Monday, January 23, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 23: Flush with Cash; .@BetsyDeVos vote delayed until Jan 31

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 23, 2017
Flush with Cash; .@BetsyDeVos vote delayed until Jan 31

It's National School Privatization Week: Ask your members of Congress to stop the takeover of your public schools today.
Network for Public Education

Flush with Cash: Executive Branch Personnel Public Financial Disclosure Report for Betsy DeVos
Politico website January 20, 2017

Republicans delay DeVos committee vote by a week to Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 10 a.m.
Politico By MICHAEL STRATFORD 01/20/17 09:21 PM EST
Sen. Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate education committee, has delayed by a week a planned committee vote on Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Education secretary.  The vote, which was originally slated for this Tuesday, has been rescheduled until Jan. 31, Alexander announced Friday evening.  The delay comes as Democrats have argued that they haven’t had enough time to examine DeVos’ complicated financial holdings or ask her questions. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the committee, has said she’s concerned that the committee was moving too fast with DeVos’ nomination.  Earlier today, the Office of Government Ethics released DeVos’ financial disclosure and ethics paperwork. Alexander had previously said that if those documents were finalized by the end of this week, he would hold a committee vote on her nomination next Tuesday.  Instead the committee vote is now set for the following Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 10 a.m.

Senate Education Committee Delays Vote on Betsy DeVos' Nomination
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on January 20, 2017 9:00 PM
A vote in the Senate education committee on Betsy DeVos' nomination for education secretary tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday has been delayed by one week. On Friday, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee chairman, announced that the vote will now take place on Jan. 31 at 10 a.m.  DeVos' confirmation hearing, held on Tuesday, got rocky at several points. She appeared confused that there was a federal law covering students with disabilities, and baffled Democratic senators—and many teachers on social media—when she said that a remote rural school might need guns to keep out grizzly bears.   The vote's delay comes one day after DeVos completed and filed a lengthy financial disclosure of her assets with the Office of Government Ethics. DeVos also sent a letter to a designated ethics official at the U.S. Department of Education outlining how she will move to avoid any actual or potential conflicts of interest due to her investments. Democrats on the committee have kept up a steady drumbeat of concerns about DeVos' potential conflicts because of her family’s various holdings.

“Now you are in the position of selecting a new Secretary of Education. I watched the hearings, and it was evident to all but the most extreme partisans that Ms. DeVos is unqualified, unprepared, and unfit for the responsibility of running this important agency.  When asked direct questions about important federal issues, she was noncommittal or evasive or displayed her ignorance. She thinks that the Individuals with Disabilities Act should be left up to the states to decide whether or not to comply; she does not know it is a federal law and is not optional. When asked about higher education, she was stumped. She was unfamiliar with the terminology of education issues.  Her lack of experience leaves her ill-equipped to address the needs of the vast majority of America’s schools. I understand that she doesn’t like public schools and much prefers religious schools and privately managed charter schools, including those that operate for-profit.   Frankly, it is unprecedented for a Secretary of Education to disapprove of public schools. At least eighty-five percent of American school children attend public schools. She has no ideas about how to improve public schools. Her only idea is that students should enroll in nonpublic schools.”
An Open Letter To Senator Lamar Alexander About Betsy DeVos
Huffington Post by Diane Ravitch Research Professor of Education, New York University; Author, ‘Reign of Error’ 01/22/2017 12:46 pm ET
From 1991 to 1993, I worked for Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. I was Assistant Secretary in charge of the Office of Education Research and Improvement and also Counselor to the Secretary of Education. Lamar Alexander is now Senator from Tennessee and Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP), which is evaluating the qualifications of Betsy DeVos to be U.S. Secretary of Education. 
Dear Lamar,
I hope you don’t mind my taking the liberty of writing you a public letter.
I was just reading your book of sayings, the Little Plaid Book. For those who don’t know, this is your book of “311 rules, lessons, and reminders about running for office and making a difference whether it’s for president of the United States or president of your senior class.”  The main lesson of the book for me is that you should be honest with people. You shouldn’t bore them. You shouldn’t lecture them or try to impress them. You should get to know them, listen to them, respect their concerns, and try to understand their problems.  Rule 151 is very important at this time in our national life. It says, “When stumped for an answer, ask yourself, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ Then do it.”  Rule 168 says, “Read whatever Diane Ravitch writes about education.” It doesn’t say that anyone should agree with what I write, it just says you should read it.
So I am writing you this letter in hopes that you will read it and that I can persuade you to do the right thing.  When I worked for you in the early 1990s in the Department of Education, I absorbed important lessons about character and ethics in public life. You were a model of dignity, integrity, and respect for others. You never raised your voice. You smiled and laughed often. You were always well informed. You picked the best person for whatever job was open.

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

Michael Moore calls for mass opposition to Betsy DeVos as pushback against Trump’s education pick grows
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 21 at 12:10 PM 
Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore told the crowd assembled for the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday morning that they should make their top priority opposing the confirmation of President Trump’s nominee to run the Education Department, Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos.  “On Monday, call (202) 225-3121. Call your representative and your two senators, and,number one, we do not accept Betty DeVos as our secretary of education,” said Moore, who, at the age of 18, was elected to school board in Davison, Michigan, as the youngest person at that time to be elected to office in the United States.  “That’s day one,” Moore said. “Make it part of your daily routine.”  After a highly contentious Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday, during which she displayed a lack of understanding of basic education issues, DeVos is facing growing opposition to her nomination as President Trump’s education secretary — including from groups that largely support the same issues she does. And now she will have to wait longer than expected for the Senate education committee to decide on her confirmation: Shortly after her ethics review was made public Friday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), moved the vote back one week amid calls from Democrats for more time to vet her.

PA Legislature Budget Hearings Schedule for Education:
House: Monday, March 6, 2017 – 10:00AM
Senate: Tuesday, March 7, 2017 – 1:00PM

Blogger note: full committee assignments are expected to be announced on Monday
Scarnati Announces Senate Republican Standing Committee Memberships for 2017-2018
Senator Scarnati’s Website On January 20, 2017
 (HARRISBURG) – Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) today announced the Republican members for each of the 22 Senate Standing Committees for the 2017-2018 legislative session.  “Senate Committees are the cornerstone of the Senate and provide a proven environment for legislation to be shaped and policies formed,” Scarnati said. “Our Chamber is fortunate to have many members from diverse backgrounds who bring their expertise and knowledge to Harrisburg.  We have many challenging issues to tackle this year, and these committees are where much of the work will begin.”

Overview of School District Property Tax Elimination Presentation to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association by PA Independent Fiscal Office Matthew Knittel, Director, Mark Ryan, Deputy Director January 19, 2017

 “Just the sound SB 76 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: SB 76 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 shortsighted, 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. They need to first solve the pension crisis, then start controlling expenses, reduce or eliminate unfunded mandates, and balance their own budget.”
Property tax elimination: what you should know
Intelligencer Opinion By William Harner January 20, 2017
Dr. William Harner is superintendent of the Quakertown Community School District.
Shortly after the gavel comes down on Monday to begin the next session of the state Legislature, I expect that 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 schools superintendent, I have a fiduciary responsibility to keep the school board and community aware of the implications of what is out there that could put the district at risk.

“Various local officials argued the bill would: shift more of the tax burden onto low-income individuals and away from businesses; remove local control of school finances; leave districts with insufficient operating funds; move funds to urban districts; redirect casino revenue now used to offset property taxes; and increase residents' federal income taxes by eliminating property tax deductions.”
'Wolf in sheep's clothing' or school property tax relief?
Gettysburg Times Staff Reports Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2017 11:25 pm
A bill that would virtually eliminate school property taxes is "a wolf in sheep's clothing," Gettysburg Area School District Business Manager Brad Hunt told his board Tuesday.  Hunt is one of many local school officials who are sounding alarms about the proposal, which would increase state income and sales taxes. On the other hand, proponents such as local state Rep. Rich Alloway, R-33, say it would help seniors on fixed incomes.  "It sounds very enticing," Hunt said, but "when you look under the cover, it costs Adams County residents more money that doesn't come back to Adams County.  "We believe, in total, that taxpayers will pay more. We do not know what the dollar amounts will be," Bermudian Springs School District Business Manager Justin Peart said Thursday in an interview.  "Total control over funding for public schools being put in the legislation's hands is scary," Peart said.  Citing long delays in passage of past state budgets, Peart asked, "If they did not pass the budget for a year, do we get funding or must our schools close?"  Also expressing concern this week were school board members and administrators from the Upper Adams and Conewago Valley districts.

The 'machine' keeps tight hold on school property tax | Guest column
Lehigh Valley Live By Brian Fake  Express-Times guest columnist  on January 22, 2017 at 6:30 AM, updated January 22, 2017 at 9:32 AM
Brian Fake, of Upper Mount Bethel Township, is a member of the Pennsylvania Taxpayers Cyber Coalition. 
These past few days we've seen a lot of media coverage that paint the Property Tax Independence Act in a negative light. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if this is, perhaps, a coordinated effort to control the narrative before any action is taken by the Pennsylvania Legislature.  Make no mistake, the elimination of school property taxes is a huge paradigm shift, which seeks to change a form of taxation that has been around in one form or another since the 17th century. Changing the method of funding education via school property taxes requires a thorough vetting process, debate and discussion. This act would replace the school property tax with personal income and sales taxes, and increasing the number of products and services subject to the sales tax.  Recent articles have taken a heavy slant against eliminating the school property tax. Journalistic objectivity appears to have taken a back seat to forces seeking to control the narrative.

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.

Pennsylvania lawmakers detail priorities as new session is set to begin
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose Jan 22, 2017
The state budget and deficit are top priorities for everyone, but Beaver County’s legislators returning to Harrisburg on Monday have plenty of other issues to tackle.  State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-46, Carroll Township, Washington County, said state pension reform is the first step toward grappling with the Gov. Tom Wolf’s coming budget and a deficit last estimated at nearly $2 billion.  “That’s the cost driver,” she said. “We can’t keep ignoring it. We can’t. We have to do something.”  Bartolotta said Pennsylvania government does not have a “revenue problem,” but a spending one. The General Assembly, she said, needs to closely examine every agency and department’s budget and make officials answer “for every penny they spend.”  State Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., R-47, New Sewickley Township, agreed that pension reform “has to be a part of the conversation this year.”

Bethlehem Area School District ready to do battle over charter enrollment cap
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call January 22, 2017
Does the state charter school law allow school districts to impose enrollment caps on them?
The Bethlehem Area School Board figured it could save about $1 million a year — enough to buy 13 buses, or put a dozen more teachers on the payroll — if it capped enrollment at Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School, the most popular of the three charters hosted by the district.  So the board made the cap a condition of the charter's renewal in November.  That surprised administrators at LVA, which operated for 14 years without a cap. State law — Bethlehem Area Superintendent Joseph Roy and solicitor Donald Spry concede — is on the charter school's side. So LVA is suing the district in Northampton County Court and taking its case to the state's Charter Appeals Board for what could be a slam dunk.  Susan Mauser of Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School discusses what the school offers.  Bethlehem Area School Board members hoped LVA would simply comply. That its board of trustees won't has frustrated Roy. Unlike the school board, LVA's trustees are not elected, he noted, yet they are making a decision that Roy said will hurt Bethlehem taxpayers.  "They say caps aren't in the spirit of the charter law," Roy said. "So they can put the spirit of the charter above the best interest of the school district? That's a problem."

Goodbye “School Performance Profile” (SPP), hello “Future Ready PA Index.”
SPP: State firming up changes in judging school success
Goodbye “School Performance Profile” (SPP), hello “Future Ready PA Index.” Pennsylvania Department of Education officials outlined the proposed new system for measuring school success during a teleconference Wednesday.  The new system should be in effect by the fall of 2018, replacing the short-lived SPP, introduced in 2013. SPP was itself a replacement of the “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) gauge mandated by the 2001 federal “No Child Left Behind” law, which ushered in an era of heavy reliance on standardized test results when measuring school success.  What’s changing this time? And for that matter, what changed when SPP arrived?  PDE Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Deputy Secretary Matthew Stem offered an explanation with jargon appropriate to that lengthy title.  “There is a strong desire to have more holistic measures, to insure the school measuring system is aligned to college and career-ready outcomes.”  The best example might be the use of high school courses intended to be college-level: Advanced Placement and the locally less popular International Baccalaureate.  AYP ignored them completely. SPP included student performance in course tests as part of the calculation of a school’s overall score. Stem said the plan in constructing the Future Ready PA Index is to include how many courses are offered in a high school, and how many students are enrolled.

PLANCON: School districts get long-awaited payments from state
Local school districts have received millions in back payments they were owed by the state for construction and renovation projects.  “We’re very happy, very thrilled,” said Carbondale Area acting Superintendent and Business Manager David Cerra, who said the district would be in financial straits without the funding.  Carbondale Area, whose 2016-17 budget included the funding, received $1.7 million in December, said Mr. Cerra. The district also received about $173,000 for 2015-16 in November. The high school renovation in 2011 cost $15 million.  When Pennsylvania districts start a building project, they can apply for reimbursement from the state through a process called PlanCon, which stands for Planning and Construction Workbook. The program pays a portion of districts’ yearly service payments from bonds taken out to complete the projects. Act 25 of 2016 allowed the state to issue a bond and provide funding for PlanCon reimbursements, according to the state, but many payments were delayed because of a state budget impasse.

Schools Grappling With Fee Hikes for AP Exams
Education Week By Catherine Gewertz  January 17, 2017 | Corrected: January 19, 2017
Low-income students across the country are facing a steep hike in the cost of taking Advanced Placement exams this year, and teachers are worried that the change could lead many promising students to bail out of the tests.  News of the price hike—from $5 or $15 per test to $53—is just beginning to reach students and counselors as they begin to talk about sign-ups for this spring's AP tests. And it's putting needy students in a bind.  "With the way my financial state is, I might not end up taking the test if it's that much money," said Kailee Giles, a junior who's taking AP Language and Composition this year at Tumwater High School, near Olympia, Wash.  Giles is feeling the effect of a little-noticed provision in the 1-year-old Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. That law ended a federal grant program that has helped subsidize the cost of AP and International Baccalaureate exams for students from low-income families for 17 years. Last year, $28 million in grants lowered the cost of 862,000 exams in 41 states and the District of Columbia.

Phila. teachers plan Black Lives Matter week - not all are happy
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag Updated: JANUARY 22, 2017 1:09 AM
Beginning Monday, the Black Lives Matter movement could become a curriculum topic in classrooms across the city.  A Philadelphia School District teachers' group has planned six days of action this week, encouraging educators to introduce optional curriculum and activities - from "The Revolution Is Always Now" coloring pages for very young students to a science lesson about the biology of skin color for older ones.  "This is a critical issue of our time - in our society, but also in our students' lives," said Charlie McGeehan, an English and history teacher and member of the Caucus of Working Educators, an activist group within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. "It's important for us to dive in."  That's not a universal sentiment.  Christopher Paslay, an English teacher at Swenson Arts and Technology High School, said he's unequivocally for equal rights and justice for all of his students, regardless of race.  But he takes issue with the Black Lives Matter movement and thinks it has no place in Philadelphia classrooms.

Oxford Area Board limits tax increase to 3.5 percent
Daily Local By Marcella Peyre-Ferry, For 21st Century Media POSTED: 01/21/17, 6:13 PM EST
OXFORD >> Property owners in the Oxford Area School District are assured that their tax bills for the 2017-18 school year will not rise more than 3.5 percent.  During their Tuesday meeting, the school board approved a resolution committing to keeping any tax increase for the coming year to no more than the 3.5 percent allowed under the state’s Act 1 index. To exceed the index and impose a bigger tax increase, Act 1 requires a voter referendum that would have to take place during the spring primary elections.  The board’s resolution allows the district to proceed with developing the budget for the next school year using the Act 1 index as a ceiling for any tax hike.  “That’s the maximum. That’s not saying we’re going to raise taxes 3.5 percent” board member Howard Robinson stressed.  The district is still working on the draft budget, which will not be approved in its final form until May or June.

“On the funding side, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which focuses on reducing poverty and inequality, finding that 35 states provided less overall state funding for education in 2014 than in 2008, before the recession hit housing prices, sending down waves of state and local budget cuts to school districts. In fact in 27 states per pupil funding fell over the same period.”
Trump: American Schools "Flush with Cash," But Failing Students
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on January 20, 2017 12:19 PM
In his first speech to the nation as president, the newly inaugurated Donald Trump laid out a dark vision of an America that has left struggling middle-class families behind, including a public school system that spends big while getting poor results for students.  "Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves," Trump said in his address from the U.S. Capitol to a packed crowd of onlookers. "But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists. ... An education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge."  Trump—who in his final campaign push pledged to "drain the swamp" of special interests in Washington—also pledged to make Washington a place where the needs of people, not politicians, are paramount.  "While they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land," Trump said.  Trump made no mention of school choice in his speech, but during the campaign, he pitched a $20 billion school voucher program. His choice of Betsy DeVos, a Michigan political mega-donor and school choice advocate, shows he's serious about expanding school choice now that he's in the White House. And the rhetoric in his inaugural speech suggests he'll sell the proposal by making the case that public schools are failing.

In his inaugural address, Trump groups public schools with gangs, drugs and rusted-out factories
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 20 at 3:50 PM 
For the record, President Trump mentioned America’s schools in his inaugural address. He did it in the same sentence in which he mentioned mothers and children trapped in poverty, rusted-out factories and gangs and drugs.  This is what he said:
At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction, that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.  But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.
Public schools deprive students of all knowledge?
Trump in the past has criticized the country’s public school system and said he wants to spend $20 billion to encourage states to promote programs that use taxpayer dollars for private-school tuition. He has called public schools “government schools,” as his website shows: “It is time for school choice to help free children from failing government schools and close the achievement gap. School choice is the civil rights issue of our time.”  But this may be the first time he has claimed that students attend and leave America’s public schools gaining no knowledge at all.

Republican leader Senator Alexander had scheduled a vote on DeVos for Jan. 24 but it has now been rescheduled to Jan. 31st.
The ethics review for Trump’s education pick Betsy DeVos is complete, clearing the way for a confirmation vote
Washington Post By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel January 20 at 12:47 PM 
The long-awaited ethics review for Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos has been completed, clearing the way for the Senate to vote on the nominee for education secretary.  The Office of Government Ethics, an agency that examines nominees’ financial disclosures and resolves potential conflicts of interest, released its report for the controversial education pick. Ethics Director Walter M. Shaub Jr. had said a full vetting of extremely wealthy individuals, such as DeVos, could take weeks, if not months, much to the chagrin of Senate Democrats who wanted the review in hand before this week’s confirmation hearings. (See the full report below).
Despite Democrats’ pressing Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, for another round of questioning, the Republican leader has scheduled a vote on DeVos for Jan. 24. Her critics say Alexander is rushing what should be a careful examination of someone they say is unqualified to lead the nation’s education system. Alexander has stressed that DeVos has taken steps to prove herself, including answering questions for nearly four hours and meeting individually with committee members.

DeVos review identifies 102 financial interests with potential conflicts
Politico By MICHAEL STRATFORD 01/20/17 12:43 PM EST
Betsy DeVos has agreed to sever ties to several companies that provide services to schools and colleges, as well as a debt collection agency that collects student loans on behalf of the Education Department, according to government ethics paperwork released Friday.
DeVos, a Michigan billionaire with a complicated web of financial holdings, reached an agreement on Thursday with government ethics officials that will require her to divest from 102 of those assets that could potentially pose a conflict for her as Education secretary.
DeVos listed on her financial paperwork a holding company that invests in Performant Business Services, Inc., which the Education Department hires to collect defaulted federal student loans.
The holding company, from which DeVos has agreed to divest, also has investments in T2 Systems Inc., which provides parking payment services to colleges and universities, and in U.S. Retirement Partners, Inc., a financial services company that “specializes in public school and governmental employee benefit plans,” according to the disclosure statement.

Education Pick DeVos Discloses Assets of at Least $580 Million
Bloomberg News by John Voskuhl January 20, 2017, 9:26 AM EST
·         School-choice advocate agrees to divest from 102 entities
·         DeVos is daughter-in-law of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos
Betsy DeVos disclosed that she and her husband own assets worth at least $580 million, and she agreed to divest from 102 entities within 90 days of her confirmation as secretary of education, according to documents released by the federal Office of Government Ethics.  DeVos, 59, tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the U.S. Department of Education, is a businesswoman and education activist who has advocated for school choice and voucher programs. Her husband, Dick DeVos, is the son of billionaire Richard DeVos, the co-founder of Amway Corp. Her brother, Erik Prince, is the founder of Blackwater USA, a government-services and security company.
The federal forms, which report values in ranges, almost certainly understate the value of assets held by Betsy and Dick DeVos -- several values are listed simply as “over $1,000,000.” While nominees value their holdings in ranges that top out at $50 million, the highest range for an asset owned by a spouse is $1 million.  DeVos will retain holdings in eight firms, according to her signed ethics agreement, which was approved by the OGE. 

The DeVos Democrats
Corporate Democrats have enabled Betsy DeVos’s privatization agenda for years. It’s time for them to choose which side they’re on.
Jacobin by Andrew Hartman Jan 19, 2017
My children attend an amazing public elementary school in Bloomington, Illinois. The student body is diverse, and the teachers are committed professionals who genuinely care about the wellbeing and education of all their students.  The school building is full of joy. Many of the children could not receive such an education — would not spend their days in a place of joyful learning — if not for this public school. Whenever I spend time there, I always leave feeling optimistic about the future of public education in the United States.  Then I read the news and my optimism turns to dread.  Donald Trump’s nominee to be the nation’s next secretary of education is Betsy DeVos, a longtime Republican operative from two of the wealthiest and most powerful conservative families in the nation. She is the daughter of Edgar Prince, founder of the Prince Corporation; sister of Erik Prince, founder of the private military contractor formerly known as Blackwater; and daughter-in-law of Richard DeVos, the billionaire who co-founded the Amway Corporation. DeVos, who received her entire education from private Christian schools, also has close ties to the conservative Christian Reformed Church.  For years, DeVos has used her enormous wealth and power to promote what is euphemistically called “school choice.” Perhaps the most pervasive education reform idea of the last few decades, school choice is sold as a way to give parents more educational options for their children. Under a voucher program, for instance, parents would be able to take public money that normally goes to fund traditional public schools and use it to send their children to private schools. If DeVos has her way, the state would even fund religious schools of the type she attended, which teach deeply conservative curricula that include creationism.

The key Common Core questions no senator asked Betsy DeVos to answer
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 20 at 10:32 AM 
If one were betting on it, the one subject that seemed an almost sure thing to come up in a big way at the Senate confirmation hearing of the next U.S. education secretary, it would have been the Common Core State Standards. It didn’t.  For years the Core has been at or near the top of controversial education initiatives. It started as a bipartisan effort to create a set of math and English language arts standards for students across the country to use, but it became an educational and political mess.  Many states rushed to implement it without giving teachers sufficient time to learn it, and critics from every part of the political spectrum found fault with some part of the initiative. It was clear it had seeped into the culture when comedian Louis C.K. tweeted concerns about it and Core-aligned standardized testing. And it played a role in sparking a grass roots revolt against the Core and related testing.

Education Department Facing Culture Shift Under Trump
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein January 17, 2017 | Updated: January 19, 2017
A presidential transition always triggers some makeover at federal agencies. But when President-elect Donald Trump's team takes power this month, the transformation of the U.S. Department of Education could be particularly striking.  The incoming president and his team have promised to change the culture—or "drain the swamp"—in Washington, with serious implications for the federal bureaucracy. And on the campaign trail, Trump pledged to get rid of the Education Department—or at least cut it "way, way down."  That would be a tough political lift, even with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. But the sentiment has triggered plenty of anxiety about the kind of resources and attention the department can expect from the new administration.  Betsy DeVos, Trump's pick for education secretary, is a longtime advocate of school choice, including private school vouchers. But DeVos, a prominent GOP donor, doesn't have a significant record in other areas that fall under the department's purview, from oversight of special education funding and English-learners to student loans for college.  It's too early to say just how much will change at the Education Department when Trump takes office at noon on Jan. 20. But conditions are ripe for a culture shift.

What Betsy DeVos' Nomination Means for Women and Girls on Campuses and in Classrooms
Education and the Workforce Committee Democratic Website FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2017
This week, the Senate held the confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-Elect Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Education. During the course of the hearing it became clear that DeVos – who has never attended a public school, taught in a classroom, or served on a school board – is woefully unprepared to serve as our nation’s Secretary of Education. Particularly troubling were her responses  to questions about the rights of students with disabilities, and what steps she would take to protect the one in five women who will be victims of sexual assault during their time at college andwomen ages 18-24 who are college students are three times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence.
DeVos would not commit to enforcing current Title IX guidance to protect student victims, keeping guns out of schools, or preserving funding for public education.

WSJ: Letters re: DeVos Nomination
Wall Street Journal Letters January 22, 2017

Trump White House Hits Pause on Obama's ESSA Accountability Regulations
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on January 22, 2017 3:12 PM
The Trump administration hit the pause button late Friday on a host of Obama administration regulations, including one detailing how accountability and state plans will work under the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The regulation, which was finalized in November, doesn't take effect until Jan. 30. On Inauguration Day, the White House issued an executive order delaying for up to 60 days the implementation of any Obama regulations that haven't yet taken effect.  The delay in the accountability regulations, which would seem to last until late March, could throw a monkey wrench into states' efforts to submit their accountability plans by April 3, the first of two deadlines set by the administration. The regulations outline the process for submitting plans, and flesh out details that aren't included in the law. So far, 17 states and the District of Columbia have said they want to submit their plans in April.  

DELCO Education Funding Press Conference Fri, January 27, 2017 10:00 AM – 10:30 AM EST
by Delaware County Intermediate Unit
This press conference will discuss some of the key cost drivers school districts and the state of Pennsylvania face concerning education and offer some possible solutions to the burdens school districts and taxpayers face. It will focus primarily on pensions, cyber charter schools, and special education funding. Speakers will include several superintendents and school board members. Interested individuals from the public are welcome to attend.
Details and Registration here:

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

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 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

PA Educational Technology Exposition & Conference (PETE&C), February 12-15, Hershey Lodge and Convention Center.

PASBO 62nd Annual Conference, March 21-24, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh.
Register now for the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference March 25-27 Denver
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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