Tuesday, March 14, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 14: HB250: This is what privatization of our public schools looks like; ask your state senator to support your community’s public schools

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 14, 2017:
HB250: This is what privatization of our public schools looks like; ask your state senator to support your community’s public schools

Pa. House backs HB250 $75 million expansion of school choice tax credit programs
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on March 13, 2017 at 6:22 PM, updated March 13, 2017 at 8:09 PM
The House of Representatives on Monday threw down a marker in Pennsylvania's upcoming 2017-18 budget negotiations by passing legislation to boost funding for popular tax credit programs that support school choice opportunities.  By a 147-39 bi-partisan vote, the chamber approved legislation, sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai, would increase funding for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program to $175 million from the current $125 million.  It also would raise the amount of tax credits for the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit program to $75 million from the current $50 million.  Both programs give state tax breaks to businesses that make contributions to educational programs.  The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration.  The proposed funding for the EITC program would provide $105 million in tax credits to businesses that support private school scholarships, $52.5 for those supporting innovative education programs, and $17.5 million for businesses donating to preschool scholarship programs.  The Opportunity Scholarship program, meanwhile, gives tax breaks to businesses that fund scholarships targeted to children residing in attendance areas of low-achieving schools.

“The bill's sponsors say HB 250 would expand school choice opportunities and help more students escape from failing schools. But according to Spicka, the law itself rules out verifying that the money actually is achieving that goal.  "The original law explicitly prohibits collecting any kind of information about whether or not students are leaving lower-achieving schools to go to higher-achieving schools, so we really have no idea which students are getting these scholarships," she explained.   The law also prohibits tracking achievement to determine if students perform better in the private schools.  Spicka adds that even families earning more than $100,000 are eligible to receive scholarships, and the schools themselves can pick and choose which students they take.  "These are schools that are allowed to discriminate against any student for any reason," she added. "So they can discriminate against students who are disabled, or are poor, or are students of color, and they can still receive these tax dollars." 
HB 250 now goes to the state Senate for its consideration.”

HB250: House Bill Would Divert More Public Money to Private Schools
House Bill 250 would expand two educational tax-credit programs by a total of $75 million
Public News Service March 14, 2017
HARRISBURG, Pa. – State representatives in Harrisburg on Monday passed a bill that critics say would effectively divert state tax money to private and religious schools and other organizations. HB 250 would expand the Educational Improvement Tax Credit by $50 million, and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit by $25 million. The two programs already allow corporations up to $125 million in tax breaks for supporting private schools.  While not a direct expenditure of state funds, Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, points out that, in practice, HB 250 would accomplish virtually the same thing.  "What it does is, it reduces the money that's available for public education and everything else by $75 million," she said. 

How Did Your State Rep Vote on HB250?
PA House Roll Call Vote HB250 March 13, 2017

HB250: Myth busting the $125 million private and religious school scholarship tax credits in the EITC/OSTC programs: Lots of $$$ with no fiscal or academic performance accountability
Education Voters PA March 12, 2017

“You might wonder how tax credits could damage the public schools, if they merely divert tax dollars to private schools without affecting already-existing federal public school programs. Here is how this would likely work out. While the federal government provides less than 10 percent of school funding, states are a primary funder of public schools, covering about half of school spending. Any federal tax credit program would very likely be designed to incentivize states to launch new tuition tax credit programs or expand existing programs. And establishing or expanding state tax credits would reduce the amount of tax dollars flowing into the states’ public education budgets.”
Many Predict Trump-DeVos Will Privatize with Tuition Tax Credits, Not Plain Old Vouchers
Jan Resseger’s Blog Posted on February 27, 2017 by janresseger
Everyone is wondering exactly how President Donald Trump’s and Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos’s plans for expanding privatization of public education will play out. Two upcoming events may provide more details.  It has been predicted that the President will lay out his priorities when he releases his budget proposal in mid-March. Even before that, however, in a major address tomorrow to a joint session of Congress, he has said he’ll outline his policy priorities. Here is Politico commenting on what is expected from tomorrow’s address: “White House officials said that after a first month driven almost entirely by policies they could enact unilaterally, the joint congressional address will focus on work the White House wants done on Capitol Hill during the rest of 2017.”  The President and his education secretary have said they will expand the privatization of education but how that will happen isn’t yet clear. One member of the House of Representatives has already introduced a bill to eliminate the federal education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now called the Every Student Succeeds Act) entirely and redirect the money now spent on Title I, ESEA’s primary program, to a school choice expansion. Others predict that Trump and DeVos will expand the one existing federal voucher program in Washington, D.C.

“The ACCESS Program is currently used by Pennsylvania school districts, intermediate units, charter schools, vocational-technical schools and preschool early intervention programs to obtain funds for health-related services for special education students. Reimbursement is paid to these schools through the federal Medicaid program.  Under proposed legislation, Pennsylvania could lose more than $140 million in federal funding now provided for the ACCESS program. If this happens, local schools will not be able to afford the special education programs they are legally required to provide.”
Join PSBA and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey for a Telephone Town Hall to discuss proposed Medicaid changes; March 15, 5:00 pm
You are invited to join U.S. Senator Bob Casey for a Telephone Town Hall Meeting Wednesday, March 15, at 5 p.m. to talk about proposed changes to the federal Medicaid program and the impact on Pennsylvania’s School-Based ACCESS program that assists schools in providing medically necessary services to children with disabilities.
Register for this complimentary event here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8380056895244462339
PSBA is hosting the event, along with the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units. Sen. Casey and representatives from our organizations will provide:
·         A brief overview of the issue
·         An update on the status of the proposal
·         The importance of your advocacy efforts with members of Congress

PA’s School-Based ACCESS Program is jeopardized under proposed federal cuts to Medicaid
Pennsylvania public schools are currently at risk of losing millions of dollars in federal funding to help pay for mandated services for students with special needs.
A PSBA Closer Look March 2017

Call your Congressman’s office today to let them know that Pennsylvania could lose over $140 million in reimbursement for services that school districts provide to special education students

“Pi Day as holiday for math whizzes to eat pie and dress up in pi-themed hats and costumes originated much later, about 30 years ago, at the Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco, where physicist Larry Shaw organized such a celebration. (The day also happens to be Albert Einstein's birthday.) In 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution designating March 14 as "National Pi Day" to encourage “schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about Pi and engage them about the study of mathematics.”
This Is How the Number 3.14 Got the Name 'Pi'
Time by Olivia B. Waxman March 14, 2017 7:30 AM Eastern
It's not hard to figure out why March 14 is celebrated annually as "Pi Day" bymath fans: The date resembles the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter — the number that begins 3.14, perhaps better known Pi ( π ), which the holiday's official website describes as an “irrational and transcendental number” whose decimals “continue infinitely without repetition or pattern."  What was hard to figure out was the number itself.  Ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse, who lived in the third century B.C. and is considered the greatest mathematician of the ancient world, is credited with doing the first calculation of pi.

Philly School District savings means headaches for charter schools
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda |  martha.woodall@phillynews.com Updated: MARCH 13, 2017 — 7:01 PM EDT
The School District of Philadelphia has warned the 86 charter schools in the city to brace for less funding this spring.  Uri Monson, the district’s chief finance officer, told charter officials he anticipates that the state soon will conclude that the district has been overpaying charters this academic year and certify lower rates.  Monson estimates that charter schools will be asked to repay the district more than $300 per student in regular classes and more than $1,000 for every special education student.  In an interview, he said he had not calculated the total that the district would save in charter expenses. But with nearly 65,000 students in charters, it could save a minimum of $19.5 million through June 30.  “I recognize that the estimated rate reduction is substantial and could have significant impacts on your end-of-year fiscal planning,” Monson wrote on Feb. 17 to charter officials.  “It is very distressing,” said Laurada Byers, founder of the Russell Byers Charter School in Center City and chair of Philadelphia Charters for Excellence. “Do we have to lay people off? What is it we could cut?”  Members of her organization said the change could result in the loss of 5 percent to 10 percent of their expected revenue.  “The vast majority of us work so hard to wring every dollar that we get, and our budgets are really tight,” she said.
Byers said her organization is trying to work with the district to make sure charter operators are not put in the position again of having rates change in the fourth quarter.

Hard Choices Still Ahead: The Financial Future of Pennsylvania School Districts
By William Hartman & Timothy J. Shrom MARCH 2017 Temple University’s Center on Regional Politics (CORP)
The focus of this study is the fiscal condition for all 500 Pennsylvania school districts for the period 2015-16 through 2019-20. The fiscal elements included in the study are: revenues by major category, expenditures by major category, and the resultant shortfalls/surpluses for each district.

How can you tell it's a day that ends in "Y?" Sen. Scott Wagner picks another fight with unions: Tuesday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on March 14, 2017 at 8:11 AM, updated March 14, 2017 at 8:15 AM
Dear Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
In case you haven't noticed, it's snowing outside -- pretty darn hard. So while we have your attention, we figured we'd point out something that's also screamingly obvious: State Sen. Scott Wagner really, really, really doesn't like public employee unions.  Depending upon your perspective, the unions (particularly the Pennsylvania State Education Association) are the Joker to the York County Republican's Batman -- or it's the other way around.
And those fights come replete with cartoon-sized "Biff!" "Bangs!" and "Pows!"
Thus it's no surprise that we fired up the old Capitol Notebook email account to find Wagner taking aim at public employee unions generally and PSEA in particular.  In a recent email blast to his supporters, Wagner calls PSEA "the number one public sector union that opposes any type of reform in Harrisburg, particularly pension reform and school tax elimination."

House passes bill requiring schools to drill students annually on reacting to security threats
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 13, 2017 at 5:22 PM, updated March 14, 2017 at 6:09 AM
The state House on Monday voted to require each public school building to conduct a school security drill every year instead of monthly fire drills.  By a 187-0 vote, the chamber agreed to send this bill, House Bill 178, to the Senate for consideration.  The bill defines a school security drill as a planned exercise to practice procedures to respond to an emergency situation, including but not limited to an act of terrorism, an armed intruder situation or other violent threat.  It requires school administrators to certify to the state Department of Education that the drill has been conducted while students are present by April 10 each year.  The bill's sponsor, Rep. Gary Day, R-Lehigh County, said today's times make this kind of a drill necessary.

Big crowd hears of big changes at Erie School District
Transportation, safety are among major concerns with reconfiguration plan.
Go Erie By Ed Palattella / ed.palattella@timesnews.com Posted Mar 13, 2017 at 9:06 PM Updated Mar 13, 2017 at 9:09 PM
Transportation is a big issue.  So is safety.  And many parents are worried about class sizes.
The Erie School District's first public meeting on its proposed schools reconfiguration plan brought forth a number of concerns from the 150 people who attended the 90-minute session on Monday night at the Booker T. Washington Center, 1720 Holland St.  One outcome that appeared to be inevitable, however, was the 11,500-student school district's need to consolidate its schools, including reducing the number of high schools from four to two.  With fewer students and no promise of additional state aid, Superintendent Jay Badams was clear at the start of the meeting that the 11,500-student Erie School District has no choice but to shrink.

Southern Lehigh administrator wants pilot kindergarten program to be permanent
Morning Call by Charles Malinchak March 13, 2017
Is Southern Lehigh's full-day kindergarten pilot program successful?  An administrator of the Southern Lehigh School District's full-day kindergarten would like what is now a pilot program become permanent based on measurable success.  The program was introduced in September. Students were screened and fit was found that some, some, with extra help, would be able to meet minimum learning standards and be academically prepared to enter first grade.  In a presentation to the district board of directors Monday night, Assistant to the Superintendent Kristen Lewis said an evaluation of the program shows significant gains in students improving their abilities.  "Our results show this program has exceeded our expectations. These students are doing significantly better," she said.  The system used to evaluate the 30 students in the full-day program is the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, which was developed at the University of Oregon.  The DIBELS evaluation, Lewis said, shows 3 percent of the students entering the program in September were at or above the benchmark of skills, but by January the number went up to 50 percent.

School taxes could go up in 2017-18 in your area, but by how much?
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer March 14, 2017
Lancaster County school districts are facing tax-hike caps of 2.5 percent to 3.7 percent in 2017-18, according to the state Department of Education.  Both the School District of Lancaster and Columbia Borough School District have the most flexibility, with caps of 3.7 percent, under the Act 1 indexes.  With the least maneuverability are Conestoga Valley, Eastern Lancaster County, Hempfield, Manheim Central, Manheim Township and Pequea Valley school districts, whose caps sit at 2.5 percent.  The Act 1 index was implemented with the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006, which eases the financial burden of property owners every year by setting an annual cap on school districts’ property tax increases.  School districts, however, can ask for an exception based upon factors such as pension liability or construction costs. In other words, the limit isn’t set in stone.
Five school districts — Conestoga Valley, Elizabethtown, Octorara Area, Penn Manor and Pequea Valley — ended up raising taxes over the original tax limit in 2016-17.  Penn Manor, for instance, increased its cap to make room for a 7 percent tax increase — the highest in Lancaster County. The district said the tax hike was intended in part to fund an $87 million high school construction project.  These latest caps are higher than those set in 2015-16, and the highest since 2010-11, when caps peaked at 4.2 percent.  The Act 1 index is calculated from the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage and the federal employment cost index for elementary and secondary schools.

Selling Fox Chase: One kindergarten open house in the era of school choice
Robert Caroselli isn't a button-up type of guy.  The principal at Fox Chase elementary, a K-5 school in Northeast Philadelphia, only wears a tie to work twice a year.  "The first time you'll see me in a tie is today," he likes to tell parents. "And the next time you'll see me is when your child graduates in six years."  The "today" he's referencing is Fox Chase's kindergarten open house, an annual showcase to attract the next generation of families. As the rare necktie indicates, Caroselli takes this task seriously. Since he arrived four years ago, the young principal has made it his mission to market this school of 490 to the middle-class communities that surrounds it  "The objective here is that parents can feel that this is a place that they want to send their children to," said Caroselli. "And not because they have to because it's the neighborhood school."  Kindergarten pre-registration runs March through May in the School District of Philadelphia. And the mere mention of it brings two types of schools to mind.  There are the ultra desirable city schools — often located in tiny swaths of Center City — where families clamor to get through the doors. Then there are schools in the city's declining pockets, where the ability (or inability) to lure new families may someday determine their survival.  Fox Chase falls somewhere in the vast middle. Over the last three years enrollment has grown, but the school isn't at capacity. By the time September rolls around, most if not all of the 90 kindergarten seats will be filled.  But in an era of expanded school choice, even schools like this are increasingly aware of the need to sell themselves. Rarely is that imperative more obvious than at kindergarten open houses.

School voucher a bad idea
Trib Live LETTER TO THE EDITOR by Elizabeth Grossheim Monday, March 13, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently visited a private religious school in Florida to publicize her push for school choice vouchers for families.  There have been no specific proposals yet, but both DeVos and President Trump have publicly said they support school choice. I think this would be a bad choice for students in our area.  When you give a family a voucher for their child to attend a private school, that means less money for the public schools, which taxpayers have funded for years.  These public schools by law take all students, whether they have high IQs, physical limitations or mental disabilities. Will private and charter schools be required to take all students? Or will they be able to choose which students to accept?  Students with special needs in public schools have individualized education plans (IEPs). How will private schools provide the help many students receive in special programs at public schools?

Trump Education Dept. Releases New ESSA Guidelines
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on March 13, 2017 8:06 AM
UPDATED - U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Monday released a new application for states to use in developing their accountability plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  And, as you might expect, it is shorter and includes fewer requirements than an earlier application released by the Obama administration in November. The biggest difference seems to be on the requirements for outreach to various groups of educators and advocates. More below.  DeVos said the template will allow states and districts to implement the law with "maximum flexibility" as Congress intended.   "We know each school district is unique," DeVos said in a speech in Washington Monday to the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents urban superintendents. "It's fairly obvious that the challenges and opportunities of Albuquerque and Wichita don't look the same. But neither do Miami and Palm Beach. No two schools are identical, just like no two students are alike. We shouldn't assume the same answer will work for everyone, every time. Too often the Department of Education has gone outside its established authority and created roadblocks, wittingly or unwittingly for parents and educators alike. This isn't right, nor is it acceptable. Under this administration, we will break this habit."  But ESSA's top Democratic architects—Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., were really unhappy with the template, especially the lack of a requirement to reach out to parents, educators, and advocates. 

“Sources said the budget proposal in the works could also eliminate the third-largest K-12 program in the department: Supporting Effective Instruction state grants program, also known as Title II, Part A, which is funded at $2.25 billion and provides funding for a host of professional development programs for educators. The money can also be used for hiring teachers and school leaders and reducing class sizes.   And there could be significant cuts to other programs, including the $1 billion Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education program, which is the largest federal funding source for high schools, as well as at least two longstanding college-access programs, TRIO and GEARUP.  Sources also said they did not expect the administration to fund Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new block grant created under the law that districts could use for health, safety, technology, arts, and other programs.   The budget could, however, make room for a $200 million pilot program for school choice, sources said. And charter school grants, currently funded at more than $300 million, could also see an increase. “
Trump Sharpens Budget Knife for Education Department, Sources Say
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on March 13, 2017 12:19 PM
The Trump administration is contemplating dramatic cuts to K-12 spending, including a possible $6 billion reduction to existing programs in the U.S. Department of Education, according to multiple education policy sources who have gleaned details about budget documents still being finalized. The department currently has a budget of about $70 billion.  The possible cuts would be included in the Trump administration's initial spending plan for fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1 and generally impacts the 2018-19 school year. Such cuts in a budget proposal expected this week could mean a staffing reduction at the department in the range of 25 to 30 percent, sources said, although it's not clear how the cuts would be applied. The department currently has about 4,000 employees.  Sources said specifics on the budget in general remain in flux, and it's still unclear how much detail will be included in the initial proposal. The Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.   Some of the programs said to be headed for the chopping block have major support on both sides of the congressional aisle. They include the roughly $1.2 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which could be slated for elimination, sources said. The program helps finance after-school, extended-day, and other enrichment programs, and is popular with lawmakers in rural states.  

Here's What You Should Know About That Voucher Bill HR610 From Rep. Steve King
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on March 14, 2017 7:50 AM
Although he's made headlines recently for controversial comments not directly about schools, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa has also made waves for introducing a bill that would dramatically reshape K-12 and education policy. That's House Resolution 610, and it would create federally backed vouchers for students.   We wrote about the bill earlier this year. The Choices in Education Act of 2017, the in-plain-English name of the bill, would repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the main K-12 law, of which the Every Student Succeeds Act is the latest version. It would create vouchers funded by Washington for parents to use at private schools if they chose to do so, or to use for home schooling their child. Under King's legislation, the federal government would fund those vouchers through creating block grants for states.   "As the spouse of a former Iowa teacher, I understand that it's the right thing for our children to take their education decision[s] out of the hands of the federal government and put it back in the hands of parents who know how best to meet the educational needs of their students," King said in a statement last year about a similar bill he introduced in 2016.
In addition, King's bill would overturn nutritional standards published in 2012 for the national school lunch and school breakfast programs. 

DeVos tells big-city school superintendents she believes in ‘great public schools’ — but some remain skeptical
Washington Post By Emma Brown March 13 at 4:35 PM 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told urban school superintendents on Monday that her agency intends to support their work and that “great public schools” should be among the education options available to families.  “I trust parents, I trust teachers, and I trust school leaders to do what is right for the students they serve,” she said, emphasizing her push to shrink the federal government’s role in local schools. “When Washington gets out of your way, you should be able to unleash new and creative thinking to set children up for success.”  It was a conciliatory message from an education secretary who has spent nearly three decades promoting vouchers, charter schools and other alternatives to traditional public schools. But it did not quell all the skepticism in the room at the annual legislative conference of the Council of the Great City Schools, a coalition of 68 big-city school systems.

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania March 15, from 5:30-7:00 p.m., in Philly
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.

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 #4 – Indiana University of Pennsylvania Tuesday, March 14, 2017 – 1011 South Drive (Stouffer Hall), Indiana, PA 15705
Forum #5 – Lehigh Valley Tuesday, March 28, 2017 – Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit #21, 4210 Independence Drive, Schnecksville, PA 18078
Governor Wolf will deliver his 2017-2018 state budget proposal to the General Assembly on February 7. These policy forums will be early opportunities to get up-to-date information about what is in the proposed education budget, the budget’s relative strengths and weaknesses, and key issues.  Each of the forums will take following basic format (please see below for regional presenter details at each of the three events). Ron Cowell of EPLC will provide an overview of the Governor’s proposed budget for early education, K-12 and higher education.  A representative of The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center will provide an overview of the state’s fiscal situation and key issues that will affect this year’s budget discussion. The overviews will be followed by remarks from a panel representing statewide and regional perspectives concerning state funding for education and education related items. These speakers will discuss the impact of the Governor’s proposals and identify the key issues that will likely be considered during this year’s budget debate.
Although there is no registration fee, seating is limited and an RSVP is required.
Offered in partnership with PASA and the PA Department of Education March 29-30, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg - Camp Hill, PA .    Approved for 40 PIL/Act 48 (Act 45) hours for school administrators.  Register online at http://www.pasa-net.org/ev_calendar_day.asp?date=3/29/2017&eventid=63

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

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

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

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


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