively.  “The shifted middle school and high school days were prompted by sleep research. Numerous studies show that adolescents need ample rest for productive learning and sound physical and mental health. Transportation is also a consideration — busing all district students, as well as private and charter school students, at the same time is not feasible,” the district said in a release.  The issue is not slated for a vote until October. However, district spokesman Chris Rosenblum said in a statement that a unanimous vote on contract addendums did open the door to the possibility.

Union work on your dime? Pa. Senate bill would ban 'ghost' teachers, report: Monday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on April 24, 2017 at 8:08 AM, updated April 24, 2017 at 8:38 AM
THE MORNING COFFEE
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Do you feel like starting this gray day of a Monday off with a ghost story?
Excellent. Let's begin.  We begin in Pittsburgh, where our friends at The Tribune-Review report that Senate Republicans are renewing a push to outlaw "ghost teachers," or those educators who take extended leaves of absences to do union work, even as they rack up salaries, pension credits and seniority on the backs of local taxpayers.  The upper chamber is set to take up a bill banning school districts from allowing teachers to leave the classroom (sometimes up to a year or more) to do work for their local or statewide unions.

Editorial: Stand with newspapers, ‘Demand Facts’
Delco Times POSTED: 04/23/17, 10:11 PM EDT | UPDATED: 13 HRS AGO
Teri Henning is the president of the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.
The term ‘news media’ can mean a lot of different things these days, but at the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, the news media that we work with are Pennsylvania’s newspapers and online-only news publications.  There are 77 daily newspapers in Pennsylvania, more than 175 non-daily publications, including college newspapers, and a significant number of online-only news sites. The number of Pennsylvania’s print-based publications has not changed much in the last 10 years, and even in this era of media consolidation, Pennsylvania continues to have more family-owned newspapers than any other state in the country. We also enjoy very strong readership, with 82% of all Pennsylvania adults reading a newspaper, in print or online, each week.

Penn Hills School Board rejects independent audit critical of practices
Trib Live NATASHA LINDSTROM  | Monday, April 24, 2017, 11:48 p.m.
The Penn Hills School Board voted Monday night against accepting the results of an independent audit that flagged several deficiencies in internal record-keeping and compliance, including shortcomings the auditor warned could jeopardize state and federal funding.  In a 4-3 vote, the board voted not to acknowledge receipt of the final report of CPA Mark C. Turnley's audit covering the 2015-16 academic year.  Board President Erin Vecchio — among the four who would not accept the audit — said she did so because she refuses to vote on any financial assessments amid an ongoing probe into the embattled, cash-strapped district by the Allegheny County District Attorney's and state Attorney General's offices.

Penn Hills school board accepts resignation of member charged with drug possession
PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE 11:02 PM APR 24, 2017
Penn Hills school board unanimously accepted Monday the resignation of a member who was charged this month with possession of cocaine, heroin and hydrocodone.  Donald Kuhn Jr., who has served on the Penn Hills school board since 2015, resigned his seat on Friday. His resignation is effective the same day.  Police records show that Mr. Kuhn was arrested on a bench warrant on March 23 by an Allegheny County sheriff’s deputy. Mr. Kuhn was taken to the Dormont Municipal Building, where grand jury hearings are conducted, and was searched. The deputy discovered various bags and coin pouches containing heroin and cocaine residue, a straw containing cocaine residue and an Altoids tin containing a hydrocodone pill.  Mr. Kuhn, 55, was charged on April 17 with three misdemeanor counts of possession and two misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts, according to a criminal complaint. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 31.  On the criminal complaint, Mr. Kuhn’s address is listed as that of his mother, Penn Hills Mayor Sara J. Kuhn.

Overcoming Opioids: Special schools help teens stay clean
Lancaster Online by CARLA K. JOHNSON | AP Medical Writer April 25, 2017
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — When Logan Snyder got hooked on pills after a prescription to treat pain from a kidney stone, she joined the millions already swept up in the nation's grim wave of addiction to opioid painkillers.  She was just 14.  Youth is a drawback when it comes to kicking drugs. Only half of U.S. treatment centers accept teenagers and even fewer offer teen-focused groups or programs. After treatment, adolescents find little structured support. They're outnumbered by adults at self-help meetings. Sober youth drop-in centers are rare. Returning to school means resisting offers to get high with old friends.  But Snyder is lucky: Her slide ended when her father got her into a residential drug treatment program. Now 17 and clean, she credits her continued success to Hope Academy in Indianapolis, a tuition-free recovery school where she's enrolled as a junior.  "I am with people all day who are similar to me," she says. "We're here to hold each other accountable."  The opioid epidemic, which researchers say is the worst addiction crisis in U.S. history, has mostly ensnared adults, especially those in their 20s, 30s and 40s. But teens have not been spared: Each day, 1,100 start misusing pain pills. Opioids killed 521 teens in 2015, federal data show.


ACT NOW: Urge Congress to Invest in Public Education
NSBA Action Center
Members of Congress return to Capitol Hill this week with the priority of passing a spending bill to fund education investments and other federal programs for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017. Congress has only four days to pass legislation to ensure federal investments in public education continue uninterrupted, as the current funding measure expires on April 28. This is the time to contact your Members of Congress urging them to pass a spending bill that prioritizes investments for education programs that support our nation's 50 million public school students.
Please enter your information on the right to ACT NOW to urge Congress to: 

1.     Pass a funding measure for the remainder of FY2017 and FY2018 that will maximize PreK-12 education investments.
2.     Prioritize funding for special education (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) to support the more than 6 million students with special needs in our public schools.
3.     Sustain investments in Title I grants under the Every Student Succeeds Act(ESSA) to support disadvantaged students and help advance the range of choices that our public school districts offer to 90 percent of our nation’s students.

“In the often-divided world of education, the long-term benefit of early childhood education, particularly for low-income children, is one of the few things most experts agree on. Politicians on both the left and the right embrace the idea of expanding access to preschool, a rarity among educational initiatives.”
New York City Will Offer Free Preschool for All 3-Year-Olds
New York Times By KATE TAYLORAPRIL 24, 2017
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that New York City would offer free, full-day preschool to all 3-year-olds within four years, saying that he was building on the success of the city’s prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds and that it was time to go further.  New York would be only the second city in the country to offer free preschool to every 3-year-old, after Washington. But New York’s program would dwarf that city’s effort, which enrolls only 5,700 3-year-olds. In New York, officials expect to serve 62,000 children a year.  Implementing the universal prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds was the centerpiece of Mr. de Blasio’s campaign for mayor four years ago and is considered to be one of the biggest accomplishments of his first term. So it is not surprising that, with his re-election effort starting, he is seeking to amplify the achievement.  The announcement came shortly after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo  established a first-in-the-nation program offering free college tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities, eventually for families making up to $125,000.

 DeVos Tells Fox News: 'There Isn't Really Any Common Core Any More'
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on April 24, 2017 4:44 PM
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos seems to be indicating that, as far as she's concerned, the Common Core State Standards aren't really a big point of discussion in education any longer. But how did she express that idea, and does it hold up to scrutiny?   During a Fox News interview Monday, anchor Bill Hemmer asked DeVos whether the U.S. Department of Education would withhold federal money from states that use the standards.   "The Every Students Succeeds Act ... essentially does away with the whole argument about common core," DeVos responded, adding that the law gives states more flexibility in education policy decisions. She added that she hoped all states in their ESSA plans would include high expectations for students.  But Hemmer pressed her again on the question about withholding federal funds over the common core. DeVos replied, "There isn't really any common core any more. Each state is able to set the standards for their state. They may elect to adopt very high standards for their students to aspire to and to work toward. And that will be up to each state."  You can watch the full clip of DeVos' interview with Hemmer below; her remarks about the common core begin at about the 2-minute, 12-second mark:

Betsy DeVos said, ‘There isn’t really any Common Core any more.’ Um, yes, there is.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss April 24 at 8:23 PM 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos can’t seem to make an accurate statement about the Common Core State Standards.  The Core was among the most controversial topics in education for years. It started as a bipartisan effort to create a set of math and English language-arts standards for students across the country to use, but it became an educational and political mess. Most states adopted and implemented the standards early in the Obama administration — but failed to give teachers sufficient time to learn it, and critics from every part of the political spectrum found fault with some part of the initiative.  A grass-roots revolt took place against the Core and federally funded standardized tests aligned to the standards, and some states have either replaced the standards or renamed them with minimal changes.  When she was first nominated late last year to be education secretary by Donald Trump, the Michigan billionaire was described as a strong ally of former Florida governor — and Common Core booster — Jeb Bush. She had not at that time attacked the Core publicly but later said she was not a supporter. During the campaign, Trump had promised “to get rid of Common Core,” and at a December rally with the president-elect, she repeated that sentiment, saying that the Trump administration would put an “end to the federal Common Core.”


PSBA Spring Town Hall Meetings coming in May!
Don’t be left in the dark on legislation that affects your district! Learn the latest from your legislators at PSBA Spring Town Hall Meetings. Conveniently offered at 10 locations around the state throughout May, this event will provide you with the opportunity to interact face-to-face with key lawmakers from your area. Enjoy refreshments, connect with colleagues, and learn what issues impact you and how you can make a difference. Log in to the Members Area to register today for this FREE event!
  • Monday, May 1, 6-8 p.m. — Parkway West CTC, 7101 Steubenville Pike, Oakdale, PA 15071
  • Tuesday, May 2, 7:30-9 a.m. — A W Beattie Career Center, 9600 Babcock Blvd, Allison Park, PA 15101
  • Tuesday, May 2, 6-8 p.m. — Crawford County CTC, 860 Thurston Road, Meadville, PA 16335
  • Wednesday, May 3, 6-8 p.m. — St. Marys Area School District, 977 S. St Marys Road, Saint Marys, PA 15857
  • Thursday, May 4, 6-8 p.m. — Central Montco Technical High School, 821 Plymouth Road, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
  • Friday, May 5, 7:30-9 a.m. — Lehigh Carbon Community College, 4525 Education Park Dr, Schnecksville, PA 18078
  • Monday, May 15, 6-8 p.m. — CTC of Lackawanna Co., 3201 Rockwell Avenue, Scranton, PA 18508
  • Tuesday, May 16, 6-8 p.m. — PSBA, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
  • Wednesday, May 17, 6-8 p.m. — Lycoming CTC, 293 Cemetery Street, Hughesville, PA 17737
  • Thursday, May 18, 6-8 p.m. — Chestnut Ridge SD, 3281 Valley Road, Fishertown, PA 15539
For assistance with registration, please contact Michelle Kunkel at 717-506-2450 ext. 3365.

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