Sunday, January 8, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 8: Taxpayers in PA Senate President Scarnati’s 27 school districts had to pay chronically underperforming cyber charters $9.4M in 15-16, up from $7.4M in 11-12.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 8, 2017
Taxpayers in PA Senate President Scarnati’s 27 school districts had to pay chronically underperforming cyber charters $9.4M in 15-16, up from $7.4M in 11-12.


Ongoing Blogger Rant:
Taxpayers in PA Senate President Scarnati’s 27 school districts had to pay chronically underperforming cyber charters $9.4M in 15-16, up from $7.4M in 11-12.  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
Cameron County SD
$104,767.29
$201,565.29
$196,983.05
$365,214.03
$457,760.21
Clearfield Area SD
$740,698.60
$807,416.94
$690,845.38
$782,920.62
$596,024.32
Dubois Area SD
$478,288.30
$743,404.43
$800,783.53
$755,989.56
$676,453.91
West Branch Area SD
$362,918.66
$373,793.37
$343,094.65
$348,947.22
$240,172.97
Keystone Central SD
$268,825.95
$346,540.89
$297,753.63
$438,289.68
$374,308.34
Clarion-Limestone Area SD
$170,616.20
$191,509.12
$207,107.12
$142,253.40
$347,144.12
Canton Area SD
$252,971.41
$226,803.00
$182,979.66
$325,749.69
$284,823.42
Johnsonburg Area SD
$64,234.15
$68,681.28
$94,711.67
$87,065.82
$201,643.02
Ridgway Area SD
$57,790.43
$78,562.00
$190,620.79
$201,308.61
$215,522.40
Saint Marys Area SD
$233,935.57
$218,940.94
$282,453.55
$263,064.01
$193,852.17
Brockway Area SD
$68,746.62
$80,379.90
$73,462.08
$56,267.42
$64,373.88
Punxsutawney Area SD
$593,864.38
$870,293.68
$950,096.87
$796,232.81
$1,058,835.48
Brookville Area SD
$362,867.76
$307,989.10
$177,706.00
$132,589.04
$196,907.00
Bradford Area SD
$441,910.98
$455,144.24
$552,636.21
$612,573.20
$423,716.64
Kane Area SD
$243,332.00
$265,801.54
$375,946.22
$321,340.33
$190,576.71
Otto-Eldred SD
$55,347.86
$136,169.33
$158,262.71
$132,667.44
$216,107.01
Port Allegany SD
$121,236.82
$88,506.27
$199,929.27
$159,259.24
$159,119.04
Smethport Area SD
$141,700.63
$186,984.14
$341,086.48
$462,209.55
$429,765.58
Austin Area SD
$28,512.68
$0.00
$0.00
$0.00
$0.00
Coudersport Area SD
$213,825.89
$162,445.32
$151,203.14
$174,548.52
$301,024.86
Galeton Area SD
$346,649.01
$330,554.52
$410,699.31
$510,307.96
$453,658.55
Northern Potter SD
$133,873.33
$115,608.13
$96,764.96
$96,640.00
$96,710.24
Oswayo Valley SD
$29,927.61
$84,136.35
$116,094.93
$116,236.60
$71,455.98
Northern Tioga SD
$466,672.44
$401,287.77
$584,824.04
$507,834.47
$565,886.38
Southern Tioga SD
$598,632.36
$652,666.62
$937,580.41
$795,553.54
$733,842.00
Wellsboro Area SD
$391,792.30
$353,518.66
$341,215.76
$511,736.23
$426,859.66
Jersey Shore Area SD
$518,590.51
$586,471.70
$581,255.89
$528,130.03
$504,050.65

$7,492,529.74
$8,335,174.53
$9,336,097.31
$9,624,929.02
$9,480,594.54


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



We had reports from western PA of a telephone campaign by DeVos supporters asking voters to contact their senators to support her nomination.  If you have not already done so, please consider calling Senators Toomey and Casey as noted below.

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



Charter advocates acknowledge ‘disturbingly low performance’ of virtual schools
Washington Post By Emma Brown June 16, 2016 
Full-time virtual charter schools have become increasingly popular during the past decade, now enrolling 180,000 students nationwide, students who learn by logging on to laptops from home instead of going to brick-and-mortar schoolhouses. But these schools’ growing enrollment has been accompanied by intense scrutiny: Journalists, activists and scholars have reported on virtual schools’ poor performance and raised questions about whether the schools are designed to effectively teach kids — or to effectively make a profit.  Now national charter-school advocates are calling for tighter oversight of virtual schools and closure of those that persistently fail, acknowledging that full-time virtual schools — most of which are run by for-profit companies — have “significant problems” and “disturbingly low performance.”  The Center for Research on Education Outcomes, which is generally seen as friendly to charter schools, found last year that students enrolled in full-time online charter schools learn far less than their peers in traditional public schools. The 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.

School choice's dirty little secret? It's not much of a choice at all: Michael Faccinetto and Joseph Roy
 PennLive Op-Ed  By Michael Faccinetto  and Joseph Roy on January 06, 2017 at 9:30 AM, updated January 06, 2017 at 9:31 AM
Michael Faccinetto is the president of the Bethlehem Area School District Board of School Directors and the President-elect of the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA). Readers may email him at mfaccinetto@basdschools.org.
Joseph Roy is the Superintendent of Schools for the Bethlehem Area School District and the 2017 PA Superintendent of the Year. Readers may email him at jroy@basdschools.org.
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.

Hickernell Sworn in as New PA House Education Committee Chairman
Email from State Rep. David Hickernell The Capitol Roundup Saturday, January 07, 2017
On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives convened so that the oath of office could be administered to House members. The House is now comprised of 121 Republicans and 81 Democrats, including 23 first-term members.  I am honored to have been selected by the Republican Caucus to serve as majority chairman of the House Education Committee for the 2017-18 session.  I take over the committee from Rep. Stan Saylor, a York County Republican who will now take the reins of the House Appropriations Committee. My guiding principles for the Committee will revolve around two goals, ensuring that every Pennsylvania student receives a high quality education that prepares them for future success and working to make sure we are good stewards of taxpayer dollars by investing in educational initiatives that increase student achievement.  At $13.1 billion, education funding represents 41 percent of current state budget and is the single largest discretionary spending item in the state budget every year. Issues coming before the Education Committee impact every Pennsylvanian so I will be looking for input from fellow committee members and others for suggestions on the issues we should address in the new session.  I look forward to working with the members of the House Education Committee on both sides of the aisle, the Chairmen of the Senate Education Committee and others interested in education to move important education legislation that will benefit students, parents, educators and the citizens of Pennsylvania.

No backsliding on transparency - Pa. House should reinstate 24-hour waiting period on bills: Editorial
PennLive Editorial Board  Email the author  on January 06, 2017 at 1:30 PM, updated January 06, 2017 at 1:31 PM
There's always a feeling of promise that comes with the start of a new two-year legislative session.  And on Tuesday, the Republican-controlled state House offered some reason for encouragement as it adopted a new rule, in response to a case involving a Philadelphia lawmaker, making it easier to expel members who have been convicted of certain crimes. That's a win for transparency and at least a nod toward reinforcing public confidence in an institution too often battered by scandal.  But even as the chamber gave with one hand, it took away with another, adopting language that would require the chamber to wait just six hours, instead of the previous 24 hours, before making a final vote on proposed legislation that was amended by the state Senate.
OUR RECOMMENDATION: The House should reinstate the 24-hour review period on bills amended by the Senate.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Call your local state House member (their phone numbers and contact information is available here) and urge them to push for that reinstatement when the House reconvenes on Jan 23. You can also call House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, who's the House's presiding officer at (717) 772-9943 or (412) 369-2230, to make your voice heard.   Backers say the change will put the chamber on even footing with the Senate, which imposes a 6-hour wait time before it can vote on House-amended bills.
But opponents make the credible argument that the language was not intended for the convenience of lawmakers, but rather the voting public, who are directly impacted by the legislation their elected representatives debate.

“Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Havertown, criticized the six-hour timeout as inadequate especially during periods when a lot of bills are being considered. A lawmaker can get stretched thin trying to keep tabs with everything coming down the pike, he said.  Vitali referred to the mad rush in late June and early July when lawmakers face a deadline to pass the state budget and assorted bills and at the end of a two-year session when bills are either passed or die. At these times it’s hard for lawmakers yet alone the public to keep track of what’s going on or what bills will actually be voted on a given day. It’s been this way with legislative bodies for time immemorial.”
State House legislators scrap reform rule
Citizens Voice BY ROBERT SWIFT / PUBLISHED: JANUARY 8, 2017
HARRISBURG — House lawmakers launched the new session by scrapping a timeout rule for reviewing legislation adopted as part of a reform effort a decade ago.  The rule change means the House will no longer have to wait 24 hours to vote on Senate-amended legislation absent a specific vote to waive the timeout period. The chamber now only has to wait six hours to vote if it wants to. This is in line with Senate timeout rules.  The change raised eyebrows because this was one of the limited reforms adopted by lawmakers after the controversy unleashed by the abortive legislative pay raise vote of 2005. The point of these rules was to prevent another rushed midnight hour vote on legislation whose murky details have been made public only minutes before. The House is keeping two other reform rules requiring a 24-hour timeout period after it amends a bill for a full vote absent a specific vote to waive it and to end sessions at 11 p.m. absent a specific vote to continue past that hour.

Pa. tax shift would have big winners, big losers | Editorial
By Express-Times opinion staff on January 08, 2017 at 6:30 AM, updated January 08, 2017 at 6:31 AM
Looking ahead, the Pennsylvania Legislature might have the Republican majorities it needs to effect a $14 billion tax shift -- "killing" the hated school property tax while saddling people with higher sales and personal income taxes.  The stakes are high, especially for those who say school property taxes are driving them from their homes or forcing them into greatly diminished qualities of life. Homeowners with limited incomes feel the cruelty of annual tax hikes by school boards. That's the primary force behind HB/SB 76, known as the Property Tax Independence Act.  In 2015 the Senate failed, by a 24-24 vote, to insert SB 76 into another bill, and the effort died. This year, larger GOP majorities in each house could mean the death knell for the local school tax. The question is whether Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf would veto any such bill, and whether it would be overridden.  Also in 2015, Wolf proposed increases in personal income and sales taxes, in part to significantly reduce school property taxes. That idea died in a protracted, bitter budget battle. Former Gov. Ed Rendell's pledge to use gambling proceeds to reduce property taxes also fell well short of promises.

Inquirer Editorial: Pensions, taxes again loom large in reaching a Pa. budget deal
Inquirer Editorial Updated: JANUARY 8, 2017 — 3:01 AM EST
Maybe, just maybe, this year Gov. Wolf and the Republican-controlled legislature won't waste time and money endlessly bickering over the state budget.  Maybe Wolf's decision not to ask for a large tax hike and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman's recognition that governments must be able to provide essential services will make the budget process much easier than in the last two frustrating years.  Because the process has just begun, it is important to be hopeful, positive, and creative. But some good ideas floating around Harrisburg also warrant optimism as Republican legislators prepare to receive their Democratic governor's spending plan.

“More than 180,000 Philadelphians live in deep poverty, many of them children. The average household income for families who applied during the recent enrollment period is just under $35,000 a year. More than eight in 10 applicants live at or below the federal poverty rate.”
Philadelphia launches pre-K program funded by soda tax
AP State Wire by ERRIN HAINES WHACK Published: Jan 6, 2017
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Thousands of Philadelphia toddlers have started 2017 in a citywide pre-kindergarten program as a new sugary beverage tax created to fund it hit store shelves.
The city launched the pre-K program this week with more than 2,000 children enrolled at 90 locations. The 3- and 4-year-olds don't have to come from families of certain income levels, but the free program targets high-need neighborhoods.  During the enrollment period this fall, officials received more than 3,700 calls. Over 2,200 families applied, and the city expects to have all of those applications completed by the end of January.

http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/education/article125184594.html

“However preschool isn’t an option for everyone.  And a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit called Pre-K for PA is trying to change that by raising money and advocating for affordable, yet high quality preschool for every child in the commonwealth.   “We have had several successes this year,” spokeswoman for the central Pennsylvania area of Pre-K for PA Tracy Weaver said. “For example, we reached out to legislators, including Sen. (Jake) Corman, to advocate for increased pre-K funding. We were successful in getting the legislature to follow through in funding the increase, which ultimately made preschool available to more children.”  In 2016, Pre-K for PA was able to help expand the number of high-quality pre-K centers, made possible by the additional $25 million in funding for Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and $5 million for Head Start in the state’s 2015-16 budget, Pre-K for PA spokeswoman Kate Philips said.”
Preschool fair showcases local early education options
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO JANUARY 7, 2017 4:56 PM bmilazzo@centredaily.com
Aiden Hall will turn 3 in March.  That’s when he’ll be eligible to attend some preschools for next school year.  But his parents Carrie and Landon Hall said they don’t want to send their son to a place that is just a day care.  “If that’s the case, I would just send him to my mom’s all the time, but I want him to learn, to interact with other kids and teachers, and have that experience before he actually goes to school,” Carrie Hall said.  She said they teach the 2-year-old structure and etiquette at home, but it’s limited.  “We do as much as we can, but don’t have all the tips for the right behavior at school or at the playground when he’s among a group of others,” she said. That’s why the Ferguson Township couple attended the annual preschool fair Saturdaymorning hosted by the Moms Club of State College at Mount Nittany Middle School.

Here’s Betsy DeVos’s financial disclosure form. Read what Trump’s billionaire education nominee included — and left out.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 7 at 12:16 PM 
Congress has scheduled a Jan. 11 confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, even as opposition to her is growing and Democrats are reportedly trying to postpone the proceedings until she fully discloses information about her finances and conflicts of interest.  DeVos is a Michigan billionaire who is a former Republican Party state chairman and a longtime school-choice activist. Public school advocates oppose her nomination because of her involvement in the expansion of unregulated charter schools in Michigan, her support of school vouchers and her comments that critics see as hostile to public schools, such as in 2015 when she said:  We are the beneficiaries of start-ups, ventures and innovation in every other area of life, but we don’t have that in education because it’s a closed system, a closed industry, a closed market. It’s a monopoly, a dead end.  The Senate must confirm a president-elect’s choice for Cabinet positions, and before each hearing, nominees are given a questionnaire to fill out. Below is the complete questionnaire given to DeVos, with her answers. Asked to list her potential conflicts of interest, she essentially punts:

DeVos would set precedent as secretary of education without strong commitment to public schools
Edsource Commentary by LOUIS FREEDBERG JANUARY 5, 2017
Betsy DeVos may well be the first U.S. secretary of education to come to office without expressing a strong belief in the importance of traditional public schools as a core democratic institution, and without any detailed ideas on the record for improving them other than prodding them to compete with charter schools and private schools.  If approved by the U.S. Senate after hearings scheduled for next week, the multibillionaire DeVos would be the 11th secretary of education. Her single-minded focus on finding alternatives to public education – largely in the form of taxpayer-supported vouchers and other ways to underwrite tuition for private schools – is unmatched by any other previous occupant of the post.  A review of DeVos’ public statements has not surfaced one where she indicates that public schools can be reformed to better serve children, or any set of strategies covering central challenges such as classroom instruction, teaching methods, or testing and accountability to accomplish that. Most of her statements are about “failing schools” and giving children a way to escape them.

Democrats seek to delay DeVos hearing
Government ethics officials should finish reviewing her finances first, they say.
Politico By MICHAEL STRATFORD 01/06/17 07:10 PM EST
Democrats are pushing to delay Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing next Wednesday because the billionaire philanthropist’s finances haven’t yet been cleared by ethics officials, nor has she signed an agreement addressing possible conflicts of interest.  Sen. Patty Murray, the committee’s top Democrat, says that she’s concerned about the “extensive financial entanglements and potential conflicts of interest” of President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary.  An aide to Murray told POLITICO that “it would certainly be concerning if nominees break from standard practice and don't submit their ethics paperwork in advance of a hearing.”  Although DeVos submitted her financial disclosures to the Office of Government Ethics on Dec. 12, she is still in discussions to finalize the paperwork and sign an agreement addressing possible conflicts of interest, according to her spokesman, Ed Patru.

Mitt Romney: Trump has made a smart choice for education secretary
Washington Post Opinion By Mitt Romney January 6 at 7:30 PM
Mitt Romney, a Republican, was governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. In 2012, he was the Republican nominee for president.
The nomination of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education has reignited the age-old battle over education policy. The heat is already intense not just because it involves the future of our children but also because a lot of money is at stake. Essentially, it’s a debate between those in the education establishment who support the status quo because they have a financial stake in the system and those who seek to challenge the status quo because it’s not serving kids well.  Both sides will take their case to the public hoping to sway senators who will vote on confirmation. Here’s my take.  First, it’s important to have someone who isn’t financially biased shaping education. As a highly successful businesswoman, DeVos doesn’t need the job now, nor will she be looking for an education job later. Her key qualification is that she cares deeply about our children and will do everything in her power to offer them a brighter future. She founded two of the nation’s leading education reform organizations and helped open the door to charter schools in her home state of Michigan. I have known her for many years; she is smart, dynamic, no nonsense and committed. That’s why the education establishment is so animated to stop her.

Senate to push nominees by Trump before vetting
Post Gazette By Jennifer Steinhauer & Eric Lichtblau New York Times January 7, 2017 11:10 PM
WASHINGTON — As Senate Republicans embark on a flurry of confirmation hearings this week, several of President-elect Donald Trump’s appointees have yet to complete the background checks and ethics clearances customarily required before the Senate begins to consider Cabinet-level nominees.  Republicans, who are expected to hold up to five hearings on Wednesday alone, say they simply want to ensure the new president has a team in place as soon as possible. “I believe all the president-elect’s Cabinet appointments will be confirmed,” Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said.  But Democrats are calling for the process to be slowed and for the hearings to be spread out. That, they say, would allow more time to vet the nominees. “Our first overarching focus is getting tax returns and ethics forms,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.  In a letter to Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter M. Shaub Jr., said Friday that “the announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me.”  He said the packed schedule had put “undue pressure” on the office to rush its reviews of the nominees and he knew of no other occasion in the office’s four decades when the Senate had held a confirmation hearing before the review was completed.  Mr. Schumer responded Saturday by saying that the letter had made clear that the Trump transition team colluded with Senate Republicans to “jam through” the nominees. Several of the nominees are millionaires or billionaires and have vast webs of financial interests that must be untangled.

Stop with the false choices on school choice
We need quality schools of every type — especially public schools. There are ways to make sure we get them, argues Chicago Mayor RAHM EMANUEL
Post Gazette By Rahm Emanuel January 8, 2017 12:00 AM
By nominating voucher and charter school advocate Betsy DeVos to be his education secretary, President-elect Donald Trump has ignited another round of debate over school choice. Yet as cable-news talking heads argue about whether or what kind of school reform is needed in the United States, parents are having a different discussion at the kitchen table — one based on finding the best school, not whether it’s a “reform” school.  Promoting choice at the expense of quality isn’t an education strategy, it’s a political agenda. Rather, those of us creating education policy need to simply focus on providing the quality choices that students deserve.  We have seen successes when choice and quality have been pursued together. Some public charter schools, such as the Noble Network and Urban Prep in Chicago, have boosted graduation rates and increased college enrollment for low-income students of color. Noble’s graduation rate is above 80 percent, and 100 percent of Urban Prep’s 2016 graduates were college-bound.  Despite charter success stories such as these, however, most children will continue to enroll in their local neighborhood school. We need to ensure that those schools are providing a high-quality education, too.

Report puts Wolf among 12 'most vulnerable' governors in 2018 election
WHYY Newsworks BY KATIE COLANERI JANUARY 8, 2017
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is halfway through his first term and looking ahead to another run in 2018.  But a recent analysis by Governing Magazine has labeled the Democrat one the country's 12 "most vulnerable" governors.  There are several reasons for that.  One, Wolf's approval ratings are below 45 percent.   Two, the governor is staring down a potential budget deficit in the current fiscal year of more than $500 million, and a shortfall in the coming budget year of as much as $1.7 billion.  Three, a number of heavyweight Republicans are considering a run, including House Speaker Mike Turzai, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, and U.S. Reps. Patrick Meehan and Mike Kelly. Scott Wagner, a state senator from York County who owns a waste collection business, has said he is kicking off his gubernatorial campaign next week.  The fourth reason is a bit of a wild card.  "In 2018, we have the midterm election. That will be turned into a referendum on the new president, Donald J. Trump," said Franklin and Marshall College pollster and political scientist Terry Madonna.

Sen. Scott Wagner to formally announce his candidacy for governor
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on January 06, 2017 at 5:41 PM, updated January 06, 2017 at 5:42 PM
Through six campaign stops around the state, Sen. Scott Wagner on Wednesday and Thursday will announce his intention to run for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018.  The York County Republican senator will kick off his gubernatorial run at the truck facility at Penn Waste, the trash collection company he owns, in East Manchester Township in York County on Wednesday morning. Then he'll make stops in Bucks and Schuylkill counties later in the day.

News Literacy Project to come to Philadelphia, thanks to Knight grant
The virtual curriculum takes students through the process of discerning fact from fiction. Philadelphia is one of the cities being supported to pilot the curriculum.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa January 6, 2017 — 2:09pm
Do facts matter? Are we in a post-truth society? The recent election saw the rise of so-called "fake news" and the realization that many people have a problem distinguishing credible news sources from those that are not.  And that especially includes young people. A recent study by Stanford University researchers found that "young and otherwise digital-savvy students can easily be duped," displaying a "dismaying inability ... to reason about information they see on the Internet."  The News Literacy Project, a national education nonprofit, works to combat this among middle and high school students with a virtual learning platform. Its mission is to make "news literacy" a core part of U.S. education, using a curriculum about how to evaluate sources and sort out fact from fiction.  Since 2009, NLP has worked with more than 25,000 students in the Washington, D.C., region, New York City, Chicago, and Houston to teach them how to judge the credibility of what they read.  The NLP's new online lesson platform will be tested in Philadelphia and four other cities as part of a special pilot project, thanks to a $225,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. The pilot begins March 1 and runs through June 30.

There are no winners in a teachers strike
Beaver County Times By The Times Editorial Board January 8, 2017
Ambridge Area School District teachers returned to work last week after a three-week strike that made for a long holiday break, but the work dispute is far from settled and there’s a distinct possibility teachers will strike again.  That uncertainty highlights the flaws in Pennsylvania law that allow teachers to strike, but requires they be back in the classroom to meet a 180-day school year.  Unlike public safety workers, such as police and firefighters, who are barred from striking, Pennsylvania teachers gained that right under Act 195 of 1970. Since that time, there have been hundreds of strikes of varying lengths, but the only real legislative effort to limit them came in 1992 with the passage of Act 88. That law requires the teachers union to give 48 hours notice of a strike, places limits on the length of strikes and limits strikes to two per school year.  As is the case in Ambridge, Act 88 allows for mediation, fact-finding and -- after an initial strike -- requires both sides to engage in final-best-offer nonbinding arbitration, which either side can reject.
What it comes down to is that teachers can strike, but only to the point where 180 school days can still be achieved.

Facebook’s New Head of News Partnerships, Campbell Brown, Has Deep Ties to Trump Nominee DeVos
The Intercept Zaid Jilani January 6 2017, 1:58 p.m.
FACEBOOK ANNOUNCED FRIDAY that former CNN host and education reform activist Campbell Brown will be leading its news partnership team.
Brown wrote in a statement on her Facebook page that she will “help news organizations and journalists work more closely and more effectively with Facebook. I will be working directly with our partners to help them understand how Facebook can expand the reach of their journalism, and contribute value to their businesses.”  Brown’s hiring should raise eyebrows given her close ties to Betsy DeVos, the president-elect’s nominee to lead the Education Department. DeVos is a Michigan-based billionaire heiress who has poured millions of dollars into organizations supporting school vouchers and charter schools.  One of the organizations DeVos funds is The 74, an education reporting website Brown founded to, among other things, push for education reform. Brown also sits on the board of the DeVos-backed group American Federation for Children, a nonprofit that advocates for the expansion of school vouchers and whose electoral arm spends heavily in state legislative elections.


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:
  
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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