Thursday, February 23, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 23: PSERS Exec. Director Grell: reforming benefit plan won’t get at root of the problem. Find the money to pay off the debt.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 23, 2017:
PSERS Exec. Director Grell: reforming benefit plan won’t get at root of the problem.  Find the money to pay off the debt.

“Three consecutive reports, each studying one of the largest new state voucher programs, found that vouchers hurt student learning.”
Dismal Results From Vouchers Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins
New York Times by Kevin Carey FEB. 23, 2017
The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education was a signal moment for the school choice movement. For the first time, the nation’s highest education official is someone fully committed to making school vouchers and other market-oriented policies the centerpiece of education reform.  But even as school choice is poised to go national, a wave of new research has emerged suggesting that private school vouchers may harm students who receive them. The results are startling — the worst in the history of the field, researchers say.  While many policy ideas have murky origins, vouchers emerged fully formed from a single, brilliant essay published in 1955 by Milton Friedman, the free-market godfather later to be awarded a Nobel Prize. Because “a stable and democratic society is impossible without widespread acceptance of some common set of values and without a minimum degree of literacy and knowledge on the part of most citizens,” Mr. Friedman wrote, the government should pay for all children to go to school.  But, he argued, that doesn’t mean the government should run all the schools. Instead, it could give parents vouchers to pay for “approved educational services” provided by private schools, with the government’s role limited to “ensuring that the schools met certain minimum standards.”

Blogger note: How big is the impact of PSERS cost increase?
+$100M Governor Wolf’s proposed basic education increase
+$  25M Governor Wolf’s proposed special education increase
-$144M 500 districts’ share of PSERS cost increase

“At a House hearing, PSERS Executive Director Glenn Grell said reforming the benefit plan wouldn’t get at the root of the current problem anyway. Since Act 120 of 2010, he said costs for new pension plans are actually “very low.”  Now, the legislature has to address the part of the problem that wasn’t fully addressed in 2010: finding the money to pay off the debt.  “Whether it’s a dedicated revenue source that would come to us, or a dedicated revenue source that would go to support a bond issue, those are the kinds of things that would really address the funding in a serious way,” Grell said.  Many lawmakers still say they intend to push legislation that would change retirement plan options instead.”
Pennsylvania's huge public pension debt weighing heavy on budget talks
One of the big questions going into Pennsylvania's budget negotiations is whether—after years of failed attempts—the legislature in Harrisburg will address tens of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities in its two biggest pension funds.  Those are the State Employee Retirement System and the Public School Employee Retirement System—commonly known as SERS and PSERS. As budget hearings continue, lawmakers are searching high and low for a way to ease that burden.  Thanks to ill-advised benefit increases in the early 2000s and years of pushed-off payments, the Pennsylvania faces more than $60 billion dollars in pension liabilities over the next few decades.  A 2010 bill made the situation a little better, and this fiscal year, the state met its required debt payment for the first time in 15 years.  But those payments are a strain. Right now, pensions are one of the commonwealth’s single biggest expenses, and much of that weight falls to taxpayers and schools.

Blogger comment: FUND THE FORMULA!
Before we push for $75 million more in school choice money let’s fund our constitutional obligation - the legislature’s own basic education funding formula, which they passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 188-3 in the House and 49-1 in the Senate last May.
Lawmaker pushes for more school choice money
By Stacy M. Brown, For the Pocono Record Posted Feb 20, 2017 at 5:25 PM Updated Feb 20, 2017 at 5:25 PM
State Rep. Mike Turzai wants to expand school opportunities for students by increasing the state's public-private partnership education tax program.  A bill introduced earlier this month by Turzai, R-28, was recommitted last week to the House Appropriations Committee as the representative looks for more support for his plan to increase the amount of tax credits available under the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program by $50 million, which would bump the total available to $175 million.  House Bill 250 would also increase the amount of tax credits available under the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program by $25 million (fixing the total availability to $75 million) to grow opportunities for parents to make better school choices and help more students escape from failing schools.  "The programs open access to good private schools by allowing businesses to claim a tax credit for donations to scholarship funds for low- and middle-income children," Turzai said in a statement.  "More than 40,000 students benefit from the EITC and OSTC programs each year through educational scholarship organizations, which provide scholarships for students to attend non-public schools," he said.  "Additionally, the program assists countless Pennsylvania students in traditional public schools through the Educational Improvement Organizations portion of the tax credits made available each year, which support innovative educational programs that enhance the regular school curriculum."
However, critics of the proposal argue that the tax-credit programs serve to reduce revenue that's available for public schools and other needs.

In 2015, we issued a report that used the legislature’s own formula to answer the question. Using the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s latest school finance numbers, issued in July 2016, we have now updated our report and its State Adequacy Cost. We conclude that in order for districts to have adequate funding to enable their students to meet state standards, the Commonwealth must provide school districts with between $3.036 and $4.073 billion more in additional funding than it is distributing for the 2016-17 school year. Click here for the spreadsheet showing the adequacy distribution to all districts
The Cost of Adequate Education Funding: An Updated Report
Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia website
Last year Pennsylvania adopted a fair funding formula to distribute Basic Education appropriations to school districts. The new formula takes account of changes in the number of students enrolled in a district, how many are in poverty, how many are English language learners, as well as other factors related to the cost of funding students and the ability of a district to raise funds locally. The formula, which was identical to that proposed by a bi-partisan Basic Education Funding Commission, applies only to new funds, and thus does not apply to the $5 billion of funding already in place in 2014-15.  Although the formula adopted by the legislature provides a guide for how to distribute new state funds, it did not provide an answer to another crucial questionhow much actual state funding do all Pennsylvania schools need to properly educate their students? In other words, while the formula demonstrates relative needs between school districts, it purposefully did not include the total amount of state funding needed for all Pennsylvania children to succeed and meet state standards. We call this missing figure the State Adequacy Cost.

GOP leaders in Pa. Senate staunchly defend Eichelberger
After the Education Committee chair made comments about "inner city" students, Sen. Vincent Hughes said he was not fit for that post. Eichelberger, in turn, cited "fake news" and blasted Hughes on his website.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa February 22, 2017 — 11:00am
Updated 12:15 p.m. with blog post from Sen. Eichelberger
Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania Senate are defending comments from State Sen. John Eichelberger at a town hall meeting where he suggested that "inner city" students would benefit from "less intensive" vocational programs because they do not succeed in college.   After seeing reports of the statements, State Sen. Vincent Hughes, a Philadelphia Democrat, called Eichelberger's comments "racist" and said he "is not fit to serve" as chair of the Senate Education Committee.  That interpretation was rejected by a spokesman for Senate President Joseph Scarnati, who determines committee chairmanships.  The spokesman, Senate Republican counsel Drew Crompton, said that Eichelberger's remarks were taken out of context and that Scarnati had no intention of removing Eichelberger, who represents a mostly rural central Pennsylvania district serving Blair, Fulton, Huntingdon, Franklin and part of Cumberland Counties.   "Education issues are always sensitive, we understand that," Crompton said. "Urban education issues are also sensitive." Although Eichelberger didn't word his remarks "as precisely as he wanted to," Crompton said, "I think the  message Sen. Eichelberger was carrying, that there are some high school students from all over the state [who] are better served through vocational training than college, is perfectly acceptable and accurate."

Central PA Senator slams Philly’s Sen. Hughes, claims ‘fake news’
The Philadelphia Democrat is just looking to “collect another check from the teacher’s union,” the GOP-er wrote.
Billy Penn By Anna Orso February 22, 2017
State Sen. John Eichelberger says he’s been “the victim of a fake news story” and specifically called out a Philadelphia lawmaker after he came under fire this week for comments about “inner-city” students.  Last week, The Carlisle Sentinel reported that Eichelberger, R-Blair County, was critical of “inner-city” schools saying, “they’re pushing [students] toward college and they’re dropping out…They fall back and don’t succeed, whereas if there was a less intensive track, they would.”  State Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Phila., told The Inquirer Monday that he “went through the roof” when he heard Eichelberger’s statements and said the senator doesn’t deserve to chair the Senate Education Committee. Hughes also told The (Public School) Notebook that Eichelberger’s comments reflect “a racist viewpoint [and] stereotype that we’ve been dealing with for generations.”  In a blog post on his website posted Tuesday titled “I’m fighting to give these kids a chance,” Eichelberger wrote that “The [Carlisle] Sentinel did a dishonest story about my town hall meeting last week, the Democrats decided to spin it even further, and other liberal media outlets followed along.”

“But there is a glimmer of hope. That would be getting the job of redistricting out of the hands of state legislators who have a clear ax to grind in the process.
Two state senators are proposing much-needed changes in the redistricting process. Senate Bill 22 would take the job out of the grubby mitts of the Legislature and instead create an independent 11-member commission, consisting of four members from each of the major Republican and Democratic parties, and three not affiliated with any party.  Even the bill is bipartisan, sponsored by Democrat Sen. Lisa Boscola, of Northampton, and Republican Sen. Mario Scavello, from Monroe. They want to take the process out of human hands and instead rely on modern technology and software to interpret the census results in accurately and fairly reshaping districts.”
Gerrymandering: Editorial: Time is now to fix redistricting mess
POSTED: 02/22/17, 8:26 PM EST | UPDATED: 5 HRS AGO
To the victor goes the spoils. It’s an old saying, but never more accurate when it comes to the way Pennsylvania’s Congressional districts are drawn.  Consider, for instance, the 7th Congressional, which covers the bulk of Delaware County. Pat Meehanhas been the 7th District congressman since winning office in 2010. You might remember that’s also the year Democrat Joe Sestak gave up the seat to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter. Sestak actually spit in the eye of Democratic leaders who wanted him to step aside to make room for the longtime moderate Republican who was switching parties, acknowledging he likely would lose a GOP primary challenge to conservative Pat Toomey. Sestak beat Specter, but lost a close race to Toomey. Meehan rolled to an easy win, just as he has in to successive elections since. The 7th District was once considered a toss-up after Sestak ended Curt Weldon’s 20-year reign in Washington.  But something changed.  That something is called redistricting. Done every 10 years supposedly to reflect changes noted in the census, it instead usually reflects partisan politics and those in control making sure things remain that way.  Don’t automatically shovel the blame on Republicans. Democrats have been guilty of doing the same thing when they hold the reins of power.  The 7th District is now a bizarre amalgam of suburban Philadelphia. It still covers the bulk of Delaware County, but it now zigs and zags to include five different counties, including small parts of Berks, Chester, Montgomery and even a sliver of Lancaster counties.

Read the Latest F&M Poll Results
February 15 - 19, 2017 Franklin & Marshall College Poll
The February 2017 Franklin & Marshall College Poll finds that Pennsylvania voters continue to be dissatisfied with the direction of the state, the country, and with politics in general. Most registered voters believe the state (52%) and country (66%) are “on the wrong track.” Many registered voters also believe that “government” and “politicians” are the most important problems facing both the state and the nation at the moment. Consequently, registered voters’ job approval ratings for Governor Wolf (38%), Senator Casey (37%), and President Trump (32%) are relatively low, although Governor Wolf’s ratings are better than they were one year ago during the latter stages of the state budget impasse. President Trump’s ratings are strong among Republicans and even stronger among self-described conservatives and, despite his relatively low ratings, a majority (51%) of all registered voters is confident in his ability to improve the economy. An equal share of registered voters in the state believes the media treats President Trump “very unfairly” (32%) as believe it treats him “very fairly” (32%).

Philly charter school gets 9,190 applications for 96 spots
Inquirer by The Associated Press Updated: FEBRUARY 22, 2017 — 8:15 AM EST
A Philadelphia charter school has received nearly 9,200 applications for just 96 open slots.
The lottery to enter the MaST Community Charter School closed Tuesday with 9,190 applications. The K-12 school is known for its award-winning math and science programs.  The only requirement to win a slot in the school for next year is to be a Philadelphia resident, and a little luck.  The school is located in the city's Somerton section.  A second MaST school is located in the city's Lawncrest section. It's only K-3 grade. The lottery for that school is on March 7.

Area legislators hopeful tax reform time has come
Standard Speaker BY JIM DINO / PUBLISHED: FEBRUARY 22, 2017
State legislators say property tax reform is a higher priority for Northeastern Pennsylvania than it is for the rest of the state.  The good news is that a reform measure did come to a vote in the last session of the Legislature and missed approval by just one vote.  State Sen. David Argall, R-29, Tamaqua, says on his website the goal of Senate Bill 76 is to eliminate all school property taxes across the commonwealth and replace those taxes with a combination of funding from the state personal income and sales taxes.  Argall expects the vote to be different next time. Heartbreaking vote - “We had a vote two years ago that broke my heart,” Argall said. “We got a vote, for the first time in history, but we were one vote short, and the lieutenant governor ruled against us, so we lost 25-24. Since then, one of the senators who voted no was replaced by someone who is a co-sponsor of the (current) bill. Another senator who voted no retired, and was replaced by someone who is a proponent of school district property tax elimination.”

Full-day kindergarten paying off for Parkland
Margie Peterson Special to the Morning Call February 21, 2017
SOUTH WHITEHALL TOWNSHIP — Tests show Parkland full-day kindergarten getting results
Parkland school directors received reassurance Tuesday that their decision to institute full-day kindergarten for all students is paying off.  In January, the district assessed its littlest pupils on the fundamentals of reading, such as the alphabet, vocabulary, sentence comprehension and phonics, and found that by all measures students are more advanced than kindergarteners were last year at this time.  Overall, nearly 80 percent of kindergarteners are either at or above where they should be on reading this year, compared with about 65 percent last year. Meanwhile, less than 5 percent of students this year are in needed of intervention, while that number was about 20 percent last year.

Trump administration lifts transgender bathroom guidance
Post Gazette by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, 1:30 p.m.
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Wednesday ended federal protection for transgender students that required schools to allow them to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identities, stepping into an emotional national issue.  The administration came down on the side of states' rights, lifting federal guidelines that had been issued by the Obama administration. Without the Obama directive, it will be up to states and school districts to interpret federal anti-discrimination law and determine whether students should have access to restrooms in accordance with their expressed gender identity and not just their biological sex. “This is an issue best solved at the state and local level,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said. “Schools, communities, and families can find - and in many cases have found - solutions that protect all students.”  The Obama guidance did not sufficiently explain how federal sex discrimination law known as Title IX also applies to gender identity, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

PSBA Transgender Legal Update (Feb. 22, 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.

Trump administration rolls back protections for transgender students
Trump administration revokes protections for transgender students in public schools
Washington Post By Sandhya SomashekharEmma Brown and Moriah Balingit February 22 at 9:28 PM 
The Trump administration on Wednesday revoked federal guidelines specifying that transgender students have the right to use public school restrooms that match their gender identity, taking a stand on a contentious issue that has become the central battle over LGBT rights.  Officials with the federal Education and Justice departments notified the U.S. Supreme Court late Wednesday that the administration is ordering the nation’s schools to disregard memos the Obama administration issued during the past two years regarding transgender student rights. Those memos said that prohibiting transgender students from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws.  The two-page “Dear colleague” letter from the Trump administration, which is set to go to the nation’s public schools, does not offer any new guidance, instead saying that the earlier directive needed to be withdrawn because it lacked extensive legal analysis, did not go through a public vetting process, sowed confusion and drew legal challenges.  The administration said that it would not rely on the prior interpretation of the law in the future.

Trump Rescinds Rules on Bathrooms for Transgender Students
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday rescinded protections for transgender students that had allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity, overruling his own education secretary and placing his administration firmly in the middle of the culture wars that many Republicans have tried to leave behind.   In a joint letter, the top civil rights officials from the Justice Department and the Education Department rejected the Obama administration’s position that nondiscrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice.  That directive, they said, was improperly and arbitrarily devised, “without due regard for the primary role of the states and local school districts in establishing educational policy.”

Editorial: School funding shift: No cure for ailing taxpayers
TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Lawmakers in Harrisburg again will consider eliminating school property taxes by raising the state's personal income tax rate, raising its sales and use tax and expanding the latter's reach. It's a perennial proposal that has yet to succeed — and shouldn't, because it ignores the root problem: ever-increasing school budgets.  The proposal aims to replace the $14 billion that the state's Independent Fiscal Office estimates school property taxes yield annually. But it would change neither how much schools spend nor how much taxpayers pay — just which of their pockets are plundered — and it wouldn't guard those pockets against ever-deeper plundering. State Act 1 of 2006 surely hasn't helped. It supposedly limits annual school tax hikes to the rate of inflation and requires taxpayer referendums for greater increases. But Act 1 provides wide-ranging exemptions to those rules, and the state approves so many exemption requests that almost one-third of Pennsylvania school districts were able to raise taxes for 2014-15 by more than the inflation rate.

Seven school districts apply for tax-increase exceptions
Beaver County Times By Katherine Schaeffer February 21, 2017
Seven school districts in The Times’ coverage area have requested permission to raise taxes for the 2017-18 school year above the limit the state allows.  The Beaver Area, Central Valley, New Brighton Area, South Side Area, Ellwood City Area, Moon Area and Quaker Valley school districts have filed for exceptions to balance their budgets for the 2017-18 school year.  Applying for exceptions under state Act 1 doesn’t mean the district intends to raise taxes, it simply allows the board to keep its options open, Ellwood City Area Business Manager Richard Zarone said.  “It doesn’t mean there’s going to be a tax increase; it just gives the board flexibility,” Zarone said. If the state Department of Education approves an exception, a district can increase property taxes beyond the limit set by the state under state Act 1, also known as the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006.

Former Moon superintendent resigns new job
Beaver County Times By Katherine Schaeffer February 22, 2017
MOON TWP. -- A week after the state auditor general released a report criticizing the Moon Area School District’s former superintendent for overspending and administrative mismanagement during his time there, he has been placed on administrative leave from his new job and has agreed to resign.  Curt Baker, Moon’s chief administrator between 2013 and 2016, has been placed on administrative leave from his role as superintendent of Wilson School District in Berks County, Pa., Wilson’s board president announced during the board’s Tuesday evening meeting. Baker began paid leave Tuesday, with the understanding that he will tender his resignation, board President Steve Ehrlich announced during the meeting, which can be viewed online through the school district’s YouTube channel.  Ehrlich noted that Baker’s perspective is not included in the auditor's report, but that nonetheless, its findings place Wilson’s board in an “unflattering light.”
The Moon audit, which spanned July 1, 2012, through June 2015, found that Moon’s board allowed Baker to operate unchecked, which lead to overspending and administrative mismanagement.

What students think about school lunch
The notebook by Darryl Murphy February 22, 2017 — 12:01pm
The USDA’s universal feeding program ensures that every Philadelphia public school student is eligible for free breakfast and lunch during the school year. The program gives students who may be coming from impoverished and/or food insecure households access to quality food.  The District has made efforts to improve school food. There are now 107 schools with full-service kitchens, and 141 satellite locations that offer prepackaged foods. But what do students actually think about what’s on the menu?  To get a sense of what students think about these meals, the Notebook asked students from AMY Northwest Middle School and Carver High School of Engineering & Science to give their opinions about school lunch. Here’s what they had to say.  

Debate: Charter Schools Are Overrated
Wednesday, March 1st 2017 06:45 - 08:45 PM
Kaufman Center 129 West 67th Street New York, NY
In the 25 years since Minnesota passed the first charter school law, these publicly funded but privately operated schools have become a highly sought-after alternative to traditional public education, particularly for underserved students in urban areas. Between 2004 and 2014 alone, charter school enrollment increased from less than 1 million to 2.5 million students. Many charter schools boast of high test scores, strict academic expectations, and high graduation rates, and for some, their growth is evidence of their success. But have these schools lived up to their promise? Opponents argue that charters, which are subject to fewer regulations and less oversight, lack accountability, take much-needed resources from public schools, and pick and choose their student body.  Are charter schools overrated? 

Tennessee appeals court hears merits of education funding lawsuit
Jason Gonzales , USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee7:05 p.m. CT Feb. 21, 2017
Should a judge be able to demand Tennessee and its legislative body provide the full amount of money for schools detailed in its education funding formula?  That's the central question in a Tennessee Court of Appeals case in which Metro Nashville Public Schools is wanting the state to provide money for English language learners as spelled out under the state's education funding formula.  The arguments on Tuesday were heard by Court of Appeals Judges Frank Clement Jr., Andy Bennett and Richard Dinkins.  During the oral arguments held at Belmont University, Metro attorney Lora Fox said under previous Supreme Court rulings the state is required to fully fund its obligation to maintain and support a system of free public schools that is spelled out within what is known as the Basic Education Program formula.  By not fully funding the formula, the state is violating the court rulings and the Tennessee Constitution, Fox said.
"We have three pronouncements that say full funding of the Basic Education Program is essential, necessary and required," she said.

“The remarks were a departure from McQueen’s usual placating tone, and her most direct condemnation of school turnaround work to date in Tennessee. That work includes programs spearheaded both by local districts and the state’s Achievement School District, which has authority to take over schools in the state’s bottom 5 percent, generally assigning them to charter operators.”
State education leader criticizes Tennessee school turnaround efforts
Grace Tatter, Chalkbeat, Tennessee Published 9:32 a.m. CT Feb. 22, 2017
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen gave a stinging assessment of Tennessee’s school turnaround work, even calling the outcomes “a little embarrassing” in a fiery speech to state lawmakers.  McQueen, speaking to the legislators Tuesday, noted the state has only moved 10 schools off its “priority” list since it first ran in 2012, beginning with 83 low performing schools. “We can’t keep throwing $10 million, $11 million, $12 million, $15 million at solutions that are not solutions,” she told House members during a committee meeting.

Teachers: the only mode they have is action by Jaime Casap Feb 21
Google Education Evangelist from Hell’s Kitchen working on making education the silver bullet until the world turns upside down! Education disrupts poverty.
I read Secretary DeVos’s statement after she visited Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington DC last week:
“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.”
I have visited many schools and talked with thousands of educators over the past 11 years, and I have a different perspective.  Before my 11 years at Google, I worked for or consulted with a broad range of organizations and companies. I’ve spent time at the New York State Department of Social Services and other state agencies in New York, American Express, United States Postal Service, Accenture, Salt River Project, Unitedhealthcare, Motorola, Dell Microsystems, Seagate Technology, Newmont Mining Corporation, Charles Schwab, and many others. I’ve also sat on the boards of various non-profits. In other words, I’ve worked with lots of workforces: government, financial services, banking, healthcare, natural resources, electronic and high-tech, mining, and non-profit, all in the name of organizational development and change. For the past 11 years, I have spent the majority of my time working with educators, while simultaneously working in the technology sector.  What have I observed from working 22 years with all these workforces?
Out of all of the workforces I’ve been engaged with, educators are easily and by far the most passionate, dedicated, purpose-driven workforce you will find. Their life is their work. They show up early and stay late seven days a week. They are underpaid and overworked.

Newark, NJ, February 22, 2017 – Education Law Center released today the 2017 list of the most financially strapped public school districts in the nation. The 2017 list includes 47 school districts in 20 states, with every region of the country represented. Over 1.5 million children are educated in these districts, attending underfunded schools under severe fiscal distress.  The report – “America’s Most Fiscally Disadvantaged School Districts” – identifies school districts across the country with higher than average student need and lower than average funding when compared to other districts in their regional labor market.  “A district’s funding level relative to other districts in the same labor market is perhaps the most important factor in whether schools have the resources they need, including effective teachers,” said Dr. Bruce Baker of the Rutgers Graduate School of Education and a co-author of the report.  “School districts must compete for teachers and support staff, the largest share of any district’s budget. Districts are fiscally disadvantaged if they don’t have the funding to offer competitive wages and comparable working conditions relative to nearby districts and other professions.”

Without Regulations for a Key ESSA Spending Rule, Here's What Could Happen
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on February 22, 2017 7:44 AM
As we reported last month the Obama administration decided not to finalize a rule for the supplemental-money requirement in the Every Student Succeeds Act before President Donald Trump took office. So where does this leave this spending provision?  A quick refresher: Like past versions of the federal education law, districts must use federal K-12 money to supplement, and not supplant, state and local spending on schools. After ESSA passed late in 2015, the Obama Education Department made waves for pushing districts to ensure they were spending nearly equal amounts of state and local cash on Title I schools (those with large shares of students from low-income backgrounds) and non-Title I schools. In its draft rule put out last year, the department gave districts a few options for meeting the requirement, all designed to shift more resources to relatively resource-poor schools. State leaders, district administrators, and Republican education leaders in Congress have consistently criticized the department for this approach, while civil rights advocates cheered it.  Even if the Obama administration had issued a final rule along these lines, GOP leaders in Congress almost certainly have overturned it. For that and other reasons, it's highly unlikely that an Education Department under Trump will follow a similar approach.   After the Obama administration backed away from regulating this issue, all that's left is what's in the statute. There's recent precedent for that.

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
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.
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
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

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

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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