Friday, March 17, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 17: Money and education: A tale of haves and have nots in Bucks County

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 17, 2017:
Money and education: A tale of haves and have nots in Bucks County

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; vote expected next week.

$140 Million for 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 including the following:
• Assistive technology devices
• Audiology services
• Hearing-impaired services
• Nursing services
• Nurse practitioner services
• Occupational therapy services
• Orientation, mobility and vision services
• Personal care services
• Physical therapy services
• Physician services
• Psychiatric services
• Psychological services
• Social work services
• Specialized transportation services
• Speech and language services

“Federal data show Pennsylvania has the widest funding gap between wealthy school districts and poor school districts in the country. State and local per-pupil spending in the poorest districts is 33 percent less than in Pennsylvania’s wealthiest districts, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the primary federal entity that collects and analyzes data related to education.”
Money and education: A tale of haves and have nots in Bucks County
Intelligencer By Marion Callahan, staff writer March 17, 2017
A yellow banner across a wall at Bristol Junior-Senior High School reads, "Our goal: To empower all students to succeed in a changing world."  Glancing at the message, Principal Kelli Rosado said "today's funding does make that difficult."  The 1,250-student Bristol Borough School District struggles to offer the most basic education. Music and art selections have dwindled. Chorus, wood shop and gym classes have been cut. The school's marching band remains only in photos on the walls.  This district is among Buck County's poorest, with 67 percent of students living below the federal poverty level and nearly 40 percent testing below state proficiency standards.  Bristol Borough underscores the disparities in education funding and achievement statewide. 

Trump Budget: Statement from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on the America First Budget
US Department of Education MARCH 16, 2017
Today, the Trump administration released the FY 2018 Budget Blueprint: A Blueprint to Make America Great Again. This blueprint meets the President’s promises to support our military, prioritize border security, veterans’ health care, and school choice, and to eliminate hundreds of redundant, overlapping or ineffective programs. 
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued the following statement:
“Today’s Budget Blueprint keeps with President Trump’s promise to focus the U.S. Department of Education on its mission to serve students. The budget places power in the hands of parents and families to choose schools that are best for their children by investing an additional $1.4 billion in school choice programs. It continues support for the nation’s most vulnerable populations, such as students with disabilities, while streamlining and simplifying funding for college and continuing to help make college education more affordable.  “Taxpayers deserve to know their dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively. This budget is the first step in investing in education programs that work, and maintaining our Department’s focus on supporting states and school districts in providing an equal opportunity for a quality education to all students. I look forward to continuing to engage with Congress as we roll out the President’s priorities and put the needs of students first.”
Trump Budget: Statement from NSBA: Cutting Funding for Public Schools Undermines Students and Nation
March 16, 2017
Alexandria, Va., (March 16, 2017) - NSBA Executive Director & CEO Thomas J. Gentzel today released the following statement in response to President Donald Trump's proposed FY18 budget:
“The Administration’s proposed $9 billion cut to the education budget is irresponsible, and it would put programs and needed support services provided by schools at risk if it is adopted by Congress. The proposal redirects hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools – often, school districts that rely most heavily on federal aid, forcing them to cut vital services or raise local property taxes.  “NSBA remains steadfast in its commitment to ensure public funds remain in public schools.  “School budgets were hit very hard during the Great Recession, yet public schools fully supported their students and enhanced public education. Further cuts will put some children, particularly children from low income families, at risk of falling behind. This cut discards one of our nation’s core values – a commitment to offer all children an equitable and quality education regardless of their zip code.  “Nine of every 10 students attend public schools so we must invest in public education if we want to enhance their lives and bolster U.S. competitiveness. Either we support public schools or we undermine them, the children that attend them and the nation. That is the choice before us.”

Trump's Budget Blueprint Pinches Pennies For Education
NPR by ANYA KAMENETZ March 16, 201711:03 AM ET
This morning President Trump released a proposed 2018 budget that calls for a $9 billion, or 13.5 percent, cut for the U.S. Department of Education.  The document released today is only an initial sketch — a proposal, really — one that must compete with Congress's own ideas. It indicates how Trump plans to make good on his pledge to dramatically reduce parts of the federal government while increasing military spending.  And, it provides some direction on how the administration plans to promote school choice, the president's signature education issue.  As we've noted before, federal education spending provides a small fraction of the resources spent on public schools and colleges in the U.S. For example, the Education Department's entire budget for 2017 was $69.4 billion. Meanwhile, the budget for the New York City public schools — the nation's largest district — was $29.2 billion, of which $1.7 billion came from the federal government.  Still, the blueprint gives the clearest indication to date of where schools and colleges fall on the priority list for this administration, and its plans for education policy going forward. Here's our breakdown.

These 80 Programs Would Lose Federal Funding Under Trump’s Proposed Budget By David IngoldChloe WhiteakerMichael Keller and Hannah Recht March 16, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal includes massive cuts across most of the federal government. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture face unprecedented discretionary funding cuts in excess of 25 percent, as Trump attempts to boost the military and national security.

Trump education budget draws cheers from school choice proponents but concerns others
Penn Live By Jan Murphy |  Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 16, 2017 at 5:45 PM, updated March 16, 2017 at 5:49 PM
Proponents of school choice in Pennsylvania are about the only ones cheering about President Trump's education budget proposal that slashes overall funding by $9.2 billion but includes an unprecedented federal investment in opening doors to alternatives to traditional public schools. Trump's $59 billion education budget is said to include among the steepest cuts the U.S. Department of Education has ever seen.  It cuts or eliminates funding for teacher training, before- and after-school programs, and aid to tens of thousands of low-income and first-generation college students. It maintains funding at current levels for historically black colleges and universities, of which Pennsylvania has two - Cheyney University and Lincoln University. And it proposes to shift a portion of the savings - what isn't going to fund his ambitious defense spending increase - to make a historic $1.4 billion federal investment in school choice, which is cited in budget documents as a down payment on Trump's $20 billion campaign promise to increase funding to expand students' educational options.  That includes a $168 million more for charter schools; $250 million for a private school choice initiative; and a $1 billion increase in funding for Title I, which supports program to assist low-income students, that would follow students to a public school of their choice.

Trump Ally Barletta to White House: Don't Cut After-School Funding
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on March 16, 2017 7:42 PM
Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., who was one of the first members of Congress to endorse then-candidate Donald Trump and helped found a "Trump Caucus," is not happy that the White House has proposed zeroing out the $1 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program in its fiscal year 2018 budget, released Thursday.   The program, which helps cover the cost of after-school, summer learning, and extended day programs, provides nearly half the funding for SHINE, or "Schools and Homes In Education," an after-school program that operates in Barletta's district, which includes Hazelton, Pa.  Barletta—who worked behind the scenes to make sure the program was authorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act—is not happy about the proposed cut. In fact, he teamed up with Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., on a letter to Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, asking him to restore the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.

Gerrymandering: Case builds for fairer redistricting
Pennsylvania’s Legislature adopted a patently unconstitutional electoral district map following the 2010 census. Its rejection by the state Supreme Court resulted in an embarrassing two-year delay in setting new legislative and congressional districts — which remain badly gerrymandered. Gerrymandering is the practice by which politicians craft voting districts based on political advantage, in effect selecting their own voters to preserve their own power. Lawmakers acted for their own benefit in 2011 even after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against gerrymandering in a Texas case that was decided in 2006. And, since 2011, the Pennsylvania Legislature has maintained the same redistricting system even though the Supreme Court and other federal courts have created a substantial catalog of rulings that favor fair redistricting over gerrymandering.  In the most recent ruling, in November, a federal district court in Wisconsin threw out a gerrymandered redistricting plan.  “We find that the discriminatory effect is not explained by the political geography of Wisconsin nor is it justified by a legitimate state interest,” the majority opinion said. The state government has appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Wisconsin case is particularly significant because it relied partially on a new analytical tool, “the efficiency gap,” to measure the discriminatory effect of gerrymandering.

Our view: Erie schools owed equity, not upheaval
The Erie School District must downsize, but we find this forced, frenetic makeover intolerable and unnecessary.
Erie Times News By the Editorial Board March 17, 2017
Erie parents on Monday huddled in small groups to rank their worst fears and greatest hopes for Erie's children in the face of the imminent, crisis-driven overhaul of Erie's public schools. What will happen when students from Erie's east and west sides are forced into the same buildings in a city where neighborhood gang loyalties can be scanned on social media and attendant gun violence routinely registers in fallen bodies?  Will classrooms be too crowded for children to learn? If the district pursues magnet schools, will some kids be left behind? What will happen to closed schools and the neighborhoods around them?  In a perfect world, those parents want career education, sound buildings and ample sports and arts programs to enrich young lives and motivate attendance.  We laud Erie School District leaders' grim agility in the face of a funding shortfall driven by state government's willful refusal to execute equitably one of its most fundamental duties, the "thorough and efficient" education of the public.  With its $31.8 million recovery plan rejected by the state Department of Education, the district is facing a $10 million deficit that promises only to balloon to insolvency. It is scrambling to reinvent itself through public meetings, where stakeholders brainstorm the best way to close two elementary schools, realign middle schools and consolidate four high schools into two buildings, both in need of repair, by the next school year.  The district must downsize, but we find this forced, frenetic makeover intolerable and unnecessary. 

Letter to the editor: Focus on those who break the links among poverty, race, and academic performance
The notebook Commentary by Deb Weiner March 16, 2017 — 10:38am
Deb Weiner is a veteran analyst/advocate of public education in Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Inquirer carried a recent story about the great popularity, outstanding performance, and tremendous enrichment opportunities and facilities at a charter school in the Northeast. Clearly, the parents and students who are lucky enough to be involved at MaST Community Charter School enjoy opportunities that are usually reserved for students at affluent suburban schools.  However, my reading of the glowing account of MaST's success tells me that a crucial part of the context is ignored – and that has to do with the demographic variables that are most closely correlated with academic performance. Only 20 percent of MaST's students come from low-income families, while the District rate is 65 percent. Only 30 percent are students of color; the rate in the District is 86 percent.  And although the baseline per-pupil funding is lower than the District's, MaST, like other charters, receives more than $25,000 for each special education student, which it is not required to spend on special ed students. Is this the "slush fund" that pays for all the bells and whistles enriching the academic program that the Inquirer story extols?  If MaST's educators are so talented, I wish they would open a school in North Philadelphia that serves a majority of low-income students of color. Instead of glowing accounts of privileged schools serving overwhelmingly white, middle-class children, I think the Inquirer should focus more attention on schools that are breaking the link between poverty, race, and academic performance.  We don't need to congratulate the deepening of inequity.

SRC hires teacher-prep program over protests
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: MARCH 16, 2017 — 10:41 PM EDT
Over protests from the public and concerns from one of its members, the School Reform Commission awarded a contract Thursday to prepare 20 new teachers to work in the Philadelphia School District.  The contract amount is relatively small for a district with a multibillion-dollar budget: $150,000 for one year of work. But the approval was controversial because of the vendor: Relay Graduate School of Education, a relatively new teacher-preparation program founded by three charter-school networks.  Relay works with more than 50 districts nationwide, including some of the largest in the country, and is licensed to grant degrees in nine states. It submitted an application to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, but failed to gain approval to offer degrees in Pennsylvania.  Aspiring teachers will essentially be in a two-year Relay “residency” program, working with a veteran Philadelphia educator their first year and in their own classroom the second year. If they complete the program, they would get a master’s degree from a Relay program in another state.  Relay, the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Temple University, and New York University all bid on the contract. Relay said it could educate the students for no additional tuition costs to the 20 students beyond the $7,500 paid by the district. NYU, for instance, would cost the residents $45,000 out of pocket, officials said.  Most significant for Philadelphia, Relay is good at attracting candidates of color. The school system wants to do better at recruiting a diverse workforce.  Over 70 percent of Relay's students in the Philadelphia-Camden area are candidates of color,  Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said.

Despite objections, Philly SRC approves new teacher prep program to boost diversity
Sometimes it's the smallest contracts that can raise the biggest stink.
Philadelphia's School Reform Commission on Thursday approved a one-year, $150,000 contract for a teacher residency program run by the Relay Graduate School of Education. The contract covers tuition and fees for 20 teacher-residents who will work in Philadelphia schools beginning in the fall. While learning on the job, the teachers-residents will earn master's degrees and earn their certifications.  The program is an alternative to traditional teacher preparation programs, which are typically run through universities.  Relay was one of five bidders — along with the Temple University, Drexel University, New York University, and the University of Pennsylvania — who responded to a school-district request for training programs that would increase teacher diversity.  "One of the challenges were trying to tackle is the lack of diversity in the incoming teaching ranks," said SRC chair Joyce Wilkerson. "Part of the reason we're pursuing this is part of a strategy for enhancing diversity."  Relay, however, is a perennial target of public school activists who question its methods and effectiveness. Last year, Relay withdrew its attempt to establish an independent school in Pennsylvania that would grant master's degrees to its graduates. Teacher-residents covered by the Philadelphia grant will technically earn their master's degrees in New Jersey.

Try This One Trick To Improve Student Outcomes
NPR by ANYA KAMENETZ March 16, 20176:39 AM ET
"Millions of poor, disadvantaged students are trapped in failing schools."
So said President Trump at the White House recently. It's a familiar lament across the political spectrum, so much so that you could almost give it its own acronym : PKTIFS (Poor Kids Trapped In Failing Schools).  Where there's no consensus, however, is on the proper remedy for PKTIFS. The Obama administration's signature proposal was the School Improvement Grant. This was a $7 billion attempt to turn around struggling schools with some combination of replacing personnel, overhauling the curriculum, renewed teacher support and other practices.  It was one of the largest federal education grant programs ever created. There was just one problem. As a department-commissioned independent review concluded just as Obama was leaving office, it didn't work. "Overall, across all grades, we found ... no significant impacts on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment."  President Trump, and his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, are largely focused on the T for "trapped" part of the problem. They talk about creating escape routes, largely by expanding charter and voucher programs.  Richard Kahlenberg has spent decades stumping for a third way. His idea: Create public schools that are more integrated. He helped innovate the use of social and economic indicators to do that — instead of race and ethnicity, the use of which is prohibited by a 2007 Supreme Court decision.
His strategy could be summed up as: Give poor kids the opportunity to attend school with not-so-poor kids.

Building Equity: Fairness in Property Tax Effort for Education Report
If public education is meant to provide every child, no matter his or her background, with the opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive, then funding for public schools must be raised in a way that is aligned with this mission: fairly and equitably, in a manner that supports rather than harms needy communities. Some states achieve this goal better than others. But the fairness of each state’s school funding hinges on something that is not, at first glance, a state issue at all: Local property taxation, which is at the heart of school funding equity. Close to half of public school dollars in the United States are raised locally, mostly from local property taxes. But not all property tax bills are created equal. In some states, tax rates are fairly similar across districts, while in other states, property owners in one district may be putting in twice the tax effort as those in another. And these differences are dwarfed by the disparities in property tax effort for education between states: the average rate in top-paying New York is about six times as high as the rates in low-effort Washington and Nevada.

The 2017 PenSPRA Symposium  Keeping Current: What’s New in School Communications April 7th Shippensburg
Join PenSPRA Friday, April 7, 2017 in Shippensburg, PA    9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with evening social events on Thursday, April 6th from 5 - 8 p.m. at the Shippensburg University Conference Center
The agenda is as follows: Supporting transgender students in our schools (9 am), Evaluating School Communications to Inform Your Effectiveness (10:30 am), and Cool Graphics Tools Hands-on Workshop (1:15 pm).

The $150 registration fee also includes breakfast, lunch and Thursday’s social!   You can find more details on the agenda and register for the Symposium here:

Education Roundup: Recruitment fair for Black male educators March 25
Philly Trib by Ryanne Persinger Tribune Staff Writer Mar 13, 2017
The annual Career Fair for Black Male Educators for Social Justice will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, March 25, at Mastery Charter School’s Shoemaker Campus, 5301 Media St.
The event is being held by The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice, an organization dedicated to advancing the development, recruitment and retention of Black male educators in Philadelphia’s public schools.  On the Eventbrite website, the group states: “There is a serious shortage of Black male educators in our schools, and all our children are worse of for it. Maybe you’re the answer. Whether you’re an experienced Black male educator looking for a new challenge, a college student weighing career paths or working in another field you just don’t find fulfilling, come to our career fair and hear about your options, meet with mentors and talk directly with people looking to hire.”  Confirmed employers include the School District of Philadelphia, EducationWorks, Mastery Charter Schools, KIPP New Jersey, Khepera Charter School, Independence Mission Schools, Marvin’s Education Services, Relay Teacher Pathways, KIPP Philadelphia Schools and Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School.

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

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 #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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