Wednesday, February 8, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 8, 2017 Reactions to Wolf’s Budget/DeVos Confirmation

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 8, 2017
Reactions to Wolf’s Budget/DeVos Confirmation

Blogger note: Great to see the Governor’s commitment to funding education, even in a tough budget year.  Especially good to see the proposed increase in early childhood resources.  As a fifth term school board member here’s my summary of the proposed budget:

+$100M basic education
+$  25M special education
-$144M 500 districts’ share of PSERS cost increase
-$  50M cut in pupil transportation line
= $69M more that our districts/taxpayers will have to pony up

As far as I know, there has been no “pension reform” legislation in play that would address our skyrocketing short term costs.  In the meantime, yesterday the House Ed Committee voted out HB250, which would divert $75 million more to unaccountable private and religious schools via the EITC/OSTC programs.  How about if we used that $75 million to reduce the pension increase burden on taxpayers?

Some Montgomery County school districts oppose property tax elimination
Times Herald By Bob Keeler, on Twitter POSTED: 02/07/17, 10:27 AM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
SOUDERTON >> Proposed state legislation to do away with school property taxes has “laudable objectives,” including helping senior citizens and others on a fixed income, according to Wissahickon School District Superintendent James Crisfield.  “But it’s mixed in with a really nefarious, unstated subtext, which is a desire on the part of some to reduce spending on education. Both aspects need to be recognized and addressed separately in the open,” Crisfield said at a Monday, Feb. 6 press conference at Souderton Area School District’s E. M. Crouthamel Elementary School featuring officials from area school districts.  The proposal to eliminate property taxes was the portion to be addressed in this presentation, he said. Other topics raised were concerns about increasing costs to the districts for pensions and charter schools. A proposal to replace school property taxes with an increase to state income tax and sales tax rates and adding to the items on which the sales tax is paid was narrowly defeated in the Pennsylvania Senate last year, but is believed to have enough votes to pass this year.
“It would be a huge tax shift. It would be a bonanza for businesses who would no longer pay property taxes,” said Lawrence Feinberg, a board member in Delaware County’s School District of Haverford Township and The Campaign for Fair Education member.  In Wissahickon, the 10 largest property tax payments, totaling about $6 million per year, come from businesses, Crisfield said.

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

Governor Wolf’s 2017-2018 Budget Address
Governor Wolf’s website February 07, 2017
Transcript and 22 minute video

Unpacking Pennsylvania budget plan
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana offers his take on Gov. Tom Wolf's budget proposal.
WHYY Newsworks BY DAVE HELLER FEBRUARY 7, 2017 Audio Runtime 3:46
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Tuesday unveiled his proposed budget for the next fiscal year. He named increases in education and senior care funding as among his priorities, while proposing to pay for those increases by closing corporate tax loopholes and by streamlining state government. The Democrat stressed that his budget includes no broad-based tax increases. He also acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead for the approval process with a majority Republican Legislature.  House Majority Leader Dave Reed reviewed the governor's budget proposal with NewsWorks Tonight host Dave Heller.  Listen to their conversation below.

Wolf calls education 'first priority' in budget, boosts funding by $209 million
Jacqueline Palochko Contact ReporterOf The Morning Call February 7, 2017
If the spending plan Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled Tuesday is passed, he will have increased basic education funding by $500 million since he took office.  In this third budget proposal, Wolf once again prioritized education spending, which was a campaign promise he made after his predecessor Gov. Tom Corbett slashed it amid the Great Recession.  Wolf's planned $32.3 billion budget for 2017-18 calls for a $100 million increase in basic education. It also calls for $75 million more in early childhood education, $25 million more for special education and $8.9 million more for the 14 state-owned universities.  Early childhood and special education have received boosts from Wolf before. Last year, the budget increased early childhood education by $30 million and special education by $20 million. Basic education funding increased by $200 million last year. Wolf's planned budget also calls for a $50 million cut in transportation costs for school districts, although local superintendents weren't sure Tuesday how that would impact Lehigh Valley districts.

“In addition to this funding increase, PSBA encourages the General Assembly and the governor to pass pension reform, support a charter school funding commission, apply the special education formula to charter schools, and implement property tax reform that diversifies the tax structure, provides relief to taxpayers and meets the financial needs of our students.   “For years, school directors have been asking for unfunded mandate relief,” Mains said. “Coupled with increased funding, mandate relief would keep more money in our schools to allow resources to go where they belong – in the classroom.”  
Statement: PSBA applauds governor’s budget for continued investment in public education
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) is pleased that Gov. Tom Wolf is again promoting an increased investment in education by proposing a more than $200 million increase in spending for the 2017-18 fiscal year.  “Few things are as important as the investment we make in our children’s education,” said PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains. “The fiscal challenges of the state are real and projected revenue is falling short, which makes this proposal so significant. Education is the key to keeping Pennsylvania competitive, and this funding will continue moving the state forward in the right direction.”  The governor’s proposal would put $100 million into basic education, $25 million into special education and $75 million into early childhood education. 

Wolf's proposed $100 million boost to Pa. education welcome but not enough, some say
Trib Live JAMIE MARTINES  | Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, 12:41 a.m.
Members of the education community are pleased to see that Gov. Tom Wolf hopes to increase education funding next year. But some worries remain about how lawmakers will move forward with addressing mandated costs — expenses related to pensions, employee benefits, special education and charter schools, for example — that keep climbing. “That's something that really needs to be solved so that districts don't have to put so much of their funding that they do get into those kinds of costs,” said Steve Robinson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. He hoped the General Assembly will look for ways to address this issue.

Wolf touts 'largest cuts ' to state bureaucracy in history
Inquirer by Karen Langley & Angela Couloumbis - Staff Writers Updated: FEBRUARY 7, 2017 — 7:06 PM EST
HARRISBURG — Gov. Wolf on Tuesday unveiled a $32.3 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year that would close Pennsylvania's daunting deficit largely through cuts and agency consolidation, while shying away from the large-scale tax hikes that helped doom his past budget proposals.  Wolf’s latest plan would use new taxes and fees to help raise nearly $1 billion to increase funding for public schools, drug addiction prevention, and other state programs. It does so in part through a new tax on natural gas drilling and a likely controversial $25-per-person fee in towns that rely on the state police for local coverage.  But gone this year were proposals for hikes in the state income or sales taxes. Instead, the first-term Democratic governor touted what he called "the largest cuts to, and consolidations of, government bureaucracy” in state history.

Wolf budget calls for natural gas tax, minimum wage increase
Trib Live KEVIN ZWICK  | Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, 11:33 a.m.
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf's new spending proposal is only the start of the frenzied budget negotiating season in the state Capitol. Republican leaders lauded parts of the governor's proposal, but indicated more expansive changes to public pension systems would be necessary before they'd approve parts of his proposal. Wolf on Tuesday revealed a $32.3 billion spending package built on a combination of $2 billion in funding cuts and tax increases for next year's budget. “In my proposed budget, there are no broad-based taxes,” Wolf said during an address before the combined houses of the Legislature. He said the proposal “contains the largest cuts to, and consolidations of, government bureaucracy in our history.”

Pa. budget winner: Public schools would see another funding boost
Penn Live By Jan Murphy |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 07, 2017 at 11:42 AM, updated February 07, 2017 at 11:56 AM
At a glance: Building on Gov. Tom Wolf's commitment to increase the state's investment in education, his 2017-18 budget unveiled on Tuesday provides for a $100 million boost for basic education (the bread and butter of state funding for school districts), $25 million more for special education, and $75 million more for preschool.
What it means: School districts that are struggling to cope with higher pension, health care and special education costs would have some more money to cover those bills and possibly leave some to avoid increasing class sizes and maybe spare some academic programs. The boost in preschool funding will allow more than 8,400 additional children to enroll in Pre-K Counts and Head Start programs. Combined with money for other education lines in the budget, the state investment in education under the governor's proposal would reach a record high topping $9 billion.
Verdict: It's a win for the Department of Education on all the major funding lines for public schools, and reflective of the high priority Wolf has put on the educating Pennsylvania's children.

“Unfortunately, it does not add up. And it is unfortunate, as Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman noted Tuesday, that Wolf's budget does not address the more than $60 billion in unfunded liabilities faced by Pennsylvania's two big public pension systems. A serious spending proposal must address this fiscal calamity that, if left to fester, will consume larger and larger shares of future state revenue. This is an issue that screams for attention in a year with no elections for legislative or executive positions in Harrisburg. And yet, the governor punted on it. Wolf's budget makes education a priority, seeking to steer more than a third of his proposed $571.5 million boost in spending increases as follows: $100 million more for basic education, $25 million for special education, $75 million for pre-K and $8.9 million for the State System of Higher Education, 14 universities that include Kutztown, Millersville and West Chester.”
Editorial: A good start, but governor’s budget needs work
Reading Eagle Wednesday February 8, 2017 12:01 AM
 Gov. Tom Wolf’s spending plan is not balanced and fails to address pensions.
 In this non-election year, it’s time to tackle the big issues in a serious way.
It's too bad Gov. Tom Wolf has offered his election-year budget a year early.
That being said, in a lot of ways, the third-year Democratic governor's spending plan for the coming year does just what it should, setting priorities, and seeking efficiencies and new revenues to offset increases.  In one key area, however, Wolf's budget falls short. According to his own budget secretary, his plan includes $605 million in deficit carryover.  The biggest applause line in the governor's budget address Tuesday before a Republican-dominated state Legislature was that he was seeking no increase in the state's income or sales taxes.

 “The pension bubble, now some $70 billion in counting, is the beast that's consuming state government. And the administration and General Assembly will have to rein it in if they ever want to get the state back onto sound financial footing. Wolf's spokesman, J.J. Abbott said his boss is open to working with lawmakers in getting a pension bill onto the books. One proposal last session fell just three votes shy of winning House approval.”
Wolf's budget suggests some radical surgery, but leaves key problems behind: John L. Micek
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 07, 2017 at 1:08 PM, updated February 07, 2017 at 3:17 PM
When people want to know what it's like to live in Pennsylvania, just ask them to picture feudal England.  With some 2,500 municipalities, at least half as many police departments, 500 school districts, 67 county governments, and countless local boards and authorities, the Keystone State resembles nothing so much as a collection of Medieval fiefdoms, ripe with competing interests, who jealously guard their prerogatives even as they suspiciously eye the village over the next hill.
So into this breach steps Gov. Tom Wolf, rolling out a budget plan that doesn't exactly do away with all those fiefdoms (because now you're just talking crazy talk), but at least seeks to nominally reduce the number of feudal lords royally overseeing the duplicative services that have been hoovering money out of the treasury for, lo, these last many years.

Inquirer Editorial: Wolf has given Republicans a budget they can work with
Updated: FEBRUARY 8, 2017 — 3:01 AM EST
Gov. Wolf's proposed $32.3 billion budget isn't just a spending plan, it's an admission of defeat in getting the Republican-led legislature to raise income and sales taxes. With the state facing a grim $3 billion deficit through next year, however, the governor is rightly asking for a severance tax on natural gas, a reasonable 6.5 percent. The budget presented Tuesday doesn't address pension reform and escalating Medicaid costs, which Republican leaders were quick to point out. But Wolf's plan provides a much better starting point for negotiations that avoid the destructive and humiliating stalemates over the past two years that forced the state to borrow money.
Wolf has no choice but to find Republicans who will work with him. Given that reality, he could have consulted with GOP leaders prior to presenting his budget. Getting early leadership support for some ideas might pave the way for their passage later, unless the Republicans insist on being obstructionists.

Local schools pleased - mostly - with Wolf's budget proposal
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham & Kathy Boccella - Staff Writers Updated: FEBRUARY 7, 2017 — 5:40 PM EST
Given Pennsylvania’s current fiscal and political climate, a proposed budget with millions of dollars in new money for school districts is a win, officials - and some education watchers - say.
Gov. Wolf on Tuesday said he wants to provide $100 million in new basic education funding to the state’s school districts for the 2018 fiscal year, plus $25 million more for special education, $75 million in new early childhood funds, and $8.9 million more for the universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.  Superintendents said the money would help, but many are concerned that the aid from Harrisburg will not keep pace with their rising pension costs.
“You’d always like to invest and provide more for our kids,” Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera. “Given the revenue, the fact that the governor was able to provide more than $100 million more for schools - it’s a good day.”

Richman moves one step closer to SRC, says she's in no hurry to dissolve Philly board
At her Tuesday confirmation hearing, Estelle Richman, Gov. Tom Wolf's pick for the School Reform Commission, reiterated her support for school choice — and indicated she does not want to dissolve the SRC. After the hearing, the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee unanimously approved Richman's nomination. Her nomination now heads to the full State Senate for a final vote that could come as soon as Wednesday. Tuesday's vote was something of a formality. Lawmakers struck a congenial tone with Richman, a longtime civil servant with years of experience in Harrisburg. The former head of what was formerly the state's Department of Public Welfare reciprocated the pleasantries during a largely drama-free hearing. But Richman did reaffirm and reveal positions on key issues that will likely interest Philadelphia observers.

Will Richman join SRC in charter-school vote?
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: FEBRUARY 7, 2017 — 7:29 PM EST
Will Estelle B. Richman be a member of the School Reform Commission on Wednesday, when the panel meets to consider three new charter-school applications? Probably. But whether she’ll vote on the applications is up in the air.  Richman, nominated to the board by Gov. Wolf, appeared before the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. Her nomination was voted out of committee Tuesday night. In the best-case scenario, the full Senate will vote her onto the SRC on Wednesday. Richman said SRC staff members had been asked to have a notary lined up so she can be sworn in before the 4 p.m. SRC meeting.

Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary; Pence Breaks Tie
WASHINGTON — Betsy DeVos, a wealthy Republican donor with almost no experience in public education, was confirmed by the Senate as the nation’s education secretary on Tuesday, but only with the help of a historic tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence after weeks of protests and two defections within her own party. The 51-to-50 vote capped an all-night vigil on the Senate floor, where, one by one, Democrats denounced Ms. DeVos to a mostly empty chamber. But they did not get a third Republican defection that would have stopped Ms. DeVos — a billionaire who has devoted much of her life to promoting charter schools and vouchers — from becoming the steward of the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools.  It was the first time a vice president has been summoned to the Capitol to break a tie on a cabinet nomination.

NYT Editorial: Betsy DeVos Teaches the Value of Ignorance
New York Times By THE EDITORIAL BOARD FEB. 7, 2017
 “Government really sucks.” This belief, expressed by the just-confirmed education secretary, Betsy DeVos, in a 2015 speech to educators, may be the only qualification she needed for President Trump.  Ms. DeVos is the perfect cabinet member for a president determined to appoint officials eager to destroy the agencies they run and weigh the fate of policies and programs based on ideological considerations.  She has never run, taught in, attended or sent a child to an American public school, and her confirmation hearings laid bare her ignorance of education policy and scorn for public education itself. She has donated millions to, and helped direct, groups that want to replace traditional public schools with charter schools and convert taxpayer dollars into vouchers to help parents send children to private and religious schools.  While her nomination gave exposure to an honest and passionate debate about charter schools as an alternative to traditional public schools, her hard-line opposition to any real accountability for these publicly funded, privately run schools undermined their founding principle as well as her support. Even champions of charters, like the philanthropist Eli Broad and the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, opposed her nomination.

Pa's two U.S. Senators had very different reactions to the Betsy DeVos vote.
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on February 07, 2017 at 2:37 PM, updated February 07, 2017 at 2:45 PM
Now that Veep Mike Pence has cast a historic tie-breaking vote to confirm new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, here's what Pennsylvania's two United States senators had to say about it. In a statement, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said Devos, a forceful charter schools advocate, "understands that reform should begin with parents and communities." The Lehigh Valley lawmaker was the subject of an intense lobbying campaign to get him to vote against the Trump administration's pick. The protest group "Tuesdays with Toomey" picketed his offices statewide, while opponents of Devos blasted his offices with phone calls, emails and faxes.

State legislators, education officials react to appointment of Betsy DeVos
Now that the Michigan billionaire is confirmed — barely — educators hope her inexperience doesn’t become a liability.
By Elizabeth Behrman / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 7, 2017 3:57 PM
Some Pennsylvania education advocates are disappointed that Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos is officially the U.S. Secretary of Education, but many said today they will continue to press her to protect public education.  "I congratulate Ms. DeVos," said Lawrence Feinberg, co-chair of the Keystone State Education Coalition. "I wish her the best of luck getting up to speed. I would strongly invite her to come visit our schools and to learn what public education is actually about."
The Senate confirmed Ms. DeVos, a school choice advocate and longtime Republican donor, in a 50-50 vote today, with Vice President Mike Pence voting to break the tie in a historic vote.
Mr. Feinberg's organization opposed Ms. DeVos' appointment and urged U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, to vote against her last week.  "I just hope she gets out in the field and gets to see the good work that public schools are doing and isn’t just looking at education through a filter of school choice," Mr. Feinberg said.  Sen. Toomey, who voted in her favor, released a statement last week praising Ms. DeVos for her work to provide quality school options to all children.

Despite weeks of opposition, DeVos is confirmed – barely
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa February 7, 2017 — 12:50pm
The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as U.S. secretary of education Tuesday. The vote was tied, 50-50, and Vice President Mike Pence then cast the tie-breaking vote. It was the first time in history that a vice president needed to step in to tip the balance for a Cabinet appointee. Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, broke with their colleagues and voted against the Michigan billionaire, who is a prolific Republican campaign donor and a proponent of vouchers and charter school expansion. They cited her shaky performance in her confirmation hearing before the Senate HELP Committee, of which they are members, and said their offices had been inundated with thousands of calls, faxes, and emails. 

Philadelphia education community blasts Betsy DeVos confirmation
Inquirer by Emily Babay , Staff Writer  @emilybabay | Updated: FEBRUARY 7, 2017 — 6:19 PM EST
The Philadelphia education community has been quick to condemn school choice activist Betsy DeVos' confirmation as secretary of education.  The Senate confirmed DeVos on Tuesday, with Vice President Pence breaking a 50-50 tie, the first time a vice president has had to cast such a vote on a cabinet nomination.  Pennsylvania's senators were split on the nomination: Democrat Bob Casey has been among those vocally opposing President Trump's pick to lead the Department of Education, while Republican Pat Toomey backed DeVos. Her nomination had been divisive in the Senate and among the public, with critics citing the wealthy Republican donor's lack of public school experience and financial ties to charter-school groups.   In Philadelphia, reaction to the confirmation was swift and largely negative.

DeVos confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Education: Here's what she can, can't do
Keystone Crossroads/WHYY Newsworks BY AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT FEBRUARY 7, 2017
Despite surprisingly robust opposition, Betsy DeVos became U.S. secretary of education Tuesday, thanks to a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence. The opposition was, in part, surprising because the secretary of education doesn't wield all that much power. In broad terms, education is largely a local issue. States and school districts provide most of the money and make most of the rules. That, however, doesn't mean the federal government is powerless. The Obama administration used financial incentives and the bully pulpit to endorse school turnaround models, ramp up teacher evaluation, and advance civil rights issues. So what can Betsy DeVos actually do in her cabinet post? And how might those actions trickle down to local schools? Or, to put it another way, after all of that impassioned debate, what happens next?
We surveyed a handful of experts from around the country to produce this primer on what the secretary of Education can do; what she can't do; and what she may do.

Reaction — pro, con and otherwise — to DeVos confirmation
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss February 7 at 2:40 PM 
From right and left and in between are coming scores of reactions to the historic Senate vote to confirm Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos as education secretary, revealing the Mariana Trench-sized divide in opinion about her and the state of the debate about public education in the United States. The Senate confirmed DeVos on Tuesday after Mike Pence became the first vice president in history to break a tie for a Cabinet nominee, a 50-50 vote among senators.

Betsy DeVos Just Bought Herself a Trump Cabinet Position
She and her family are likely just getting started trying to buy Republican support for their radical education agenda
Rolling Stone By Tessa Stuart February 7, 2017
Betsy DeVos just bought herself a nice little cabinet position. On Tuesday afternoon, most Senate Republicans – all but Maine's Susan Collins and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski – voted to confirm the billionaire Amway heiress as secretary of education. Cut through the noise and the nonsense, and examine the fallout from Trump's opening blitz It cost her $115,000 in personal donations to sitting Republican senators; $950,000 more has flowed in from the DeVos family over the last three-and-a-half decades. And another $8.3 million from the DeVoses has gone to Republican super PACs in the last two election cycles alone. Not cheap! But it got the job done.
And no one should expect her family's financial manipulation of Republican senators to stop there. In fact, if what the DeVoses have done in Michigan is any indication, she and her family are likely just getting started trying to buy Republican support for their radical agenda.

House overturns two Obama-era education regulations
Washington Post By Emma Brown and Juliet Eilperin February 7 at 6:57 PM 
The House of Representatives on Tuesday overturned two key education regulations enacted under President Barack Obama, a move that could change how state officials evaluate school performance and roll back requirements for programs that train new K-12 teachers.  The two votes under the Congressional Review Act, a measure that allows lawmakers to repeal regulations within 60 days of their enactment, aim to curtail the authority of federal officials over educational decisions on the state and local level. To nullify the rules, the Senate must also vote to overturn them and the president must sign the resolutions into law.  The teacher-preparation rule, meant to ensure that new teachers are ready for the nation’s classrooms, require each state to issue annual ratings for teacher-prep programs within their borders, with poor-performing programs losing eligibility for some federal student aid. It stemmed from the Higher Education Act. It was overturned by a vote of 240 to 181.  The school accountability rule — which lays out how states should judge which schools are serving students well and which are struggling and need help — stemmed from a bipartisan law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. But many members argued that the previous administration stretched the confines of the law in crafting their regulations.

Why Teaching Civics in America's Classrooms Must Be a Trump-Era Priority
The testing craze stripped schools of a key mission: creating engaged citizens.
When I was about 10, a classmate in my small-town school in Latvia liked to tell me in between classes that he hated Jews. I was the only Jewish kid in school, and one day as I walked home I heard steps behind me. My eyes caught his, and we stood there for a moment. I still remember his face—hazel eyes, closely cropped blond hair—and his navy uniform jacket over a white shirt. Suddenly, I heard a crunch as his fist landed on my left cheekbone, and I fell backward on a sidewalk damp with melting snow. I still remember the hollow ringing in my left ear. I looked around to scream for help, but the streets were empty. I've never felt more terrified and alone.
"There is nothing we can do to change him," my father said in our garage the next day. He wore a large black boxing glove on his left hand that he made me practice hitting late into the night. "You have to throw the punch from your shoulder, and pack the weight of your entire body into it," he said. "As soon as you show any fear, you've already lost."  My mother and I eventually left Latvia, and bullying was a big reason for me. It's been 22 years since I've thought about this particular incident—but the recent surge of media reports about xenophobic language and harassment across the United States brings those old fears roaring back. And now that we have an administration that has welcomed into the White House advisers with a long history of promoting Islamophobia and boosting white nationalists, I find myself wondering what that means for today's bullies and their victims.

K12's stock rallies after DeVos confirmed as Secretary of Education
Marketwatch By TOMIKILGORE REPORTER AND EDITOR Published: Feb 7, 2017 2:36 p.m. ET
Shares of K12 Inc. LRN, +1.25% rallied 1% in afternoon trade Tuesday, after Vice President Pence broke a tie to confirm Betsy DeVos as the next Secretary of Education. "While somewhat of a controversial choice, we believe this appointment will be positive for the private sector (for-profit) education sector, specifically in the K-12 segment where Ms. Devos has been a strong proponent of school reform, particularly charter schools," Analyst Jeffrey Silber at BMO Capital Markets wrote in a note to clients. "This could be a positive for K12 Inc., which helps to manage virtual charter schools."

City of Philadelphia Hiring: Join the PHLpreK team! The Mayor’s Office of Education in Philadelphia is hiring a Pre-K Initiatives Director.
Learn more and apply here:

Drexel University Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day will be held on February 11 from 10:00AM-2:00PM at the ExCITe Center

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

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

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

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

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

SAVE THE DATE LWVPA Convention 2017 June 1-4, 2017
Join the League of Women Voters of PA for our 2017 Biennial Convention at the beautiful Inn at Pocono Manor!

Save the Date 2017 PA Principals Association State Conference October 14. 15, 16, 2017
Doubletree Hotel Cranberry Township,  PA

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