Wednesday, January 11, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 11: $14 billion in new taxes will be needed to eliminate school property taxes as reported by the State IFO.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 11, 2017
$14 billion in new taxes will be needed to eliminate school property taxes as reported by the State IFO.

“Context for the 24-hour rule is important. While not a part of the House ethics rule themselves, that procedural time lag was built in following a 2005 scandal over literal fly-by-night legislation.”
Pa. House pares time for review of Senate-amended legislation from 24 hours to six
Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives updated some of its ethics rules in what officials called a push for clarity.  Initially, many news outlets (including NewsWorks) highlighted rule changes that aimed at greater accountability for lawmakers found to have broken the law, after state Rep. Leslie Acosta, D-Philadelphia, stood unopposed for re-election last year. Acosta secretly pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement charges in March, but the charges weren't public until the Philadelphia Inquirer broke the story in September.  Upon further examination of the resolution introducing those changes, newspaper editorial boards from different corners of the commonwealth have sounded the alarm over a House procedural change they say reduces transparency.  "Even as the chamber gave [reforms] with one hand, it took away with another," wrote the PennLive editorial board, by "adopting language that would require the chamber to wait just six hours, instead of the previous 24 hours, before making a final vote on proposed legislation that was amended by the state Senate."

“The public elects lawmakers to conduct its business openly, however long that takes. If the House is to genuinely serve the public's interests, it will reverse this ill-advised rule change — posthaste.”
Editorial: Pa. House clocker-watchers: Nix this rule change
TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
A Pennsylvania House of Representatives rule change that curtails time for public review of some legislation exudes what political operatives call “bad optics” — and that's just one reason it should be reversed.  The change means the House now will wait just six hours instead of a full 24 hours before taking final votes on bills amended by the Senate. And despite protestations to the contrary by House leadership, it's hard to see this change as doing anything but diminishing legislative openness.  That's especially true because the 24-hour rule was among 2007 reforms adopted after a controversial legislative pay-raise vote.

$14 billion in new taxes will be needed to eliminate school property taxes as reported by the State IFO.
PA Independent Fiscal Office January 09, 2017 | Research Briefs And Special Reports
Letter updating the IFO's forecast of school district property tax collections for FY 2015-16 through FY 2021-22. The letter also includes projections of school district debt service payments and earned income tax collections for FY 2015-16 through FY 2021-22.  Total school property tax collections for FY 2015-16 ($13.6 billion) and FY 2016-17 ($13.9 billion) are estimated using millage rates published by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. For FY 2017-18 through FY 2021-22, collections are projected based on a forecast of the Act 1 index and exceptions. During that period, total school property tax collections are projected to grow by an average annual rate of 3.5 percent, reaching $16.5 billion by FY 2021-22.
Prior reports / references: (1) 2013 IFO analysis of HB / SB 76 and (2) 2014 update of the school property tax forecast.

Plan to replace property taxes with more sales tax is short sighted: PennLive letters
Penn Live Opinion by MICHAEL KIRCHNER, Lower Paxton Township  Letters to the Editor 
on January 09, 2017 at 2:45 PM, updated January 09, 2017 at 4:29 PM
In respect to the proposal to eliminate school property taxes, I would caution rushing into any drastic changes.  With the present state budget shortfall directly caused by sales tax receipts continually dropping, it seems to be a foolish endeavor to hope to supplant school property taxes by doubling the state sales tax and expanding it to include all grocery purchases and funeral expenses (talk about a death tax).  This drop in sales tax revenue is a factor of the shifting market forces away from brick and mortar storefronts to online purchasing, much of which is un-taxed. To increase the sales tax will only quicken this decline (note the coming store closings of K-Mart and Sears.)  Increasing the sales tax will mean more store closings, less jobs, and a continued fall in tax revenue. To hope to fund local schools with a collapsing revenue source dooms them to failure, unless that is their intention.  The increased income tax, as a home owner, only shifts the tax and is unlikely to reduce it.  This Republican plan seems to be short sighted and in the self-interest of the very few. And I question the fairness of shifting the local school tax burden completely off of large property owners, landlords, developers, shopping centers, corporate centers, office parks, and business property owners in general, and onto the citizens' daily bread.

Pennsylvania Education Letter
Education Policy News, Analysis, and Commentary
Email By Ronald Cowell, President The Education Policy and Leadership Center January 10, 2017
Welcome to our new EPLC e-publication, Pennsylvania Education Letter, which will be sent to subscribers only in electronic format. The Letter will highlight significant education policy issues, events and personalities with a focus on Pennsylvania, but will include some coverage of national activities as well. The Letter will be published at least once a month and replaces the Education Notebook previously published by The Education Policy and Leadership Center. We want the Pennsylvania Education Letter to be without cost to our readers, but we will welcome donations and advertising support.

Here is the schedule of House and Senate session days for the next several months: 
EPLC Education Policy News

PA House of Representatives
January 23, 24, 25
February 6, 7, 8
March 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22
April 3, 4, 5, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26
May 8, 9, 10, 22, 23, 24
June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30
PA Senate
January 23, 24, 25, 30, 31
February 1, 6, 7, 8
March 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29
April 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26
May 8, 9, 10, 22, 23, 24
June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

Wolf hoping third time’s the charm on severance tax
State Impact BY KATIE COLANERI JANUARY 10, 2017 | 8:02 PM
After failing to pass a natural gas severance tax for the last two years, Governor Tom Wolf is hoping this year, the legislature will get on board with his proposal.  Following an event at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia Tuesday evening, Wolf said he plans to ask for a tax on Marcellus Shale drillers during his 2017/2018 fiscal year budget address next month. However, he was mum on the details, which he said are still being worked out with legislators and the natural gas industry.  Wolf, who campaigned on imposing a five percent severance tax, thinks the measure is key to making sure communities hours away from the nearest gas well buy in to Marcellus Shale development, especially as pipeline companies look to move natural gas to markets on the East Coast through their backyards. Increasingly, suburban Philadelphia communities in Delaware and Chester Counties, which lie along the eastern edge of route of the proposed Mariner East pipeline, have been organizing to resist the project.  “I want to be able to say to the people in Delaware County, if you support reasonable and environmentally correct expansion of the gas industry, this is going to help your schools,” the governor said.

Baer: The trashman cometh
Philly Daily News bt John Baer Updated: JANUARY 10, 2017 — 10:59 PM EST
It's no insult to call Scott Wagner a trashman.  He owns the title. It's what he does. It's how he made his millions.  And it's no stretch to suggest his politics track his profession. He wants to haul away the collected garbage of bureaucracy - as trashman-in-chief.  So for two days, Wednesday and Thursday, the maverick, rabble-rouser first-term Republican state senator plans a route across the state to formally announce a run against incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf for governor in 2018.  It's been expected. And he's got reasons.  Spending is out of control. In Harrisburg, metaphorically, "the bathrooms and toilets need cleaning, and nobody wants to do it"; state government is "plagued with entrenched bureaucracy" and it's "starving" for leadership.

Conservative GOP maverick Sen. Scott Wagner to enter Pa. governor’s race
Delco Times By The Associated Press POSTED: 01/11/17, 5:20 AM EST 
MANCHESTER, Pa. >> Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is getting his first official challenger.
Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner of York County is preparing a Wednesday announcement that he’ll seek the GOP nomination to contest Wolf’s re-election bid in 2018.  The 62-year-old Wagner is a staunch critic of Wolf and has millions of his own dollars to spend on his campaign. He’s built two municipal waste-hauling companies, and currently owns Penn Waste, which has contracts with dozens of southcentral Pennsylvania municipalities.  He’s donated heavily to conservative candidates and causes, and he’s made waves in Harrisburg over his criticism of fellow Republicans he didn’t see as conservative enough.  He’s been in office since 2014, when he won a maverick write-in bid over the Republican Party’s hand-picked candidate in a bruising election for the open seat.

“Badams over the years has become a vocal advocate for changing the state's funding system for education, in which urban school districts such as Erie's typically get less money, per student, than more affluent suburban school districts.”
Erie Superintendent Badams to lead school district in Vermont-New Hampshire
GoErie By Ed Palattella January 11, 2017
Superintendent Jay Badams, the architect of the 11,500-student Erie School District's financial recovery plan, is taking a job leading a 2,000-student school district that serves two towns in New England.  Badams has accepted the superintendent's post for what is known as School Administrative Unit 70, which runs the public schools in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Norwich, Vermont. The two sit across from each other along the Connecticut River and are near Dartmouth College.  The SAU 70 board on Tuesday night voted to offer Badams the job, which starts July 1, the board said in a statement. Badams said he agreed to take the position, and that he will remain until July 1 at the Erie School District, which he has led since the spring of 2010.  
Badams, 51, said one reason he decided to take the new job is the stress over the Erie School District's precarious financial situation.  "This effort to secure the district's finances has been draining. It has been long," Badams said. "Being able to go to such a beautiful place and still do the work I love was really appealing."

Baughn’s back to lead Chester Upland as interim super
Delco Times By Rick Kauffman, on Twitter
POSTED: 01/10/17, 9:08 PM EST | UPDATED: 45 SECS AGO
CHESTER >> A familiar face is back in town to lead the Chester Upland School District as its interim superintendent, officials announced Monday night at a special school board meeting.
Dr. Juan Baughn will take the temporary position after the Jan. 3 departure of Gregory Shannon.  When asked if returning to a school district that is projected to have a 2016-17 deficit of $17.4 million was a daunting task, Baughn said, “No.”  “I know the system, I know a lot of the people, I know the Department of Education,” Baughn said. “I think being familiar with the circumstances and entities involved makes it a little less daunting.  “But, not necessarily less difficult.”  Baughn, a graduate of Media High and Cheyney University, earned his doctorate from Temple University’s Graduate School of Education. Acting as principal at various schools in eastern Pennsylvania, he served as special assistant to the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education from 2005 to 2010.  He returns to Chester Upland amidst some of the worst financial woes the school has seen in 20 years. Students are perform among the lowest in the state and teachers have been without a new contract in three years, and without a pay raise in five.

Once a flood, applications for new Philadelphia charters slow to a trickle
Once a hotbed of charter school expansion, Philadelphia has seen charter applications slow to a trickle.  Just four organizations applied for new charters during the 2016-17 application cycle. The district has also decided not to grow its Renaissance Schools program, through which charter operators take over struggling traditional public schools.  As a result, 2017 is shaping up to be a relatively quiet one on the charter front in the city.  Two years ago — in exchange for state approval of a city cigarette tax — the district re-opened its charter process and received nearly 40 applications. Last year, 12 organizations applied for a charter.  Some charter advocates see the slowdown in applications as evidence that Philadelphia has become unfriendly to charter expansion, and that prospective applicants are steering clear rather than contend with a tougher application process.  "People are happier to see us in other places sometimes — or we feel more welcome," said Laurada Byers, co-founder of Russell Byers Charter School and board chair of Philadelphia Charters for Excellence.  Since reopening its charter process in 2014, the School Reform Commission has beefed up its charter office while committing to a more thorough and formalized process for approving new charters. Approval rates, meanwhile, have been low.

The Number of Librarians in Philly Continues to Dwindle
Public schools in Philadelphia have suffered a 94 percent drop in the number of full-time librarians between 1991 and 2015.
Pacific Standard By Morgan Baskin January 10, 2017
Public school librarians in the City of Brotherly Love are becoming increasingly scarce, a report published Monday in the Philadelphia Inquirershows. Just eight full-time, certified librarians work in Philadelphia School District buildings, down from 11 in 2015—and a whopping 94 percent decrease since 1991, when 176 librarians staffed Philly’s public schools. The Inquirer’s Kristen A. Graham credits dwindling public school budgets for the layoffs (in 2013, for example, city officials voted to close 23 public schools, 10 percent of the city’s total number, as the city faced a budget deficit of $1.35 billion over five years). Though the layoffs aren’t that shocking—this is a city that “until very recently did not have full-time nurses and counselors in every school,” Graham reports—they are extremely damaging: Speaking to Graham, Debra Kachel, a professor at Antioch University Seattle and school library expert, estimated that the number of employed librarians in Philadelphia public schools ranks as “the worst nationally.”

A couple of restauranteurs embrace the beverage tax and give back
Inquirer by Julia Terruso, Staff Writer Updated: JANUARY 11, 2017 — 12:45 AM EST
MOST RESTAURANT and corner store owners have responded to the new beverage tax with concern, outrage and vows to stop selling soda altogether.  But a married couple who owns three Center City restaurants is taking a different approach.  Starting this week, Chris Fetfatzes and Heather Annechiarico will be matching the sweetened-beverage tax revenue generated from their eateries - Hawthornes, the Cambridge and Tio Flores - and donating the money to a neighborhood school.  The 1.5-cent-an-ounce beverage tax is levied on distributors, who pay it to the city, but merchants track how much taxable beverages they sell.  Fetfatzes and Annechiarico will donate to the Andrew Jackson School, a pre-K-to-8th-grade public school at 12th and Federal Streets.

Learn the truth about Lehigh Valley charter schools | Letter
Martin Smith, Board president, Susan Mauser, CEO On behalf of Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School Board of Trustees Express-Times Letters to the Editor on January 10, 2017 at 9:57 AM
A recent year-end list ("12 ways Lehigh Valley residents got screwed in 2016") was a great reminder of how a writer so determined to be negative can completely disregard positives and even facts.  The anti-charter blurb did nothing more than reiterate the same old arguments without making any attempt to discover why charter schools are considered a "godsend" for some families -- as the author states, "freeing students from learning environments that may not be working for them and allowing them to tailor their education to their interests."  In fact, charter schools are so often blamed for a number of issues, particularly when it comes to funding. The growth of charter schools is an excuse, rather than the sole reason, for increased taxes. Ignored is the fact that plenty of charter schools in Pennsylvania have amicable relationships with their authorizing districts, and we would love for that to be the case here in the Lehigh Valley.

Report on Pittsburgh Schools lays out daunting challenges
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette January 11, 2017 12:10 AM
A sprawling analysis from a consortium of the nation’s 70 largest urban school districts found that student achievement trends in Pittsburgh Public Schools showed little to no improvement in the last decade. But Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, emphasized that the school system “is not broken” and has the “talent, the will, and the determination” to rebound over the next several years.  “We wouldn’t have put together a report of this density and [one] this comprehensive if we didn’t think the school district had the will to get better on behalf of the kids,” he said.  The 175-page report, first presented to the school board at a meeting Tuesday, is likely the most comprehensive look at the district in recent history and drew expertise from two dozen executives representing eight city school systems. It also included interviews with 170 staff and community members and what Mr. Casserly called a “ridiculous” review of document and data, costing the district $156,545 in all.  Although he acknowledged some of the findings were troubling, superintendent Anthony Hamlet said changes — including revamping the district’s central office structure and bringing the district’s outdated PreK-5 literary curriculum up to state standards — are already underway.

York Suburban seeks solutions for $2 million budget gap
York Dispatch by Alyssa Pressler , 505-5438/@AlyssaPressYDPublished 3:47 p.m. ET Jan. 10, 2017 | Updated 14 hours ago
People living in the York Suburban School District could see another hike in their property taxes this year.  The administration held a public meeting Monday night to update the board and community members on the state of the district's budget. Superintendent Shelly Merkle presented on the district as a whole, while finance director Corrine Mason gave a presentation about the current budget and what might be in store for the 2017-18 school budget.  The budget: Mason explained what goes into making a budget, from the revenue side and the expenditure side. The current school budget is at $53,102,003, and she showed a projected budget for the 2017-18 school year that is $53,450,403.  At this point, there is a $2.4 million gap in the 2017-18 budget between anticipated revenue and anticipated expenditures.

High Court Argument to Center on Level of Benefits for Spec. Ed.
Education Week By Christina A. Samuels January 9, 2017
When the U.S. Supreme Court made its first substantive interpretation in 1982 of the main federal special education law, it was careful to say that courts should not impose their own view of education adequacy upon states and districts for children covered by the law.  In that case, Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the court created a definition of a "free, appropriate public education" in the special education arena that has stood for decades. Under the definition, special education must confer "some educational benefit."  But in a case set to be argued Jan. 11, the court is weighing in on what "some" should mean. The question at hand: What level of educational benefit must school districts provide to students with disabilities in order for them to receive that free, appropriate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?

PILCOP: Confirmation Hearings: Take Action on the Betsy DeVos Nomination
Public Interest Law Center website
This is the second in our series of action items to address certain of President Elect Donald Trump’s nominations. Today’s topic is the nomination of Betsy DeVos of Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Secretary of the Department of Education.
What you should know about the nominee:  We oppose Ms. DeVos’ nomination for two reasons. First, she lacks any relevant experience: in the classroom, in running schools, or in managing large, complex organizations. The national leader for public education should have a deep understanding of all of these. Second, to the extent that she has any known connection to public education, it is her advocacy for diverting public dollars away from public schools: either through her promotion of charter schools or through her support for sending public dollars to private, for-profit schools and parochial schools. Even if you believe charters or vouchers provide parents an important option, improving and strengthening public schools is an important duty of the Secretary. Ms. DeVos has never shown any interest in supporting traditional public schools. Assuring accountability for public dollars sent to private providers of education is another vital duty, but in Michigan she actively opposed all efforts to impose accountability on charters. Ms. DeVos has advocated for less oversight of these schools, and Michigan bears the legacy of her advocacy: 80 percent of the charter schools are run by private companies and those schools are some of the least regulated in the country.
For more about Ms. DeVos’ record see: Civil Rights Roundtable Letter and “Trump’s appalling pick for Secretary of Education” by Education Voters of Pennsylvania.

Sen. Alexander Praises Betsy DeVos After Meeting, Expects Quick Confirmation
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on January 10, 2017 6:11 PM
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee, said Betsy DeVos will be an "excellent education secretary" after meeting Tuesday with President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Education.  "I'm looking forward to her hearing because I know she will impress the Senate with her passionate support for improving education for all children. I am fully confident that she will be swiftly confirmed by the full Senate," Alexander said in a statement.  Originally, the committee's hearing on DeVos' nomination was slated to be held Jan. 11. But late Monday, Alexander and the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, announced that the hearing had been postponed to Jan. 17. Murray has been highlighting the need for DeVos to submit required ethics-related information to the Office for Government Ethics, and for that office to submit it to the committee, before any hearing on her nomination.  Sources say those concerns contributed to the hearing's delay—Republicans didn't want DeVos' hearing to center around the fact that she hadn't received clearance from the ethics office. 

Big Worries About Betsy DeVos
New York Times By THE EDITORIAL BOARDJAN. 10, 2017
The director of the Office of Government Ethics, the nonpartisan agency charged with vetting the financial disclosures of cabinet nominees for potential conflicts of interest, sent an extraordinary letter to Senate Democratic leaders late last week. Never in the four-decade history of the agency, he wrote, have ethics officials felt such “undue pressure ... to rush through these important reviews,” leaving “some of the nominees with potentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues shortly before their scheduled hearings.”  As the Senate races forward with confirmation hearings this week, the spottiest disclosures have come from wealthy private-sector nominees with no governing experience and many potential conflicts. In other words, the people most in need of a complete ethics review.  Exhibit A is Betsy DeVos, a billionaire and education lobbyist who is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary. Ms. DeVos’s finances are a tangle that could take weeks to investigate. Despite that, Republicans had set her confirmation hearing for Wednesday. But late Monday night, they pushed it back to next Tuesday.

Opposition grows to Senate confirmation of Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education nominee
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 10 at 6:00 PM 
 (Update: Letter from Massachusetts charter school association about DeVos, Alexander statement, comments)
Public education was not much of an issue during the 2016 presidential campaign — but it sure is now as opposition grows to the Senate confirmation of Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s education secretary nominee, who once called the U.S. traditional public school system a “dead end.”  The confirmation hearing by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions had been set for Wednesday, but late Monday it was postponed until Jan. 17, with panel leaders releasing a statement saying the date was changed “at the request of the Senate leadership to accommodate the Senate schedule.” They did not note that Democrats had been pushing for a delay because an ethics review of DeVos has not been completed. Matt Frendewey, national communications director of the American Federation for Children, which DeVos founded, said in an e-mail, “It’s shameful that Democrats continue to play partisan politics with hollow attempts to disrupt what’s always been a bipartisan process.”  DeVos, a leader in the movement to privatize the U.S. public-education system, has quickly become a lightning rod in the education world since her nomination by Trump in November 2015.

DeVos did not attend public schools as a child and did not send her children to public schools. She has never been employed by a public school. Critics of DeVos say her strong advocacy for school voucher programs and other alternatives to traditional public schools show that she wants to dismantle the public education system. School voucher programs use taxpayer money to send children to private schools. 
Democrats Form Congressional Caucus To Support Public Education
The members of Congress say Trump’s pick for education secretary is a threat to schools.
Rebecca Klein Education Editor, The Huffington Post 01/10/2017 03:04 pm ET
Members of Congress, spurred by the nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, have formed a caucus to support public education.  Members of Congress have formed a new caucus to support the goals of public education under Donald Trump’s presidency. Although the caucus has been in the works for over a year, Trump’s election and his nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary has given the group heightened urgency, according to those involved with the effort.  Several Democratic members of Congress announced the effort alongside the presidents of the nation’s two largest teachers unions at a press conference on Tuesday.  Members expressed fear that public education will be under attack if DeVos is confirmed. Although DeVos’ Senate confirmation hearing was originally scheduled for Wednesday, it was pushed back to next week “at the request of the Senate leadership to accommodate the Senate schedule,” according to a statement from the leaders of the Senate education committee. The move comes after Democrats called on the Senate to delay the hearing until an Office of Government Ethics review of DeVos is complete. 

Dick and Betsy DeVos lift the veil on their $139M in philanthropy
MLive By Shandra Martinez | on January 09, 2017 at 2:01 PM, updated January 09, 2017 at 3:31 PM
GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- There's no question Dick and Betsy DeVos garner lots of attention -- and criticism -- for their outsized political donations. But those are pocket change compared to their charitable contributions, which add up to nearly $139 million over their lifetimes.  As U.S. Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos' contributions to Republican candidates and school choice causes are being scrutinized ahead of confirmation hearings on Wednesday, the West Michigan couple is lifting the veil on the millions in philanthropic giving that's being funneled through their foundation.  In 2015 alone, the DeVoses doled out $11.6 million in charitable contributions, according to a new report on the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation website. It's double the $5.3 million in campaign donations over the last five years that Betsy DeVos reported to the federal government as part of her vetting process for the Cabinet post. 

Newsweek BY ALEXANDER NAZARYAN ON 1/10/17 AT 7:00 AM
There was a brief moment in mid-November when education reformers were thrilled about President-elect Donald Trump’s swamp-draining imperative and what it might mean for the nation’s eternally beleaguered public schools. On November 16, Trump met at his Manhattan tower with Eva Moskowitz, whose Success Academy charter network has achieved impressive results with children of color across New York City. The following weekend, he entertained Michelle Rhee, the former head of Washington, D.C.’s public schools, at his golf club in New Jersey. Despite her uneven results, Rhee remains popular with those who think incompetent teachers and the unions that protect them are holding back America’s kids.  Instead, Trump chose Betsy DeVos to head the Education Department, a federal agency with oversight over all of the nation’s educational institutions, from prekindergarten programs to graduate schools of business. The choice mystified all those who’d figured Trump was looking for a capable, forward-looking technocrat focused on student testing and teacher accountability. The choice horrified teachers unions, as DeVos is a billionaire Republican who has worked assiduously to weaken the public schools in Michigan.

Union head: Trump schools pick 'the most anti-public-education nominee' in history
Greg Toppo , USATODAY 4:09 p.m. ET Jan. 9, 2017
The leader of one of the USA’s largest teachers unions on Monday took aim at President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the U.S. Department of Education, calling Michigan lobbyist and school reformer Betsy DeVos “the most anti-public-education nominee in the history of the department.”  In remarks delivered at the National Press Club, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said DeVos, a Michigan billionaire, should not get a Senate confirmation hearing until she discloses her financial ties to “efforts to destabilize, defund and privatize public schools.”  Monday's speech was part of a larger teachers' union effort to oppose DeVos, who is scheduled to appear before a Senate committee on Wednesday.  Weingarten said DeVos, a champion of private-school vouchers and public-private charter schools, lacks the qualifications and experience needed to lead the USA’s education efforts.
"She hasn't taught in a public school,” Weingarten said. “She hasn't served on a school board. She never attended a public school, nor did she send her kids to one. She's a lobbyist, but she's not an educator. One wonders why she was nominated."

What Is the Future of Public Education?
Four agendas beyond school choice the new administration might look to advance
The Atlantic by EMILY RICHMOND  JAN 10, 2017
It’s shaping up to be a contentious year on the education beat, fueled in part by Donald Trump’s upset victory in the presidential election. For starters, in the weeks and months since his election, his campaign call for expanding school choice has sparked widespread discussion and debate. And while federal policy is often a slow-moving train, it wouldn’t be difficult for the president-elect and the GOP-led Congress to change tracks on many key initiatives enacted by the Obama administration, affecting everything from the recent rewrite of the No Child Left Behind Act to school-lunch menus and oversight of for-profit colleges.  Predictions have been stacking up not only from pundits but also journalists, including Goldie Blumenstyk of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Alyson Klein of Education Week, and NPR’s Claudio Sanchez. Understandably, school choice is on almost everyone’s list as a front-burner issue.  It appears unlikely that President-elect Donald Trump can convince Congress—even a Republican-controlled Congress—to shell out $20 billion for school choice, as he promised during his campaign. But by tapping billionaire voucher-advocate Betsy DeVos for education secretary, Trump is making his priorities known.

As DeVos Confirmation Hearing Looms, Here's How They Went for Past Nominees
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on January 11, 2017 7:28 AM
Based on reactions from Senate Democrats and others in the education community, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, is likely to face some heat when her confirmation hearing takes place Jan. 17 before the Senate education committee. But how will she fare compared with previous nominees who have gone under the microscope?
First, here are a couple of general questions about Devos' hearing:
·         Will Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee chairman, allow multiple rounds of questions, or will he keep things pretty snappy? Part of the answer may depend on the tone of the hearing.
·         How many questions will focus strictly on DeVos' policy positions? And how many questions will deal with her background as a big GOP political donor and her connections to political causes and candidates?
Below is a look back at the experience of five past nominees for education secretary. All of them were eventually confirmed by the full Senate.

Memphis participates in NAACP national study on Charter Schools
Tuesday, January 10th 2017, 11:27 pm ESTTuesday, January 10th 2017, 11:38 pm EST
By Staff
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis is in the national spotlight as the NAACP held the second of seven public hearings across the country to study the impact of Charter Schools on public education.  The hearings follow the NAACP approval of a moratorium in October on Charter School expansion. The organization wants to study issues such as accountability, funding, transparency, and discipline practices.  "We have one common goal across this country and that is to find out what we should be doing now during these perilous times to protect and further the education of African-American children," Alice Huffman, NAACP Task Force member, said.  Charter Schools are publicly funded, but operated independently.   The Task Force plans to present a report of its findings to the national NAACP in May.

Appellate court says some Louisiana charter schools shouldn't get public funding
By Danielle Dreilinger, | The Times-Picayune  Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on January 10, 2017 at 3:10 PM, updated January 10, 2017 at 5:24 PM
A Louisiana appeals court struck down funding for some charter schools Monday (Jan. 9) in a short decision that makes a big statement. Certain charters, the majority wrote, "are not public schools in the sense of the Louisiana Constitution."  Thus they may not use Louisiana's main pot of public school money: the per-pupil formula called the Minimum Foundation Program or MFP. It governs both local and state taxes.  The First Circuit judgment was close, 3-2, in the case the Louisiana Association of Educators brought against the Louisiana Department of Education and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. A similar suit from the Iberville Parish School Board was combined with the LAE's case.  State schools Superintendent John White said the defendants would appeal and criticized the plaintiffs. "This lawsuit is only about money. It disregards the rights of parents to choose the schools that are best for their unique children."

DeVos’s hearing, originally scheduled to take place on Wednesday morning, has been rescheduled for Jan. 17 at 5 p.m.

We had reports from western PA of a telephone campaign by DeVos supporters asking voters to contact their senators to support her nomination.  If you have not already done so, please consider calling Senators Toomey and Casey as noted below.

DeVos’s hearing, originally scheduled to take place on Wednesday morning, has been rescheduled for Jan. 17 at 5 p.m., according to a joint statement from the HELP committee chairman, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and ranking member, Patty Murray (D-Wash).

Betsy DeVos' confirmation hearing is officially set for Jan. 11 at 10 a.m. in 430 Dirksen

Over the past three weeks, I have been unable to find any press coverage of her ever having visited a traditional public school.  She would be welcome to come visit my school district.

In a constituent response letter regarding the nomination of Betsy DeVos dated December 2, 2016, Senator Toomey stated: “I believe she is a great pick.”  His Washington, D.C. phone number is (202) 224-4254  You can find phone numbers for his Pennsylvania offices here

Senator Casey is a member of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee that will be holding the confirmation hearing.  His Washington, D.C. phone number is (202) 224-6324  You can find phone numbers for his Pennsylvania offices by clicking on the “Regions” link at the bottom of this “Contacts” page

NPE Pennsylvania alert: Betsy De Vos
Network for Public Education January 2, 2017 by Carol Burris
The confirmation hearings for Betsy DeVos will happen shortly. Please call your senators this week and let them know you oppose her appointment as Secretary of Education. If you called already, please call again.  It is most effective to call a local office. Below is the list of local office locations to drop off a letter, and local numbers to call your senators.  If you want a script for your call, you can find it here.  Please pick up the phone and call.
You can share this alert with friends and family in your state by posting this link:

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

Tuesday, January 24,  6:00pm - 7:30pm
Community College of Philadelphia 1700 Spring Garden Street 19130
Bonnell Building (Large Auditorium BG-20) Entrance Between Spring Garden and Callowhill  on  N. 17th
Hosted by:
Councilmembers Helen Gym, Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, Jannie Blackwell
Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent, Philadelphia School District
Faculty and Staff Federation, Community College of Philadelphia
Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC)
United Voices for Philadelphia
For more info, or to reserve free childcare for ages 3 and up,
Contact: Office of Councilmember Helen Gym 215-686-3420

Register for the 2017 PASA Education Congress, “Delving Deeper into the Every Student Succeeds Act.” March 29-30
Offered in partnership with PASA and the PA Department of Education March 29-30, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg - Camp Hill, PA .    Approved for 40 PIL/Act 48 (Act 45) hours for school administrators.  Register online at

PSBA Governing Board seeks nominations for position of At-Large Representative (Central) Nominations are due by 9 a.m. on January 16. 
PSBA Website
Because no one ran for the open seat of At-Large Representative (Central) on the PSBA Governing Board during the 2016 elections, this position is currently vacant. According to PSBA Bylaws (Article III, Section 4), the Governing Board shall fill the vacancy.  The Governing Board is currently seeking nominations for this position from individuals in the Central Section, including Regions 4, 5, 6, 9 and 12, (see map). The selected person will fill the position for 2017, and the seat will be open for election for the remaining two years (2018-19) of the three-year term, according to PSBA Bylaws (Article III, Section 4, Part B, 2). The selected person may run for election for the remaining two years.

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

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

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

SAVE THE DATE LWVPA Convention 2017 June 1-4, 2017
Join the League of Women Voters of PA for our 2017 Biennial Convention at the beautiful Inn at Pocono Manor!

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

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