Tuesday, February 21, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 21: Primer on PA Tuition Tax Credits: Vouchers in Disguise

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 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 21, 2017
Primer on PA Tuition Tax Credits: Vouchers in Disguise



Gerrymandering: @FairDistrictsPA will be featured on @WITF's Radio Smart Talk on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 9 am, rebroadcast at 7 pm.



The Senate budget hearings will be held in Hearing Room 1 in the North Office Building, and the House hearings will be in Room 140 of the Main Capitol Building.  
Monday, March 6, 2017 House: 10:00AM Department of Education
Tuesday, March 7, 2017 Senate: 10:00AM: Department of Education
2017-2018 Budget Hearing Schedule
PoliticsPA Written by Paul Engelkemier, Managing Editor February 20, 2017
Governor Tom Wolf delivered his budget address two weeks ago, now the State Senate and House will kick off their side of things.  Over the next three weeks, both Appropriations Committees will hear from all of the departments and groups who receive state funding.  
In his budget address Wolf struck a tone of working together.  How the members of the Appropriations Committees respond to this during the hearing may be a window into how the 2018 election will be played out.  PoliticsPA has combined both schedules to show what each side will be hearing each day
http://www.politicspa.com/2017-2018-budget-hearing-schedule/81683/

Did you catch our weekend and President’s day postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 19, 2017
“money misspent pushing minority students from high school into college instead of into vocational programs”

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 20, 2017
Charter Advocacy Groups Want Higher Standards for Online-Only Schools

PA: How Much Does Your District Pay in Charter Costs
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Friday, February 17, 2017
An extremely handy spread sheet has been circulating lately, and if nothing else, I want to put a link here so that I can more easily find it. If you're in Pennsylvania, you'll want to look at this, too. The document covers every school year from 2009-2010 through 2014-2015 for every single one of our 502 pubic school districts (yes, that is a high number, but that's another conversation).  It shows how much money left the district to go to charters, broken down by nonspecial education students and special education students (the pay rate is different). I recommend that you browse on your own, but let me hit just a couple of points.
http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/02/pa-how-much-does-your-district-pay-in.html?spref=tw

"There is definitely more momentum behind tuition tax credits," notes Matt Jacob, spokesperson for People for the American Way. "They have the same effect as vouchers, but they don't scare the public as much."  Or, as Joe Overton of the ultra-conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy said in explaining why Michigan conservatives are focusing on tuition tax credits after that state's voucher referendum failed miserably in 2000: "In Michigan, the word 'voucher' is radioactive. Tax credits are much more politically viable."
Reprise 2003: Keeping Public Schools Public
Tuition Tax Credits: Vouchers in Disguise
Rethinking Schools By Barbara Miner Winter 2002/2003
I have been writing about vouchers for more than a decade. Hardened as I am to often arcane voucher debates, three words still send shivers into my brain.  Tuition tax credits.
Please, don't stop reading. Yes, taxes scare everyone. And only nerdy policy wonks - you know, the ones with plastic pocket protectors in their shirts and combination watch/calculators on their wrists - like to talk about taxes.  But as they say, death and taxes are two things you can't avoid in life. Since you can't avoid the controversy about tuition tax credits, you might as well learn a little. And I promise I won't make any references to obscure tax codes (such as Form B, page 3A, line 2C, if you said "no" on line 8 on page 5.)  If you think tuition tax credits aren't worth worrying about, think again. While there are only three voucher programs - in Cleveland, Milwaukee, and a statewide program in Florida - there are six statewide tuition tax credit schemes, and most passed in recent years.
http://www.rethinkingschools.org/special_reports/voucher_report/v_tax172.shtml

Reprise 2012: EDUCATIONAL TAX CREDITS ARE OFTEN A BAIT-AND-SWITCH
Third & State Blog Posted by Stephen Herzenberg on May 23, 2012 2:19 pm
A story in Monday's New York Times explores the use of state tax credit programs to pay for "scholarships" for students who attend private schools. The story suggests that many of the students who receive such scholarships already attend private school and are not low-income. To the extent that this is true, the political marketing of these programs as alternatives (for a select few students) to public schools in distressed communities is a "bait and switch."  Educational tax credits actually siphon taxpayer dollars to subsidize private schools, reducing state revenues available for public schools.  Is this how the scholarships to attend private schools work under Pennsylvania's Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program?  Probably: there is no prohibition on EITC scholarships going to students already attending private schools; middle-class families are eligible to receive scholarships (the income limit for a family of four is $84,000); and there is no evidence that even this income limit is enforced. In fact, Pennsylvania's Act 46 of 2005 prohibits the state from requesting from scholarship organizations any information other than the number and amount of scholarships that they give out. I guess we're just supposed to trust the scholarship organizations to self-enforce the income limit.
http://thirdandstate.org/2012/may/educational-tax-credits-are-often-bait-and-switch

Reprise 2012: Public Money Finds Back Door to Private Schools
New York Times By STEPHANIE SAUL MAY 21, 2012
When the Georgia legislature passed a private school scholarship program in 2008, lawmakers promoted it as a way to give poor children the same education choices as the wealthy.  The program would be supported by donations to nonprofit scholarship groups, and Georgians who contributed would receive dollar-for-dollar tax credits, up to $2,500 a couple. The intent was that money otherwise due to the Georgia treasury — about $50 million a year — would be used instead to help needy students escape struggling public schools.  That was the idea, at least. But parents meeting at Gwinnett Christian Academy got a completely different story last year.  “A very small percentage of that money will be set aside for a needs-based scholarship fund,” Wyatt Bozeman, an administrator at the school near Atlanta, said during an informational session. “The rest of the money will be channeled to the family that raised it.”  A handout circulated at the meeting instructed families to donate, qualify for a tax credit and then apply for a scholarship for their own children, many of whom were already attending the school.  “If a student has friends, relatives or even corporations that pay Georgia income tax, all of those people can make a donation to that child’s school,” added an official with a scholarship group working with the school.  The exchange at Gwinnett Christian Academy, a recording of which was obtained by The New York Times, is just one example of how scholarship programs have been twisted to benefit private schools at the expense of the neediest children.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/22/education/scholarship-funds-meant-for-needy-benefit-private-schools.html

Blogger commentary:
Education Tax Credits.  This is nothing but a way to implement vouchers without using the dirty word "vouchers".  Legislation enabling Pennsylvania's EITC and OSTC programs was carefully crafted to circumvent the state constitution's explicit prohibition on tax dollars going to private and religious schools:


Article III § 15. Public school money not available to sectarian schools.
No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.

Up to $150 million per year in tax dollars are now diverted to schools that have virtually no fiscal or student performance accountability to the taxpayers. Rep. Turzai's HB250 would increase that by another $75 million.  Why do the intermediary organizations that distribute these scholarships get to keep 20% of the money? In Florida they only keep 3%.  Ms. DeVos and the Commonwealth Foundation share a common goal; to privatize public education, a common good that has been the foundation of American democracy.

There’s nothing to fear from Betsy DeVos and much to cheer
Lancaster Online Opinion by JAMES PAUL | Special to LNP Feb 19, 2017
James Paul is a senior policy analyst with the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free market think tank
What child hasn’t heard the story of Chicken Little? His encounter with a falling acorn leads him mistakenly to conclude the sky is falling. Mass hysteria ensues when his friends buy in to his doomsaying.  Unfortunately, misguided panic isn’t confined to fairy tales.  In the aftermath of Betsy DeVos’ confirmation as secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, opponents predict she could decimate public education. DeVos is a well-known school choice advocate who believes in empowering parents and students with options. Unfortunately, critics view this not as a step forward but as a disaster.  Their perspective is misguided, unsupported by facts, and ultimately harmful for the future of American education.  But here’s one thing DeVos’ supporters and detractors agree on: Every student deserves access to a quality education. The goal is not in question, only the means.  Some believe traditional public schools assigned to students based on their ZIP code can meet every student’s individual needs — every time, in every town in America, in every situation.  Advocates of choice, though, believe traditional public schools work well for some students, but public charter schools, private schools, cyber schools, home schools, or some combination of these work best for others. And proponents of choice have the evidence on their side.  Indeed, when educational options increase, students perform better, traditional public schools improve, and taxpayers save money.  For proof, look no further than Pennsylvania's highly popular Educational Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs, which allow businesses to direct a portion of their tax liability to fund scholarships to families dissatisfied with their assigned public school. Since 2001, more than 500,000 such scholarships have been awarded.
http://lancasteronline.com/opinion/columnists/there-s-nothing-to-fear-from-betsy-devos-and-much/article_418b1f68-f479-11e6-99b2-b71c9df6f403.html

PA’s EITC and OSTC programs are administered by DCED, not PDE….
Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program (EITC)
Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Website
Tax credits to eligible businesses contributing to a Scholarship Organization, an Educational Improvement Organization, and/or a Pre-Kindergarten Scholarship Organization.

The REACH Foundation is a leading evangelist for Pennsylvania’s education tax credit programs….REACH Alliance was instrumental in the drafting, passage, and recent expansions of Pennsylvania’s landmark Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program.”
The REACH Foundation
The REACH Foundation (Road to Educational Achievement Through CHoice) and its sister organization, the REACH Alliance, are Pennsylvania’s grassroots coalitions dedicated to ensuring parental choice in education.  In 1991, REACH was founded to coordinate the efforts to pass school choice legislation in Pennsylvania. Since then, REACH has grown into a broad, diverse coalition that includes members from the business community, ethnic and religious organizations, parents, and taxpayer groups. As a non-profit, REACH is governed by an independent board of directors and funded through generous contributions of Pennsylvania citizens, churches, and foundations.  As the school choice movement has changed, so has REACH. In addition to school vouchers, REACH advocates and educates the public on the benefits of tuition tax credits, charter schools (including cyber charter schools) and home schooling.  REACH Alliance was instrumental in the drafting, passage, and recent expansions of Pennsylvania’s landmark Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. Since passage of the EITC, the REACH Foundation has worked with the state Department of Community and Economic Development to create user-friendly guidelines for the program and has assisted scholarship organizations with start up money and technical assistance.  REACH continues to educate Pennsylvania citizens and the General Assembly to ensure that parents have a true choice in their children’s education.

Senator under fire for comment about pushing 'inner-city' students to vocational programs, not college
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 20, 2017 at 8:24 PM, updated February 20, 2017 at 9:26 PM
The chairman of the state Senate Education Committee has come under fire for comments he made last week at a town hall where he is reported to have said "inner-city" minority students should be pushed toward vocational programs instead of college.  Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair County, said public funds were being misspent pushing them to go to college, according to a story that appeared in The Sentinelof Carlisle.  "They're pushing them toward college and they're dropping out," Eichelberger said at the town hall meeting in western Cumberland County. "They fall back and don't succeed, whereas if there was a less intensive track, they would."  Eichelberger told The Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post Gazette on Monday his comments were taken out of context. He said he was referring to the poor schooling that inner-city students receive.

Key Pa. senator under fire for suggesting inner-city students need 'less intensive' program to succeed
Inquirer by Karen Langley & Angela Couloumbis - Staff Writers Updated: FEBRUARY 20, 2017 — 7:13 PM EST
HARRISBURG – An influential Pennsylvania state senator was under fire Monday for comments suggesting that minority students in “inner city” public schools struggle to succeed in college and should instead be encouraged to pursue vocational careers.   “They’re pushing them toward college and they’re dropping out,” Sen. John Eichelberger, a Blair County Republican, said during a town hall last week near Carlisle. “They fall back and don’t succeed, whereas if there was a less-intensive track, they would.”  Eichelberger, who chairs the Education Committee, said Monday that his comments, as reported in the Carlisle Sentinel, were taken out of context. He blamed failing urban school systems — not their students’ skin color — for why some graduates falter in college.  “They are because of their academic background,” he said in an interview. "They aren’t because they're black. It doesn’t matter what the color of their skin is. It matters that they had 12 years of very poor school.”  His publicized remarks drew fire from Democratic colleagues, who called them demeaning and alarming for someone with influence over educational policies for the state.

Who paid for cyber charter school to advertise?
Post Gazette Letter by PATRICIA KLINE JUST February 21, 2017 12:00 AM
While perusing the PG’s Weekender, an ad for an event at the Carnegie Science Center caught my eye. “Enjoy a FREE small popcorn during opening weekend courtesy of AGORA Cyber Charter School,” declared the bold text. Smaller text noted that “Film sponsored locally by Agora Cyber Charter School.”  Aren’t charter schools publicly funded? Why are my taxes being used to distribute free popcorn at the Carnegie Science Center and to sponsor films, even an educational film, about engineering?   I have nothing against educational films or popcorn, but I do object to the insidious way that the charter school industry, and it is an industry, tries to inject itself into the mainstream using public funds.

“And when a charter chain aggressively lobbies to take over a public school, parents are pitted against each other. Surely that is no one’s choice.  What follows is just such a story — that of Philadelphia’s John Wister Elementary, a neighborhood school replaced by a charter, and how that replacement tore a community apart.”
A cautionary tale about the fight over a charter school and the effect on a community
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss February 21 at 5:00 AM 
President Trump and his new education secretary, Betsy DeVos, have made clear that their interest in education is pushing more  school “choice” — charter schools, vouchers, etc. There are consequences to choice policies, though, and this post explains how the spread of charter schools can affect traditional public schools, the ones that educate the vast majority of America’s schoolchildren. This cautionary tale from Philadelphia was written by Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who is executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education. She was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013, the same organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year. She has been chronicling problems with corporate school reform for years on this blog, including with a series about troubled charter schools in California.

East Allegheny approves arts academy charter school in Wilmerding
TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Monday, Feb. 20, 2017, 10:21 p.m.
The East Allegheny School Board on Monday approved a plan to create a charter school at the former Westinghouse Elementary School in Wilmerding.  The board voted 6-3 to approve the proposal for Westinghouse Arts Academy Charter School — a performing arts school for students in grades 9 to 12.  Plans call for the charter school to open for the 2017-18 school year. The school would be only the third of its kind in southwestern Pennsylvania, along with Pittsburgh CAPA and the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Midland, Beaver County. The building will be owned and renovated by developer RPA Holdings LLC at a cost of about $8 million to $10 million.  About 50 people attended a hearing about the proposal at the district office board room. Many expressed support for the project, which has faced opposition from the local teachers union.

East Allegheny approves performing arts charter school
Post Gazette By Anne Cloonan February 20, 2017 9:28 PM
The East Allegheny school board approved the creation of the Westinghouse Charter School for the Arts in the former Wilmerding Elementary School by a 6-3 vote Monday night.  School directors who voted for the charter school included board president Gerri McCullough, vice president Frank Pearsol, Alan Eichler, Lisa Green, John Savinda and Stephen Volpe. Voting against the proposal were Jacqueline Gates, Michael Paradine and Connie Rosenbayger. The vote will allow a group of retired educators and others to create a high school for the performing arts in the building, which also formerly housed Westinghouse High School in Wilmerding.  The proposal had been controversial, with Wilmerding residents and officials supporting the plan, which they say will help revitalize Wilmerding.

Advocates continue calls for suspension reform in Pittsburgh Public Schools
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 20, 2017 9:01 PM
Advocates renewed calls Monday for a new approach to how the city school district disciplines its youngest students, a matter the school board president called a “primary goal” to address. Representatives from the Education Rights Network and the Education Law Center, a legal advocacy group, and parents asked again this year for an end to out-of-school suspensions or expulsions for nonviolent conduct for students in preschool through fifth grade in the Pittsburgh Public Schools.  “We know both from our data and our experience that students of color and students with disabilities are still disproportionately excluded from [PPS],” even though children of color are not more prone to misbehavior, said Cheryl Kleiman, executive director of the Education Law Center in her testimony at the board’s regular public hearing Monday night.

Central High teacher succeeds in funding campaign for billboard
A sign targeting city and school leaders will go up Feb. 27 on I-95.
The notebook February 20, 2017 — 10:46am
It took Central High School teacher George Bezanis less than a week to raise the money he needed to erect a billboard on Interstate 95 pointing out that the teachers' union does not have a signed contract and highlighting the role that city and school officials have played.  Bezanis holds the School Reform Commission, Schools Superintendent William Hite, and the mayor responsible for the fact that District teachers have been working without a contract since 2012, resulting in lost wages and teachers leaving to take jobs elsewhere.  The billboard will appear on I- 95 southbound on the right, at a prime location between the Girard Avenue and Central Philadelphia exits beginning Feb. 27, according to a news release that Bezanis sent to the media.

Bill would lift requirement for Pennsylvania school districts to advertise in local newspapers
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose jprose@calkins.com Feb 17, 2017
A Blair County state senator is once again pushing legislation that would allow Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts to bypass local newspapers and post their legal ads in several other ways, including on district websites.  Republican state Sen. John Eichelberger’s Senate Bill 374 was introduced last week, with state Sens. Elder Vogel Jr., R-47, New Sewickley Township, and Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland County, as co-sponsors.  Bills such as the one introduced by Eichelberger have been regularly unveiled in the House and Senate in recent years by several legislators, with Eichelberger last attempting one in 2013.  Under his bill, school districts could forgo placing legal ads in newspapers of general circulation and allow them to publish ads in a district newspaper, a legal newspaper circulated in the district, or on school district, newspaper or community newspaper websites.  “Elimination of this mandate will provide needed relief to school districts by helping them better manage their legal advertising costs,” Eichelberger told colleagues in a Jan. 11 co-sponsor memo.  “In these difficult economic times, school districts need the ability to exercise maximum flexibility and the discretion to manage their costs,” he wrote. “Additionally, print advertising is expensive for school districts.”

“Harner put together a list of budget "pressure points" that total $8.15 million to explain the numbers. The most significant spikes are in retirement costs ($1.4 million), existing and new debt service (more than $1.3 million), Bucks County Intermediate Unit services ($1.1 million) contracted salary increases ($941,732), books ($839,091) and $401,100 for mandated positions to aid students with disabilities.”
Budget 'sticker shock' has Quakertown school district seeking spending discipline
Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer February 20, 2017
Year after year, the Quakertown Community School District has come in under budget under the leadership of Superintendent William Harner.  Now with the school board committed to limiting any tax increase to the 2.9 percent Act 1 index and not wanting to dig too deeply into savings, Harner is being called upon to cut a preliminary budget that is nearly $11 million more than the district intends to spend in 2016-17.  "One of the problems is sticker shock," Charles Shermer, chairman of Quakertown's finance committee told administrators. "To be fair, the whole team has been really good managing expenditures. You've bought it under every year. But to see a $10 million bump, that's a problem. These first looks at the budget have got to be done with a sharper pencil because it scares the hell out of me."  Shermer was concerned that a jump in spending would threaten the district's ability to borrow for its $134 million master capital plan, spread out over 13 years for affordability, to build two schools and renovate others.  He called for more time "to pare down the gap" between the current $102.1 million budget and the 2017-18 preliminary budget of just under $113 million.

Tough financial decisions ahead for W-B Area despite boost from Wolf’s proposed budget
Citizens Voice BY MICHAEL P. BUFFER / PUBLISHED: FEBRUARY 20, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget would help the Wilkes-Barre Area School District, but difficult financial decisions on future spending are still coming, Wilkes-Barre Area Superintendent Brian Costello said.  “We are encouraged with the proposed budget and the governor’s strong commitment to education,” Costello said.  The proposed budget would increase state funding to Wilkes-Barre Area by $1.1 million, but projected increases in health care costs and pension contributions are expected to cost $1.6 million in 2017-18, Costello said.

After NCLB: A look at the Every Student Succeeds Act
York Dispatch by Alyssa Pressler , 505-5438/@AlyssaPressYDPublished 3:18 p.m. ET Feb. 20, 2017
·         The state Department of Education will move forward with planning for ESSA, despite the incoming administration.
·         ESSA was bipartisan, though Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos have not shared their thoughts on the statute.
·         ESSA will replace No Child Left Behind and return control to states and local school districts.
In December 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor to No Child Left Behind and the strict standards many districts struggled to meet.
It's now up to a new administration to actually roll out the new accountability program, and that has some wondering what the act will look like under President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.  No Child Left Behind was the nation's primary means of measuring school accountability. It required every student in the country be proficient, which means performing at grade level, in math and reading by 2014. The law, which went into effect in 2002, increased the percentage of students who should be scoring proficient incrementally each year.
As the standards continued to increase, it became obvious schools would never achieve 100 percent of students score proficiently on standardized tests, so in 2012 Obama began to allow states to opt out of the law. A bipartisan effort to replace No Child Left Behind was begun, and ESSA was the result. ESSA gives states and individual school districts more control over how they measure student success, so each state must submit a plan of how they will do so.

Uber, Lyft made $44M since becoming legal in state
WITF Written by The Associated Press | Feb 17, 2017 5:39 AM
 (Philadelphia) -- Tax revenue data released from the School District of Philadelphia shows ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft have brought in more than $44 million in their first two months of legal operation in the city.  The Philadelphia Inquirer reports the district said Thursday it received nearly $358,000 in tax revenue from the July-to-September period during which the companies operated under a temporary authorization that then included a 1 percent tax per ride. In November, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill that allowed ride-sharing companies to operate legally in the state. The legislation levied a 1.4 percent tax on each ride provided through the companies' apps.  The school district receives two-thirds of that. It expects the industry to generate between $2 million to $2.5 million for the city's schools annually.

Transgender Legal Update (Feb. 15, 2017)
PSBA Website  Feb 15, 2017
For many years, PSBA has urged its members to work with transgender students and their families to meet the needs of individual students and to provide them with a safe and supportive school environment.  In addition to continuous updates on the law, PSBA has provided in depth training and materials on practical ways to accommodate transgender students.  However, there are lawsuits pending in Pennsylvania and the United States that still must be decided before we know whether Title IX can be used to protect individuals from discrimination based on gender identity.  Some of these cases have been in the news in recent weeks and interim orders have been issued.  Links to these orders are found at the end of this article.

League of Women Voters to hold luncheon with lawmakers
Observer Reporter February 19, 2017
League of Women Voters of Washington County will hold its luncheon with area state lawmakers later this month.  The Friday event – intended as an information session with legislators who represent parts of the county – will feature a period during which the group will ask legislators questions and the opportunity for guests to speak with their elected officials.  The event will begin at 11:30 a.m. at Presbyterian Senior Care chapel, 835 S. Main St., North Franklin Township. The luncheon is open to the public. To make a reservation, call 412-892-9484. The cost to attend is $15.  To date, Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Carroll; Rep. John Maher, R-Upper St. Clair; Rep. Bud Cook, R-West Pike Run and Rep. Brandon Neuman, D-North Strabane, are scheduled to be in attendance.  Questions will cover redistricting reform, election reform to improve ballot access, education funding and policies to encourage investment in clean energy.

School mergers were plentiful in the ’60s
Washington County Observer Reporter By Rick Shrum February 18, 2017
In early August, three weeks before classes were to begin, a small group of parents attended a Monessen School Board meeting. Two mothers, contending the district provided limited educational and extracurricular options, urged the directors to consider a merger with another district.  That request did not go far. Dr. Leanne Spazak, the superintendent, told the board previously she had studied mergers and discovered, in many instances, some students ended up with even fewer academic programs and activities from which to choose. She concluded that a merger is feasible only under dire circumstances.  “If we can ever not sustain ourselves financially and we are not providing our students with what we consider a quality education, then (a merger) would be my recommendation,” she said.  Monessen School District, with a 7 percent decline in students since 2011, remains Monessen School District. And may continue to do so.  Public school district mergers are almost a thing of the past in Pennsylvania – the very distant past. There has been only one since the court-ordered Woodland Hills merger in 1981. That occurred in Beaver County, when Center and Monaca came together in 2009.

Betsy DeVos, the newly installed secretary of education, is an ardent campaigner for privately run schools and has investments in for-profit educational ventures.  While Ms. DeVos’s nomination attracted a flood of attention, most was focused on the K-through-12 system and the use of taxpayer-funded vouchers for private, online and religious schools. Higher education was barely mentioned during her confirmation hearings.”
For-Profit Schools, an Obama Target, See New Day Under Trump
New York Times By PATRICIA COHEN FEB. 20, 2017
Since Election Day, for-profit college companies have been on a hot streak. DeVry Education Group’s stock has leapt more than 40 percent. Strayer’s jumped 35 percent and Grand Canyon Education’s more than 28 percent.  You do not need an M.B.A. to figure out why. Top officials in Washington who spearheaded a relentless crackdown on the multibillion-dollar industry have been replaced by others who have profited from it.  President Trump ran the now-defunct Trump University, which wound up besieged by lawsuits from former students and New York’s attorney general, who called the operation a fraud. Within days of the election, Mr. Trump, without admitting any wrongdoing, agreed to a $25 million settlement.

Feeling Slighted, District of Columbia Teachers Fire Back at Betsy DeVos
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on February 18, 2017 6:00 PM
Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made her first visit to a public school, Washington, D.C.'s Jefferson Middle School Academy. Protestors tried to block her from going in the door, but she made it inside and talked to teachers, school leaders, and Antwan Wilson, the chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools.  After emerging from the school, DeVos pronounced it "awesome." But in an interview with a conservative columnist, Cal Thomas of Townhalll, DeVos described her visit this way: I visited a school on Friday and met with some wonderful, genuine, sincere teachers who pour their heart and soul into their classrooms and their students and our conversation was not long enough to draw out of them what is limiting them from being even more success from what they are currently. But I can tell the attitude is more of a 'receive mode.' They're waiting to be told what they have to do, and that's not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.  Jefferson's teachers did not take kindly to DeVos' contention that they're waiting to be told what to do. They fired back at DeVos on Twitter Friday night:


Stand Up for PA's Public School Students!
Sign up for Education Voters PA email list
Join activists throughout Pennsylvania as we fight to ensure that ALL students have access to educational opportunities in their public schools that will prepare them for graduation and success in life.  Add your voice to thousands of others who are standing up against efforts to privatize and weaken our children’s public schools. Help us create strong public demand for a strong system of public schools that will offer an opportunity to learn for ALL students.

The PASA-PASBO report on School District Budgets, January 2017

Public Education Funding Briefing; Wed, March 8, 2017 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM at United Way Bldg in Philly
Public Interest Law Center email/website February 14, 2017
Amid a contentious confirmation battle in Washington D.C., public education has been front and center in national news. But what is happening at home is just as--if not more--important: Governor Wolf just announced his 2017-2018 budget proposal, including $100 million in new funding for basic education. State legislators are pushing a bill that would eliminate local school taxes by increasing income and sales taxes. And we at the Law Center are waiting on a decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as to whether or not our school funding lawsuit can go to trial.   How do all of these things affect Pennsylvania's schools, and the children who rely on them? Come find out!   Join Jennifer Clarke, Michael Churchill and me for one of two briefings on the nuts and bolts of how public education funding works in Pennsylvania and how current proposals and developments could affect students and teachers. (The content of both briefings will be identical.) 
The briefings are free and open to the public, but we ask that you please RSVP. 

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
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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