Friday, February 3, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 3: Facing a deficit of $3 Billion, HB250 would divert another $75 Million to Unaccountable Private & Religious Schools

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 3, 2017
Facing a deficit of $3 Billion, HB250 would divert another $75 Million to Unaccountable Private & Religious Schools

Blogger note: The PA House Education Committee will be considering HB250 during their 11 am meeting this morning. On top of the $175 million already going to the EITC and OSTC programs, HB250 would divert an additional $75 million in tax dollars to private and religious schools that have virtually no fiscal or student performance accountability.
Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Increases
Majority Leader TurzaI’s Cosponsorship Memo December 8, 2016
I am preparing to introduce legislation that will increase the amount of tax credits available under the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program by $50 million (to $175 million) and the amount of tax credits available under the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program by $25 million (to $75 million), to grow school choice opportunities and help more students escape from failing schools.  As you know, strengthening school choice opportunities, especially for those students who would not otherwise be able to attend a school of their choice, has been a priority for the General Assembly, through both the EITC and OSTC programs. This past July, the General Assembly increased the amount of available EITC tax credits by $25 million, expanding the EITC program from $100 million available in 2015-2016 to $125 million available in 2016-2017. This boosts the availability of scholarships for students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12, as well as funding for innovative educational programs.   To follow up on our important work last summer, my proposed legislation will increase the amount of tax credits available under both the EITC and OSTC programs. First, my proposal will further expand the amount of available EITC tax credits by $50 million, with the increase allocated proportionally among scholarship organizations, educational improvement organizations, and pre-kindergarten scholarship programs. Second, my bill will increase the amount of available OSTC tax credits by $25 million. The OSTC program, which was created by the General Assembly in 2012, is different from the EITC program in that the OSTC program dedicates tax credits toward businesses that contribute to scholarship programs aimed specifically at students trapped in underperforming schools. While the General Assembly constantly seeks to improve academic outcomes for all children, the OSTC program provides critical educational opportunities for kids who desperately need the chance to succeed.

“Sitting Republican senators have received $115,000 from Betsy DeVos herself, and more than $950,000 from the full DeVos clan since 1980. In the past two election cycles alone, her family has donated $8.3 million to Republican Party super PACs.”
Here’s How Much Betsy DeVos And Her Family Paid To Back GOP Senators Who Will Support Her
It’s good to be a donor.
Paul Blumenthal Money in Politics Reporter, The Huffington Post 02/02/2017 07:22 pm ET | Updated 4 hours ago
WASHINGTON ― The nomination of billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education is one vote shy of failing in the Republican-controlled Senate. One thing that could come to her aid is that she and the entire DeVos family are massive Republican Party donors who helped fund the election of the remaining senators who will decide her fate. Big donors often get positions in government, ambassadorships or ceremonial titles, but rarely do they come as big as DeVos. Sitting Republican senators have received $115,000 from Betsy DeVos herself, and more than $950,000 from the full DeVos clan since 1980. In the past two election cycles alone, her family has donated $8.3 million to Republican Party super PACs.

So here's how you can tell it's going to be a big bucks Guv race: Thursday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 02, 2017 at 8:07 AM, updated February 02, 2017 at 8:13 AM
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
The dust has barely settled on President Donald Trump's inauguration and we're already elbows deep in the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, and one thing is already abundantly clear:
It's going to be a hugely expensive contest pitting Democratic incumbent Gov. Tom Wolfagainst whoever emerges from a likely demolition derby of a Republican primary.  As PennLive's Wallace McKelvey reported on Wednesday, Wolf enters the very young 2018 cycle with $1.7 million in his campaign account. He's already shifted key staffers, including former press secretary Jeff Sheridan and ex-Chief of Staff Mary Isenhour over to the campaign operation.

Proposal to change school funding in Fox Chapel rapped
Post Gazette By Rita Michael February 3, 2017 12:00 AM
Calling it a “money grab” by the state, a loss of local control of schools and the end of quality public education, officials at a standing-room-only crowd at Fox Chapel Area High School Tuesday night said a proposal to change how Pennsylvania schools are funded is a bad idea. The proposal in the Legislature, which would significantly reduce school property taxes while raising other levies, also got a frosty reception in Peters on Monday night.  At an emergency public meeting called by Fox Chapel District Forum, letters, phone numbers and websites were distributed so taxpayers could let their state representatives know they are opposed to legislation that would fund Pennsylvania schools by adding 1 percent to the state sales tax (as well as adding taxes to food, clothing and other goods and services) and raising the state income tax 4.95 percent, from 3.07 percent, according to the Associated Press.  The forum is an organization obligated to act in the best interests of children, said Elizabeth Klamut, president of the group. “This legislation is obviously not,” she said. “Hence the calls, emails and texts inviting you to this emergency meeting.” A vote could come as early as February or March, so parents were encouraged to contact their senators and representatives right away.

Local school administrators question whether potential tax change would help
By Mike Crowley Meadville Tribune
Area school districts are beginning to prepare for the possibility of a major shift in how the commonwealth funds its schools.  Discussions in Harrisburg have raised the possibility of eliminating the school property tax and replacing it with an increased sales tax, leaving local officials wondering what the future holds. Some have gone so far as to begin planning two budgets, one for each method of collecting taxes.  Districts in Crawford County are monitoring the situation and agree that it’s hard to make plans at this point because of several uncertainties. At this point, they say the state’s budget deficit is unclear and the details of possible changes to the tax plan are still up in the air.  “It’s saying it’s eliminating a tax, but if it’s really just shifting the tax, then what’s the goal?” asked Tom Washington, superintendent of Crawford Central School District.  “Obviously, the property tax over the course of time has not adequately funded schools,” said Michael Healey, PENNCREST superintendent. “I’m not sure shifting the burden to sales tax alleviates that burden.  “The public only has so much money,” he said.  “People hear property tax elimination and they think of it as a tax cut, but it’s not really a tax cut,” said Greg Mayle, the business manager for Conneaut School District. “It’s a tax shift.”

Pittsburgh schools able, seeking to improve
Trib Live by REGINA B. HOLLEY | Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, 4:24 p.m.
Regina B. Holley is president of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Board.
It was disheartening to read the suburban Allegheny Institute of Public Policy's assessment of the Council of the Great City Schools review of Pittsburgh Public Schools ( “Saving Pittsburgh Public Schools” ). The district is cognizant of frustrations expressed over the years by community organizations, foundations, parents and others. As the report states, some reform strategies have panned out and others have not — but the district has continued to seek approaches to improve. It's unfortunate that neither the newspaper nor the institute attended the Jan. 10 board meeting when the council's executive director, Mike Casserly, presented the report. He praised the board and Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, who requested this review, for “taking a sharp look at the work that preceded them, examining results, asking hard questions and rethinking what needs to be done” to educate children. In fact, rather than concluding the district is in “such academic and administrative disarray” that state oversight or control is necessary — as the institute suggests — Casserly emphasized that PPS has the “talent, the will and the determination” to improve under current leadership.

How Saucon Valley avoided a legal feud with charter school
By Sara K. Satullo | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 02, 2017 at 3:49 PM, updated February 02, 2017 at 4:38 PM
The Saucon Valley School District and Lehigh Valley Academy have agreed to a five-year charter extension without enrollment caps for the charter school. 
Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School's board voted to approve the new charter Tuesday night. Saucon's school board passed the new agreement without an enrollment cap at its Jan. 24 school board meeting.  And the charter school board unanimously voted to drop Saucon Valley from its lawsuit filed in Northampton County Court and with the state's Charter Appeals Board.

School District of Philadelphia Charter Schools Office
2016-17 Cycle New Charter Application Evaluation Reports
The following charter application evaluation reports were presented by the Charter Schools Office during the January 2017 new charter application hearings.  In accordance with the Charter School Law and the new charter application process established by the SRC, the evaluation reports are dated the date of the hearing and were based on the application submitted by the applicant in November of 2016. The evaluation reports are the CSO's initial review of the charter applications, and by the nature of the charter application process, do not include any information provided by the applicant at the hearings or in the applicant's post-hearing statement.  An addendum is posted for any new charter applicant that currently operates one or more brick and mortar charter schools in Philadelphia.

Former Fordham, AFC Staffers Join Education Dept., Memo Says
Education Week Pollitics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on February 3, 2017 6:50 AM
Three new staffers with backgrounds in education policy have joined a growing list of political aides smoothing the way for President Donald Trump's administration to take over the U.S. Department of Education, according to a memo sent to department employees Thursday and obtained by Education Week.  They include Michael Brickman, who until recently served as a senior project director at Luntz Global Partners, a GOP political strategy organization. Before that, he worked as a national policy director at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank in Washington that supports high expectations for students and state flexibility. Brickman was also a policy adviser to Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican from Wisconsin, from 2011 to 2013. Also joining the team: Matt Frendewey, who previously worked on communications for the American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy organization that education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos chaired until recently. He's also worked in Michigan politics, including for the Michigan Republican Party.   And the list includes Jana Toner, who served as a White House liaison for the U.S. Department of Education during President George W. Bush's administration.

A gift to private schools with no accountability
By Phyllis Bush for The News-Sentinel Thursday, February 02, 2017 8:01 AM
Every January the education reform takeover artists orchestrate countless “school choice” events, presenting us with quasi-infomercials about their miraculous successes. That said, nothing says well-financed and effective marketing like 21,392 events across all 50 states and photo ops with mayors and elected officials as they issue proclamation after proclamation about the importance of school choice.  Nothing says instructional and fiscal irresponsibility as the school choice promoters who push optics over substance. Nothing says access to legislators like the bright yellow scarves (readily available in “choice” kits), which open doors of access for the scarf-wearers ahead of us non-scarf-wearing citizens who are sent to the end of the legislators’ access lines. These “reformers” are dynamic salespeople who never mention that there are negative consequences to school choice.  Accordingly, the school choice rhetoric is so hypnotic that unless a person digs into the details, it is nigh on impossible to cut through all of the jargon to understand what is really meant by “school choice.” In fact, some ideas which look good on the surface often morph into some not such great realities.

House Republicans Move to Scrap Rules on ESSA, Teacher Preparation
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on February 2, 2017 12:33 PM
Republican lawmakers in Congress are moving to do away with regulations from the Obama administration regarding accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act and teacher preparation.  The resolutions of disapproval for those two sets of rules were announced Thursday in the House. They were filed under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn regulations set out by executive branch. Senate versions of these resolutions are expected some time next week.   If these regulations are overturned, President Donald Trump's administration would be prohibited from issuing "substantially similar" regulations on these two issues if there isn't a new law signed. Just what that would mean in practice, however, is unclear.  "We are sending a signal that we are unhappy with these regs," said Tyler Hernandez, a spokesman for the House education committee.   If both sets of regulations are overturned, it could have far-reaching consequences. States have been crafting their ESSA accountability plans for several months, and were doing so even before Trump won the election, with the Obama ESSA accountability rules in mind. The Trump administration has already paused the final implementation of the accountability rules from Obama's Education Department, but without any regulations at all, states will be in limbo and uncertain how exactly to craft state plans that pass muster with a Trump Education Department. 

DeVos clears procedural hurdle in Senate, setting up tight final vote
Washington Post By Emma Brown February 3 at 7:29 AM 
President Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos for education secretary cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate on Friday, setting up what is shaping up to be a nail-biter for the confirmation vote.  At a rare early-morning session, senators voted along party lines, 52 to 48, to end debate on DeVos’s nomination. A final confirmation vote is expected early next week.  All 48 members of the Democratic caucus are expected to vote against DeVos’s confirmation, along with two Republicans who have expressed their opposition, Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.  That would create a 50-50 tie, which would require a rare tiebreaking vote from the vice president.  The nomination of DeVos, a Michigan billionaire who has spent decades advocating for private-school vouchers, has unleashed a wave of opposition that is unprecedented for a prospective education secretary.  Anti-DeVos callers have been targeting Republican senators, overwhelming their phone lines and clogging their email inboxes. Phone lines in the office of Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) — who has said he intends to support DeVos — were so overwhelmed that frustrated constituents resorted to fax machines, sending more than 8,000 faxes to Toomey within a 24-hour period late this week, according to the online publication BillyPenn.

Schumer: DeVos 'unfit' for Education secretary
The Hill BY JORDAIN CARNEY - 02/02/17 12:13 PM EST 115
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday blasted Betsy Devos, saying the Education secretary nominee is an example of the issues that Democrats have with most of President Trump's picks.  "Many of the nominees have philosophies that cut against the very nature of the department to which they are nominated," he said. "We're in unchartered waters with this administration."   The New York Democrat said DeVos noting "didn't know basic facts about Education law" during her confirmation hearing.  "When you judge her in three areas — conflicts of interest, basic confidence and ideology, views on Education policy, it is clear that Betsy DeVos is unfit for the job of Education secretary," he said. "In all three areas... she ranks among the lowest of any cabinet nominee I have ever seen."   DeVos, a GOP mega-donor, has been the subject of fierce opposition from teachers unions and other liberal groups opposed to her support for charter schools and tuition vouchers using public funds.   Democrats also hounded Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, for limiting the amount of time senators had to ask questions of DeVos during her confirmation hearing. 

Wanted: One Republican With Integrity, to Defeat Betsy DeVos
New York Times By THE EDITORIAL BOARD FEB. 2, 2017
This country needs a few good Republicans — one more would do — to rescue it from Betsy DeVos, one of President Trump’s worst cabinet choices and his pick to run the Department of Education.  The vote to confirm Ms. DeVos is expected as soon as Monday, and the Republican senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine now say they’ll vote against her, citing hundreds of calls they’ve received from furious voters. The result would be a tie that Vice President Mike Pence would break in Ms. DeVos’s favor. The extra Republican vote could come from one of several independent-minded senators; one candidate is Lamar Alexander, an expert on public schools who actually owes the country a good turn because of his failure as chairman of the committee vetting Ms. DeVos to question her closely and to give more time to her critics. There are few more telling examples of Mr. Trump’s disdain for the federal government’s critical role in lifting up America’s schoolchildren than his choice of Ms. DeVos. She has spent years funneling her inherited fortune into a campaign to replace the nation’s traditional public schools with federally funded charter schools, regardless of the latter’s performance, and supporting vouchers, which help families send children to private or parochial schools and drain funds from public schools that need more, not less, support.

Betsy DeVos, Pick for Secretary of Education, Is the Most Jeered
New York Times By DANA GOLDSTEIN FEB. 3, 2017
By most any measure, the secretary of education is one of the least powerful cabinet positions. The secretary is 16th in the line of succession to the presidency. Education accounts for a paltry 3 percent of the federal budgetcompared with 24 percent for Social Security and 16 percent for defense. And the most recent major federal education law curtailed Washington’s role on testing, standards and accountability, turning much of the firepower in education policy back to states and school districts.  That is what has made the protest movement against Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee to be secretary of education, all the more remarkable.  After an underwhelming confirmation hearing in which Ms. DeVos seemed ignorant of major provisions of federal education law, such as the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, some Senate offices reported receiving more calls opposing Ms. DeVos than any other Trump nominee.

How Alaskan Activists Got a Key Republican Senator to Oppose Betsy DeVos
Unions and education activists urged Lisa Murkowski to oppose Trump’s education pick. On Tuesday, in a testament to the power of grass-roots resistance, Murkowski switched.
Moyers & Company BY JOHN NICHOLS | FEBRUARY 2, 2017
This post originally appeared at The Nation.
Donald Trump’s most absurd Cabinet nominee, billionaire campaign donor Betsy DeVos, made the case against her selection to serve as secretary of education during her Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing. Ill-prepared, uninformed and by her own admission “confused,” DeVos confirmed the concern expressed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders when he asked: “Do you think, if you were not a multibillionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party, that you would be sitting here today?”  The best response DeVos could muster was a tepid imagining that “I do think that there would be that possibility….”  Of course, she was wrong.  Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she got “thousands, truly, thousands” of calls opposing the DeVos nomination. But that did not prevent the Republican-controlled committee to vote 12-11 to approve the DeVos nomination.  The committee vote on Tuesday broke along party lines. And the assumption was that the full Republican-controlled Senate would do the same — giving Trump another Cabinet pick, and giving a fierce critic of public schools a defining role in setting education policy. But on Wednesday the DeVos juggernaut was upset. Though she could still be confirmed, DeVos suddenly looked vulnerable.

New PSBA Winter Town Hall Series coming to your area
Introducing a new and exciting way to get involved and stay connected in a location near you! Join your PSBA Town Hall meeting to hear the latest budget and political updates affecting public education. Enjoy light hors d’oeuvres and networking with fellow school directors. Locations have been selected to minimize travel time. Spend less time in the car and more time learning about issues impacting your schools.
6-6:35 p.m.         Association update from PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains
6:35 -7:15 p.m. Networking Reception
7:15-8 p.m.         Governor’s budget address recap
Monday, February 20     Forbes Road Career and Technology Center, Monroeville
Tuesday, February 21    Venango Technology Center, Oil City
Wednesday, Feb 22       Clearfield County Career and Technical Center, Clearfield
Thursday, February 23   Columbia Montour AVTS, Bloomsburg
Monday, February 27     Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, Jamison
Tuesday, February 28    PSBA, Mechanicsburg
Wednesday, March 1     Bedford County Technical Center, Everett
Thursday, March 2         West Side CTC, Kingston
This is a complimentary PSBA member event – please register and complete the check-out process through the Store/Registration section of Members area of the website.

Ron Cowell at EPLC always does a great job with these policy forums.
RSVP Today for a Forum In Your Area! EPLC is Holding Five Education Policy Forums on Governor Wolf’s 2017-2018 State Budget Proposal
Forum #1 – Pittsburgh Thursday, February 23, 2017 – Wyndham University Center – 100 Lytton Avenue, Pittsburgh (Oakland), PA 15213
Forum #2 – Harrisburg Area (Enola, PA) Tuesday, February 28, 2017 – Capital Area Intermediate Unit – 55 Miller Street (Susquehanna Room), Enola, PA 17025
Forum #3 – Philadelphia Thursday, March 2, 2017 – Penn Center for Educational Leadership, University of Pennsylvania, 3440 Market Street (5th Floor), Philadelphia, PA 19104
Forum #4 – Indiana University of Pennsylvania Tuesday, March 14, 2017 – 1011 South Drive (Stouffer Hall), Indiana, PA 15705
Forum #5 – Lehigh Valley Tuesday, March 28, 2017 – Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit #21, 4210 Independence Drive, Schnecksville, PA 18078
Governor Wolf will deliver his 2017-2018 state budget proposal to the General Assembly on February 7. These policy forums will be early opportunities to get up-to-date information about what is in the proposed education budget, the budget’s relative strengths and weaknesses, and key issues.  Each of the forums will take following basic format (please see below for regional presenter details at each of the three events). Ron Cowell of EPLC will provide an overview of the Governor’s proposed budget for early education, K-12 and higher education.  A representative of The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will provide an overview of the state’s fiscal situation and key issues that will affect this year’s budget discussion. The overviews will be followed by remarks from a panel representing statewide and regional perspectives concerning state funding for education and education related items. These speakers will discuss the impact of the Governor’s proposals and identify the key issues that will likely be considered during this year’s budget debate.
Although there is no registration fee, seating is limited and an RSVP is required.
Offered in partnership with PASA and the PA Department of Education March 29-30, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg - Camp Hill, PA .    Approved for 40 PIL/Act 48 (Act 45) hours for school administrators.  Register online at

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

PASBO 62nd Annual Conference, March 21-24, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh.
Register now for the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference March 25-27 Denver
Plan to join public education leaders for networking and learning at the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference, March 25-27 in Denver, CO. General registration is now open at A conference schedule, including pre-conference workshops, is available on the NSBA website.

Register for the 2017 PASA Education Congress, “Delving Deeper into the Every Student Succeeds Act.” March 29-30

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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