Tuesday, March 21, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 21: Let your Congressman know how the loss of $140M in Medicaid would impact your district and your taxpayers

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 21, 2017:
Let your Congressman know how the loss of $140M in Medicaid would impact your district and your taxpayers

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; let them know how this would impact your district and taxpayers; vote expected this 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

“U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, already is a solid “yes” voter. U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, expects to vote yes, too, but he would like to see more protections added for people with mental illness and drug addiction.  But other Pennsylvania Republicans, including U.S. Reps. Bill Shuster of Everett and Ryan Costello of Chester Country, still haven’t committed. Aides for the two said the lawmakers still were reviewing the bill. A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Delaware, told the Philadelphia Inquirer the same.”
Pa. Republicans torn over whether to support health care bill
TRACIE MAURIELLO Post-Gazette Washington Bureau MAR 20, 2017
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is heading to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to speak with House Republicans before even more of them withdraw support from the health care bill headed for a vote later this week.  Support is falling off from Republicans, including at least two from Pennsylvania, where 31 percent of residents are over 55 — the age group that will be hardest hit by the GOP’s proposed health insurance changes.  U.S. Reps. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, R-Centre; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Bucks; and Scott Perry, R-York all recently came out against the American Health Care Act, even as GOP leaders worked to address concerns.  Mr. Thompson told the Centre Daily Times that parts of the bill would jeopardize services for the most vulnerable. That includes a provision allowing insurance companies to charge higher premiums for older people.  Mr. Fitzpatrick is concerned the bill doesn’t do enough to address opioid addiction.  At a town hall meeting Saturday, Mr. Perry told constituents he can’t support the bill because it doesn’t drive down the cost of care, the Associated Press reported.  That kind of rank-and-file opposition is driving legislative leaders to reshape the legislation before bringing it to the floor Thursday. It isn’t clear whether the changes will be enough.

'I can't support RyanCare in its current form', Mid-state Congressman GT says: Monday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 20, 2017 at 8:10 AM, updated March 20, 2017 at 8:31 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
You can count a central Pennsylvania member of Congress among those House Speaker Paul Ryan will have to woo if he wants to win approval of his faltering Obamacare replacement bill later this week.  Speaking to The Centre Daily TimesU.S. Rep. Glenn "G.T." Thompson told the newspaper that he'd "read the American Health Care Act and cannot support the bill in its current form."  Thompson, who was a healthcare executive before he began representing the sprawling district, told the newspaper that he still thinks the Affordable Care Act has to be repealed and replaced.  But "I have concerns with any proposal that would increase costs for older Americans," Thompson said, referring to language in the bill allowing insurers to charge older Americans up to three times more for their premiums than a similarly situated younger person.


Wolf Administration Reacts to Proposed Cuts, Calls on US Secretary of Education to Support Investments in Public Education
Harrisburg, PA 03/20/2017 - Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos outlining the impact that President Trump’s proposed education budget cuts would have on the students of the commonwealth and urging support for investments in public education.  “Here in Pennsylvania we have seen first-hand the consequences of budgets that indiscriminately reduce or eliminate education programs. Our schools are still recovering from the state-level cuts made under the previous gubernatorial administration,” said Rivera in the letter. “The Pennsylvania Department of Education remains focused on improving education equity across the state and is committed to ensuring every student has access to the tools and resources they need to thrive and are prepared to succeed when they graduate.”  In the letter, Rivera urged DeVos to consider how the proposed cuts would impact students and schools, citing the need to protect Pennsylvania’s investment in its schools and students. Since taking office, Gov. Wolf has demonstrated a commitment to public education, securing an historic $640 million in additional funding and enacting a bipartisan fair funding formula to drive resources equitably to all schools.  “As a former principal and superintendent and now as the Secretary of Education for Pennsylvania, I know all too well how these proposed cuts would undermine our most vulnerable students and communities, eliminating afterschool programs, creating crowded classrooms, and removing access to evidence-based literacy programs,” Rivera said. “I join with Governor Wolf in asking you to do everything in your power to put Pennsylvania’s students first, and reverse course on the proposed cuts to these vital programs.”
The full text of the letter is available on PDE’s website.

Blogger note: At the ESSA hearing yesterday, Chairman Dinniman expressed concern about assessments in Pennsylvania. He said the commonwealth has spent $115 million over the past 18 months on assessments and a state contractor - Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) - has received $742 million in total since 2008 for assessment services. "The students who are in need, the students who come to school traumatized, the students who will never increase test scores until we meet their health both physical and emotional of those students are not being helped. What we do is give them a test and they fail it and we stamp failure on those students and those teachers," he stated. "The only correlation these tests have is to poverty and we are spending $1 billion to understand that. Figure out a cheaper way to do this and let's spend the money on the students."
Chairman Eichelberger argued that the issue is a lack of accountability in the current public education system. "We have some very poor teachers and very poor administrators and guess what next they're here, they get their pay raises every year and retire with their pensions," he stated. "There is no discipline and no accountability for these folks unless they do something really, really do something bad. That's the problem we face and then we have a system that protects these folks."
Pennsylvania Department of Education considers changes to testing, accountability measures
Trib Live by JAMIE MARTINES  | Monday, March 20, 2017, 6:30 p.m.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education hopes to alleviate testing pressure on students and teachers as the state prepares an education plan in compliance with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, a top department official told lawmakers Monday.  “There was a lot of talk when ESSA was passed that this provides more authority and autonomy to states and is a significant move from No Child Left Behind,” Deputy Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Matthew Stem testified before a joint hearing of the House and Senate education committees. “And while that's true, there are certain elements of No Child Left Behind which are still very much in place.”  The Obama administration in 2015 replaced the No Child Left Behind Act with ESSA. The new law gives states more freedom to select measures used to determine whether a school is successful and strategies used to support low-performing schools.  ESSA still requires annual statewide testing in third and eighth grades, as well as once at the high school level across three subject areas. But the department hopes to use the opportunity to write a new state education plan to reduce the amount of time spent on standardized tests and to eliminate double testing for middle school Algebra I students, who must sit for the Keystone Algebra I exam as well as the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, or PSSA, math exam, Stem said.
Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-Chester County, questioned the financial impact of standardized testing.

"The precedent was set last year that the caucuses can still get paid even during a budget impasse," he said. "Therefore, we don't need the slush fund. They can use that money this year to plug the hole in the budget. The Legislature total gets about $300 million. There's a third of the money to fund the Legislature next year."
Legislature ended 2016 with $118M surplus despite budget impasse
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on March 20, 2017 at 12:35 PM, updated March 20, 2017 at 1:11 PM
Despite a nine-month budget impasse that forced lawmakers to borrow money to keep their governmental branch in business, they still ended the 2015-16 fiscal year with a $118.4 million financial cushion.  An audit report on legislative spending in 2015-16 is expected to be released on the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission website later on Monday that will provide more details about how much of the $335 million appropriated to the House and Senate and 13 legislative service agencies was spent or committed.  But the bottom line on the combined reserves of the caucuses and agencies indicate they ended the year with about $8 million less than they had the year before, according to Lisa Myers, a principal with Boyer & Ritter LLC, the Camp Hill accounting firm hired to perform the audit.

Senate, House Had $118M Surplus In 2015-16, 71% Increase In Budget Since 1994
PA Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates March 20, 2017
The Legislative Audit Advisory Commission Monday accepted the audit report of the General Assembly’s financing which revealed a surplus of $118,442,957 as of June 30, 2016.
“Reserve funds are necessary to ensure the continued and independent operation of the General Assembly,” said Commission Chair Rep. Mark Keller (R-Cumberland). “As recently as two years ago, we had to draw down from these reserves during the lengthy budget impasse about whether to increase sales and income taxes, or control spending.”   Rep. Keller pointed out that the current reserve is about $90 million less than it was 10 years ago, when it totaled more than $210 million.  Below is a breakdown of the reserves included in the audit (as of June 30, 2016):
-- Senate – $23,348,536;
-- House of Representatives – $56,903,139;
-- Legislative Reference Bureau – $6,627,653;
-- Legislative Budget and Finance Committee – $1,352,783;
-- Legislative Data Processing Committee – $14,283,218;
-- Joint State Government Commission – $920,934;
-- Local Government Commission – $631,190;
-- Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control Commission – $376,685;
-- LAAC – $222,000;
-- Independent Regulatory Review Commission – $1,491,058;
-- Capitol Preservation Committee – $3,178,473;
-- Independent Fiscal Office – $2,755,627;
-- Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission – $1,003,999;
-- Commonwealth Mail Processing Center – $4,623,721; and
-- Center for Rural Pennsylvania – $723,941.
“Our goal is to make the audit documents easy to understand and fully accessible to Pennsylvania citizens,” Rep. Keller added. “The public is encouraged to go to the website and review them.”  The full report will be posted on the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission webpage.

“To put the proposed changes in perspective, Palmer said the state at present provides about 19 percent of the district’s funding while the new financial structure would have about 87 percent of those dollars coming from the state. That is, control over district spending decisions would be controlled to a very high degree by state officials, with local school boards in large part handcuffed by state financial edicts.”
W-S Summit on state education funding set for March 24
Delco Times By Neil A. Sheehan, Times Correspondent POSTED: 03/20/17, 8:53 PM EDT 
NETHER PROVIDENCE >> Anxious about possible fundamental changes to the ways public schools are funded in the state, Wallingford-Swarthmore School District officials have been urging parents and others to let legislators know about their concerns.  Come Friday, March 24, they’ll have a chance to do so in person.  The district’s superintendent, Lisa Palmer, announced that three area lawmakers have agreed to take part in a meeting about “educational issues” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. that day in Strath Haven High School’s auditorium. The school is located at Providence Road (Route 252) and Copples Lane.  Expected to be on handed are state Sens. Tom Killion, R-9 of Middletown, and Tom McGarrigle, R-26 of Springfield, and state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161 of Swarthmore.  “We look forward to this opportunity for our community to speak with our legislators about the important issues affecting the school district,” Palmer said at the school board’s most recent meeting. “Everyone is invited to attend.”  During a board meeting in late January at which the district’s proposed 2017-18 spending plan was discussed, Palmer voiced worries about legislation under consideration in Harrisburg that would cause a significant change in the way school districts across the commonwealth are funded.

“In 2010-11, more than 12,000 students completed teacher preparation programs in Pennsylvania. By 2013-14, that number had dropped to 8,555. Those numbers reflect a nationwide dip in the number of people graduating from teacher prep programs.”
Drexel starts program to lessen Philadelphia's middle school teacher shortage
ith a wary eye toward the shrinking supply of Pennsylvania teachers, Drexel University has started a new program to train more middle school math and science instructors.  Dragons Teach Middle Years (DTMY) has been in development since 2015, but received its official launch Monday with the announcement of a $1.2 million grant from the Philadelphia School Partnership.  By 2022, DTMY expects to graduate 40 certified middle school teachers each year and funnel them toward Philly schools of all stripes: district, charter, and parochial.  Unlike students in traditional teacher prep programs, DTMY participants won't major in education. The model allows students to remain in fields such as psychology and English while completing the coursework necessary to earn a teaching certificate in Pennsylvania.  DTMY also emphasizes in-class training. Participants will spend nearly a year at partner schools in the city serving as teacher-residents. Traditional teacher prep programs don't require as much in-class learning time.
"These teachers will be trained specifically for the unique challenges of urban classrooms," said Drexel president John Fry. "And urban classes are tough places to get students to learn."

Textbooks could be history as schools switch to free online learning
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer  @Kathy_Boccella |  kboccella@phillynews.com Updated: MARCH 19, 2017 — 8:45 AM EDT
To Garnet Valley High School social studies teacher Christine Gumpert, the biggest waste in her Non-Western Cultures class is the $100 the district shells out for each bulky textbook that covers, at best, 10 percent of the curriculum and is out-of-date the minute it rolls off the presses.  Next year, though, when Gumpert’s ninth graders reach into their backpacks, they will pull out slim laptops instead of overweight tomes and use mostly free online resources, including the latest current events from Africa, the Middle East, and anywhere else on Earth.  Garnet Valley is one of a handful of Philadelphia-area districts, and three in northern New Jersey, that are in the vanguard of a nationwide movement to ditch traditional textbooks for open-source educational resources on the web. Along with budget savings, which can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars in a district, proponents say it gives teachers more freedom to custom-tailor curriculums and allows students to learn where they’re already most comfortable -- on computers.

Energy savings could yield $600M for Philly schools
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag |  kgraham@phillynews.com Updated: MARCH 20, 2017 — 5:21 PM EDT
The Philadelphia School District on Monday announced it would launch an energy-savings program that could ultimately yield at least $300 million — money that would go to pay for some of the system’s $4.5 billion in deferred capital projects.  Officials estimated they could also cut their energy costs in half. Over 20 years, improvements from things like new green roofs, boilers, windows and lighting could save the district $600 million, they said.   The work would not cost the district a penny, officials said — a system called “energy performance contracting” will allow the system to use the savings to fully fund the capital work.  It will also improve conditions in a school system whose aging buildings often hamper teaching and learning for 17,000 employees and 130,000 children.  If a three-school pilot program to begin in the fall is successful, the program could go citywide, though a whole-district project would likely take 10 years or more to complete. Over time, the school system could reduce its energy consumption by 50 percent, officials said.

Philly District starts pilot program to save energy in schools
The savings would be used to make needed capital improvements.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa March 20, 2017 — 4:46pm
School District and city officials Monday announced a new initiative designed to increase energy efficiency in school buildings and use the savings to underwrite needed capital improvements.  The project will begin with a pilot in three schools, yet to be chosen, that will involve making repairs on such systems as boilers, windows, roofs, lighting, and electrical grids to reduce energy costs and make the buildings more sustainable. Those savings will then be used as collateral in a bond sale or other financing method to help pay for the repairs and upgrades.  In January, the District released a Facilities Condition Assessment showing that its buildings have $4.5 million in deferred maintenance on 300 buildings, and will accumulate another $3.2 billion in repairs over the next 10 years.  Such a program is a “no brainer,” said City Council President Darrell Clarke, who appeared at a high-profile kickoff event at Lankenau High School in Roxborough along with Superintendent William Hite, Council members Curtis Jones and Bobby Henon, and Emily Shapira, executive director of the Philadelphia Energy Authority. Representatives from many of the city’s building trade unions also attended, as did Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan.

A Pittsburgh Science Teacher Will Be at This Week's NASA Mission Launch
Education Week By Madeline Will on March 20, 2017 3:37 PM
Debbie Reynolds is fascinated by space. And she wants her middle school students to be, too.  The veteran science and STEM teacher has tried to bring the textbook to life through simulations and experiments—and now, she'll have a firsthand story watching a rocket be launched into space to share with her students.   Reynolds, who teaches in Pittsburgh, will be at the Orbital ATK mission launch this week in Florida. Orbital ATK, a NASA commercial cargo provider, will be targeting its seventh commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station on Friday. (The launch might be moved to Thursday.)   The spacecraft will carry more than 7,600 pounds of science research, crew supplies, and hardware to support science experiments at the station—including an advanced plant habitat for studying plant physiology and the growth of fresh food in space, and an antibody investigation that could increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs for cancer treatment.   Reynolds was one of 50 people selected as part of the NASA Social program, which invites NASA followers to attend mission launches or get behind-the-scene opportunities.

“Every child should have an equal opportunity to attend a local public school that has adequate resources to ensure that he or she can learn and meet state academic standards. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many children living in Pennsylvania and is far too often not the case for children living in rural communities. More than half of the rural school districts in Pennsylvania are spending less educating their children than their estimated adequacy target or the amount expected to ensure that children can reach the state’s rigorous academic standards.”
Spending Impact on Student Performance - A Rural Perspective
Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children Report March 2017
View the Report | Sources & Methodology | School District Table
Every child should have an equal opportunity to attend a local public school that has adequate resources to ensure that he or she can learn and meet state academic standards. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many children living in Pennsylvania and is far too often not the case for children living in rural communities. More than half of the rural school districts in Pennsylvania are spending less educating their children than their estimated adequacy target or the amount expected to ensure that children can reach the state's rigorous academic standards.

Hard Choices Still Ahead: The Financial Future of Pennsylvania School Districts
Center on Regional Politics Report by William Hartman & Timothy J. Shrom MARCH 2017
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. The report consists of five sections: 1. Introduction, Purpose, and Approach to Study 2. Annual projections for 2015-16 through 2019-20 3. Actual results for prior 6 years, 2009-10 through 2014-15 4. Comparisons of the two time periods 5. Sensitivity analysis of projections to determine the impacts of each of the fiscal elements

Charter Schools Should Not Profit Off Students With Disabilities
Education Voters PA Website
The current PA charter school law mandates that school districts send charter schools more than $100 million in excess special education payments each year.
Charter schools are NOT required to spend the special education funding they receive from school districts on services for children with disabilities; instead charter schools may spend money intended to serve children with disabilities on other things.
Learn how charter school funding works here: #FixSpecialEdFunding Infographic
The #FixSpecialEdFunding campaign was developed by a team of coalition members.

PSEA Report: A Balanced and Researched-Based Approach to Standardized Testing
PSEA Report March 2017
For more than a decade, educators have been speaking out about the impact of toxic, high-stakes testing on our schools and students.  Recently, PSEA proposed some key policy solutions aimed at ensuring that standardized tests are used the way they were intended to be used so that they don't interfere with teaching and learning.  PSEA's Policy Brief, "A Balanced and Researched-Based Approach to Standardized Testing," includes three policy recommendations:
·         Reduce the amount of time spent on the Pennsylvania State Standardized Assessment (PSSA).
·         Separate Keystone Exams from graduation requirements.
·         Ensure that statewide standardized tests are used only for government accountability requirements.
PSEA will use this policy brief to guide conversations with lawmakers and form specific legislative proposals to address issues related to standardized testing.

Public education on the table
DeVos, state officials meeting face to face
The Sharon Herald By KERY MURAKAMI CNHI Washington Reporter Mar 19, 2017
WASHINGTON – Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a devout advocate for school choice, will likely get an earful when she meets with state education officials Monday to discuss investing in the nation’s public schools.  It will be their initial encounter since DeVos’ appointment met with bipartisan resistance, barely winning Senate approval due to her support for charter schools and government vouchers for students to attend private schools.  President Donald Trump’s budget plan, unveiled four days ago, underscored DeVos’ preference, investing an additional $1.4 billion in school choice programs, including $250 million in a new initiative to provide public money for students to attend private schools.  DeVos said the proposal “places power in the hands of parents and families to choose schools that are best for their children” and represents “the first step in investing in education programs that work.”  Overall, the Department of Education budget is cut by 13 percent, or $9 billion, under the president’s blueprint to downsize the federal government and build up the nation’s military force and border security.  Among reductions are $2.25 billion to help states hire and train teachers, $1 billion for after-school programs and cuts in college aid, including “significantly” shrinking work-study programs. But grant programs for disadvantaged students would receive a $1 billion increase.  The head of an association of state schools officials that’s scheduled to meet with DeVos at their Washington conference said he’s “deeply concerned” about the proposed budget cuts and shifting emphasis to school choice. “We must continue to invest in our public schools and provide adequate funding so every school has the necessary resources to meet the needs of every child,” Chris Minnich, executive director of the  Council of Chief State School Officers, said in a statement.  Nicole Reigelman, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, criticized the Trump education proposal, saying Pennsylvania is still recovering from state funding cutbacks under former Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration.

“As education secretary, Ms. DeVos has limited ability to carry out school choice nationwide, at least without action from Congress. But her previous investments as a philanthropist are paying dividends.  In 2013 and 2014, the most recent years for which financial disclosures are available, several organizations associated with Ms. DeVos invested over $7 million in school choice lobbying efforts in states now considering new bills. Americans for Prosperity, the activist group founded by the Koch brothers, and the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council are also pushing private school choice in statehouses across the country.”
School Choice Fight in Iowa May Preview the One Facing Trump
New York Times By DANA GOLDSTEIN MARCH 21, 2017
DES MOINES — When she was shopping for a school for her daughter Alma, Mary Kakayo found a lot to like in St. Theresa Catholic, including its Catholic social justice theme, student prayer and hour of religious instruction every day.  “Morally, my child knows how to respect others,” said Ms. Kakayo, whose daughter is now in the fourth grade. “She knows when to listen, and when to talk and bring in her ideas.”  For Ms. Kakayo and her husband, the best part may be that the school costs them only $85 per month. As it does for one-third of St. Theresa students, the state covers more than half of Alma’s $3,025 tuition in a program that resembles the Trump administration’s proposal for a federal private school choice plan.  But few topics in education are more controversial than the idea of diverting public money to private institutions, and Iowa has become a study in the kind of political fights that may be in store for the administration. Despite Republican control of the governor’s mansion and both houses of the State Legislature, proposals to significantly expand school choice programs in Iowa are stalled, at least for now. The pushback has come from groups traditionally opposed to the idea — Democrats, school districts, teachers’ unions and parents committed to public schools — but also from some conservatives concerned about the cost to the state.  Iowa is one of 31 states where legislators have proposed creating or expanding school choice programs this year, without Washington even lifting a finger. Even if just a few of the bills pass, the number of children attending private schools with public money could greatly increase, one reason the proposals are meeting resistance.

Betsy DeVos Emphasizes Choice and Flexibility to State Education Leaders
Education Week State Ed Watch Blog By Daarel Burnette II on March 20, 2017 10:39 AM
Washington U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos delivered what's become her standard prescription for K-12 education—school choice, state flexibility, and rollback of federal intrusion—to a roomful of state school board members gathered for a legislative conference here Monday.   "Common sense doesn't win out in Washington," she said to members of the National Association of State Boards of Education. "The [U.S. Department of Education] has created roadblocks for states in the past, and it's not right or acceptable. It's time for the department to get out of the way to let you do your job."     Her remarks came just weeks before states' first due date for submitting accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act that will guide state education policy and the distribution of millions of federal dollars to public schools in the coming years.   In recent weeks, Congress has repealed crucial regulations under ESSA and the Education Department has drafted a new ESSA application for state agencies that asks fewer questions about states' policy proposals.    State officials have raised concern about, without regulations, how fairly the plans will be vetted by the department once they're submitted.    DeVos, who was to address state education chiefs at a concurrent conference later Monday, gave a speech that lasted fewer than 10 minutes and took no questions from more than 100 state board members representing almost every state. 

Betsy DeVos to State Chiefs: Time for Ed. Dept. to 'Let You Do Your Job'
Education Week Politics K12Blog  By Alyson Klein on March 20, 2017 7:38 PM
Washington In two nearly identical speeches Monday, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos told state chiefs and state school board members that she wants to them to be in the driver's seat when it comes to implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  "It's time for the [Education] Department to get out of your way and let you do your job," DeVos told the Council of Chief State School Officers' annual legislative conference. "Once your state has developed a plan to provide a quality education in an environment that is safe and nurturing for all children, you—together with your governors—should be free to educate your students. And that's the real key to ESSA." (DeVos gave almost the same speech to the National Association of State Boards of Education earlier in the day.)   And she continued to press her number one priority: expanding school choice. She gave a shout-out to John White, Louisiana's state superintendent, for supporting the state's push to expand options for parents, including both vouchers and charters. She also gave Tony Smith, the state chief in Illinois, a nod for his work in helping to broaden student options. 
DeVos declined to offer specifics on how she would broaden choice in an interview after the speech with Chris Minnich, the executive director of the CCSSO, beyond what's in President Donald Trump's budget proposal. The budget calls for $1.4 billion to expand school choice, including $1 billion in portable Title I funding and $250 million for a private school voucher program. It also would expand charter school funding by nearly $170 million, to $500 million.

In the America first budget, schools come last
Trump’s education budget defunds public schools and universities, herds students toward private and charter schools
Huffington Post Degree of  Interest Column by ANDRE PERRY March 20, 2017
When it comes to education, President Donald Trump’s “America First” budget flips the famous line from the baseball movie, “Field of Dreams,” that people have adapted to use in business ever since: “If you build it, they will come.”  Trump’s philosophy seems to be, “If you break it, they will come to private and charter schools” — “it” in this scenario being the traditional public school system. The new president has made it clear that he will use drastic cuts — $9.2 billion worth of them to the Department to Education — to lessen public sector’s hold on students, without offering viable alternatives.  With the release of his first budget, Trump seeks to cut federal education spending by 13 percent (that $9.2 billion figure), according to an initial analysis performed by The Washington Post. The reductions would pay for a $1.4 billion voucher expansion to help subsidize public school students who want to attend private schools. Included in these cuts are things like teacher training and afterschool programs, the savings from which would make room for a $168 million increase (a 50 percent hike) in charter school spending, which funds the start-up and expansion of charters.

How Could Trump's Budget Use $1 Billion in Title I Aid to Boost School Choice?
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on March 21, 2017 7:09 AM
Along with the various cuts to the U.S. Department of Education's budget proposed by President Donald Trump, the other part of Trump's fiscal 2018 spending plan getting a lot of attention is the $1 billion the president wants to add to Title I in order to encourage open enrollment in public schools. There are a lot of questions about how that, along with many other parts of Trump's education budget blueprint, would work. Let's explore some of them.   First, it's important to point out this increase isn't necessarily and strictly a $1 billion bump for Title I. The budget says it's an increase from the $14.9 billion that Title I grants technically get now. But ESSA gets rid of the Obama-era School Improvement Grants and instead shifts that money over to a portion of Title I money states can set aside for their own school improvement activities. That means that once Congress gets around to doing a regular fiscal year budget, Title I is already slated to rise to $15.4 billion.  So once (or if, for you pessimists out there) that happens, Trump's proposed Title I funding increase would only be roughly $500 million.  But beyond that, what could this $1 billion proposal mean? 

What Education Programs Could Still Be Vulnerable in Trump's Budget?
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on March 20, 2017 7:45 AM
President Donald Trump's budget plan for education has singled out several programs to be slimmed down or eliminated. But all we know right know is based on a mere two pages in a 62-page "skinny" federal budget the administration released last week. It doesn't necessarily detail all or even most of the cuts and additions Trump's team wants to make.  Once the administration releases a more-detailed budget proposal for Congress to consider—and it might be several weeks before this is released—we'll know a lot more about what Trump wants to do for public school spending.   In the interim, we talked with two veteran education staffers in Washington: Tom Corwin of the Penn Hill Group, a lobbying firm, and Michele McLaughlin, the president of the Knowledge Alliance, a research and advocacy group. They discussed which programs might be particularly vulnerable to proposed cuts, elimination, or some kind of lack of love from Trump. Here's a few programs they mentioned.

Fixing Gerrymandering Doesn’t Just Make Elections More Fair
It also encourages elected officials to adjust how they govern.
Slate.com By Perry Grossman March 20, 2017
In early March, Anitere Flores, the second ranking Republican in the Florida state Senate, handed the NRA and its allies a stunning defeat. She said she would vote against a raft of bills proposed in committee that would have permitted carrying guns on college campuses, airports, school zones, and courthouses, among other places. The move ensured that those bills are dead for 2017 and will probably ruin Flores’ previously perfect rating from the National Rifle Association. Marion Hammer, former president of the NRA and the executive director of United Sportsmen of Florida, expressed shock in a letter to those groups’ members: “I cannot tell you why Sen. Flores suddenly turned on law-abiding gun owners because I do not know.”  But Sen. Flores explained why she put a halt to the legislative agenda of arguably the most successful and influential lobbying organization in the United States: redistricting.

5 Things for Educators to Consider About Neil Gorsuch's Confirmation Hearing
Education Week School Law Blog By Mark Walsh on March 17, 2017 1:55 PM
Neil M. Gorsuch goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee beginning Monday as President Donald Trump's nominee to succeed the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. If recent experience is any guide, the nation will learn much greater detail about the nominee's educational background and his views on at least some issues of interest to educators. Here are some things for educators to keep in mind as the hearing unfolds:

PSBA Advocacy Forum and Day on the Hill APR 24, 2017 • 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the fourth annual Advocacy Forum on April 24, 2017, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hear from legislators on how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. Government Affairs will take a deeper dive into the legislative priorities and will provide tips on how to be an effective public education advocate. There will be dedicated time for you and your fellow advocates to hit the halls to meet with your legislators on public education. This is your chance to share the importance of policy supporting public education and make your voice heard on the Hill.
“Nothing has more impact for legislators than hearing directly from constituents through events like PSBA’s Advocacy Forum.”
— Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), Senate Appropriations Committee chair

Visit the Members Area of PSBA’s website under Store/Registration tab to register.

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

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.

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 http://www.pasa-net.org/ev_calendar_day.asp?date=3/29/2017&eventid=63

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

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:

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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