Monday, January 2, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 2: What would it take to adequately fund PA’s Basic Education Funding Formula?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4000 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 2, 2017
What would it take to adequately fund PA’s Basic Education Funding Formula?

Confirmation hearing for @BetsyDeVos tentatively scheduled for Jan. 11, @khefling of @PoliticoPro reports

More than 90% of all American children attend public schools.

DeVos would be the first Secretary of Education who has not been a public school parent or student; she has never worked in a public school, attended one, or sent her children to one.  She has never served in any educational or governmental capacity.

Thus far, I have been unable to find any press coverage of her ever having visited a traditional public school.

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

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

For years, the former Florida governor and DeVos worked side-by-side to push “school choice” policies that steer taxpayer funding to charter and private schools — and which critics blame for undermining traditional public schools
Jeb Bush’s consolation prize, Betsy DeVos
There may be a silver lining for Jeb Bush — the elevation of his longtime friend, patron and political ally, Betsy DeVos, as education secretary.
Washington Post By CAITLIN EMMA 01/02/17 06:00 AM EST
There may be a silver lining to the 2016 presidential election for Jeb Bush — the elevation of his longtime friend, patron and political ally, Betsy DeVos, as education secretary.  If DeVos is confirmed by the Senate as most expect, Bush could see his views on education — repeatedly ridiculed on the campaign trail by Donald Trump — given new life as she turns their shared vision into national policy.  For years, the former Florida governor and DeVos worked side-by-side to push “school choice” policies that steer taxpayer funding to charter and private schools — and which critics blame for undermining traditional public schools. They served together on the board of Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, to which DeVos and her husband gave large contributions. The DeVoses also contributed to Bush’s presidential campaign.  One of Trump’s biggest education promises — a proposed $20 billion block grant promoting charter and private schools — was developed with input from DeVos’ D.C.-based advocacy group, the American Federation for Children. Not surprisingly, it aligns closely with Bush’s education philosophy.

Blogger note: Pennsylvania has the largest spending gap between rich and poor school districts in the US.  Although the State Legislature overwhelmingly passed legislation creating a new Basic Education Funding Formula based upon student needs and local community capacity, the legislation only applies to new money.  It will take years before underfunded districts and their students have the resources needed in order to provide a constitutionally mandated “thorough and efficient” public education.
The Cost of Adequate Education Funding: An Updated Report
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia December 2016
Last year Pennsylvania adopted a fair funding formula to distribute Basic Education appropriations to school districts. The new formula takes account of changes in the number of students enrolled in a district, how many are in poverty, how many are English language learners, as well as other factors related to the cost of funding students and the ability of a district to raise funds locally. The formula, which was identical to that proposed by a bi-partisan Basic Education Funding Commission, applies only to new funds, and thus does not apply to the $5 billion of funding already in place in 2014-15.  Although the formula adopted by the legislature provides a guide for how to distribute new state funds, it did not provide an answer to another crucial question: how much actual state funding do all Pennsylvania schools need to properly educate their students? In other words, while the formula demonstrates relative needs between school districts, it purposefully did not include the total amount of state funding needed for all Pennsylvania children to succeed and meet state standards. We call this missing figure the State Adequacy Cost.  In 2015, we issued a report that used the legislature’s own formula to answer the question. Using the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s latest school finance numbers, issued in July 2016, we have now updated our report and its State Adequacy Cost. We conclude that in order for districts to have adequate funding to enable their students to meet state standards, the Commonwealth must provide school districts with between $3.036 and $4.073 billion more in additional funding than it is distributing for the 2016-17 school year.  

“After years of Harrisburg making decisions to cut education to the bone, the governor has worked with the Legislature to make the largest investment in education over a two-year period in history,”Sheridan said.  Those investments total more than $640 million for pre-K through college programs.  The fair funding formula, or Basic Education Funding Formula, which was signed by Wolf in June and first applied to 2016-17 education dollars, will address the state’s ranking as “probably the worst in the nation when it came to the disparity between rich and poor districts,” Sheridan said.”
Wolf prepares for next session
Governor touts strides in education, jobs
Altoona Mirror by CARLEY MOSSBROOK JAN 2, 2017
HARRISBURG — Two years ago, a York County businessman took office as the 47th governor of Pennsylvania after beating out his one-term Republican predecessor by more than 340,000 votes.  Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, has wrapped up his first legislative session in that post, having worked with a Republican-controlled Legislature to pass historic investments in education, the legalization of medical marijuana and a package of bills intended to mitigate the opioid crisis sweeping the commonwealth.  Wolf also had his fair share of hiccups. He was faulted for his role in a nine-month budget impasse in fiscal year 2015-16 and watched his party’s numbers in the General Assembly drop when he was elected and further dwindle in the 2016 election.
And as the state’s top executive, he is facing a projected $600 million revenue shortfall this fiscal year and at least a $1.7 billion deficit — which is more than he faced during the negotiations of his first state budget — in the coming year.  But better days are ahead — he hopes.

Pa. faces 'a difficult budget year'
Inquirer by Karen Langley, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: JANUARY 2, 2017 3:01 AM EST
HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania legislators return to the Capitol this week to start the new year with plenty of old business - and a fresh dose of political pressure - awaiting them.  There is no shortage of big-ticket issues. Lawmakers are likely to consider bills regulating and taxing online gambling, and measures to reduce or even eliminate property taxes, and again try to change the retirement benefits for future state and public school workers.  And, as it has for successive years, the commonwealth's billion-dollar budget woes will drive the agenda.  "This is going to be a difficult budget year," said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D., Allegheny). "I think we all know that."  With majorities that will grow even larger with Tuesday's swearing-in ceremonies, Republican legislative leaders, some of whom have hinted at running for governor, will be an even greater force for Gov. Wolf to reckon with.  For the Democratic governor, it's his last full year to make an impact before asking voters to reward him with a second term.  Lawmakers' return Tuesday will be brief. Votes on legislation aren't expected right away, and after swearing-in day, they won't reconvene in the Capitol until Jan. 23.

Senate Ed Cmte Chair Eichelberger plans ‘aggressive agenda’
Senator to chair Education Committee
Altoona Mirror by RUSS O'REILLY Staff Writer DEC 31, 2016
Sen. John H. Eichelberger Jr., R-Blair, is bringing an “agressive agenda” as he takes the reins of the Senate Education Committee in 2017.  “We want to measure programs and spend money on what works and not on what doesn’t. We have government schools, private schools, parochial schools, cyber charters — and public money is spent on all of these things,” Eichelberger said.  Reviews of public school transportation, higher education programs and vocational programs are also on the agenda, he said.   Eichelberger was named as committee chairman this week.  The Blair County Republican and the Pennsylvania State Education Association, the public school teachers union, have had an adversarial relationship through the years.  “They (the union)  called for an appointment in Harrisburg. As chairman, I’m going to meet with them. There will be some ground rules applied,” he said.  Blair County teacher union representatives and the central region office did not return calls from the Mirror for comment Friday.  “My goal is to work with good teachers and administrators across the state to fund things that work; education spending with best possible outcomes for students and taxpayers,” Eichelberger said.
“We have an aggressive agenda,” he said. “It’s going to be a comprehensive project that will take a lot of time, but we are going to have a significant start this spring. We are going to start new legislation early on.”

Drop in population, employment and sales numbers add to Pennsylvania budget woes
Steve Esack and Eugene Tauber Contact Reporters Of The Morning Call January 1, 2017
Population, jobs and sales numbers cast shadow over Pa. budget
To Pennsylvania's fiscal troubles comes news from Uncle Sam of another circle of despair.
The latest U.S. Census' annual population estimate shows Pennsylvania lost 7,700 residents in 2016.  So what's a one-year population loss of less than one-tenth of one percent have to do with the state's bleak finances?  While the population loss is small, it's an unexpected concern added onto Pennsylvania's woes that already include about $60 billion in pension debt, an unfinished and debt-ridden $31.6 billion budget, rising borrowing costs due to one of the nation's worst credit ratings, weak job growth and a Republican Legislature and Democratic governor who can't agree on how to fix any of it.  Think of population as a weight on the Treasury's fiscal scales.

Pa. Rep. Schemel concerned about education funding formula
Herald Mail by Jennifer Fitch December 30, 2016
Editor's Note: Pennsylvania starts 2017 with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and lawmakers gearing up for what could be their biggest budget battle to date.  For 2015-16, they locked horns in a nine-month budget impasse, but revenue is falling short of projections, and the state already has a $600 million shortfall.  The Nov. 8 election gave Republicans in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives the largest majority they have held in 60 years, while the GOP expanded its hold on the state Senate to 34-16.  Both chambers will be in session starting Tuesday.  Herald-Mail Media asked Franklin County's legislators to share five goals for the coming year. The featured lawmaker today is Rep. Paul Schemel.
WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Pennsylvania's finances are on Rep. Paul Schemel's mind as the state's lawmakers prepare to reconvene for the start of the 2017 legislative session.  Schemel hopes the commonwealth can find savings in Pennsylvania's current programs and carefully evaluates spending increases.  "As Pennsylvania looks to fill (the) budget gap and prepare a new budget for 2017-18, I intend to look carefully at the programs the state currently funds and evaluate if they still merit funding," said Schemel, R-Franklin.  The lawmaker also said the state legislature is addicted to spending.  "As I review proposed legislation, I intend to analyze each individual bill to determine if it increases spending and, if it does, ensure that the increase is truly warranted or offset by savings elsewhere," he said.

Gerrymandering: Dividing Lines: How Pennsylvania’s elections really are rigged
Keystone Crossroads By Lindsay Lazarski
In the months leading up to the 2016 election, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly made claims that the election is rigged. In a way, he’s right. Only the rigging happens long before anyone casts a ballot on Election Day and in most places it’s completely legal.  Gerrymandering is the age-old practice that’s made many teenagers’ eyes glaze over in high school civics class. In case you need a refresher, it’s the process of drawing election districts to give one political party — Republican or Democrat — an advantage over the other.    Maps are drawn to maximize one party’s voters over as many districts as possible while concentrating the opposing party’s voters in as few districts as possible. The result is districts that favor one political party. In most states, whichever political party holds the majority and the power in state government gets to determine where the lines are drawn every 10 years.
Keystone Crossroads went out to some of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in Pennsylvania and spoke to people who live and work along these lines about the current election.

He seeks more black men to teach in Philly and beyond
Sharif El-Mekki has a goal for 2017: gathering 1,000 black men together to inspire kids across the city.
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, STAFF WRITER  @newskag Updated: DECEMBER 30, 2016 — 4:55 PM EST
Sharif El-Mekki vividly recalls every black male teacher who ever taught him: two in elementary school, two in high school.  "They were transformative figures in my life," said El-Mekki, a veteran Philadelphia educator.  For 2017, El-Mekki has a goal to organize 1,000 black men to show up for the first day of school, encouraging city youth to be their best.  By 2025, his goal is much loftier - to double the number of black men teaching in the city. To that end, he has launched The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice.  Nationally, just 2 percent of the teaching force is made up of black men. In Philadelphia, the numbers are better, but still low - last year, fewer than 400, or about 5 percent, of Philadelphia School District teachers were black men.  The Fellowship has three aims: to hold periodic convenings of black male educators, to influence education policy, and to expand the pipeline of black male teachers.

Commentary: Good math skills begin at home
Inquirer Commentary By Melissa E. Libertus and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff Updated: JANUARY 2, 2017 3:01 AM EST
Melissa E. Libertus is a research scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.  Roberta Michnick Golinkoff is the Unidel H. Rodney Sharp Professor of Education, Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Delaware. 
Educators and parents alike are alarmed over the persistent gaps between 15-year-olds in the United States and their international peers on science and math outcomes.  According to the latest results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) released on Dec. 6, American adolescents rank a paltry 31st out of the 35 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries in math, and math scores have significantly declined since the last PISA in 2012.  To combat this trend, forces have mobilized around STEM education - stressing the experiences needed to build a foundation for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Fostering strong STEM education will safeguard our place in the world and ensure our children a place in tomorrow's workforce.  Yet our lagging international PISA scores highlight how we continue to miss an essential element in preparing our students for the future: Evidence suggests that the road to strong STEM education starts not in elementary or middle school, but at home and in preschool with very young children.

In William Penn schools, a season of struggle with no end in sight
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer Updated: JANUARY 2, 2017 — 3:01 AM EST
When a middle-of-the-night fire badly damaged a rental house in Darby Borough in late November and left a mother and four children homeless, counselors and teachers in the William Penn School District sprang into action.   The district's social worker arranged for a school bus to ferry the kids to school from the Residence Inn Marriott near the Philadelphia airport, where the family was placed. Teachers donated school uniforms for Maloni Greene's three boys, ages 13, 7, and 5, and her daughter, 11. A guidance counselor has been on the phone with Greene almost daily, asking what else the family needs.  Dealing with crises outside the classroom - homelessness, suicide attempts, a growing array of social pressures - is a daily challenge for many school systems, but especially for those as fraught as William Penn. Bordering southwest Philadelphia, it bears the burdens of a high poverty rate among its 5,500 students, the imminent threat of deep budget cuts, and fears of declining state aid.  For the Delaware County district, though, the season of struggle would only get worse.

In the Spotlight: Pequea Valley physics teacher explores the stars and more with students
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer January 1, 2017
When Rob Webb was a child, he told his parents his life goal was “to pump gas and have fun.” Fortunately for Pequea Valley High School students, his ambitions changed.  Webb became a physics teacher. He also runs the school district’s planetarium. In December, he won $100,000 to upgrade the 50-year-old facility through the Farmers Insurance Thank America’s Teachers contest.
Hometown: Sellersville, Bucks County.
Family: Wife, Danielle, and son, Soccorso, age 3 1/2.
Education: Dickinson College (B.S. in physics), Penn State Great Valley (master’s degree in curriculum and instruction).
Years teaching: 12.
Earliest memory involving science: Probably catching lightning bugs and playing “throw it up and catch it” with my dad. There’s something about a living being giving off light that fascinated me, as well as the bonding with my dad and exploration of gravity and motion that ensued as we lay next to each other in the grass, trying to catch, and not get hit by, a ball thrown vertically.

Bucks' vo-techs and community college working on business degree plan
Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer January 1, 2017
Bucks County Community College and the county's three vocational technical schools are working on a plan that could have students achieve 30 college credits in high school and an associate degree a year later.  Bloomsburg University is part of the arrangement that would allow students at Bucks County Technical High School, in Bristol Township; Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, in Warwick; and Upper Bucks County Technical School, in Bedminster, to receive a bachelor's degree in business.  Students could then parlay their technical skills with the academic capability to run their own business or move up the management ladder with a company.  The agreement has yet to be finalized, but an announcement could come later in January. 

“In 1910, the state had 36 U.S. House members. Today, it has 18. By 2021, that number could drop to 16 - a decrease that would also cut Pennsylvania's electoral votes and political influence in presidential elections.”
Historic population loss could weaken Pennsylvania's political clout
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis, HARRISBURG BUREAU  @AngelasInk Updated: JANUARY 2, 2017 — 3:01 AM EST
HARRISBURG - The numbers aren't looking good for Pennsylvania.  The latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates show the state on track to lose at least one, and possibly two, congressional seats come 2020. That is when official population numbers are released and the state begins the once-a-decade politically charged process of redrawing congressional and state legislative maps.  A report in late December by Election Data Services, a Virginia-based political consulting firm, named Pennsylvania as one of nine states that stand to lose at least one U.S. House seat, continuing a shift in political clout in Washington from the Northeast and Midwest to fast-growing areas in the West and South.  The other potential losers include Michigan, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Illinois. On the flip side, Texas could gain as many as four seats, Florida as many as two, and Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon one each. New Jersey, according to the report, would remain unchanged.  Though a one-seat loss over a decade may not be cause for alarm, the downward spiral in Pennsylvania's delegation strength over the last century should be, political analysts say.

Here are the eight Trump Cabinet picks Democrats plan to target
Washington Post By Ed O'Keefe January 1 at 3:52 PM 
Democratic senators plan to aggressively target eight of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees in the coming weeks and are pushing to stretch their confirmation votes into March — an unprecedented break with Senate tradition. Such delays would upend Republican hopes of quickly holding hearings and confirming most of Trump’s top picks on Inauguration Day. But Democrats, hamstrung by their minority status, are determined to slow-walk Trump’s picks unless they start disclosing reams of personal financial data they’ve withheld so far, according to senior aides.  Incoming Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that Democrats will home in especially on Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for secretary of state; Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), his pick for attorney general; Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), tapped to lead the Office of Management and Budget; and Betsy DeVos, selected to serve as education secretary.

“The DeVos family, owners of the largest charter lobbying organization, has showered Michigan Republican candidates and organizations with impressive and near-unprecedented amounts of money this campaign cycle: $1.45 million in June and July alone — over a seven-week period, an average of $25,000 a day.”
Year in Opinions: DeVos family showers GOP with contributions
Stephen Henderson , Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor 6:02 a.m. EST December 30, 2016
As 2016 draws to a close, we're looking back at the opinions we shared over this tumultuous year. In this piece, originally published Nov. 23, Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson quantified the amount of campaign spending Betsy DeVos -- now President-elect Donald Trump's pick to join his cabinet as secretary of education -- and her family spent during seven weeks this summer, on the heels of the Legislature's passage of DeVos-influenced Detroit school reform bills.    Here is Betsy Devos' response to this column.
Bought and paid for.  Back in June, that’s how I described the Detroit school legislation that passed in Lansing — a filthy, moneyed kiss to the charter school industry at the expense of the kids who’ve been victimized by those schools' unaccountable inconsistency.  And now, through the wonder of campaign finance reports, we are beginning to see what it took to buy the GOP majority in Lansing, just how much lawmakers required to sell out Detroit students’ interests.

How Unqualified Is Betsy DeVos?
Huffington Post by Peter Greene Teacher and writer; blogger, 12/30/2016 07:10 pm ET | Updated 19 hours ago
The nomination of Betsy DeVos to the post of Secretary of Education is such a bad choice that we don’t even have to talk about actual policy ideas to understand how unsuited she is for the position. Consider— John King was a lousy choice for Secretary of Education. But John King has worked in a classroom with students and run a school, even if the classroom and school were charters. John King has held a statewide post in government as head of education in New York State. He doesn’t appear to have been very successful at any of these jobs— but he has at least been exposed to what happens on all three levels so that he has at least a vague working knowledge of what goes on in those areas. He even attended public school as a child.
Betsy DeVos has none of those qualifications. She has never been a public school student and never worked as a teacher, administrator or state level education bureaucrat. Betsy DeVos is less qualified than John King.

Free Market for Education? Economists Generally Don’t Buy It
New York Times By SUSAN DYNARSKI DEC. 30, 2016
The odds are good that privatizing education will be part of the agenda for President-elect Donald J. Trump’s administration. The Republican platform calls for increasing the role of banks in giving out student loans. And Mr. Trump and the platform advocate an expansion of both vouchers, which enable students to attend the private school of their choice with government funds, and charter schools.  In addition, Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s nominee for education secretary, has supported legislation that would establish vouchers in Michigan, as well as the rapid expansion of the state’s charter school sector.  You might think that most economists agree with this overall approach, because economists generally like free markets. For example, over 90 percent of the members of the University of Chicago’s panel of leading economists thought that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft made consumers better off by providing competition for the highly regulated taxi industry.  But economists are far less optimistic about what an unfettered market can achieve in education. Only a third of economists on the Chicago panel agreed that students would be better off if they all had access to vouchers to use at any private (or public) school of their choice.

Teachers Are Stressed, And That Should Stress Us All
NPR Heard on Morning Edition by CORY TURNER December 30, 20164:59 AM ET
We all experience stress at work, no matter the job. But for teachers, the work seems to be getting harder and the stress harder to shake.  A new report out this month pulls together some stark numbers on this:  Forty-six percent of teachers say they feel high daily stress. That's on par with nurses and physicians. And roughly half of teachers agree with this statement: "The stress and disappointments involved in teaching at this school aren't really worth it."  It's a problem for all of us — not just these unhappy teachers.  Here's why: "Between 30 and 40 percent of teachers leave the profession in their first five years," says Mark Greenberg, a professor of human development and psychology at Penn State.  And that turnover, he says, costs schools — and taxpayers — billions of dollars a year, while research (like this and this) suggests teacher burnout hurts student achievement, too.  Greenberg has studied America's schools for more than 40 years, and, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (also an NPR funder), he helped author the new brief exploring teacher stress.

Leave Your Laptops at the Door to My Classroom
New York Times Opinion by Darren Rosenblum ON CAMPUS JAN. 2, 2017
Darren Rosenblum is a professor at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.
When I started teaching, I assumed my “fun” class, sexuality and the law, full of contemporary controversy, would prove gripping to the students. One day, I provoked them with a point against marriage equality, and the response was a slew of laptops staring back. The screens seemed to block our classroom connection. Then, observing a senior colleague’s contracts class, I spied one student shopping for half the class. Another was surfing Facebook. Both took notes when my colleague spoke, but resumed the rest of their lives instead of listening to classmates.  Laptops at best reduce education to the clackety-clack of transcribing lectures on shiny screens and, at worst, provide students with a constant escape from whatever is hard, challenging or uncomfortable about learning. And yet, education requires constant interaction in which professor and students are fully present for an exchange.  Students need two skills to succeed as lawyers and as professionals: listening and communicating. We must listen with care, which requires patience, focus, eye contact and managing moments of ennui productively — perhaps by double-checking one’s notes instead of a friend’s latest Instagram. Multitasking and the mediation of screens kill empathy.

The NPE Toolkit: Stop Betsy DeVos
Network for Public Education December 16, 2016 by admin
The more we learn, the more we are certain that Betsy DeVos is bad for public schools and for kids.
When De Vos has to choose between quality schools and “the free market,” she chooses “the free market” of privatized choice every time. The best interests of children take a back seat.
And we know the DeVos endgame–shut down our neighborhood public schools, and replace them with a patchwork of charters, private schools and online learning.  We can’t let that happen and we need your help. Present and future generations of children are depending on us to act now.  We now know that some Senators have grave doubts. It is our job to make those doubts grow into active resistance to DeVos. Our senators are in district offices from 12/17 – 1/2.
Here are our three toolkits to help you do your part.
Toolkit 1. Call your senators’ offices. The toolkit with numbers and a phone script can be found here. It includes a link to phone numbers.
Toolkit 2. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can find a model here.
Toolkit 3. Visit your senators’ offices. If you cannot get an appointment, hand deliver a letter. Our toolkit, which you can find here has a model to use, and directions to find local offices. If you cannot hand deliver it, send your letter in the mail.

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

PHLpreK Now Enrolling!
Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Education
Did you know that quality early childhood education sets our children up for success? It reduces the need for special education, raises graduation rates, and narrows the achievement gap. These benefits ripple throughout our schools, neighborhoods, and local economy.
That’s why the City of Philadelphia is expanding free, quality pre-K for 6,500 three- and four-year-olds over the next five years. In fact, the first 2,000 pre-K seats are available now. Families should act fast because classes begin on January 4th at more than 80 locations.
Please help us spread the word. Parents/caregivers can call 844-PHL-PREK (844-745-7735) to speak with a trained professional who will help them apply and locate quality pre-K programs nearby.  For more information, visit

Pennsylvania Every Student Succeeds Act Public Tour
The Department of Education (PDE) is holding a series of public events to engage the public on important education topics in Pennsylvania.  The primary focus of these events will be the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law signed by President Barack Obama in late 2015. A senior leader from the department will provide background on the law, and discuss the ongoing
development of Pennsylvania’s State Plan for its implementation, which will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in 2017.  Feedback is important to PDE; to provide the best avenue for public comment as well as provide an opportunity for those who cannot attend an event, members of the community are encouraged to review materials and offer comments at
Upcoming Public Events:
Wednesday, January 4- Quakertown- 5:30 pm- Bucks County Free Library
Bucks County Free Library Quakertown Branch
401 West Mill Street Quakertown, PA  18951
Tuesday, January 10- Scranton- 4:00 pm- Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County
Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County
3201 Rockwell Avenue Scranton, PA  18508

“The “Success Starts Here” campaign is a multi-year statewide effort to share the positive news about public education through advertising, web, social media, traditional media and word-of-mouth with the goal of raising understanding of the value of public education in Pennsylvania. The campaign is led by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, but relies on the support of a wide variety of participating organizations.”
Share Your School’s Story: Success Starts Here Needs You!
Success Starts Here needs you! Show your support by sharing stories, using social media and applying window clings to all of your school buildings. Below are some links to resources to help you help us.
Not sure where to start? This simple tool kit will provide to you everything you need to get involved in the campaign, including ways to work with the media, social media tips, a campaign article to post, downloadable campaign logos, and photo release forms.
We know you have great stories, and it’s easy to share them! Just use our simple form to send your success story to be featured on our website. Help spread the word about how Success Starts Here in today’s public schools.
All school entities have been sent a supply of window clings for school building entrances. Need more? No problem! Just complete the online order form and more will quickly be on their way to you.

PASBO is seeking eager leaders! Ready to serve on the board? Deadline for intent letter is 12/31.
PASBO members who desire to seek election as Director or Vice President should send a letter of intent with a current resume and picture to the Immediate Past President Wanda M. Erb, PRSBA, who is chair of the PASBO Nominations and Elections Committee.

PSBA Virtual New School Director Training, Part 1
JAN 4, 2017 • 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
The job of a school board director is challenging.  Changing laws, policies, and pressures from your community make serving on your school board demanding, yet rewarding at the same time.  Most school directors – even those with many years of experience – say that PSBA training is one of the most important and valuable things they have done in order to understand their roles and responsibilities.  If you are a new school board director and didn’t have the opportunity to attend one of PSBA’s live New School Director Training events, you can now attend via your computer, either by yourself from your home or office, or with a group of other school directors.
This is the same New School Director Training content we offer in a live classroom format, but adjusted for virtual training.
Part 1
·         Role and responsibilities of the school board director.
·         How to work with PSBA’s member services team.
·         Your role as an advocate for public education.
·         The school board’s role in policy.
(See also: Part 2, Jan. 11Part 3, Jan. 18)
Fee: $149 per person includes all three programs. Materials may be downloaded free, or $25 for materials to be mailed to your home (log in to the Members Area and purchase through the Store/Registration link).
Register online:

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

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

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

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

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