Friday, February 24, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 24: Fund the Formula: PA Legislature passed basic ed funding formula overwhelmingly last May: House 188-3; Senate 49-1. Now we need a commitment to fund it.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 24, 2017:
Fund the Formula: PA Legislature passed basic ed funding formula overwhelmingly last May: House 188-3; Senate 49-1. Now we need a commitment to fund it.

“The bipartisan fair funding formula that was enacted last year disperses state dollars more fairly to our schools, and if we want all students to be given the same opportunities for success, the state must make significant and sustained funding increases in the upcoming years.  The Campaign for Fair Education Funding estimates that to achieve fair and adequate school funding, the state must increase its investment in public schools annually over time by nearly $3 billion. The gap only grows without consistent investment from the state.”
Governor’s Increase in Basic Education Funding is Welcome, but more Investment is Needed Moving Forward
Public Interest Law Center Website
(Harrisburg, Pa.) – The Campaign for Fair Education issued the following statement on Governor Tom Wolf’s proposal to increase basic education funding by $100 million in his 2017-18 budget proposal:  We appreciate the Governor’s continuing commitment to our public schools. The Governor’s proposed increase of $100 million for public schools, driven out through the state’s fair funding formula, is a welcome investment in a difficult budget year, and it remains important to recognize that we need even greater increases going forward to support all Pennsylvania students.

Read by 4th: How Philly plans to get more kids reading by fourth grade
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: FEBRUARY 23, 2017 — 5:14 PM EST
Fewer than half of Philadelphia fourth graders now read at grade level. But a citywide, multiagency, multimillion-dollar campaign aims to change that, doubling the number of children who hit that goal by 2020.  About 100 people gathered Thursday at City Hall to talk about the goals, progress, and promise of Read by 4th, an effort of the School District, the city, and the Free Library.  Mayor Kenney, who was honored as a “Reading Hero,” made it clear that the goal is “one of the most crucial priorities” of his administration. With a push from Kenney, the city has invested millions in pre-kindergarten programs and on community schools, which embed social services in school buildings to help eliminate barriers to academic success. A controversial tax on sugary beverages is to pay for the programs.   The Read by 4th campaign aims to boost early literacy by improving the quality of reading instruction in city schools, addressing barriers to student attendance, promoting summer reading to ward off learning loss, and working with parents to help strengthen students’ reading skills.  William R. Hite Jr. has made the goal a centerpiece of his superintendency. But a few years ago, getting 80 percent of fourth graders reading on target seemed “almost an impossible feat,” he said.

Oped: PA Schools: Celebrating progress, sustaining investment
York Dispatch OP-ED by Pedro A. Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education11:03 a.m. ET Feb. 23, 2017
Over the past two years I’ve had the privilege to visit dozens of schools across the Commonwealth. These visits have given me the opportunity to join communities in celebrating the great achievements schools are making every day, as well as engage in thoughtful conversations with stakeholders about successes and the residual challenges schools face from years of chronic under-funding.  As a commonwealth, we’ve made great progress in properly investing in education — finally climbing out of a funding hole that forced our schools to make damaging cuts in programs and staff. Through steadfast support, the governor secured more than an additional $640 million for schools in his first two years. This year, when the state is facing enormous fiscal challenges, Gov. Tom Wolf is continuing to prioritize our students and advocate for additional funding education for a third straight year.  The additional $125 million in K-12 funding that the governor has proposed will allow our schools to continue to deliver the quality education that every student deserves. Schools across the state will use this funding to continue to implement innovative strategies in the classroom, and expand programs proven to prepare students for success after they graduate.

Democrats Hold the Cards for State-Level Redistricting
PoliticsPA Written by Keegan Gibson, Guest Contributor February 22, 2017
2021 could be Pennsylvania’s most momentous redraw in a generation. GOP majorities are at historic highs, but a proposal to shrink the legislature could shake up the map.  Democrats hold the trump card, but Republicans have the power to change the rules.  PoliticsPA spoke with more than two dozen sources with knowledge of the upcoming reapportionment fight including lawmakers, consultants, reformers and more. Some were granted anonymity.
Pennsylvania’s next state-level redistricting is four years away, but the hands have already been dealt. A durable majority on the Pa. Supreme Court gives Democrats the trump card: the tie-breaking vote on the panel that draws state House and Senate maps.  For the first time since 1990 Democrats will have the advantage during the redraw, which for state House and Senate districts is called reapportionment instead of redistricting.  At the same time, Republicans have the ability to change the process. Amendments to the Pennsylvania state constitution can pass on a party-line vote in the legislature and aren’t subject to a governor’s veto – just a voter referendum.

Meet the Math Professor Who’s Fighting Gerrymandering With Geometry
Chronicle of Higher Education By Shannon Najmabadi FEBRUARY 22, 2017
A Tufts University professor has a proposal to combat gerrymandering: give more geometry experts a day in court. Moon Duchin is an associate professor of math and director of the Science, Technology and Society program at Tufts. She realized last year that some of her research about metric geometry could be applied to gerrymandering — the practice of manipulating the shape of electoral districts to benefit a specific party, which is widely seen as a major contributor to government dysfunction.  At first, she says, her plans were straightforward and research-oriented — "to put together a team to do some modeling and then maybe consult with state redistricting commissions." But then she got more creative. "I became convinced that it’s probably more effective to try to help train a big new generation of expert witnesses who know the math side pretty well," she says.  In part, she says, that’s because court cases over voting districts have risen since a 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder, struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Former President Barack Obama is said to be making redistricting a focus after his presidency, and the former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. is leading a new Democratic group targeting gerrymandering ahead of 2021, the next time district lines will be drawn.

“The General Assembly, to which Eichelberger was elected in 2006, has been an architect of that failing system with years of inequitable and inadequate funding, including higher education.”
DN editorial: Eichelberger needs some schooling on state's education issues
Philly Daily News Editorial Updated: FEBRUARY 23, 2017 — 7:26 PM EST
WE'D LIKE TO GIVE State Sen. John Eichelberger the benefit of the doubt for a flap he created while addressing a town-hall meeting with constituents in Carlisle. During a wide-ranging discussion about education issues, Eichelberger turned his attention to Philadelphia and complained that money was being misspent pushing minority students into college instead of into vocational programs.  "They're pushing them toward college, and they're dropping out," Eichelberger said. "They fall back and don't succeed, whereas if there was a less intensive track, they would."  Some city and state leaders were outraged at the suggestion that minority students should be put on a less ambitious track.  We agree that vocational programs can be a great alternative for some students, and that expanding options for all students is key. In the days that followed Eichelberger's town hall, he attempted to explain that that was what he meant all along. But we're still troubled by his comments, for many reasons.  First, Eichelberger chairs the Senate Education Committee, which is influential in determining education policy and funding. His comments showed a less than sophisticated grasp of the many challenges in education across the state. He said he was not faulting minority students for their abilities but said they are products of failing urban school systems, of "12 years of a very poor school."

Philadelphia mayor: Senator's comments on minority, inner-city students "racism"
Post Gazette By Angela Couloumbis and Kristen A. Graham / Harrisburg Bureau February 23, 2017 6:34 PM
Mayor Jim Kenney on Thursday slammed as “racism” a state senator’s suggestion that inner-city students shouldn’t be encouraged to attend college but instead steered toward vo-tech programs. “It’s racism and it should be called out to be racism,” Philadelphia’s mayor said, leveling the sharpest criticism yet against Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair County. “And you can see what we’re up against.”  Mr. Kenney said he was angered when he read that Mr. Eichelberger, an influential chairman of the Senate Education Committee, suggested to constituents at a town hall meeting in his district last week that minority and inner-city public school students should pursue vocational careers rather than being steered into college.  “They’re pushing them toward college and they’re dropping out,” Mr. Eichelberger said at the sparsely-attended meeting in his district near Carlisle. “They fall back and don’t succeed, whereas if there was a less-intensive track, they would.”  In an interview earlier this week, the senator said his perspective stemmed in part from a visit to Philadelphia and conversations about the city’s schools.  Speaking at a City Hall roundtable on early literacy, Mr. Kenney called Mr. Eichelberger’s comments “ridiculous,” and said they showcased the Philadelphia School District’s long-standing struggle to get adequate funding from the state.

Helen Thackston Charter makes progress
York Dispatch by Alyssa Pressler , 505-5438/@AlyssaPressYD8:57 p.m. ET Feb. 23, 2017
·         Administrators gave updates on the school's progress with York City School District.
·         The principal said several documents have already been handed in to the district.
·         The resolution outlines dates when the charter school needs to have issues fixed by in coming months.
Helen Thackston Charter School is on its way to completing requests from York City School District to address various issues by certain dates or have an explanation of why the problems could not be addressed.  Earlier in February, York City School District held a special board meeting to publicly discuss issues it has had with Helen Thackston. Among these problems were low test scores, a lack of information related to the charter's 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.

Where are York County teachers' salaries high and low?
York Daily Record Angie Mason amason@ydr.comPublished 12:15 p.m. ET Feb. 23, 2017
Which local school district offers the highest starting pay for teachers? Which district has the most experienced teachers?  Public information available from the state education department and school districts themselves helps paint a picture of educators' salaries around York County. Salaries for teachers and others, like counselors, are negotiated with the local teachers union. Contracts set out salary scales that allow teachers to earn more pay for years of experience and for continuing their education. Administrators do not belong to a union.

City: Soda tax brought in $5.7 million in January, more than double expectations
Inquirer by Julia Terruso, Staff Writer  @JuliaTerruso | Updated: FEBRUARY 23, 2017 — 4:56 PM EST
The city received $5.7 million in collections for the first month of the sweetened-beverage tax, more than double Revenue Department projections but less than the city needs in coming months to reach its goal, officials said Thursday.  The city had projected bringing in $2.3 million in January, which assumed that businesses would be slow to register for the new tax and that some retailers might have stocked up on pre-tax products.  To meet its target of $91 million per year, the city will need to increase its intake to $7.7 million by its April collection, maintain those numbers, and pull in about an additional $7 million in unpaid taxes for the rest of the year. The figures are important if the Kenney administration is to be able to continue financing its ambitious expansion  of early childhood education in the city.

Philly reaps $5.7M in first month of soda tax; industry workers say they're paying the price
Revenue generated by Philadelphia's new tax on sweetened beverages tax is beating projections, Philadelphia officials said Thursday. But those returns still will have to grow substantially to meet targets for the year, they added.   In January, Philadelphia collected $5.7 million from the 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax, well above estimates as the program ramps up, said city finance director Rob Dubow.   "In our quarterly report, we had $2.3 million," he said. "We knew there would be some growing pains and people had stocked up before the tax had going into effect, so we thought that the first month would be low."  Pepsi salesman Chris Lemon said that success for the city has comes at a cost for those in the industry.  Showing city officials his pay stubs for January, Lemon said, in his 10 years selling soda, he has never seen them so low. "Last week, I got $382. The week prior to that, I got $220," he said. "The week prior to that $261." Mayor Jim Kenney said he's highly skeptical that sales in Philadelphia are down as much as distributors claim.

City may launch task force to examine affordable preschool
By Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 24, 2017 12:11 AM
Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak will introduce legislation Tuesday creating an early childhood task force charged with crafting a plan to expand affordable preschool.
The group will include members of the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, Allegheny County Department of Human Services, the foundation community and Mayor Bill Peduto, who has called early childhood education one of his two main focus areas this year. The announcement also included the release of a new study on the topic from the City of Pittsburgh.  “The report is a good start to quantify the need, but it is a call to action for a plan on how we reach our goals — and this piece of legislation will create the plan,” said Ms. Rudiak. She is not seeking re-election.  About 1,500 children in Pittsburgh don’t have access to full-day, high-quality preschool programming, according to a 2016 report from the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. Only 16 percent of center-based preschool providers here are considered “high-quality,” Ms. Rudiak said.

'I'm very shaken up': Transgender students, advocates react to Trump's order
By Elizabeth Behrman and Molly Born / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 24, 2017 12:00 AM
Elissa Ridenour was stunned when a friend approached her in the school cafeteria Thursday and said President Donald Trump had rolled back federal protections for transgender students. His administration’s order, which was issued Wednesday night through the Departments of Education and Justice, reverses a directive put in place by Barack Obama that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. The new order places the issue in the hands of states and local school districts, which now will be responsible for interpreting federal anti-discrimination law.  “I’m very disappointed,” said Ms. Ridenour, 18. “I knew it could possibly come to this, but I didn’t think it would happen so soon.”  Ms. Ridenour is one of three transgender students who filed a federal lawsuit against the Pine-Richland School District. They sued last fall after the school board enacted a policy requiring them to use facilities consistent with their biological gender.

“PA Cyber, which was founded in 2000 and is headquartered in Midland, serves more than 10,000 students annually.”
PA Cyber, Lincoln Park vital to Midland's future
Beaver County Times By Jared Stonesifer February 23, 2017
MIDLAND -- The closure of ATI has been a tremendous loss for the people and local government of Midland, but that’s not to say everything is doom and gloom in the borough.  Educational institutions like the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School are thriving in Midland. They employ hundreds of teachers and administrators, and both contribute significantly to Midland’s tax coffers in the process.  For PA Cyber, the school’s presence is hard to miss in Midland. The school is the largest employer in the borough, after all.  Brian Hayden, the chief executive officer of PA Cyber, said the institution owns six buildings in Midland in addition to a currently empty lot. PA Cyber also rents an additional building for its operations.  The school employs 745 people across Pennsylvania, 305 of which work in Midland. Of those 745 total employees, 292 work remotely from home, but for tax purposes, those employees are counted as working in Midland.  That means Pa Cyber pays a local services tax to Midland based on 597 employees, which comes out to more than $31,000 a year. In addition, Hayden said 29 PA Cyber employees actually live in Midland, and they pay more than $15,000 annually in local taxes.

‘The system is failing too many kids’ — text of Education Secretary DeVos’s speech at CPAC
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss February 23 at 2:04 PM 
Here are the full remarks Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered Thursday at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference, as provided by the Education Department:
Hello! Thank you for that warm welcome. I always love the energy and enthusiasm CPAC brings together every year.  I’m Betsy DeVos. You may have heard some of the “wonderful” things the mainstream media has called me lately. I, however, pride myself on being called a mother, a grandmother, a life partner, and perhaps the first person to tell Bernie Sanders to his face that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  The media has had its fun with me, and that’s OK. My job isn’t to win a popularity contest with the media or the education establishment here in Washington. My job as Secretary of Education is to make education work for students. But today, we know the system is failing too many kids.

Betsy DeVos: 'Education Establishment' Has Blocked Efforts to Fix Schools
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on February 23, 2017 3:31 PM
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos urged conservative activists Thursday to help her fight against the "education establishment," which she said has blocked students from getting access to school choice and quality schools.  "Our nation's test scores have flatlined," DeVos told a roomful at the Conservative Political Action Conference, sponsored by the American Conservative Union. "The education establishment has been blocking the doorway to reforms, fixes, and improvements for a generation. ... This not a Left or Right issue. This is an American issue. We need education to work for every child. ... We have a unique window of opportunity to make school choice a reality for millions of families."  It's unclear how President Donald Trump and DeVos plan to move forward on their school choice vision. Trump pitched a $20 billion voucher program on the campaign trail, but that might be difficult to pass in Congress. Choice advocates are more optimistic about the prospects of extending federal tax credits to corporations and individuals that donate to scholarship-granting organizations.    And DeVos—who was greeted at the conference with cheers and shouts of "We love you!"—criticized the Obama administration's now defunct School Improvement Grant program, saying it cost more than $7 billion, but that there's no evidence that it improved student results.

Trump’s withdrawal of guidance on transgender student rights leaves bathroom questions up to schools and states
Washington Post By Emma Brown and Moriah Balingit February 23 at 6:22 PM 
After the Trump administration revoked federal guidelines on transgender student rights, officials from New York to Washington to Tulsa moved quickly this week to assure their communities that they would continue to allow students to use school bathrooms aligned with their gender identity. But other districts had never complied with the Obama administration’s guidance after it was issued in May — and they don’t plan to do so now.  That leaves intact a patchwork of policies on transgender student accommodations that varies widely across the country. Advocates for these students say the result is that many will be forced to go through school being called by what feels to them like the wrong name and being required to use what they feel are the wrong bathrooms. Until this week, the federal government had provided a uniform standard for how schools should resolve sensitive questions concerning transgender students.  “Having some type of national voice indicating that this is how we want students to be treated created at least something that everyone could look to,” said Jayne Ellspermann, a Florida principal who is president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “Basically, that compass has been removed.”

Betsy DeVos is Publicly Polite, but a Political Fighter
New York Times By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA FEB. 23, 2017
Hours before President Trump rescinded a federal policy allowing transgender students to use the school bathrooms that match their gender identities, his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, met with a representative of gay and transgender employees at the Education Department to warn of what was coming.  In her presence, an aide assured the employee that, as was widely reported, Ms. DeVos had resisted the move, according to people briefed on the Wednesday meeting. Yet she gave no public sign that there had been a rift within the Trump administration, or that she had come up short. She joined in the announcement of the new policy, and on Thursday, she told the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that the earlier federal guidelines were “a very huge example of the Obama administration’s overreach.”  But people who have known and watched Ms. DeVos through the years — as a leading advocate of charter schools and school vouchers, a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman and a major Republican donor — warn against thinking that she will be a meek team player. She may be publicly gracious, even in the face of setbacks, they say. But in her home state, she earned a reputation as a driven, relentless and effective political fighter, using her family’s vast fortune to reward allies and punish foes, and working behind the scenes to pass legislation and unseat lawmakers who opposed her.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 2/24/2017

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. 

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania March 15, from 5:30-7:00 p.m.,
On March 15, from 5:30-7:00 p.m., join attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a briefing on public education.
Topics include:
·         the basics of education funding
·         the school funding lawsuit
·         the property tax elimination bill and how it would affect school funding
1.5 CLE credits available to PA licensed attorneys.

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
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 #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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