Tuesday, February 14, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 14: Implementing Community Schools in Philly and Pittsburgh

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4000 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 14, 2017
Implementing Community Schools in Philly and Pittsburgh


“Unlike federal data, Pennsylvania’s campaign finance information is not available in a machine-readable format, like an Excel file, which can be easily downloaded and analyzed.”
Lawmaker urges Wolf to modernize campaign finance website
State Impact BY MARIE CUSICK FEBRUARY 13, 2017 | 1:28 PM
A Democratic lawmaker is calling on the Wolf administration to overhaul Pennsylvania's archaic campaign finance website.
A Democratic state lawmaker is calling on Governor Tom Wolf’s administration to modernize Pennsylvania’s archaic campaign finance website.  Rep. Greg Vitali (D- Delaware) says updating the site would go a long way toward transparency. Vitali recently published a report on the natural gas industry, showing what he describes as its outsized political influence in Harrisburg. He blames the lobbying expenditures and campaign contributions for stymieing efforts to enact a gas severance tax and new drilling regulations. He estimates the gas industry spent more than $7 million last year on lobbying and over $62 million since 2007.  Vitali notes it’s incredibly time-consuming to wade through the campaign finance reports online. The website discourages journalists from doing real-time analysis, he says, which could show links between the money and lawmakers’ votes. 

Community Schools: Pittsburgh Public Schools chief eyes better social services for students, families
Superintendent Anthony Hamlet has called implementing “community schools” in the district one of his top priorities, and it’s among the short-term goals the school board set for him.
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 13, 2017 12:00 AM
The concept of using school buildings to house social services for students and their families, long studied in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, is moving closer to reality. Superintendent Anthony Hamlet has called implementing “community schools” in the district one of his top priorities, and it’s among the short-term goals the school board set for him. “I see community schools as, number one, for our children, to make sure they get supports they need,” he said in a recent interview. “But also, if we’re not beginning to support our parents in our community, then we send the kids right back into a possible environment [in which] they can forget some of the things they learned.” The school board passed a community schools policy in July, and approved the hiring of a full-time community schools coordinator in December. A 26-member committee made up of foundation, government, union and community representatives developed the application for schools, due Friday.

“The premise underlying the community schools strategy, which has taken hold across the country, is a sweeping one. It is about reshaping the entire education delivery system in cities such as Philadelphia – where some 60,000 children live in conditions of “deep poverty” – by working harder to “create the conditions that lead to learning,” said Susan Gobreski, the director of the project in the Mayor’s Office of Education.”
Community Schools: Philly neighborhoods reveal different priorities
After lots of data collection, teams are working to tailor each community school's services to address the needs of its students and residents.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa February 13, 2017 — 12:21pm
It was the week before Christmas, and Edwin Rodriguez had just heard Mayor Kenney talk about how the city would be investing new resources in Southwark Elementary School, where his daughter is a  5th grader. He watched as leaders of several organizations that run afterschool programs at Southwark received awards of appreciation. He listened proudly as his daughter, Siani, played in the school’s band.  The occasion was to showcase Kenney’s signature effort in K-12 education – an initiative to create 25 “community schools” in the next five years. Southwark, ethnically diverse and in the heart of South Philadelphia, is in the pilot group of nine schools announced in July. Rodriguez, who said he and his family considered moving to South Jersey, but liked Southwark so much that they stayed, is excited about its designation as a community school. And yet, he said, “I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what it means.” The city is nearly a year into a comprehensive, multifaceted process to answer that question. Right now, the Mayor’s Office of Education is helping each of the nine schools and their neighborhoods determine their needs, priorities, and plans of action.
http://thenotebook.org/articles/2017/02/13/neighborhoods-reveal-different-priorities

EITC/OSTC: OPED: Tax credit programs save money and help kids
York Dispatch Opinion by Otto V. Banks, REACH Foundation and Alliance 4:47 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2017
Otto V. Banks is executive director of REACH (Road to Educational Achievement through Choice) Foundation and Alliance.
In a Feb. 9 op-ed, “PA should prioritize public education students,” Eric Wolfgang writes that he believes every dollar matters. I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, he alleges that “legislators are trying to tinker with the budget in a way that would negatively impact public schools across the commonwealth.” That is where he and I part ways. House Bill 250 would add $50 million to the existing Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and $25 million to the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs, both of which benefit public and private schoolchildren. Mr. Wolfgang argues that due to an estimated $716 million revenue gap and a nearly $3 billion structural deficit, “now is not the time for the General Assembly to redirect tax dollars into programs that largely benefit private, nonpublic schools.” This is not true. The EITC and OSTC programs are designed to benefit children who are trapped in failing schools such as the Davis School in York, where only 17.5 percent of the students are proficient in English and a mere 6.3 percent are proficient in math. The scholarship programs provide low-moderate income children with resources to transfer to another public or private school that will provide them a high-quality education.

“The way this is written, even using school meals would count against the family,” she said.  The order states that any “aliens,” whether documented or not, may be considered “inadmissible or deportable” if they use any benefit  “for which eligibility or amount is determined in any way on the basis of income, resources, or financial need.” Legal immigrants could face deportation, and their sponsors could be forced to repay the cost of the benefits.”
Will Trump target the school lunch program?
Nutrition advocates worry that a draft executive order seems to take aim at immigrant children who receive free and reduced-price meals.
The notebook by Bill Hangley Jr. February 13, 2017 — 9:22am
Shaking up childhood nutrition programs was not one of the many promises that Donald Trump made on the campaign trail. But the new president and the Republican-controlled Congress could drive major changes in the way the Philadelphia School District feeds thousands of students every day. Trimming budgets or eliminating regulations would be possibilities. But a draft executive order restricting the use of public benefits by legal immigrants would be a dramatic change. The draft shows that the Trump administration is considering changes that could potentially shake Philadelphia’s universal-access food-service system to its core, imposing penalties on the families of students who use free and reduced-price lunch. The exact implications of Trump’s draft executive order are “really unclear,” said Kathy Fisher of the Coalition Against Hunger. “In terms of the school lunch [program], I’m unclear how that would work out.” But the draft order is clear in its intent, Fisher said.
http://thenotebook.org/articles/2017/02/13/will-trump-target-the-school-lunch-program

Require bids on bus pacts
TIMES-TRIBUNE EDITORIAL BOARD / PUBLISHED: FEBRUARY 12, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf could have had the Scranton School District in mind when he proposed a state budget last week calling for a $50 million reduction in student busing subsidies. The budget would still provide virtually $500 million for student transportation, but Mr. Wolf said funding should be reduced because of falling fuel prices and fewer students riding buses. Budget Secretary Randy Albright said the reduction will provide incentives to reward efficiency and boost competition and that school districts should be required to put bus contracts out to bid. The Scranton School Board in 2016 violated internal bidding policy to award a four-year busing contract extension to DeNaples Transportation. School officials praised the DeNaples service, but the absence of transparency about the extension created doubt about its propriety.

“The 2017-18 budget's top cost drivers contributing to the huge budget hole are: a $3.8 million increase in mandated employee pension payments; $2.7 million for salaries; $2.6 million for academic initiatives; $1.5 million for general operations; $1.2 student tuition and $704,056 in charter school payments.  The administration already has cut $5 million from the preliminary budget, including $2 million of educational programming, like new curriculum and professional development.”
Bethlehem school board leaves all tax hike options open
By Sara K. Satullo | For lehighvalleylive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on February 13, 2017 at 9:00 PM, updated February 14, 2017 at 1:34 AM
The Bethlehem Area school board Monday night voted to keep all options on the table to help it close a $12.5 million budget gap  The board of school directors voted 7-1 to apply to the state for permission to potentially exceed its 3.1 percent on annual property tax increases. Director Tom Thomasik was the lone dissenting vote. Director Shannon Patrick was absent. "I did it for the people that elected me," Thomasik said of his vote, pointing to a newsletter detailing how much taxes have gone up in Hanover Township, Northampton County. he administration wants the district to apply to the state for permission to potentially exceed its 3.1 percent cap on annual property tax increases. 

“Among the increased expenses the district faces is $1.8 million in wages and benefits, which is due mostly to the contract reached with the teachers last year.
He said the district must deal with a $576,000 increase in pension costs through the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System. In addition, he said the district will have to fork over $1.3 million in payments to charter schools for district students who opt to attend them instead of Highlands.”
Highlands staring at $1M budget shortfall
Trib Live by TOM YERACE | Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, 11:45 p.m.
The Highlands School District is facing an early estimated budget deficit of $1 million, but district Business Manager Jon Rupert said the emphasis is on “early,” since the deadline to approve a 2017-18 school budget is July 1. Rupert updated the school board on the status of next the upcoming budget Monday night. He said the district currently is looking at increased expenditures of about $1.8 million over this school year. However, Rupert said the board could bring in increased revenue to offset some of that. He said if the board chooses to raise real estate taxes, it could do so up to a maximum of 3.6 percent under state law.

Springfield OKs preliminary school budget with tax hike
Delco Times By Susan L. Serbin, Times Correspondent POSTED: 02/13/17, 9:04 PM EST
SPRINGFIELD >> The school board approved the 2017-18 proposed preliminary budget of $83.4 million. It will call for a 2.97 percent increase which complies with the 2.5 percent index and .47 percent in permitted exceptions. This equates to a 0.905 mill increase, or $93 per $100,000 of assessed value. The balanced budget reflects an increase of about $3.5 million from the current year. Nearly the entire amount is due to three major categories— $1.3 million in salaries and benefits; $1 million in the PSERS retirement contribution; and $1 million in supplies. Adjustments to other line items such as professional and property services and financing constitute the rest in expenditures. In his presentation, Executive Director Don Mooney said the district has experienced enrollment growth, with 232 new students over the last five years. The proposed budget will include addition of one classroom staff and one administrator.

Helen Thackston school at risk of losing charter
York Dispatch by Alyssa Pressler , 505-5438/@AlyssaPressYDPublished 9:21 p.m. ET Feb. 13, 2017
·         The district held a special board meeting on Monday night to discuss Helen Thackston Charter School.
·         Administrators presented a number of issues, like low achievement scores and a lack of verified teachers.
Helen Thackston Charter School is at risk of losing its charter in the coming years after the York City School District called a special meeting where the district outlined problems they've noticed for more than two years.  Among the issues discussed at Monday's meeting were troubling test scores, a lack of transparency regarding finances and little programming related to homeland security, a focus of the charter school. The district presented a resolution to the school board outlining each of these problems in detail. The resolution also includes recommendations and due dates for the school. The resolution states that if the charter school fails to meet the recommendations by the deadline, the school board can "revoke or not renew (Helen Thackston Charter School's) charter."

Commentary: Blame local officials, not DeVos, for state of Philly schools
Inquirer by Christopher Paslay Updated: FEBRUARY 13, 2017 — 12:09 PM EST
Betsy DeVos is officially the U.S. secretary of Education, and judging from the reaction of her opponents, you'd think she was advocating selling underprivileged school children to the meat market in order to feed rich land owners. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) insisted Trump's decision to appoint DeVos as Education secretary should "offend every single American man, woman, and child who has benefited from the public education system in this country." Vanity Fair film critic Richard Lawson put it more bluntly, tweeting that her policies "will kill children" and lead "queer kids" to "more suicides" because of a lack of access to supports in religious schools. But if school choice kills, then the Philadelphia School District is Murder Incorporated. For nearly two decades, establishment Democrats, educational activists, and financial opportunists have gutted traditional public education in the city, leaving it permanently altered. The biggest blow to Philly public schools was cast by then-state Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Pa.) in the late 1990s, when he fought to pass the Pennsylvania Charter School Law, which opened the floodgates for school choice and took millions of dollars away from traditional public schools and pumped them into privately owned charters. Evans also supported Acts 46 and 83, which enabled Harrisburg to take over the Philadelphia School District, and replace the local school board with a state-run School Reform Commission.

Guest Column: Ex-school super’s Top 10 list for determining snow days
Delco Times By Joseph Batory, Special to the Times POSTED: 02/13/17, 9:07 PM EST 
Joseph Batory was the Upper Darby School District Superintendent of Schools from 1984 to 1999. 
As a school superintendent for more than 15 years, I lived in terror of snow/ice, primarily because I regularly had to decide whether or not and when to send nearly 100 school buses into inclement weather. Under Pennsylvania law, the Upper Darby School District has the responsibility of not only busing its own students who qualify via the distance requirements, but every other youngster who lived in Upper Darby and attended a private or parochial school in the tri-county area. So our Upper Darby buses picked up and/or dropped off many thousands of kids every day and the winter months were often a nightmare.  What I remember from those years was lots of complaints … no matter what my decision. School closings especially caused trouble. For 60 to 70 percent of my Upper Darby students, school each day was a “critical service” since for so many homes, both parents worked. We also had “before and after school add-ons” so for working parents, this was a terrific asset … except when schools were not open, or opened late, or closed early.

Can we call it a comeback for Philly Catholic schools?
WHYY Newsworks BY AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT FEBRUARY 13, 2017
One of the first things you notice when you walk the halls of St. Gabriel school in the Point Breeze section of South Philadelphia is the sound. Or rather the absence of it. A lone teacher's voice drifting out an open door. The sound of someone's shoes clacking along corridors. The still gaze of a religious statuette perched in the corner. Catholic schools tend to be quiet, orderly places. That's part of the appeal. But all that carefully orchestrated tranquility evaporated on a winter day in 2012. "I could just remember we heard shouts throughout the whole school," says long-time teacher Elaine Carboni. "I've never heard a shout as loud." About a month earlier, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia released a Blue Ribbon Commission report on Catholic education in the city that read more like a eulogy. It called for 48 area Catholic schools to close, among them 104-year-old St. Gabriel. It was a rock-bottom moment for Catholic education in the city. But it would birth one of Philadelphia's most interesting education experiments.

PA Deputy Secretary of Education Matt Stem recently presented a webinar on PA's new Future Ready PA Index.
PA Principals Association News & Announcements February 13, 2017
The webinar is approximately 40 minutes long and can be viewed at the link below:


Where school choice isn’t an option, rural public schools worry they’ll be left behind
Washington Post By Jose A. DelReal and Emma Brown February 10 
EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — The small parking lot outside of Schenck High School was crammed with cars, all there for the basketball game, the town’s featured event that night. The cold winter air whipped around white mounds of snow lining the town’s few residential streets and past the school to the vast blackness of Interstate 95.  This small, remote high school is perhaps East Millinocket’s last and most crucial community pillar. Even before the local paper mill shut down three years ago, the town had suffered a stark economic decline because of the mill’s dwindling profits and the widespread poverty that followed. With a shrinking tax base and an aging population, Schenck High faces an uncertain future.  Washington has long designed education policy to deal with urban and suburban challenges, often overlooking the unique problems that face rural schools like this one. With a new administration in the White House that prefers “school-choice” approaches — favoring charter schools and private-school vouchers so parents can opt out of public schools and bring taxpayer dollars with them — the nation’s rural schools are left to wonder about their fate.  Education Secretary Betsy ­DeVos’s emphasis on school choice means very little out here in the wilds of Northern Maine, where the closest “good” schools are all impossibly far away. For students here, Schenck is really the only choice.

Three global indexes show that U.S. public schools must be doing something right
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss February 13 at 1:01 PM 
Nancy Truitt Pierce is a member of the Monroe School Board in Washington state who was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to his STEM Alliance Advisory Board. In her day job, she is a consultant who convenes monthly peer group meetings of top executives in Seattle and hears what they are looking for when recruiting new employees. What do they want?
Here’s what she wrote in an email: What I hear from the key corporate leaders I meet monthly with is that they want candidates coming out of our public schools who are creative, innovative, collaborative problem solvers. Yes, the candidates must also have strong foundational skills of math, science and language arts but I suggest we are putting too much emphasis on the PISA math score as a key indicator of public school quality. I suggest there are other indicators that would serve us in much better ways. PISA is the Program for International Student Assessment in which 15-year-old students in school systems around the world take tests in several subjects. American students have never scored near the top in this or any other international test, and the 2015 results were no different, prompting a great deal of consternation in the United States. (Pierce said she focused on the math score because that is what comes in for the most scrutiny.) Coming out on top on the 2015 PISA were kids in Singapore, followed by Japan, Estonia, Chinese Taipei, Finland, Macao (China), Canada, Vietnam, Hong Kong (China) and B-S-J-G (China).  But a recent Forbes article points out some of the problems with PISA:

What Does the PISA Report Tell Us About U.S. Education?
AFT Video Published on Dec 3, 2013 Runtime 5:00
When the OECD releases the PISA report every three years, many people use the ranking to claim public education in the U.S. is failing and push their corporate education reform agenda. But looking at the data, lessons that can be learned from the highest performing countries point in a completely different direction. For more information: http://go.aft.org/pisa #ReclaimIt

Key House Lawmaker Discusses What's Next for Federal Education Funding
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on February 13, 2017 7:24 AM
Local school leaders worried about potential cuts to major federally funded education programs may find some comfort in the words of Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Department of Education budget. In a recent interview, Cole also stressed that while he has certain ideas about how federal spending on schools might shape up in the near future, he'll want to get a lot of input first from President Donald Trump's administration. And he highlighted the importance of federal spending on students with disabilities.  "I think it's premature" to say definitively that there will be significant cuts to the Education Department, Cole told us in an interview. "I think that's certainly a possible outcome, and may be more likely than not." (Check out our recent story on this issue for more in-depth thoughts from Cole and others watching the education funding debate.)

Betsy DeVos Tells Her Side to Conservative Opinion Journalists
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on February 13, 2017 5:24 PM
In her first print and radio interviews since taking the helm of the U.S. Department of Education, brand-new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos opened up about the difficulties of her rocky confirmation process to conservative opinion journalists in Michigan. DeVos gave her first print interview to a Michigan-based opinion page editor whose paper endorsed her as secretary, and her first radio interview to Paul W. Smith, a conservative talk show host, also from the Wolverine State. Smith started his chat with DeVos by telling her, "you know that we're supportive of you." DeVos' divisive confirmation process—culminating in a tie vote that Vice President Mike Pence had to break—was a theme of both conversations. DeVos told Ingrid Jacques, the deputy editorial page editor of the Detroit News, that she could have answered some questions in her confirmation hearing "better or more articulately." But she added, "in my defense, the questioners had no interest in really hearing a full response, I don't think. I did not want to be combative. I wanted to continue to be respectful and to try to reflect the kind of demeanor that I think we should have surrounding these conversations." And she said the opposition to her candidacy has "made me more resolute."

NSBAC First 100 Days Campaign #Ed100Days
National School Boards Action Center
YOUR VOICE IN THE FIRST 100 DAYS!
There is no time like the present for public education advocates to make their voices heard. Misleading rhetoric coupled with budget cuts and proposals such as private school vouchers that divert essential funding from our public schools are threatening the continued success of our 50 million children in public schools. We need your voice to speak up for public schools now!
The first 100 days in the 115th Congress and the Trump Administration present a great opportunity to make sure our country’s elected leaders are charting an education agenda that supports our greatest and most precious resource -- America’s schoolchildren. And you can make that happen.


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.
Agenda
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
Dates/Locations
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
Registration:

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 http://www.pasa-net.org/ev_calendar_day.asp?date=3/29/2017&eventid=63

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