Monday, January 9, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 9: “That is, in math, it is as if the cyber students did not attend school at all”

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan 9, 2017
“That is, in math, it is as if the cyber students did not attend school at all”

In Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman’s school districts, over the past 5 years, taxpayers have spent over $24 million on chronically underperforming cyber charters that they never authorized.

In Speaker of the House Mike Turzai’s school districts, over the past 5 years, taxpayers have spent over $8.4 million on chronically underperforming cyber charters that they never authorized.

In Senate Education Committee Majority Chairman John Eichelberger’s school districts, over the past 5 years, taxpayers have spent over $49 million on chronically underperforming cyber charters that they never authorized.

In Senate Education Committee Minority Chairman Andy Dinniman’s school districts, over the past 5 years, taxpayers have spent over $58 million on chronically underperforming cyber charters that they never authorized.

In Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati III’s school districts, over the past 5 years, taxpayers have spent over $44 million on chronically underperforming cyber charters that they never authorized.

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.

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.

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.

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

Did you catch our weekend postings?
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.

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

Over the past three weeks, 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  You can find phone numbers for his Pennsylvania offices here

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  You can find phone numbers for his Pennsylvania offices by clicking on the “Regions” link at the bottom of this “Contacts” page

“As Philadelphia school budgets have shrunk, librarians have grown rarer, almost to the point of extinction. In 1991, the school system employed 176 certified librarians. Now, the librarians are only at Anderson, Elkin, Greenberg, Penn Alexander, Roosevelt, and Sullivan elementaries and Central and South Philadelphia High Schools.  In addition to the librarian-staffed libraries, 13 libraries are kept open by 128 volunteers from the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children, according to the district.”
Phila.'s school librarians: a species nearly extinct
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag Updated: JANUARY 9, 2017 — 3:01 AM EST
How many full-time, certified librarians would you guess one of the nation's largest school systems - a district with 220 schools and 134,000 students - employs?
One hundred? Two hundred?  Not even close. Eight certified, full-time school librarians staff Philadelphia School District buildings. A handful of others juggle library responsibilities with teaching classes. Many school libraries are closed entirely.  School libraries have been disappearing in Philadelphia and elsewhere for years, but that the number of full-time, certified librarians is now in the single digits is astonishing, even to those who study library trends. "That has to be the worst nationally," said Debra Kachel, a school-library expert and instructor at Antioch University Seattle. "It's really appalling."

State riding dangerous fiscal course
Altoona Mirror EDITORIALS JAN 8, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision not to seek 2017-18 income and sales tax increases puts Pennsylvania on track for a more amicable budget-preparation exercise than the first two of Wolf’s administration.  Still, it’s premature to speculate that Harrisburg will accomplish its budget mission without serious disagreements along the way. Likewise, it’s premature to assume that a new budget will be in place by the June 30 deadline.  Here’s a capsule of why there is cause for anxiety and pessimism during the weeks leading up to the governor’s Feb. 7 budget address:
— The projected $1.7 billion 2017-18 budget deficit projected weeks ago by the nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office hasn’t evaporated.
— There’s a projected $600 million 2016-17 budget shortfall that will complicate efforts to fashion a balanced 2017-18 spending plan. Wolf has blamed the problem on underfunding of human services and lackluster tax collections, but there probably are additional fiscal “bogeymen” present.
— Because of past failures to address the commonwealth’s fiscal problems, the state’s credit rating is among the nation’s lowest.
— Pennsylvania’s school-funding disparities remain among the nation’s widest, and education spending is a big part of every state budget.

Wolf making steady internal cuts in face of looming Pa. deficit
The Wolf administration has started making concerted cuts in an effort to help get Pennsylvania out of its fiscal hole.  The state faces a projected $600 million revenue shortfall this fiscal year, on top of a multibillion-dollar structural deficit.  The leaders of the GOP majorities in the House and Senate have made their positions on the state's financial deficits clear — they're opposed to passing any tax increases.  Instead, they favor restructuring; for instance, merging state agencies and eliminating redundant spending.  So far the governor is taking similar steps.  "You know, leading into the budget obviously we know we have a pretty significant structural budget deficit, and this is part of the governor's effort to reduce costs and streamline government across the board," said JJ Abbott, a spokesman for the governor.

“As was the case in 2015, Argall wants to boost Pennsylvania’s personal income tax by 60 percent, from 3.07 percent to 4.95 percent, raising an estimate $5 billion.  A person earning $50,000 a year in taxable income would see their income taxes rise from $1,535 to $2,475, the AP reported.  The sales tax would rise significantly, from 6 percent in most parts of the state to 7 percent, while applying it to a broader range of goods and services.  Sales tax exemptions on many transactions such as groceries, clothing, and shoes; legal, accounting and financial services; dry cleaning; funeral services; salon services; basic television services; trash pickup; liquor and beer by the drink; non-prescription drugs; and tickets to sporting events, concerts and other events would be eliminated.  As the AP reports, Argall’s bill would only allow the collection of school property taxes to retire current debt. It would give districts an inflationary aid increase annually and would require voter approval for school boards seeking a local income tax increase.”
Editorial: Pols eye 1 more whack at property taxes
Delco Times Editorial by POSTED: 01/08/17, 10:58 PM EST 
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.

Stop with the false choices on school choice
Post Gazette Opinion By Rahm Emanuel January 8, 2017 12:00 AM
We need quality schools of every type — especially public schools. There are ways to make sure we get them, argues Chicago Mayor RAHM EMANUEL
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.

New standards could improve career technical education
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO JANUARY 7, 2017 6:26 PM
Administrators at CPI said they’re always looking to be on the forefront of providing the real world with career-ready employees.  That’s why they’re going to review a set of proposed enhanced standards with their board, committee members and stakeholders to make sure the recommendations are met in a way that benefits the student and the employer.  It was sparked in late November when two state representatives announced they have been working on a set of standards to help improve career technical education and job preparedness.  It’s a way to “better develop future generations for the workforce, which will serve to improve Pennsylvania’s economy,” state Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said.  Grove and state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, prepared a report for the House Select Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness from a culmination of seven hearings the subcommittee held during the 2015-16 legislative sessions.  It came with testimony from more than 60 business and education leaders, according to a report from the House of Representatives.

High schools, bound by Title IX, now report athletic spending, but is anyone at state level paying heed?
Lancaster Online The LNP Editorial Board Jan 8, 2017
THE ISSUE: In keeping with a law passed by Pennsylvania’s General Assembly in 2012, schools that accept federal funding are required to collect and publicly disclose their athletic participation and financial data at the middle and high school levels. An analysis of the 2014-15 data in last Sunday’s LNP Sports section found that 11,109 student-athletes in Lancaster County participated on a freshman, junior varsity or varsity high school sports team; that number is inflated somewhat because two- and three-sport athletes are counted more than once. The data for the 2015-16 school year are to be released later this month.  Pennsylvania is one of just six states that require the reporting of school athletic participation data, according to State College High School Athletic Director Peg Pennepacker.  It’s a sound idea: Disclosure is important, especially when public money is being spent. And millions are spent each year on interscholastic sports.  As LNP noted last Sunday, the original intent of the Pennsylvania Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act was to push schools to comply with Title IX, the 1972 federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in schools that receive federal funding.  Title IX remains an essential tool in ensuring that girls are getting an athletic experience that compares equitably to what boys are getting. It’s not always a given. So we appreciate that our Legislature got this right. But the reporting system could use a few tweaks.

Downingtown Area School District receives AAA rating
Daily Local By Staff Report POSTED: 01/08/17, 11:47 AM EST | UPDATED: 15 HRS AGO
EAST CALN >> The Downingtown Area School District has received the highest bond rating from both Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s Investment Service.  Downingtown noted it is the only district in Pennsylvania to have received the AAA designation from both credit agencies, and there are only 21 in the country who received a similar rating from both services. Moody’s Investor’s Service and Standard and Poor’s are the two largest rating agencies sharing roughly 80 percent of this market. According to Standard and Poor’s, a school district rated AAA has an extremely strong capacity to meet its financial commitment on an obligation. Districts rated AAA by Moody’s are judged to “be of the highest quality, subject to the lowest level of credit risk.”

Palmerton Area Education Association poised to strike this morning
Michelle Merlin Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call January 9, 2017
Teachers in the Palmerton Area School District are ready to picket district administration offices Monday morning after the two parties couldn't reach an agreement on the Palmerton Area Education Association's contract.  The union's last contract — which expired June 30, 2016 — covered 132 people in the district, including teachers, nurses and other district employees. The union is seeking salary and health benefit concessions that the board maintains are too costly and will burden taxpayers.  The union's most recent proposal sought a four-year deal with annual raises of 3, 4, 4 and 5 percent, according to a statement on the district's website. The district's current offer involves raising the starting salary, with a 3.25 percent increase each year, and a stipend for attaining a master's degree, according to the district statement.

Democrats Seek Delay for Betsy DeVos' Confirmation Hearing Over Ethics Review
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on January 8, 2017 2:00 PM UPDATED
Democrats want to push back a confirmation hearing for President-elect Donald Trump's pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, until her paperwork detailing any potential conflicts of interest has been cleared by the congressional Office of Government Ethics.  The confirmation hearing for DeVos, a GOP megadonor and advocate for school choice, is set for Wednesday. She is one of a handful of Trump's nominees whose ethics paperwork has not yet been cleared, prompting concerns from the OGE and congressional Democrats.  "It would certainly be concerning if nominees break from standard practice and don't submit their ethics paperwork in advance of a hearing," said Eli Zupnik, a spokesman for Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in an email. "Making sure that nominees don't have conflicts of interest and will truly put families across the country first is one of the most important jobs that the Senate has in this process, and we remain hopeful that it will not be rushed through and that Democrats and Republicans will be able to review the paperwork and have the opportunity to ask all reasonable questions."  It doesn't seem likely that Republicans will go along with the Democrats' suggestion of a delay. It is committee tradition to wait until ethics paperwork is completed before holding a vote on a nominee, but not neccessarily before a hearing, said an aide to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the committee chairman. 

Corporate Education Nominee DeVos Faces Pushback from Dem Senators
Common Dreams By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer Friday, January 06, 2017
As one U.S. senator denounces Betsy DeVos' record in Michigan, six others are demanding President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Education Secretary untangle the "complicated web of political and not-for-profit organizations" she has spun over her career pushing a corporate education agenda nationwide.   Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) met Thursday with DeVos, a former head of the Michigan Republican Party who has championed conservative education policies in that state and around the country. Her efforts have been largely successful in Michigan, where DeVos has spent two decades advocating for more charter schools and less oversight.  But investigations by the Detroit Free Press and others have found that work to be detrimental to students—an opinion apparently shared by Stabenow.  "Our conversation reaffirmed my strong concerns about her nomination," Stabenow saidfollowing Thursday's meeting. "Betsy DeVos and her family have a long record of pushing policies that I believe have seriously undermined public education in Michigan and failed our children. Therefore, I cannot support [her]."

Teachers unions mount campaign against Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education pick
Washington Post By Emma Brown January 9 at 6:00 AM 
National teachers unions are mounting an aggressive campaign against Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, arguing that she is an ideological extremist with a record of undermining the public schools her department would oversee.  The National Education Association, the largest labor union in the nation, is mobilizing teachers to call and email their senators, urging a vote against DeVos’s confirmation. The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, is scheduled to deliver a speech Monday in which she plans to say that DeVos endangers a new and fragile bipartisan consensus on the federal government’s role in education.  “Betsy DeVos is not qualified, and even more than unqualified, Betsy DeVos is an actual danger to students — especially our most vulnerable students,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “She has made a career trying to destroy neighborhood public schools, the very cornerstone of what’s made our nation so strong.”  DeVos is a Michigan billionaire and major Republican donor who, during the past two decades, has focused her energy and political contributions on promoting charter schools and taxpayer-funded vouchers for private and religious schools.

Teachers union boss slams President–elect Donald Trump’s pick for U.S. Education Secretary
BY BEN CHAPMAN NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Saturday, January 7, 2017, 6:43 PM
The head of the nation’s largest teachers union ripped President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Education Department, saying the selection could harm public schools.  The Senate has scheduled a Wednesday confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, a philanthropist, businesswoman and education activist. She’s been a longtime advocate for charter schools and vouchers — and an opponent of teachers unions.  That puts DeVos firmly at odds with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.  “She is really out of the mainstream,” Weingarten said of DeVos. “And the things that she promotes have been tried over the last 20 years and they haven’t worked.”  Weingarten will deliver Monday what her union is calling a major education speech, where she will provide a detailed argument for how DeVos’ pro-school-choice agenda could harm public school kids.

Op-Ed: Forget charter schools and vouchers — here are five business ideas school reformers should adopt
Los Angeles Times Opinion by Samuel E. Abrams January 8, 2016
Donald Trump never tires of reminding us that he is a businessman, and in Betsy DeVos, he has nominated a secretary of Education who endorses a business model for improving elementary and secondary schooling. The problem is, it’s the wrong model.  DeVos’ prescriptions include for-profit school management, taxpayer-funded vouchers to cover private school tuition and parental choice as the primary vehicle for regulation. Yet where such free-market remedies have been tried, they have yielded disappointing results.  The free-market model dates to an essay written by University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman in 1955. Friedman contended that the role of government in education should be limited to providing parents with vouchers to cover a fixed amount of tuition at schools meeting minimum requirements. If cost exceeded voucher value, payment by parents — or scholarship funding — would have to make up the difference.

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:

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
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

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

PSBA Governing Board seeks nominations for position of At-Large Representative (Central) Nominations are due by 9 a.m. on January 16. 
PSBA Website
Because no one ran for the open seat of At-Large Representative (Central) on the PSBA Governing Board during the 2016 elections, this position is currently vacant. According to PSBA Bylaws (Article III, Section 4), the Governing Board shall fill the vacancy.  The Governing Board is currently seeking nominations for this position from individuals in the Central Section, including Regions 4, 5, 6, 9 and 12, (see map). The selected person will fill the position for 2017, and the seat will be open for election for the remaining two years (2018-19) of the three-year term, according to PSBA Bylaws (Article III, Section 4, Part B, 2). The selected person may run for election for the remaining two years.

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

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

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

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

Save the Date 2017 PA Principals Association State Conference October 14. 15, 16, 2017
Doubletree Hotel Cranberry Township,  PA

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