Friday, January 27, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 27: .@SenatorFranken: No Dem will vote for .@BetsyDeVos as ed sec'y — and we’re seeking Republicans to oppose her

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, Instagram and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 27, 2017
.@SenatorFranken: No Dem will vote for .@BetsyDeVos as ed sec'y — and we’re seeking Republicans to oppose her

Just a heads-up that the PA Ed Policy Roundup may be posting intermittently between now and Wednesday.

“The Methacton School District is a paragon of privilege. The median income of district households is roughly $100,000. In the 2014-15 fiscal year, the district spent $19,471 per student on a school population that is almost entirely White and Asian. That's the 71st highest spending total of the state's 500 school districts. Just 15.7 percent of students are economically disadvantaged -- compared to 50 percent statewide — and the 86 percent of graduating seniors who go on to college attend some of the world's most prestigious universities.
The students from Kensington receive about $6,000 less per student per year from the School District of Philadelphia, which ranks 418th in per-student expenditures. They are almost entirely black and Latino and largely live in neighborhoods that rank among Philadelphia's worst in terms of crime.”
How the other half learns: a field trip from Kensington to the suburbs
You can find the story of Pennsylvania's education funding system carved into Hakeem Thompson's biceps.  Thompson, a senior at Kensington Health Sciences Academy in Philadelphia, is a middle linebacker on the school football team. Because it can't afford a regulation field, the squad practices on a crooked patch of grass behind a neighboring high school.  "Our field is not good at all," Thompson says. "We play on rocks and everything."
To prove it, Thompson lifts up his sleeves to reveal a scatter-plot of cuts and scars. When you play on ragged field, your body bears the testament.  Classmate Ruth Andujar scans the bruises stained across Thompson's arms and offers a simple, excited evaluation:  "Yoooooo, that's nasty."
A bus ride to Methacton When we first meet Thompson and Andujar, we're barreling northwest on a school bus. This is technically a class trip, but our destination isn't a museum or an amusement park. It's another school.  We're busing out to the suburbs, to see how the other half learns.  Our destination is Methacton High School in Montgomery County.
“Over the last few years, districts’ operating budgets have ballooned to cover costs associated with contributions to employee pensions, charter and cyber charter payments, health-care costs and special-education spending -- and districts have had to shift funds to finance those expenses.”
Beaver County school administrators express funding concerns
Beaver County Times By Katherine Schaeffer January 26, 2017
CENTER TWP. -- School districts across Beaver County will have to cut programming and services if the state doesn’t contribute its fair share of funding and address cost drivers, administrators say. School administrators from Aliquippa, Beaver Area, Big Beaver Falls Area, Hopewell Area, New Brighton Area, Rochester Area, South Side Area and the Beaver County Career and Technology Center met Thursday morning at the Beaver Valley Intermediate Unit to express concerns and emphasize the partnerships that exist among the county’s school districts ahead of 2017-18 state budget discussions.  The meeting was organized in part by Pennsylvania schools circuit rider Thomas Zelesnik, a former executive director of the BVIU, before Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf gives his third budget address Feb. 7. A circuit rider is an advocate for fair school funding, and the position is sponsored by the Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation, a nonprofit organization.  Without a state funding increase this year, districts will be forced to consider cutting programming, increasing class sizes and scaling back on career-readiness and technology initiatives, Beaver Superintendent Carrie Rowe said. 

Here’s a list of phone numbers for all members of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, which is scheduled to vote on Betsy DeVos’ nomination on Tuesday January 31.

Grim new forecast sees nearly $3B budget gap in Pennsylvania
Inquirer by MARC LEVY, The Associated Press Updated: JANUARY 26, 2017 — 12:49 PM EST
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's grim state budget forecast is getting gloomier.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled Legislature are facing a potential shortfall of nearly $3 billion through next summer, based on new projections by the state Legislature's Independent Fiscal Office.  With an approved state budget this year of $31.5 billion, the projected deficit is among the state's largest post-recession gaps as it struggles to keep up with rising costs for health care for the poor, prisons, state police and overdue pension obligation payments.  Matthew Knittel, the director of the Independent Fiscal Office, said Thursday that year-over-year tax collections are virtually flat halfway through the fiscal year.  "We're really not getting any kind of economic growth through January," Knittel said. "So it's very puzzling." Forecasts for other states have also been gloomy, although Knittel said Pennsylvania's may be slightly worse because the state's population isn't growing and is slightly older. Pennsylvania's corporate tax collections are also reflecting an overall national weakness in corporate profits, Knittel said.

Independent report shows PA revenues down yet again
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 26, 2017 3:59 AM
 (Harrisburg) -- Just about two weeks before the governor gives his annual budget address, the state's Independent Fiscal Office has released an updated revenue report.  Like most of the IFO's reports in the last several months, this one does not contain good news.  After some promising growth in November, Pennsylvania's economy has slumped back down according to Matthew Knittel, the IFO's director.  He said he doesn't know where the weakness is coming from, but it's everywhere.  "It's really broad-based," Knittel said. "It's hitting all individuals, businesses, investment income. It's all weaker than we had projected."  So how does that affect the commonwealth's bottom line?

“The largest government investment in the next generation is about to be under the control of a Secretary of Education who shares the president's lack of faith in the very schools that educate 50 million students. Trump's plan to put $20 billion in vouchers into the private-school marketplace sounds big, and since $76 billion in federal funds flow to all of America's public schools, it certainly is. The problem is that this new spending will reach only 4 percent of all students in the nation. That's neither huge nor big-league.”
Commentary: Invest in education for the long-term, President Trump
Inquirer Commentary by Donna Cooper Updated: JANUARY 26, 2017 — 10:31 AM EST
BEFORE HE WAS president, he was a businessman and a successful media personality. For this reason, President Trump knows all too well that the push for headlines touting strong quarterly earnings forces businesses to forgo critical long-term investments that gird sustained profitability. That's no strategy to make America great, for the long run. If the president is serious about bold change, from his first days in office, he must propose investments that benefit the next generation and ensure our competitiveness for the long run.  Let's focus on the options with a proven high return on investment: early childhood, aligning public school spending to need and youth employment.  Glowing headlines accompanied the campaign announcement on child care that Trump and first daughter Ivanka first unveiled in Pennsylvania. The president must capitalize on the popularity of that issue, but improve on that proposal in ways that deliver for hardworking families and produce long-term economic gains.

"In the 2014-15 school year, the Conneaut School District paid over $1,000,000 taxpayer dollars to cyber-charters that are failing," Sperry said. "In that same year, the school districts out of our local Intermediate Unit paid out over $20,000,000 to cyber-charters."
Erie-area school officials call on Harrisburg to fix education spending
Superintendents from Girard, Corry, Conneaut and Iroquois highlight the challenges their school districts face in advance of Gov. Tom Wolf's next budget address.
By Nico Salvatori Posted Jan 25, 2017 at 2:38 PM
School districts throughout the region could end up like the struggling Erie School District within a few years unless Gov. Tom Wolf and the state legislature create a more equitable state education funding system and address some of the most pressing cost drivers.  School superintendents from Girard, Corry, Conneaut and Iroquois gathered on Wednesday morning to relay that message and highlight the challenges their school districts face as they await news on the state's 2017-18 budget. The Democratic governor is expected to give his third budget address on Feb. 7. "Without fair and equitable funding, districts will be required to reduce programs, increase class sizes, and reduce career related electives for students," said Bill Nichols, Corry Area School District superintendent, from the Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit building in Edinboro. Nichols said uncertainty over the 2017-18 state budget has left Corry school officials considering cuts to school supplies and vocational training equipment.  The Conneaut School District is in a similar position, Superintendent Jarrin Sperry said. Such cost-cutting measures would harm students but do little to stave off the massive cuts that would be necessary down the line in the absence of reform on pension and cyber-charter school mandates. Sperry said his district is only about six years away from having to make significant cuts to programs under the current funding system.

State extends review of Erie schools plan
District awaits decision on $31.8 million proposal
GoErie By Ed Palattella January 27, 2017
The Erie School District's wait on the state is not yet over. The Pennsylvania Department of Education's review of the district's state-mandated financial plan is again taking longer than anticipated. It will not be done on Friday, as the district expected. The department told the district in late December that Education Secretary Pedro Rivera would get briefed on the plan by Friday. The previous date had been Jan. 7. The district submitted the plan on Dec. 6 and has been hoping that Gov. Tom Wolf considers it before Feb. 7, when he releases his proposed 2017-18 state budget. But the Department of Education is continuing to review the plan, which asks for an additional $31.8 million in annual state aid for the 11,500-student Erie School District to stay solvent and improve its buildings and programs. The Department of Education's second-highest official, David Volkman, told the district in an email late Wednesday that department officials are still analyzing the district's plan and are preparing an executive summary for Rivera, said Brian Polito, the Erie School District's chief financial officer.

Philly school buildings need nearly $5B in repairs, new report says
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag Updated: JANUARY 26, 2017 8:00 PM
For the first time in 14 years, the Philadelphia School District has assessed the state of its aging buildings, and the results are staggering: The system identified more than 12,000 outstanding repairs.  It would cost nearly $5 billion to do the work. Officials predict that they will need to spend $3 billion in the next 10 years to address urgent problems.  Because of delayed maintenance, close to three-quarters of city schools are in poor repair, and a third of all schools are in such bad shape that they are "outside the sustainable funding range." Engineers recommend that some of these be replaced or closed in the coming years.  District officials said repair or closure recommendations for some buildings were not a prediction of school closings, only a statement of building conditions.  The school system on Friday will release its multiyear, building-by-building report on facilities conditions, an examination of 308 district schools, large athletic complexes, and district-owned school buildings leased to charter schools. The system took 20 months to compile the report.

Report: Philly needs billions to rehab sagging schools
Nestled among the gleaming towers of Temple University sits Paul Lawrence Dunbar Elementary School, built in 1931 and looking every bit its age.  On rainy days, the school's roof--which is out of date and poorly pitched--becomes a repository for large pools of water. And sometimes those pools of water become a big problem for the students below.  "Quite often we have to move the class because this water seeps down into the classrooms, through the ceiling tiles, onto the floor, and there's children in there with big buckets," said Dunbar principal Dawn Moore. Dunbar is one of the lucky schools. It will be getting a replacement roof within the year. But there's a big backlog of projects similar to this one the district can't afford to complete. In fact, there are more than 12,000 of them. A new report commissioned by the district and released Thursday shows just how expensive that backlog has become, and how much pricier it could get if Philadelphia doesn't commit more money to capital projects. Right now, the district has $4.5 billion in deferred maintenance, according to the just-completed Facilities Condition Assessment (FCA). In the next ten years, the report says, Philadelphia schools will accumulate another $3.2 billion in needed repairs.

Tredyffrin/Easttown School District adopts preliminary budget
Daily Local By Staff Report POSTED: 01/25/17, 3:36 PM EST | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
TREDYFFRIN >> At its regular meeting on Monday, the Tredyffrin/Easttown Board of School Directors voted 9-0 to adopt the 2017-18 preliminary budget. State law requires all public school districts to adopt a preliminary budget if the school district wishes to explore the option of a tax increase that could include revenue from referendum exceptions to the Act 1 index. At this time, the district has a preliminary budgeted imbalance of approximately $5.36 million. To close the budget gap, the preliminary budget includes estimated property tax revenues from the Act 1 index of 2.5 percent and referendum exceptions of .935 percent for a total possible tax rate of approximately 3.435 percent. The preliminary budget does not set the property tax rate for next year. The final property tax rate for the 2017-18 school year will be set at the June board meeting, after a series of public meetings and budget workshops.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) has received more than 50,000 emails and letters opposing DeVos, according to his spokesman, John Rizzo. 
Anti-Devos calls jam Senate phone lines
Liberal groups have sought to jam Republican phones lines with protests of President Trump's nomination of Betsy DeVos as Education secretary.  Credo Action’s vice president and political director, Murshed Zaheed, said its members made 18,000 calls to members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on DeVos, targeting committee Democrats and key Republicans, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).  Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) has received more than 50,000 emails and letters opposing DeVos, according to his spokesman, John Rizzo.  And Sen. Tim Kaine's (D-Va.) spokeswoman, Sarah Peck, said Kaine has received more than 25,000 emails and letters about DeVos alone and the vast majority have been in opposition to her nomination.  Calls to action on social media platforms like Facebook have included a list of Republican senators on the HELP Committee, urging people to phone offices in an attempt to block DeVos’s nomination.

Guest Column: One voice against Trump education nominee
Delco Times By Jerry Oleksiak, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 01/25/17, 10:14 PM EST
Jerry Oleksiak is a special education teacher in the Upper Merion Area School District, and president of the 180,000-member Pennsylvania State Education Association.
When people get sick, they go to a doctor. When they need to go to court, they hire an attorney. And when they send their children to school, they expect their kids to learn from teachers. What do these people have in common? They’re professionals who have spent years learning, practicing and perfecting their trades.  So why does it make sense to hire a U.S. secretary of education who has absolutely no experience in public education?  It doesn’t.  But that is exactly what President Donald Trump has done by nominating Betsy DeVos – someone who is uniquely unqualified to serve as the nation’s top education official.  Ms. DeVos has no connection to public schools, as a student, educator, administrator, or parent. If confirmed, she would become the first secretary of education with absolutely no public education experience. Nominating her is like nominating a surgeon general who’s never gone to medical school.

Betsy DeVos is the right choice to run the Dept. of Education: Matthew J. Brouillette
PennLive Op-Ed  By Matthew J. Brouillette on January 26, 2017 at 9:30 AM, updated January 26, 2017 at 9:31 AM
This past fall, the American people did something remarkable.  Frustrated by the yawning gap between Washington and Main Street, voters shrugged off the conventional wisdom of the punditry and political class and demanded greater accountability and performance from their government.  Here in Pennsylvania, our state played a critical role in this monumental election. Everyday men and women from pockets of the country long dismissed by pollsters and so-called experts rose up and demanded their voices be heard.  Now, as Senators consider President Donald Trump's Cabinet appointments, Washington is providing the first glimpse of whether it took heed of November's message.  Voters are closely watching each confirmation, and no hearing will turn the spotlight on those behind the gavel more than that of Education Secretary-designee Betsy DeVos 

“I work every day, as a teacher, as a parent of an LGBT teen, and as an active participant in LGBT youth initiatives that DeVos and her family have worked to suffocate their entire lives.  DeVos unashamedly repeated that she does not believe in the federal protections of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a provision that yes, makes my job harder sometimes, but which ensures that every person in the United States is able to reach their full potential for themselves, their family, and for our national community.”
Don't let DeVos instill anti-gay bias in education | Letter
Letter By Kevin Deely Express-Times Letters to the Editor on January 26, 2017 at 9:36 AM
As a teacher and union leader in the Easton Area School District, I am asked every day for my opinion of President Trump's Department of Education nominee, Betsy DeVos. She is someone who fundamentally does not believe in a public education system. I could write pages about her record of dumping money into so-called solutions to public education that serve to waste taxpayer dollars, reduce opportunities for students, and leave them ill-prepared for the workforce and adulthood.  But I won't, because before  I go to work in the morning, I wake up to a family that is the reason for everything I do. I am saddened that DeVos espouses a deep and well documented hatred for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender Americans, which is matched only by her investment in anti-LGBT organizations and causes, such as Focus on the Family and Exodus International, pro-conversion therapy groups. No matter how much DeVos invests her immense wealth in this barbaric practice, you cannot pray or pay away the gay. DeVos would have power over policies that social workers follow, the funding for resources for LGBT teens, and the after-school activity options that can take place on school property, including "gay-straight alliances," a beacon for young people struggling with how they fit in a society that is slow to accept and quick to judge.

Pottstown district protests education secretary nominee; Radnor resolution fails
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer  @Kathy_Boccella Updated: JANUARY 11, 2017 5:07 PM
The Pottstown School District, whose money woes have led teachers and school board members to frequently speak out about a need for more equitable funding, has joined with other educators nationwide to protest what they see as another threat to public schools: U.S. Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos.  The Pottstown board on Monday night adopted a resolution opposing President Trump’s selection, citing her lack of experience in public education and her support of private school vouchers and charter schools. Members of the teachers' union called U.S. representatives and senators last Thursday and wore red to school Wednesday to protest. “Nothing personal against Ms. DeVos, but we do not think she’s qualified,” said Emanuel Wilkerson, 19, vice president of the school board.  “It shows through her record of promoting vouchers and charters that she has been an advocate for them and not public education.” The Michigan billionaire and Republican mega-donor  has stirred strong objections from teachers’ unions and public school advocates. In addition to her longtime support  for charter schools and vouchers, critics say she has no experience in public education.

English language learners need more help and services in Philly schools
The notebook Commentary by Maura McInerney January 25, 2017 — 4:31pm
 The Education Law Center receives hundreds of calls from families and students through its Helpline and engages in conversations with advocates, student and parent groups, teachers, and others – many of whom have raised significant concerns regarding the provision of services to the School District of Philadelphia’s immigrant students. The following is a summary of issues we commonly hear about from families and some proposed recommendations: t the outset, it is important to recognize that many immigrant students are not only learning English for the first time, they are also “learning how to learn” in a formal setting. They are new to American culture and our education system. Many of these children and youth are “students with limited or interrupted formal schooling” – they may not have gone to school previously or may have grown up in refugee camps. And many have been severely impacted by the trauma of war, famine, discrimination, and fear. They take all of this with them into their schools and classrooms. In addition, many of their parents do not speak English proficiently and have few supports to navigate the education system and their new environment. They are also impacted by trauma and fear. These students and their parents need additional supports in school that other students may not.

Black Lives Matter week 'an affirmation' for students, Phila. teachers say
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag Updated: JANUARY 26, 2017 12:46 PM
Some teachers have worn shirts. Others have led discussions, assigned projects, or hosted lunchtime seminars.   On Saturday, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins will even chime in.  This week has been designated a time to focus on the Black Lives Matter movement by some Philadelphia School District teachers who had hoped -- by offering sample lessons -- to spur awareness of a cause they feel is imperative in a school system where most students are black or Latino, despite the controversy around the subject.  The effort was not sponsored or sanctioned by the school system or the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and organizers -- members of the Caucus of Working Educators, a group within the teachers’ union -- do not know exactly how many teachers or schools participated.  Counting district schools, charters, a home-school organization, and colleges that have signed on, about 100 schools in all said they participated in some way, an organizer estimated. But that’s a small percentage of the number of schools in the area.
The school system did not allow reporters to sit in on Black Lives Matter lessons. But teachers who presented them said they were generally well-received.

Four former Circle of Seasons workers sue school, alleging harassment, discrimination
The Circle of Seasons Charter School is the subject of a lawsuit by four former employees.
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call January 26, 2017
Four former Circle of Seasons workers sue school alleging harassment, discrimination
Four former employees of Circle of Seasons Charter School in Weisenberg Township are suing the school, its board and top administrators, alleging sexual harassment, age and gender discrimination and retaliation for their complaints.  The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Lehigh County Court, was brought by Katie Werner Hutton, Emily Jones, Christine Storch and her husband Ronald Storch. In addition to the school, the lawsuit names Chief Executive Officer and Director Phil Arnold, special education director Pamela Zerbine, assistant teacher Scott Lesko and board trustees Kimberly Heiman, Chris Hertzog, Darin Mazepa, Kalyna Procyk and Cory Reinhard. The lawsuit focuses on incidents in 2014 and 2015, before the charter school faced andtriumphed over the threat of charter non-renewal.  Employee allegations of discrimination and harassment were among the complaints that emerged while the Northwestern Lehigh School District was investigating whether to renew the school, which operates under the hands-on, holistic Waldorf education method.

“Botel began his career as a Teach for America teacher in the Baltimore public schools and went on to found KIPP Ujima Village Academy, an academically rigorous charter school in West Baltimore.  He was most recently executive director of the education advocacy group MarylandCAN. His name has been removed from the MarylandCAN website, and an automatic email reply says he no longer works there.”
Jason Botel, KIPP school founder and education advocate, said to become White House adviser
Liz Bowie and Jean Marbella Contact Reporters The Baltimore Sun January 25, 2017
Politico reports Jason Botel named to White House education position.
Jason Botel, a Maryland education advocate and founder of a well-regarded city charter school, is expected to be named a senior White House adviser on education.  Politico first reported the news Tuesday night, and said Wednesday that Botel would be working with the interim secretary of education to lead a group of 18 new Department of Education staffers.  A source close to Botel told The Baltimore Sun that Botel has accepted the post. Botel did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

New Trump Adviser Has Advocated for Charters, Changes to Teacher-Labor Rules
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on January 26, 2017 12:05 PM
UPDATED The state director of the Maryland Campaign for Achievement Now, an organization that advocates for charter schools and the use of student achievement in teacher and school accountability, has joined the Trump administration as an adviser on education issues. Jason Botel will serve as a senior education adviser for the White House, according to Politico, which was the first to report the news. He joins a Trump White House education team that includes Rob Goad, a former staffer to Rep. Luke Messer, R-Ind., and now the education point person on the White House Domestic Policy Council. Botel is also a former executive director of KIPP Baltimore and worked at Teach for America, according to his LinkedIn bio.  And 50CAN's founder, Marc Porter Magee, told the Baltimore Sun Wednesday that "I can't think of anyone I trust more" to help make key decisions about education than Botel. Varro and Magee didn't immediatley respond to our requests for comment. 

“Exorbitant tuition rates, unrelated to charter costs, are paid in Pennsylvania as well. The New Hope-Solebury School District, for example, pays nearly $19,000 for every general education district student that elects to go to a charter school, and almost $40,000 for every special education student. The superintendent of Bethlehem Schools, Joe Roy, estimated that he could save taxpayers $20,000,000 a year if students in charters came back to the district.”
What taxpayers should know about the cost of school choice
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 26 at 2:53 PM 
School choice proponents often attack their critics by saying that anyone who doesn’t support choice programs — charter schools, voucher programs, tax scholarship credits — love the status quo and don’t care that children are trapped in failing traditional public schools.
So let’s stipulate from the start:
*There are some perfectly awful publicly funded traditional public schools and some severely troubled districts, especially in America’s cities. Kids shouldn’t be trapped in them.
*There are some great charter schools, which are publicly funded but run privately, some of them by for-profit companies. In some cities, some charters provide better experiences than the traditional public school.
*All choice supporters aren’t interested in destroying the traditional public system, and no supporter of the traditional public system that I have ever heard of thinks the traditional schools don’t need improvement.  Now let’s move on.
School choice proponents say that the programs they support do a better job of educating students and that parents have a right to choose the schools they want for their children. Some choice supporters have voiced support for more oversight of charter schools, but the overall thrust of the movement is for expansion of choice, not oversight.
Critics say that charter and voucher schools do not do a better job than traditional schools overall, that they reduce resources traditional districts need to improve and educate the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren who attend them, that they are not held to the same standards as traditional schools and that they are not accountable to the public.
President Trump has promised to expand school choice — and the Republican-led Congress wants to do the same. Trump has nominated a choice advocate, Betsy DeVos, as his education secretary, who is seen by critics as seeking to privatize public education, though her supporters say she isn’t.

New bill offers glimpse of how Washington could use federal funding to expand vouchers for private schools
Washington Post By Emma Brown January 26 at 4:14 PM 
Sen. Tim Scott, the South Carolina Republican who is one of the most ardent supporters of vouchers and charter schools on Capitol Hill, this week introduced a bill that offers some insight into where and how the new Congress and Trump administration could make good on their promises to push for the expansion of alternatives to traditional public schools.  Scott’s bill — the Creating Hope and Opportunity for Individuals and Communities through Education Act, or CHOICE Act — is a three-pronged approach to devoting more federal funding to private-school voucher programs.

Sen. Franken: No Democrat will vote for Betsy DeVos as education secretary — and we’re seeking Republicans to oppose her
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 27 at 12:06 AM 
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) told Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show Thursday night that no Democrat will vote to confirm Betsy DeVos, the Michigan billionaire tapped by President Trump to be his education secretary. He also said Democrats were actively looking for Republicans to vote against her.  Her supporters praise her for being a longtime advocate of school choice but her critics say her education advocacy is aimed at privatizing the country’s public education system. DeVos appeared before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions last week and fumbled badly, displaying a lack of understanding of key education issues under tough questioning from Democrats.  Since then, opposition to her nomination has been growing. Tens of thousands of people have called or written to senators urging them to vote against her, more than 1 million people have signed petitions,  and hundreds of alumni and students from her alma mater, Calvin College, wrote a letter to the legislators saying she was unqualified to be education secretary.

DeVos says she will protect students with disabilities, but advocates aren’t convinced
Washington Post By Emma Brown January 26 at 4:28 PM 
Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee for education secretary, has promised that she would enforce federal laws meant to protect students with disabilities, a move meant to reassure senators, advocates and parents who were unsettled by positions she seemed to stake out at her recent confirmation hearing.  “Thank you for the opportunity to more fully explain my position on the importance of protecting the rights of students with disabilities and ensuring that they receive the quality education they deserve,” she wrote Tuesday in a letter to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). DeVos went on to write that she is “eager to bring a sense of urgency” to enforcing the federal law, as well as to providing students with disabilities more school choices.  During her Jan. 17 confirmation hearing, DeVos at one point suggested that states should be able to decide whether to enforce the federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which guarantees students with disabilities access to a free and appropriate education. Later, she said she had been “confused” about IDEA, a four-decade-old federal law that protects civil rights.
Disability-rights advocates were upset by what was either DeVos’s lack of understanding of the federal education law or her belief that states’ rights should take precedence over a federal civil rights law.  Not all of those advocates were satisfied with DeVos’s letter to Isakson. (Read the full letter below.)

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. He has stated that he will OPPOSE this nomination.
3. Senator Casey’s Offices
Washington, D.C. Phone: (202) 224-6324
Toll Free: (866) 802-2833

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:

Ron Cowell at EPLC always does a great job with these policy forums.
RSVP Today for a Forum In Your Area! EPLC is Holding Five Education Policy Forums on Governor Wolf’s 2017-2018 State Budget Proposal
Forum #1 – Pittsburgh Thursday, February 23, 2017 – Wyndham University Center – 100 Lytton Avenue, Pittsburgh (Oakland), PA 15213
Forum #2 – Harrisburg Area (Enola, PA) Tuesday, February 28, 2017 – Capital Area Intermediate Unit – 55 Miller Street (Susquehanna Room), Enola, PA 17025
Forum #3 – Philadelphia Thursday, March 2, 2017 – Penn Center for Educational Leadership, University of Pennsylvania, 3440 Market Street (5th Floor), Philadelphia, PA 19104
Forum #4 – Indiana University of Pennsylvania Tuesday, March 14, 2017 – 1011 South Drive (Stouffer Hall), Indiana, PA 15705
Forum #5 – Lehigh Valley Tuesday, March 28, 2017 – Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit #21, 4210 Independence Drive, Schnecksville, PA 18078
Governor Wolf will deliver his 2017-2018 state budget proposal to the General Assembly on February 7. These policy forums will be early opportunities to get up-to-date information about what is in the proposed education budget, the budget’s relative strengths and weaknesses, and key issues.  Each of the forums will take following basic format (please see below for regional presenter details at each of the three events). Ron Cowell of EPLC will provide an overview of the Governor’s proposed budget for early education, K-12 and higher education.  A representative of The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will provide an overview of the state’s fiscal situation and key issues that will affect this year’s budget discussion. The overviews will be followed by remarks from a panel representing statewide and regional perspectives concerning state funding for education and education related items. These speakers will discuss the impact of the Governor’s proposals and identify the key issues that will likely be considered during this year’s budget debate.
Although there is no registration fee, seating is limited and an RSVP is required.

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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