Thursday, January 19, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 19: SB76 tax elimination bill gives business a free ride, shifts entire tax burden to citizens

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 19, 2017
SB76 tax elimination bill gives business a free ride, shifts entire tax burden to citizens

No school tax means Bethlehem businesses pocket $18.2M
Lehigh Valley Live By Sara K. Satullo | For  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on January 18, 2017 at 1:02 PM, updated January 18, 2017 at 2:13 PM
Bethlehem Area School District officials say they don't want to just lobby against a proposal to ax school property taxes, they want to offer solutions.  Tuesday night Superintendent Joseph Roy outlined ideas to give property tax relief to Pennsylvania homeowners without letting businesses off the hook.  The district advocates for a significant increase in the state's senior citizen property tax rebate program and the homestead tax credit amongst other ideas.  "You don't need to throw the whole property tax out to give significant relief to senior citizens," Roy said.  A proposed law -- HB/SB 76 -- would replace school district real estate taxes with an increased personal income tax and a higher, expanded sales tax, which would apply to things like day care and clothes over $50. The state would be responsible for doling out school funding.  Bethlehem's top 20 commercial properties pay $18.2 million in annual school property taxes, said Stacy M. Gober, district chief financial officer. And 51 percent of the district's entire tax base, which amounts of $82.1 million, comes from commercial properties.  That money would all disappear under HB/SB 76 and the burden would be shifted to citizens, Gober said. The income tax would rise from 3.07 percent to 4.95 percent and the sales tax would jump from 6 percent to 7 percent and cover core things.

“If Pennsylvania ends property taxes and collects more sales and income tax revenue, it's likely to have more control over how much of the money each district receives, Parkland administrators said.  "My biggest fear is we lose local control over our budget," Sniscak said. "That's a scary proposition because the history of the state managing funds isn't very good, aka the pension system."  "Once monies are collected away from here, my worry No. 1 is about them getting back here," Vignone said.  The other concern is that income tax and sales tax revenue typically fall during a recession, which would mean less for education, Vignone said.  He also questioned when the district would receive funds from the state if property taxes are eliminated. Currently, Parkland gets most of its revenue in the summer, which makes it easier to plan expenses for the year.”
Parkland chief: Axing property taxes could weaken local control of schools
Margie Peterson Special to The Morning Call January 19, 2017
Parkland School District is expecting to keep any real estate tax increase this year within the state's Act I Index of 2.5 percent. But the bigger question at Tuesday's school board meeting was whether Pennsylvania will end property taxes altogether.  State Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, believes he has the votes in the state Senate for a proposal that would increase the state income tax rate by 60 percent and the sales tax rate by 17 percent but would effectively eliminate property taxes.  Such talk in Harrisburg prompted Parkland Superintendent Richard Sniscak to warn that scraping property taxes could weaken local control of schools.  In response to questions from School Director Jef Reyburn, Sniscak and John Vignone, director of business administration, said that about 80 percent of Parkland's revenue comes from local taxes, primarily property taxes.  The state contributes about 19 percent of Parkland's funding and the federal government, about 1 percent.

Dr. Barbara Parkins said in her statement that if the plan passes, the elimination of property taxes “becomes a tax shift that could include higher sales taxes and higher income taxes,” which will “create unpredictable funding for public schools.”  Parkins also said the plan will “undo the work done to enact a new basic education funding formula that is to provide fair investments for students.”
“By abolishing local control, school boards will no longer be making funding decisions for our schools,” Parkins said during Tuesday’s work session. “School boards, now, are able to use local taxes along with other funding sources to meet the needs of their individual school districts.  “By eliminating property taxes, the state will now be given control of the finances for all 500 school districts in Pennsylvania. For these reasons, I asked Senator White to oppose any plan to eliminate school property taxes.”
UNITED: School official discusses tax elimination concerns
Indiana Gazette by HEATHER CARLSON on January 18, 2017 10:57 AM  Armagh, Pa.
EAST WHEATFIELD TOWNSHIP — The district superintendent announced to the United school board Tuesday that she has sent her concerns regarding the possibility of the elimination of property taxes to state Sen. Don White.  Debate over the school property taxes is expected to return to the Legislature this year, with Senate supporters saying the Nov. 8 election provided the necessary incoming votes to eliminate the taxes entirely and replace them with other revenue streams, which would mean shifting about $14 billion in taxes from property owners, including businesses, to state consumers and workers through sales and personal income taxes, according to a recent Associated Press report.  In late 2015, the Senate defeated legislation introduced by Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, by a 25-24 vote with Lt. Gov. Mike Stack casting the tiebreaker. Argall will introduce the leading proposal, which would increase the income tax by 60 percent and hike the state sales tax rate by 17 percent while applying it to a wider range of goods and services, such as groceries, clothing, basic TV and funeral services, the AP reported.

State bills could change how we fund schools
Quakertown Community School District Super Blog Posted by Bill Harner, Superintendent at 1/18/2017
Good evening!  Shortly after the gavel comes down on Monday to begin the next session of the PA State Legislature, I expect that PA Senate Bill 76 School Property Tax Elimination will be brought forward.  Last year, the bill failed by one vote, 25-26 with the Lieutenant Governor casting the deciding “no” vote. Taxes are a burden for all of us!  They are relative to what we earn (income tax), spend (sales tax,) and the value of our homes (property tax). It’s even worse if you are a business owner because Pennsylvania has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the nation. Many businesses have left our state because of it.  As a homeowner myself, I pay the full array of taxes like most of you. However, as the Quakertown superintendent, I have a fiduciary responsibility to keep the Board and community aware of the implications of what is out there that could put the district at risk.
Just the sound of this bill makes it popular! School Property Tax Elimination! The thinking is that it is expected to be an ‘easy lift’ for the Legislature. So what’s the downside?  Here it is:  SB76 will virtually eliminate local financial control of schools and create an annual guessing game in the school district budgeting process. I believe this bill is short-sighted, especially for communities like ours, and in fact, for many communities across Pennsylvania. Before considering such a major shift in school funding, our elected leaders in Harrisburg need to make the ‘heavy lifts’ first, which they haven’t done yet. They need to first solve the PSERS crisis, then start controlling expenses, reduce or eliminate unfunded mandates, and balance their own budget.

Implications of Property Tax Elimination
PASBO Website

Property Tax Reform and Related Issues
PASBO Website
Property tax reform remains an important focus for the legislature in 2017-18, with a property tax elimination proposal taking center stage. While a bill has not yet been introduced in 2017, we assume that the proposal will be similar to that offered in past legislative sessions. The co-sponsorship memo for the bill states that the bill will prohibit school districts from levying a property tax on or after July 1, 2017, with the exception of a limited property tax necessary to fund the debt service existing in a school district as of December 31, 2016.  Like past versions of the bill, we expect that to replace local property tax revenue, the statewide PIT would increase from 3.07% to 4.95% and the statewide sales and use tax would increase from 6% to 7% and the list of items and services to which the tax would apply would expand to include the majority of services (such as legal services and mental health services) as well as items such as most food and clothing.  The revenue raised as a result of the increase and expansion of the PIT and SUT will be placed into the Education Stabilization Fund to be used to distribute revenue to school districts annually. In the first year of implementation, the state would provide each school district with the same amount of funding (from the Education Stabilization Fund) as their local property tax revenue in 2016-17 and their property tax reduction amount from 2016-17 minus the amount of property tax revenue still allowed to be collected by the district to correspond to their outstanding debt.

PSBA Webinar: Review and analysis of property tax-shift legislation
JAN 19, 2017 • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Join PSBA and the Pa. Independent Fiscal Office for this complimentary member webinar to discuss the proposed property tax-elimination legislation being considered by state legislators. Learn how the legislation could impact your school district.  Presenters include John Callahan, PSBA assistant executive director for public policy; Matthew Knittel, director, and Mark Ryan, deputy director — both of the Pa. Independent Fiscal Office.

New school rating system will have less emphasis on PSSAs, Keystones
Jacqueline Palochko Contact ReporterOf The Morning Call January 18, 2017
New school rating system will have less emphasis on PSSAs, Keystones
The standardized tests that Pennsylvania students take every year aren't going away, but they will count less under a new accountability system the state is developing.
On Wednesday, the state Department of Education outlined indicators it is recommending for use in the Future Ready PA Index, which would replace the School Performance Profile scores. The new system is expected to be in place in fall 2018.  When Gov. Tom Wolf took office, he tasked the Department of Education with coming up with a more holistic approach to measuring school proficiency and growth. In December, the state announced plans to replace the SPP with Future Ready PA Index.  The SPP scores heavily depend on the results of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment and Keystone exams. Students in grades three through eight take the PSSAs, while high school students take the Keystones in biology, literature and algebra at the end of each course.  The state "still believes PSSAs and Keystones are critical components," Matt Stem, deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education, said Wednesday.  But in talking with stakeholders across Pennsylvania, the state heard that growth-measure scores are more meaningful in determining a school's success than just pure achievement scores, Stem said.

Kenney chooses Temple College of Education professor for the SRC
The notebook by Greg Windle January 18, 2017 — 1:39pm
Mayor Kenney has appointed Christopher McGinley, an associate professor in education at Temple University, to the School Reform Commission. McGinley will replace Sylvia Simms, whose term ended Jan. 13. His first SRC action meeting as a commissioner will be Thursday, Jan. 19.   “Dr. McGinley will bring a wealth of educational experience to the School Reform Commission,” Kenney said in a statement. "His educator lens is exactly what the SRC needs in order to build on the District’s gains in recent years. Dr. McGinley’s passion for public education and reducing the achievement gap, coupled with his background as an administrator for various school districts, will also help the District prepare for a smooth transition to greater local control.”   McGinley is the coordinator for the Educational Leadership Program at the Temple University College of Education, where he is an associate professor. His career in education began in the School District of Philadelphia, where he worked as a special education teacher in middle schools and high schools. He served as the principal of Adaire Elementary and later at Austin Meehan Middle School.   In 1999, McGinley left Philadelphia to take a position as the assistant superintendent in the Cheltenham Township district, where he was promoted to superintendent in 2003. As superintendent, he worked with the University of Pennsylvania to create the Delaware Valley Minority Student Achievement Consortium, dedicated to closing the achievement gap. 

Longtime educator with Phila. roots named to the SRC
Former Lower Merion School District Superintendent Christopher McGinley has been named to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.
by Kristen A. Graham, STAFF WRITER  @newskag Updated: JANUARY 18, 2017 2:21 PM EST
Christopher McGinley, an educator with deep roots in the Philadelphia School District, was named to an open seat on the School Reform Commission Wednesday by Mayor Kenney.
McGinley, who currently teaches in Temple University's College of Education, is the former superintendent of Lower Merion and Cheltenham schools.  He spent the first 18 years of his career in Philadelphia public schools, working as a special education teacher, principal and administrator in the district's central office.  Education is the McGinley family business. Both of his parents were teachers, and six of the eight McGinley children followed their parents into the classroom. His father, Dan McGinley, was the longtime president of the district's principals' union, and his sister Nancy McGinley was superintendent in Charleston, S.C.

New SRC member: "My heart is with traditional public schools"
Former Lower Merion School District Superintendent Christopher McGinley has been named to the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag Updated: JANUARY 19, 2017 1:08 AM
Christopher McGinley's grandmother was a cleaning lady at Olney High School. On Wednesday, McGinley was named by Mayor Kenney to a seat on the School Reform Commission.  McGinley, 58, spent nearly two decades in Philadelphia classrooms, and now teaches educational leadership at Temple University. He is a former superintendent of the Cheltenham and Lower Merion School Districts.  Kenney said he chose McGinley because of his experience.  "His educator lens is exactly what the SRC needs in order to build on the district's gains in recent years," he said in a statement. "Dr. McGinley's passion for public education and reducing the achievement gap, coupled with his background as an administrator for various school districts, will also help the district prepare for a smooth transition to greater local control."  Five years ago, when McGinley moved back to the city after a stint in the suburbs, he "had a gut feeling" he would help the Philadelphia School District in some way, he said. He was not expecting a call to join the SRC but accepted the mayor's offer quickly, he said.  "I believe strongly in public education," said McGinley, who takes the seat vacated by the recent expiration of Sylvia Simms' term. "I am honored by the opportunity."

In Philadelphia, public-school advocates cringe at DeVos hearing, while school choice supporters see opportunity
Inquirer by Aubrey Whelan, Staff Writer  @aubreyjwhelan Updated: JANUARY 18, 2017 8:41 PM
The federal government doesn’t have much to do with the nitty-gritty of local school policy -  that’s up to state governments. But on Tuesday, educators and policymakers in Philadelphia were nonetheless watching Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing closely -- the Michigan billionaire and school-choice proponent, if confirmed, will ascend to the biggest educational bully pulpit in the country.  And while charter-school advocates said they see opportunity in a DeVos-led Department of Education, public school supporters say the contentious hearing only confirmed their worst fears about education policy under the Trump administration. 

Philadelphia schools trying to assure immigrant parents classes are safe places
At the very moment his pick for education secretary testified before congress, President-elect Donald Trump was also on the minds of families at a School District of Philadelphia forum. The topic wasn't what Trump will do on education policy, but rather his stance on immigration and border control.   Though no one mentioned Trump's name at the district's conspicuously timed forum on diversity and inclusion, panelists repeatedly referenced the president elect's campaign rhetoric on illegal migrants and assured immigrant families that their children would be safe at Philadelphia's public schools.  "We want all students and their families to feel welcome and included," said Superintendent William Hite.  The school district does not inquire about students' immigration status, said Karyn Lynch, the district's chief of student support services, and therefore could not provide that information to federal authorities. Demographic data, meanwhile, is largely protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), said Lynch. When a parent expressed fears that her child might not be safe at school because he's undocumented, Lynch and others assured her that immigration officials wouldn't be able to march into schools and seize children without a warrant.

Pa. teachers sue over the union fees they must pay
Inquirer by Jane M. Von Bergen, STAFF WRITER  @JaneVonBergen Updated: AUGUST 30, 2016 — 3:09 PM EDT
What she’s telling the courts is that she no longer wants to be forced to pay union fees from the salary she earns as a librarian at the Robeson Elementary Center in Birdsboro, part  of the Twin Valley School District in Berks and Chester Counties.   Galaska, of Boyertown, and three other Pennsylvania teachers, none of whom are union members, filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against their districts, the superintendents, and the union that represents the faculty, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, as well as its local branches, including the Twin Valley Education Association.   Their suits, which will take years to resolve, have come days before Donald Trump's inauguration and a little less than two weeks after Kentucky passed “right-to-work” legislation, weakening union influence. 

Senators see disrepair of Erie's schools on tour
They vowed to work on a solution to school district's problems.
GoErie By Nico Salvatori Posted Jan 18, 2017 at 3:45 PM Updated Jan 18, 2017 at 5:52 PM
The last time Dan Laughlin had set foot inside the Central Career and Technical School on Cherry Street, the year was 1976.  The freshman state senator from Millcreek Township was a student then, and on Wednesday, he returned to the Erie School District facility.  "It looks pretty much the same," said Laughlin, R-49th Dist., taking in the industrial activity and noise of students in shop class.  Clearly visible was a large hole in one of the ceiling tiles, and students in an adjacent room were designing projects on computers close to 10 years old. Dented-up lockers with faded paint suggestive of another era lined the hallways leading to the classrooms.

Erie teachers warn against state takeover
Union members want district to retain local control.
GoErie By Ed Palattella Posted Jan 18, 2017 at 12:01 AMUpdated Jan 18, 2017 at 7:58 AM
The Erie School District's teachers' union is speaking out to make sure the district's financial crisis does not lead to a state takeover.  Members of the Erie Education Association plan to attend Wednesday night's School Board meeting to distribute information about why the district needs to avoid what the state calls financial recovery. If the state were to place the Erie School District district in that category, the state could appoint a receiver, known as a chief recovery officer, to run the 11,500-student district until it becomes solvent.  The School Board meeting starts at 6 p.m. at East High School, 1001 Atkins St.  The state financial recovery law, which allows for the receivership, is different from the "financial watch" law the Erie School District has been following since July as it tries to resolve its financial woes. Under that law, the district on Dec. 6 submitted a financial plan to the state Department of Education seeking $31.8 million in additional state funding to stay solvent.

Titusville Area School board approves tax hike limit
Titusville Herald By Natalie Dodd Herald Staff Writer  Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2017
The board of directors of the Titusville Area School District approved a resolution to base its next budget on the Tax Payers Relief Act of 2006, which states that a school district must limit how high it raises taxes.  The only exception is if a tax increase is voted on by voters in a referendum or if the school district obtains particular exceptions from the Department of Education court of common pleas.  The resolution, which received unanimous approval from the school board, states that the board will not go beyond the personalized district index for tax increases.  As it currently stands, the district cannot raise taxes beyond 3.8 mills.  One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 in a property’s assessed value.  The portion of the budget dealing with whether or not a tax increase will be implemented is crucial in the planning of an annual budget, said district Business Manager Shawn Sampson.  “The resolution states that the board will not go beyond the index, so the budget planning will start now and work its way into May,” Sampson said. “If the board didn’t want to adopt that resolution, we would have started the budget back in September or October, which is way ahead of schedule.”

How the League of Women Voters is Building Fair Districts to Counter Gerrymandering
In All PodcastsUnion Edge by ProducerJanuary 17, 2017 Runtime: 24:27
Susan Carty, the President of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, joins us to explain what gerrymandering is, how it impacts our elections, and the League’s work building Fair Districts PA to support impartial and fair elections.

Exeter School Board formally opposes Trump choice for education secretary
Reading Eagle By Matt Nanci Wednesday January 18, 2017 12:01 AM
EXETER TOWNSHIP, PA The Exeter School Board took a stand at its meeting Tuesday against Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to be the next secretary of education, passing a resolution formally opposing her nomination.  The resolution says, among other things, that the Michigan philanthropist lacks credentials as an educator and lacks experience as an administrator.  The resolution also says that she has "a pre-disposition towards and long-history of support for charter schools and school voucher programs, which by their very nature eviscerate free and appropriate public education, and enriched the coffers of private companies."  It later calls for the U.S. Senate to "stand firm by opposing this nominee until such time as the incoming President's administration presents a vision and plan which supports and enhances public education in America."  The resolution passed in a 8-0 vote. Board member Ann M. Hearing was absent.  "I think from our perspective, we think it's part of our responsibility as stewards of public education to kind of express our thoughts about a candidate who appears as if she could do some significant damage to education as we know it in America," said Dr. David R. Hemberger, board president.

“According to the Detroit Free Press the plan that Ms. DeVos pushed for ‘enabled a range of abuses in a system now responsible for more than 140,000 Michigan children.’ The Detroit Free Press investigation found:
‘Wasteful spending and double-dipping. Board members, school founders and employees steering lucrative deals to themselves or insiders. Schools allowed to operate for years despite poor academic records. No state standards for who operates charter schools or how to oversee them. And a record number of charter schools run by for-profit companies that rake in taxpayer money and refuse to detail how they spend it, saying they’re private and not subject to disclosure laws.’  I’m concerned that Ms. DeVos would pursue policies for Pennsylvania students that The New York Times has found to have created ‘a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States’ in Michigan. Pennsylvania has a near 200 year history of commitment to the public education of our children. In fact, 92 percent of students attend traditional public schools, and charter schools must be public, nonprofit corporations, not for-profit entities.”
Casey Announces Voting Decision On Three Top Cabinet Nominees
DeVos, Sessions, and Pruitt All To Receive “No” Vote From PA Senator
Senator Casey’s Website Wednesday, January 18, 2017
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is ready to announce after deliberations, hearings, and review of available paperwork that he will vote “no” on President-elect Trump’s Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos, Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator nominee Scott Pruitt. Below are statements on his rationale on each individual decision:

Senators grill education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos on finances, public schools
Penn Live By Lauren Gibbons |  on January 17, 2017 at 10:00 PM, updated January 18, 2017 at 6:52 AM
U.S. Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos was grilled on a plethora of educational policies and her financial background Tuesday evening during her confirmation hearing before a Senate committee.   DeVos, a longtime Republican donor and activist with an extensive history of funding school reform initiatives in Michigan and other states, steered the conversation whenever she could to additional choices for parents and students and local control when answering questions from senators on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions during a Tuesday afternoon hearing.   DeVos' confirmation hearing began shortly after 5 p.m. Eastern and trailed into the evening, eventually closing out around 8:40 p.m. The committee did not take a vote on recommending Devos' nomination to the full Senate.  In opening remarks for her Senate confirmation hearing for the position of U.S. Education Secretary, West Michigan native Betsy Devos said she's committed to making it easier for parents and students to make choices about education.  When asked about whether she would commit to keep current funding for public schools intact by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, DeVos did not give a yes or no answer.

Split Responses to Betsy DeVos' Testimony After Testy Confirmation Hearing
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on January 18, 2017 12:42 PM
By Andrew Ujifusa and Alyson Klein
The Tuesday confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary, provided some clarity on her views, but also left some key questions only partially answered or unanswered. And her answers on special education, accountability, and school choice provoked both positive and negative reactions. Below are some of the responses we've gathered to DeVos' nomination hearing before the Senate education committee. Check back here for more reactions. 

At DeVos' Senate Hearing, Questions Of Choice, Charters, 'Other Options'
NPR Heard on Morning Edition by CORY TURNER January 17, 20174:53 PM ET
The education philosophy of Betsy DeVos boils down to one word: choice. The billionaire has used her money to support the expansion of public charter schools and private school vouchers.
For more than three hours on Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump's pick to run the Education Department handled tough questions on school choice, charters and the future of the nation's schools from the Senate committee that handles education.  In her opening remarks, DeVos made clear she doesn't think traditional public schools are a good fit for every child.  "Parents no longer believe that a one-size-fits-all model of learning meets the needs of every child," she said. "And they know other options exist, whether magnet, virtual, charter, home, faith-based or any other combination."  The problem, say DeVos' critics, is her faith in the free market, and that she thinks parents should be able to use public-school dollars to pay for alternatives outside the system.

Nominee Betsy DeVos’s Knowledge of Education Basics Is Open to Criticism
WASHINGTON — Until Tuesday, the fight over Betsy DeVos’s nominationto be secretary of education revolved mostly around her support of contentious school choice programs.
But her confirmation hearing that night opened her up to new criticism: that her long battle for school choice, controversial as it has been, is the sum total of her experience and understanding of education policy. In questioning by senators, she seemed either unaware or unsupportive of the longstanding policies and functions of the department she is in line to lead, from special education rules to the policing of for-profit universities.  Ms. DeVos admitted that she might have been “confused” when she appeared not to know that the broad statute that has governed special education for more than four decades is federal law.  A billionaire investor, education philanthropist and Michigan Republican activist, Ms. DeVos acknowledged that she has no personal experience with student loans — the federal government is the largest provider — and said she would have to “review” the department’s policies that try to prevent fraud by for-profit colleges.  She appeared blank on basic education terms. Asked how school performance should be assessed, she did not know the difference between growth, which measures how much students have learned over a given period, and proficiency, which measures how many students reach a targeted score.

“(By way of full disclosure, her husband, Dick, sits on the board of the National Review Institute.)”
The Shameful War on Betsy DeVos
National Review by RICH LOWRY January 18, 2017 12:00 AM @RICHLOWRY
Betsy DeVos is seeing firsthand that no good deed goes unpunished. The controversy over the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education has been, if nothing else, clarifying. We now know that working to give poor kids more educational opportunities is considered a disqualifying offense for the Left. For decades, DeVos has devoted herself to creating alternatives to a public-school establishment that fails its most vulnerable students, and she earned the eternal enmity of defenders of the status quo in doing it. The assault against her by the teachers unions and their allies speaks to a certain desperation. They have been steadily losing ground in the debate over educational choice at the state and local level, and now DeVos threatens to occupy the commanding heights of federal policy at the Department of Education. Through her activism and philanthropy, DeVos has pushed for every form of educational choice, whether charter schools, school vouchers, or tuition tax credits. She championed the charter-school law in her home state of Michigan and has been chair of the American Federation for Children, devoted to electing state legislators around the country who favor choice. (By way of full disclosure, her husband, Dick, sits on the board of the National Review Institute.)
Read more at:

The Betsy DeVos Hearing Was an Insult to Democracy
Who are the real grizzlies?
Esquire BY CHARLES P. PIERCE JAN 18, 2017 
WASHINGTON, D.C.—It was not a hearing. It was the mere burlesque of a hearing, rendered meaningless by a preposterously accelerated process that rendered all questioning perfunctory and that left all cheap evasions hanging in the air of the committee room the way cigarette smoke used to canopy the proceedings back in the day. You would not hire a gardener through the process by which Betsy DeVos likely is going to become the Secretary of Education. A public school system wouldn't hire her to work the cafeteria line at lunch. It was appalling. It was unnerving. It was a grotesque of how an evolved democracy should operate. It was business as usual these days and it likely isn't going to matter a damn.  As nearly as I can tell, the nominees for the president-elect's Cabinet fall into several different categories. There are the people you'd pretty much expect from any Republican administration. (James Mattis, Stephen Flynn, Ryan Zinke). There are the people who understand the mission of their departments and have spent their lives undermining it. (Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Rick Perry at Energy, Andrew Puzder at Labor). And there are the people who are fundamentally clueless about the general nature of public service. (Rex Tillerson at State.) On Tuesday night, DeVos demonstrated that she is that rarest of Trump administration fauna: Someone who fits capably into all three categories.

Trump's education secretary pick has spent a lifetime working to end public education as we know it.
Mother Jones by KRISTINA RIZGA JAN. 17, 2017 6:00 AM
It's Christmastime in Holland, Michigan, and the northerly winds from Lake Macatawa bring a merciless chill to the small city covered in deep snow. The sparkly lights on the trees in downtown luxury storefronts illuminate seasonal delicacies from the Netherlands, photos and paintings of windmills and tulips, wooden shoes, and occasional "Welkom Vrienden" (Welcome Friends) signs.  Dutch immigrants from a conservative Protestant sect chose this "little Holland" in western Michigan more than 150 years ago in part for its isolation. They wanted to keep "American" influences away from their people and their orthodox ways of running their community. Many of their traditions have lasted generations. Until recently, Holland restaurants couldn't sell alcohol on Sundays. Residents are not allowed to yell or whistle between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. If city officials decide that a fence or a shed signals decay, they might tear it down and mail the owner a bill. Grass clippings longer than eight inches have to be removed and composted, and snow must be shoveled as soon as it lands on the streets. Most people say rules like these help keep Holland prosperous, with low unemployment, low crime rates, good city services, excellent schools, and Republicans at almost every government post. It's also where President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary, billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos, grew up.

Education Department Withdraws Controversial ESSA Spending Proposal
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on January 18, 2017 5:42 PM
That big fight over spending rules for the Every Student Succeeds Act has ended not with a bang, but a whimper: U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. is throwing in the towel, withdrawing a proposed regulation for a section of the law known as "supplement-not-supplant" that had strong backing in the civil rights community, but angered state chiefs, advocates for districts, and Republicans in Congress.  The proposal was all but certain to be tossed by a Republican-backed Congress and the Trump administration.  The department's draft rule, released in August, would have pushed for districts and states to make sure they were spending roughly same amount of money—including for teachers' salaries—in schools that serve a sizeable population of poor students and less-poor schools. 

State's top court turns down voucher case, a win for school choice advocates
Orlando Sentinel by Leslie Postal Contact Reporter January 18, 2017
Florida's top court refuses to hear voucher case
 The Florida Supreme Court said Wednesday it would not take up the case challenging the state's largest school voucher program, ending the teachers union's three-year battle to have it declared unconstitutional.  The Tax-Credit Scholarship Program provides private school tuition vouchers to low-income students. More than 97,000 Florida students are in it this school year, including more than 19,000 in Central Florida.  The court’s ruling is a victory for advocates of school choice — a hot-button issue now in both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. — and for the many families who’ve come to rely on vouchers.

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 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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