Thursday, January 5, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 5: Taxpayers in PA Senate Education Committee Minority Chairman Andy Dinniman’s school districts had to pay $13.4M to chronically failing cybers in 15-16, up from $10.7M in 11-12.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 5, 2017
Taxpayers in PA Senate Education Committee Minority Chairman Andy Dinniman’s school districts had to pay $13.4M to chronically failing cybers in 15-16, up from $10.7M in 11-12.


Michael Faccinetto and Joseph Roy: Increase in charter schools threatens local control of education
Robust and democratic public schools are needed now more than ever
Morning Call Opinion January 4, 2017
Michael Faccinetto is president of the Bethlehem Area School Board and president-elect of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. Joseph Roy is superintendent of the Bethlehem Area School District.
The movement to take control of public education away from local communities and to turn tax dollars over to privately run charter schools, religious schools and private schools is likely to take on new urgency in the Pennsylvania Legislature in 2017.  The choice movement hampers public school efforts to address urgent problems facing schools, such as childhood poverty and an inequitable state funding system, by diverting public dollars to privately run schools.
Pennsylvania's 500 public school districts are governed by your neighbors and fellow community members elected by local citizens. School boards and the public school districts they oversee are this country's best examples of democracy — elected directly by the voters in their local community and charged with serving the public good. These school directors serve as volunteers and accept the civic duty to educate our children while balancing that duty with the community's ability to pay.  In Pennsylvania and across our nation, locally elected school boards are undermined by an anti-public education choice movement pushed in large part by billionaires and lobbyists. This choice movement supports using local tax dollars to pay for privately run charter schools as well as to pay tuition at religious and private schools.
A large number of our state legislators are committed to weakening local control of our schools as they push for the expansion of publicly funded charter schools and the expansion of tax dollars flowing to private and religious schools. This diversion of public funds undermines the democratic principle that decisions regarding public education and the use of tax dollars should be determined by locally elected school directors.

Urging Governor Wolf to Propose $400 Million in New Basic Education Funding
The Law Center co-signed a letter sent to Governor Tom Wolf on January 3 that called for $400 million in new funding for K-12 schools next year:
Public Interest Law Center Website January 2017
Dear Governor Wolf, As education and policy leaders in southeastern Pennsylvania, we thank you for your commitment to adequately funding public schools. The education funding increases you secured in your first two budgets have begun to finally ease the financial strain on school districts across the region.  Unfortunately, many districts still lack the resources necessary to deliver a proper education to all of their students. When state education funding was cut in 2011, districts in the southeast lost $330 million in aid for classroom operations, forcing them to increase local taxes and cut services and personnel. Lower-income districts with the least capacity to raise local revenue were hit the hardest. As a result, test scores declined; from 2011 to 2014, the share of students in the region failing to meet state standards grew from 22% to 29% in math and 27% to 32% in reading.  Despite the additional funds you have committed to education, state aid remains far from adequate, and districts continue to struggle to provide necessary services. Not surprisingly, test scores in the southeast have remained flat under the new state standards, with nearly 60% of students unable to meet grade-level expectations in math and 40% in reading in both 2015 and 2016. That’s more than 130,000 children struggling with math or reading.

FULL COMMITTEE HEARING Nomination of Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education
U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Date: Wednesday, January 11, 2017  Time: 10:00 AM Location: 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Senate schedules confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for education secretary
Washington Post By Emma Brown January 4 at 12:20 PM 
The Senate education committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to helm the education department, for January 11.
DeVos, who has spent more than two decades advocating for charter schools and taxpayer-funded school vouchers, is one of eight Trump nominees that Democrats have singled out for additional scrutiny. Two of the others are Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for secretary of state.  DeVos’s hearing is scheduled to take place on the second day of Sessions’s scheduled two-day hearing with the Judiciary Committee and the same day that Tillerson is tentatively scheduled to face the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  A billionaire power broker and major Republican donor, DeVos has not held elected public office nor worked as an educator. She is likely to face questions about her advocacy track record, particularly in her home state of Michigan, where she played a key role in shaping a fast-growing charter-school sector that even many charter-school supporters criticize as lacking in oversight and quality. Senators also are likely to ask her about her support for using public money to pay tuition at private and religious schools — one of the most polarizing ideas in education.

Preparing for a DeVos confirmation fight
Politico By CAITLIN EMMA 01/04/17 10:02 AM EST With help from Kimberly Hefling and Michael Stratford
PREPARING FOR A DEVOS CONFIRMATION FIGHT: Democrats will seek to paint Betsy DeVos as Public School Enemy No. 1 as they ramp up a longshot effort to thwart her confirmation to be Education secretary by challenging her qualifications for the job. Already, more than a dozen Democratic senators from all wings of the party have stepped forward to say they’re troubled by at least some aspects of the billionaire philanthropist’s record on public education — a drumbeat that is expected to grow louder in the lead-up to her confirmation hearing. That hearing is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 11.
— Democrats say they will portray DeVos’ views as being outside the education mainstream, citing her history of bankrolling efforts to create state voucher programs, and her support for Michigan’s loosely-regulated charter school sector. They’re also intent on drawing attention to her lack of experience in a traditional public school setting. DeVos has never worked as a public school teacher or superintendent, nor has she sent her own kids to public schools.
 Still, those efforts are unlikely to derail DeVos' confirmation, given Republicans' 52-seat majority in the Senate. Her backers point out that her views on using public funds to enable low-income students to attend charter and private schools, including religious schools, are in line with much of the GOP establishment. Those views are also shared by President-elect Donald Trump, who proposed a $20 billion plan during the campaign that emphasized vouchers and charter schools. More from Kimberly Hefling.

Ongoing Blogger Rant:
Taxpayers in PA Senate Education Committee Minority Chairman Andy Dinniman’s Chester County school districts had to pay $13.4M to chronically failing cybers in 15-16, up from $10.7M in 11-12. School Performance Profile scores for the high schools in those districts were mostly in the 90’s.  None of the school districts ever authorized any cyber charter schools.
Along with increasing pension costs, charter school tuition payments are one of the top two cost drivers for Pennsylvania’s school districts.  While brick and mortar charters have to be authorized by a school board, cyber charters are authorized by the state, with virtually no input by taxpayers who must foot the bill, even if they have higher performing blended school programs operating in their districts at considerable savings to taxpayers.

School District
total cyber spending 11-12
total cyber spending 12-13
total cyber spending 13-14
total cyber spending 14-15
total cyber spending 15-16
Avon Grove SD
$639,488.59
$584,117.18
$696,247.51
$751,664.15
$798,505.12
Coatesville Area SD
$2,494,579.26
$2,523,839.58
$2,534,007.70
$2,908,669.34
$3,043,372.03
Downingtown Area SD
$1,451,936.31
$1,308,291.56
$1,330,550.73
$1,443,716.97
$1,666,867.31
Great Valley SD
$480,888.22
$609,709.81
$726,295.14
$961,698.35
$893,484.27
Kennett Consolidated SD
$373,105.39
$456,316.20
$593,615.37
$527,937.06
$671,924.04
Octorara Area SD
$575,079.13
$668,763.04
$703,206.92
$810,486.75
$996,465.14
Owen J Roberts SD
$669,874.74
$662,981.44
$604,933.44
$811,676.04
$996,359.39
Oxford Area SD
$650,156.52
$541,398.64
$618,677.96
$695,601.44
$1,016,720.64
Phoenixville Area SD
$674,334.56
$570,985.68
$455,350.23
$546,179.09
$350,465.94
Tredyffrin-Easttown SD
$405,624.92
$452,097.24
$314,247.45
$260,489.82
$397,656.63
Unionville-Chadds Ford SD
$415,534.97
$380,446.91
$364,690.36
$537,523.35
$558,535.89
West Chester Area SD
$1,908,373.44
$2,068,963.78
$2,000,281.25
$2,056,089.36
$2,015,773.75

$10,738,976.05
$10,827,911.06
$10,942,104.06
$12,311,731.72
$13,406,130.15


A June 2016 study by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and the 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now (50CAN) found that online charter students lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math during the course of a 180-day school year, the study found. That is, in math, it’s as if the students did not attend school at all.

Not one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools has achieved a passing School Performance Profile score of 70 in any of the four years that it has been in effect.

Most cyber charters never made Adequate Yearly Progress during the years that No Child Left Behind was in effect.

Thanks to PCCY for compiling the above figures from cyber charter enrollment and tuition data on the PA Department of Education website


School Performance Profile Scores for PA Cyber Charters
Source: PA Department of Education website
A score of 70 is considered passing
Cyber Charter School Name
2013
2014
2015
2016
21st Century CS
66.5
66.0
69.2
62.2
Achievement House CS
39.7
37.5
44.8
54.5
ACT Academy Cyber CS
30.6
28.9
36.1
40.7
Agora Cyber CS
48.3
42.4
46.4
37.6
ASPIRA Bilingual CS
29.0
39.0
38.4
41.9
Central PA Digital Learning Fdn CS
31.7
48.8
39.3
46.7
Commonwealth Connections Academy CS
54.6
52.2
48.8
47.5
Education Plus Academy Cyber CS
59.0
50.0
67.9
Esperanza Cyber CS
32.7
47.7
31.7
50.7
PA Cyber CS
59.4
55.5
65.3
51.0
PA Distance Learning CS
54.7
50.9
49.2
53.9
PA Leadership CS
64.7
59.3
54.7
57.5
PA Virtual CS
67.9
63.4
64.6
49.7
Solomon CS
36.9
Susq-Cyber CS
46.4
42.4
45.5
49.3



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

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



Drive to kill school property tax headed back to Legislature
Penn Live By Marc Levy | The Associated Press  on January 04, 2017 at 9:15 AM, updated January 04, 2017 at 10:42 AM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Debate over school property taxes in Pennsylvania is expected to return to the Legislature in 2017.  Senate supporters say the Nov. 8 election provided the necessary votes to eliminate school property taxes entirely and replace them with other revenue streams.  That would mean shifting about $14 billion in taxes from property owners, including businesses, to Pennsylvania consumers and workers through sales and personal income taxes.
An Associated Press analysis of state data found that more than 70 percent of school property taxes were collected by the wealthiest half of school districts in 2014-15.  Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, will introduce the leading proposal, which would increase the income tax rate by 60 percent and hike the state sales tax rate by 17 percent while applying it to a wider range of goods and services, such as groceries, clothing, basic TV, and funeral services.  In late 2015, the Senate defeated Argall's legislation by a 25-24 vote with Lt. Gov. Mike Stack casting the tie-breaker. The vote split both parties and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association opposed it.
But proponents say a pair of incoming Harrisburg-area senators elected in November are replacing two opponents.  "We believe that gets us to the magic number of 26," Argall said.

Another attempt to eliminate property taxes? Backers will need to show their work: Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board on January 04, 2017 at 1:02 PM
If we had a nickel for every proposal to reduce or eliminate Pennsylvania's school property tax that's come down the pike over the last couple of decades, the chances are pretty good we'd have raised the estimated $14 billion it'll take to fund the massive tax shift.  So as the 2017 legislative session opens, we'll credit state lawmakers for once again tackling the longest-lived (outside of pension reform) policy challenge in Pennsylvania politics.  Emboldened by larger majorities in the state House and Senate, the proposal's Republican backers say they finally have the votes they need to pass a tax elimination or reform bill.  It's no secret that Pennsylvania's real estate levy, as it's currently structured, is fundamentally unfair, imposing a crushing burden on retirees and poorer school districts.  Thus we'll offer our muted encouragement - as well as a couple of major caveats.  For one, unlike a failed push to eliminate the tax in 2015, backers must absolutely, positively show their work.

House Education Committee Minority Chairman Roebuck: Restoring more school funding must be a top priority in new session
Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr.    January 3, 2017 | 3:19 PM
HARRISBURG, Jan. 3 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, was sworn in today for a new term representing west Philadelphia's 188th Legislative District.  "As we begin a new session, I look forward to working to improve education in Pennsylvania, and that has to include restoring more of the school funding that was cut during former Governor Corbett's four years," Roebuck said. "Philadelphia has been especially hard-hit by those cuts, but the impact has been statewide. We have made significant progress on restoring education funding in Governor Tom Wolf's first two years, but we have much more to do. Fortunately, we already know there are common-sense ways to generate funding and balance the budget, such as a reasonable tax on gas drilling and closing corporate tax loopholes."

Pennsylvania House slashes public review time for Senate-amended legislation
Trib Live KEVIN ZWICK  | Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives adopted a new rule Tuesday to allow some legislation to pass more quickly but essentially limiting time for public review.  Under the change, the House would have to wait only six hours instead of 24 before taking a final vote on legislation amended by the Senate.  The 24-hour rule was part of a package of reforms adopted in 2007 in reaction to the controversial legislative pay-raise vote. The House still mandates a 24-hour review period after it amends a bill before voting to send it to the Senate.  “Twenty-four hours is not enough time to review an amendment. Six hours is a joke,” said Eric Epstein, co-founder of Rock the Capital, a government watchdog group. “The Legislature has chosen the path of darkness and haste, eight years after committing to light and transparency.”

Pa. lawmakers, the public will have even less time to review some proposed laws
Penn Live By Wallace McKelvey | WMckelvey@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 04, 2017 at 3:07 PM, updated January 04, 2017 at 4:42 PM
Amid the pomp and circumstance at the Pennsylvania Capitol on Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a rule change that could have a lasting impact on government transparency.  Under the new rules, the House will have to wait six hours - instead of the previous 24 hours - before making a final vote on proposed legislation that was amended by the Senate.
Supporters of the change put the House on sounder negotiating ground with the Senate, which only had to wait six hours. But opponents pointed out that lawmakers will have less time to consider the bills they're voting on and the public will be even less likely to understand proposals that could have a major impact on their daily lives.  "The 24-hour window was generous," said Eric Epstein, a government ethics watchdog who co-founded Rock the Capital. "The 6-hour time-frame is outrageous."
http://www.pennlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/01/pa_house_lawmakers_the_public.html#incart_2box_politics

“Although they make up less than one-fifth of state House members, 40 female representatives now serve in Harrisburg – the highest number in PA history.”
A complete list of every new member of the General Assembly
City & State By: RYAN BRIGGS JAN 3, 2017 AT 11:48 PM
Members of the PA General Assembly assembled in Harrisburg for swearing-in ceremonies, inaugurating a legislative session that is notably younger, more Republican and representative of women than before.  The state House picked up 22 new members out of 202 representatives. The party split is 121 Republicans to 81 Democrats, with one vacancy (the seat recently abandoned by convicted Democratic state Rep. Leslie Acosta). Eight newish members who won special elections last year were also sworn in yesterday at the first so-called “full-scale” ceremony of its kind.  With 30 members elected over the past year, the number of House members elected prior to the year 2000 dropped to just 38.
http://www.cityandstatepa.com/content/complete-list-every-new-member-general-assembly#.WG23E0LNXc4.twitter

PA Supreme Court rules school districts not responsible for charter school pension debt
Times Tribune BY TERRIE MORGAN-BESECKER / PUBLISHED: JANUARY 4, 2017
In a precedent-setting ruling, the state Supreme Court said a school district is not liable to pay pension contributions that a closed charter school failed to make to a state pension fund for teachers.  Ruling in a case brought by the Pocono Mountain School District, the high court said that requiring a school district to pay outstanding retirement debt of a defunct charter school violates the Charter School Law.  The ruling has important implications for school districts statewide because it resolves a conflict within the charter school law regarding what constitutes a “debt” of a charter school, said the school district’s solicitor, John Freund.  “This case is very significant in a number of aspects,” Mr. Freund said. “The decision makes it crystal clear that a school district cannot be held liable for a debt created by a charter school.”

It's opening day for expanded Philly pre-K
WHYY Newsworks BY AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT JANUARY 4, 2017
Except for the chilly weather and the television cameras, Wednesday morning at SPIN preschool in Northeast Philadelphia felt like any other first day of school.  Children nervously looped their backpacks on hallway hooks as parents kissed them goodbye. Teachers dashed between little ones overcome with anxiety and others jolted into hyperactivity by the volume of new toys.
It was a joyous, noisy, confusing morning — and it was made possible by the soda-drinking denizens of Philadelphia.  That last part explains the cameras.
The dozens of  3- and 4-year-olds who started at SPIN on Wednesday are part of PHLpreK, Philadelphia's city-sponsored early childhood program. The initiative bowed just a year after Kenney was sworn into office, fulfilling — at least in part — one of his signature campaign promises.  "I just can't believe that one year ago we were getting started, and here we are today," said Otis Hackney, who heads the Mayor's Office of Education.

With soda tax, school's now in session
Inquirer by Julia Terruso, STAFF WRITER Updated: JANUARY 4, 2017 — 3:53 PM EST
The preschoolers have entered the building.
Wednesday marked the first day of city-funded pre-K for 2,000 new students.
"Are you so excited?" Lisa Martin asked her 3-year-old daughter, Rowan, as she led her down the hallway toward her classroom at SPIN Parkwood early learning center.  "Yeah!" the little girl said, throwing her arms - slightly inhibited by her puffy coat - up and down and doing a little jump.
SPIN was able to add 40 seats to the newly renovated brick building on Dunks Ferry Road, thanks to city money, or more specifically the city's new sweetened-beverage tax.

SRC hearings on new Philly charter applications start Thursday
Four applications will be up for the second round of review at public hearings this month.
The notebook by Greg Windle January 3, 2017 — 4:29pm
The School Reform Commission will hold a second set of public hearings on four new charter applications this month, after the initial hearings in December. If all are approved, they would create more than 2,600 new charter seats over five years.  During each two-hour hearing, the District's Charter Schools Office will present its evaluation of the charter application. Applicants will be questioned by District staff and a representative of the SRC before making a final statement. Although the public is invited to attend, attendees will not be able to participate or ask questions of the applicants.  The hearings will take place in Room 1075 at the Education Center, located in District headquarters at 440 N. Broad Street. They will be held on Thursday, Jan. 5, and Monday, Jan. 9; the first hearing will start at 9:30 a.m. and the second at 1:30 p.m. on both days.

“An administration source said the delay was tactical. Houstoun resigned in advance of her term's Jan. 18 expiration, and if Richman's name had been submitted in October, when she agreed to serve, that would have meant two confirmations - one for the unexpired term, and another for a full five-year term.  It also would have meant giving the Senate two opportunities to hold up Richman's confirmation.  It appears likely that Richman's name will be sent to the Senate on Jan. 19, she said. That would give the Senate 10 calendar days to act on a confirmation.  The administration, the source said, is eager to have Richman seated by February, when the commission is scheduled to consider applications for new charter schools, always a flash point in Philadelphia.”
What's holding up Wolf's nomination of Estelle Richman to the SRC?
Former state Department of Public Welfare secretary Estelle Richman is still waiting for Gov. Wolf to nominate her to an open seat on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, STAFF WRITER  @newskag Updated: JANUARY 4, 2017 12:40 PM EST
In mid-October, Gov. Wolf promised to nominate former state welfare secretary Estelle B. Richman to an open seat on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission.  More than two months later, he still has not done so. Is it a technicality, or politics?  One person stumped by the situation is Richman, a widely respected former local, state and federal public servant.  "It doesn't seem to me that there's any urgency," Richman said.  Richman, 73, would occupy a seat on the five-person commission vacated Oct. 14 by the resignation of Feather Houstoun. Gubernatorial SRC picks must be confirmed by the state Senate, a group not generally warm to Wolf's wishes.
J.J. Abbott, the governor's spokesman, said that Richman - who is also a former senior official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - was still the pick. She also has served as Philadelphia's managing director and as its health commissioner.  "The governor does plan to nominate Estelle to the open spot, for the full term," Abbott said. "They expect that to be sent to the Senate in the next few weeks."

“A 2014 report published by the Center for Media and Democracy examining the “corporate takeover of Pennsylvania schools” shows that CAP received 70 percent of its 2011-2012 funding from Students First.  Students First gave CAP $525,000 in 2011 and 2012 and then gave CAP $265,000 in 2014 and $300,000 in 2016.  Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania has received a total of $1.09 million from Students First since 2011.    In 2012, Philadelphia City Paper journalist Daniel Denvir reported that Students First was funded by three Pennsylvania hedge fund managers from the Susquehanna International Group (Yess, Dantchik, Greenberg)  and the American Federation of Children, an organization funded by Donald Trump’s Department of Education Secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos. “
Senator Wagner’s Campaign Chair Has Ties to Betsy DeVos’ Dark Money
Raging Chicken Press January 4, 2017 Sean Kitchen January 2017
Pennsylvania State Senator Scott Wagner is preparing to bring the conservative takeovers of Wisconsin and Michigan to Pennsylvania by hiring a campaign chair that has connections to Betsy and Dick DeVos dark money.  The Post Gazette reports that Senator Wagner has hired John Kennedy from the Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania as chair for the “Scott Wagner for Governor” committee.   The Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania has been influential in getting anti-tax, anti-union and anti-education conservatives elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly since 2010.  In 2010, the group ran 12 candidates and 9 of the candidates won.  Six of those who won decided not to take a defined benefits pension plan.  They include Representatives Justin Simmons, Stephen Bloom, George Dunbar, Rick Saccone, Dan Truitt (no longer in the House) and Senator Mike Folmer. CAP has also been effective in forcing moderate Republicans into early retirement by running primary candidates who are more conservative.  In 2014, CAP took credit for former House Speaker Sam Smith’s retirement after the former speaker was challenged in a primary.     The Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania is not a part of the Koch Brother’s State Policy Network, but they are aligned with the Dark Money forces that operates within that network of billionaires.  The organization’s key legislative priorities include making Pennsylvania a “right to work” state, going after public pensions and privatizing public education via charter schools and school vouchers.  
https://ragingchickenpress.org/2017/01/04/senator-wagners-campaign-chair-ties-devos-dark-money/

Governor-hopeful Scott Wagner: The man unions hate, conservatives love
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 05, 2017 at 6:30 AM, updated January 05, 2017 at 6:32 AM
EAST MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP - For a sense of how far Scott Wagner's trash empire extends, one needs only visit his conference room wall.  Over the last two decades, the millionaire trash mogul expanded Penn Waste's territory across all south-central Pennsylvania and even into places in Delaware and Maryland.  Now, the 61-year-old York County state senator who never graduated college has his eyes on the governor's office, and his approach to his business may be indicative of his political ascent.
http://www.pennlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/01/scott_wagner_the_man_unions_ha.html#incart_river_index

Charter school foes tell NJ education officials: Enough already
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, TRENTON BUREAU  @maddiehanna Updated: JANUARY 5, 2017 — 3:01 AM EST
TRENTON - Charter school opponents called for a moratorium on further expansion in New Jersey on Wednesday, as the state Board of Education took up a proposal announced last year by Gov. Christie to ease rules for charter teacher and administrator hiring.  Outside the Department of Education offices in Trenton, more than 50 people stood in opposition to new charter schools. Some argued that creating new rules for charters would spur more expansion - which they said would mean less money for traditional district schools.  "It's already kind of the Wild West," Darcie Cimarusti, president of the Highland Park Board of Education in Middlesex County, said before the protest, noting that local districts don't have any control over the state-approved charters.  While charters are publicly funded, critics said it was unfair to describe them as public schools.  "Public schools are held accountable," Newark NAACP president Deborah Smith-Gregory said at the protest, where a number of people argued that charter schools had resulted in segregated districts. "Public schools must have certified teachers."
http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20170105_Charter_school_foes_tell_NJ_education_officials__Enough_already.html

Costello, Meehan buck House GOP majority, oppose gutting ethics office
By Evan Brandt, The MercuryPOSTED: 01/03/17, 5:46 PM EST | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
Even before a public outcry that included President-elect Donald Trump forced its reversal, area Congressmen Ryan Costello and Pat Meehan voted against a controversial move by House Republicans to gut an independent ethics oversight office.  The Monday night vote in the House Republican caucus — which CNN reported as being 119 in favor and 74 against and which was announced afterward without any prior public notice — caused a public uproar and opposition from all ends of the political spectrum.  In the wake of the criticism, House Republicans relented and voted unanimously Tuesday afternoonto strip the change from the rules resolution and restore the status of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which was established in 2008 in the wake of several House ethics scandals.
http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20170103/costello-meehan-buck-house-gop-majority-oppose-gutting-ethics-office?source=most_viewed

How Erie-area congressmen voted on ethics issue
Closed-door vote of House Republicans threatened to put independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of lawmakers.
GoErie By Kevin Flowers January 4, 2017
Both members of Congress who represent the Erie region have weighed in on a GOP proposal to gut an independent congressional ethics board - a plan that ultimately failed to gain a full House vote.  U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of Butler, R-3rd Dist., voted for the proposal during a closed-door vote of House Republicans on Monday.  The Monday vote of U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson of Centre County, R-5th Dist., was unavailable. However, Renee Gamela, Thompson's communications director, said "while Mr. Thompson believes that every member should have an opportunity to offer their thoughts on how the House should operate, ultimately he believes oversight, transparency and accountability take precedent."  The proposal, by Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, sought to neuter the independent Office of Congressional Ethics and place it under control of lawmakers. House Republicans voted 119-74 during a closed-door meeting on Monday in favor of Goodlatte's proposal.

http://www.goerie.com/news/20170105/how-erie-area-congressmen-voted-on-ethics-issue

Following Court Ruling, Connecticut Governor Proposes to Fix K-12 Formula
Education Week State EdWatch By Daarel Burnette II on January 4, 2017 5:17 PM
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, said in his State of the State address Wednesday that he will propose in his budget this year to dramatically adjust the way the state distributes more than $4 billion of state aid.   A superior court judge said in a sharply worded ruling in September that the state's funding formula leaves its states poor, black, and Latino children locked in underfunded schools and placed in front of unqualified teachers. The state has appealed, and the state's supreme court is expected to hear the case later this year . 
But in his address, Malloy conceded that the state's funding formula is unfair and said he will propose in the coming weeks to more equitably distribute money between the state's wealthy and poor districts.  
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/2017/01/following_court_ruling_conn_gov_malloy_proposes_to_fix_funding_formula.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

The War on Public Schools
Charters, vouchers, and disposable teachers are Trump’s targets.
American Prospect by Rachel M. Cohen January 4, 2017
 Maryland’s presumably invulnerable Republican governor is anything but.
This article appears in the Winter 2017 issue of The American Prospect magazine.
On November 8, 2016, the man who vowed to be “the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice” won the presidential contest. About two weeks later he announced that Betsy DeVos, a billionaire Republican donor who has aggressively lobbied for private-school vouchers, online education, and for-profit charter schools, would serve as his education secretary. In early December, Jeb Bush told an audience of more than 1,000 education reformers in Washington, D.C., that he hoped “there’s an earthquake” in the next few years with respect to education funding and policy. “Be big, be bold, or go home,” he urged the crowd.  To say education conservatives are ecstatic about their new political opportunities would be an understatement. With Republicans controlling the House and Senate, a politically savvy conservative ideologue leading the federal education department, a vice president who earned notoriety in his home state for expanding vouchers, charters, and battling teacher unions, not to mention a president-elect who initially asked creationist Jerry Falwell Jr. to head up his Department of Education, the stars have aligned for market-driven education advocates.
http://prospect.org/article/war-public-schools


NPE Pennsylvania alert: Betsy De Vos
Network for Public Education January 2, 2017 by Carol Burris
The confirmation hearings for Betsy DeVos will happen shortly. Please call your senators this week and let them know you oppose her appointment as Secretary of Education. If you called already, please call again.  It is most effective to call a local office. Below is the list of local office locations to drop off a letter, and local numbers to call your senators.  If you want a script for your call, you can find it here.  Please pick up the phone and call.
You can share this alert with friends and family in your state by posting this link: http://wp.me/p3bR9v-2aO

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

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 http://www.education.pa.gov/Pages/tour.aspx#tab-1
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.

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, https://www.psba.org/members-area/store-registration/)

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 Jamie.Zuvich@psba.org. Learn more about the Advocacy Institute at https://www.nsba.org/events/advocacy-institute.

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 https://www.nsba.org/conference/registration. 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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