Written by witf.org, | Mar 21, 2017 3:12 PM Video Runtime 26:46
In Pennsylvania, every child is given the chance to receive an education through the state's public school system, but not every school offers the same opportunities. Vast funding gaps exist between Pennsylvania's 500 public school districts, greatly affecting how much each district can spend on their students. The differences often amount to thousands of dollars per child, per year.
Keystone Crossroads:Education Equity asks: How can Pennsylvania make sure every student across the state gets the same quality education? How do we close the education funding gap?
Bucks County Courier Times Editorial Mar 21, 2017
Kids don't choose to be poor. They're born poor, which too often becomes a life sentence.
Helping kids climb out of poverty is a responsibility we all share, because we all reap the economic and social benefits. In short, less poverty means spending less on social services for the poor, not to mention the cost crime imposes on taxpayers. But spending less at the back end means spending more at the front end — on schools heavily populated with children from low-income families. And by spending more, we mean spending education money more equitably. As we reported in our Sunday story, "Haves & have nots," Pennsylvania has the widest funding gap between wealthy and poor school districts in the country. That's because school districts in this state rely on local property taxes to a greater degree than any other state, thanks largely to the state's stingy 30 percent contribution to education. Here's a dramatic example: Bristol Borough is among the poorest school districts in Bucks County, with the average resident earning about $22,000 per year. As a result, nearly 67 percent of Bristol students come from families living below the federal poverty level, and some 40 percent of them test below the state's proficiency standards. By comparison, only 8 percent of students in the New Hope-Solebury School District come from poor families, and fewer than 20 percent score below standards. Average annual income for a resident in Solebury is about $66,000.
Education funding should be priority
Lancaster Online Mar 21, 2017 Letter by The Rev. Sandra L. Strauss, Director of Advocacy and Ecumenical Outreach, Pennsylvania Council of Churches
We watch with great concern as Pennsylvania faces a very difficult budget year.
While we are aware of numerous priorities among Pennsylvania’s many constituencies, we believe there is no greater priority than investing in Pennsylvania’s future by providing fair and adequate funding for our public schools. The state’s share in funding public education has been declining for years. It now funds only 37 percent of the total cost, compared to a national average of 47 percent. As a result, many districts struggle to provide students with the resources — from reasonable class sizes to technology — required for our children to grow and thrive in our society. Our recently adopted school funding formula is designed to provide for fairer distribution of funds, but it will not work as planned without sufficient investments from the state budget. As people of faith, we believe that God desires for children the life abundant, which comes from the fullest development of their gifts. This can only happen when we have a just education system that provides enough for all of Pennsylvania’s children. We urge Lancaster County legislators to work with Gov. Tom Wolf to make basic education funding a top priority and pass a significant increase in funding for our schools this year.
Fixing Pennsylvania’s Charter Law
Education Voters PA Policy Brief
Charter schools are a part of Pennsylvania’s educational landscape and high-quality charter schools have a place in the commonwealth’s public school systems. However, Pennsylvania’s charter school law is deeply flawed and must be fixed to ensure that all children are treated fairly, all schools are adequately funded and communities are able to plan and exercise appropriate fiscal and academic oversight over their community’s public education system(s).
Inequities in Pennsylvania’s Charter Sector: Segregation by Disability February 2017
Education Law Center Analysis February 2017
The legislative intent of Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law (“CSL”) is to create and improve public school options for all pupils, including students with disabilities and other vulnerable student populations.1 Notwithstanding a few notable exceptions, that has not been the story of Pennsylvania’s experiment with charter schools. Instead, the charter sector, on the whole, has and continues to serve disproportionately fewer of Pennsylvania’s vulnerable students than traditional public schools. Economic disadvantage is one proxy for vulnerable students, but there are other proxies as well, including: student with disabilities, English Language Learners, students experiencing homelessness, and students in the dependency and delinquency systems. For instance, data from the PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia suggests that the traditional public schools in the School District of Philadelphia serve much greater concentrations of students in “deep” poverty as compared to Philadelphia’s charter sector.2 Vulnerable students require different kinds of services—and resources—to meet their unique challenges. Notably, based on a comprehensive review of the most recent School Performance Profiles (“SPPs”) and PennData, it is not at all apparent that Pennsylvania’s charter sector is performing any better than traditional public schools even while serving fewer of our most vulnerable student groups.3
Wolf invokes school closing law
Times Tribyne BY ROBERT SWIFT, HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF / PUBLISHED: MARCH 23, 2017
HARRISBURG — School districts in Northeast Pennsylvania will have extra options for snow makeup days under an emergency declaration announced Wednesday by Gov. Tom Wolf.
The governor invoked a school closing law enacted last year to help school districts in 15 counties, including Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming, satisfy the state-required 180 days a year schools must be open.
Under Act 4 of 2016, state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera can issue a weather, safety or health emergency at the request of a school. This declaration allows schools to count instructional hours instead of instructional days and even schedule classes on one Saturday a month in order to meet the 180-day mandate. A local school board must approve use of these options by a majority vote. “While recognizing the responsibility school administrators have to plan their calendars accordingly, this (declaration) provides more flexibility in the face of unpredictable and unforeseen emergencies,” said Wolf. School officials in Lackawanna County said last week they have run out of snow make-up days as a late winter storm dumped massive amounts of snow on the region. Many schools were closed for most of last week.
Education foundation solid in Centre County
Centre Daily Times Opinion BY JAMES ORICHOSKY MARCH 22, 2017 6:51 PM
Perhaps, Albert Einstein said it best, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Recently, the Leadership Centre County class had an amazing opportunity to see education at its best throughout Centre County. The highly informative day was filled with so many outstanding opportunities that this narrative can only begin to list some of the highlights. The day began with the 49 members of the Class of 2017 meeting at the State College Area School District’s Administration Building. From this location, we separated into groups and met with our guides for the day. The groups visited schools in the Bald Eagle, Bellefonte, Penns Valley, State College and Philipsburg-Osceola Area school districts, and the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology. The ride together to our host sites allowed us to begin our conversations as our guides previewed some of the things we would be seeing. Needless to say, we could tell from the start that “school” is very different from our experiences when we attended.
Philly District releases new Annual Charter Evaluations
This year, the ACEs include more information, comparisons and data
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa March 22, 2017 — 5:20pm
The School District's charter office on Wednesday posted individual evaluations for 2015-16 that provide parents, educators and others detailed information on how the schools are performing.
The 2015-16 Annual Charter Evaluations, or ACEs, are for 54 schools -- those in operation last year that are not in the renewal process. They include information on academics, organizational stability and compliance, and financial health and sustainability. The ACEs, which started in 2016, have been revised this year to include an executive summary that includes a three-year trend on key indicators and a section that focuses on issues relating to equity, such as average teacher experience and suspension rates of different ethnic groups. The changes are "due to feedback received from stakeholders including the charter sector itself," said DawnLynne Kacer, director of the charter office. Charter operators, she said, wanted the information more closely tied into the District's renewal criteria so that the individual schools could get a sense of whether they were on the "road to renewal." The new ACE includes an "executive" summary that shows three-year trends, and a section highlighting equity issues, including such data as average teacher experience and suspension rates broken out by gender and ethnic group. Some data is also broken out by grade level. The reports also have data on student mobility and results of student surveys on how they view their experience at the school.
How music therapy is helping kids with multiple disorders to connect with others
WHYY Newsworks BY AVI WOLFMAN-ARENT MARCH 23, 2017
Deep in the bowels of North Philadelphia's Edison High School — down a maze of hallways that twist and turn every which way--sits a small classroom of just four students. Twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, this unassuming, dimly lit room transforms into an oasis of music and movement. "It's incredible," said Jeff Gross, a special education teacher at Edison. "I think awesome's an overused word. But it really is awesome." This transformation comes courtesy of three Temple students from the school's music therapy program who spend an hour strumming and singing pop tunes. Their audience? A quartet of students who require what the School District of Philadelphia calls "multiple disabilities support" — meaning they have an IQ below 60 and a physical disability. Across the city's public school system only about 350 students are classified "multiple disability." It is a rare label, reserved for those with some of the highest hurdles to learning. Among the students in Gross's class, many struggle to speak or even move.
Erie School District tracking concerns
Erie Times News By Ed Palattella / email@example.com Posted Mar 21, 2017 at 4:32 PM Updated Mar 21, 2017 at 6:55 PM
Another hearing about reconfiguring schools is set for Wednesday night at East High School.
The Erie School District already has lots of ideas and concerns to consider as it develops a plan to reconfigure its schools. The district will get even more input on Wednesday night, as the School Board holds a formal hearing at 6 p.m. at East High School on the reconfiguration plan. The session at East is the third of five the Erie School District has scheduled over the plan. Based on information it received at the two previous public sessions — at the Booker T. Washington Center on March 13 and at Harding School on Thursday — topping the list of worries so far are student safety, class sizes and the ability of the 11,500-student school district to provide a solid education in the years ahead despite its budget crisis.
Big budget gap still looms in Upper Darby after update
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, firstname.lastname@example.org, @KevinTustin on Twitter POSTED: 03/22/17, 9:13 PM
Upper Darby >> A brief update on the budget process for the 2017-18 Upper Darby school year offered some slight relief. Superintendent Dan Nerelli said at the school board’s March 21 meeting $500,000 savings was found in medical expenses, bringing the overall shortfall to $10 million in an approximately $200 million budget. A second look at medical expenses was one potential-cost saving area the district was waiting to hear about since the last budget update on Feb. 28. Another area savings could be found is in the number of retirements expected at the end of the current year, but those numbers have not yet been released. Even if the district raises taxes at its maximum allowance of 3.6 percent, it would still leave a $6.7 million gap in the budget. The district currently has $17.7 million in its fund balance if it chooses to use that as a supplemental revenue source.
Haverford students call for color-coded gender equality
By Lois Puglionesi, Delco Times Correspondent POSTED: 03/22/17, 11:03 PM
HAVERFORD >> Haverford High School graduating seniors have marched into commencement exercises wearing red and yellow gowns for decades. Young men have traditionally worn red, while young women have donned yellow. While this longstanding tradition is held dear by many students and alums, others feel that times have changed, and the dual color system no longer fits life in the 21st century. Such sentiments are expressed in a petition that’s circulating online, titled “Yellow or Red: We are all proud Fords.”
Ten Commandments moved from Valley High in New Kensington
Trib Live by MATTHEW MEDSGER | Wednesday, March 22, 2017, 1:18 p.m.
The Ten Commandments monument no longer is in front of Valley Jr.-Sr. High School in New Kensington. The monument apparently was removed sometime Tuesday afternoon but it has not yet been placed in front of Mary Queen of Apostles Catholic School along Freeport Road — its eventual destination, according to officials from both the Catholic school and the New Kensington-Arnold School District. Exactly when the monument was removed and where it's being stored were not known nor is any date for installing the monument in its new location. New Kensington-Arnold officials did not immediately return calls for comment Wednesday and Mary Queen of Apostles officials said they haven't been updated on plans for the move. The monument was the center of a lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2012 on behalf of a woman who claimed the monument was offensive to her daughter, who attended Valley High School at that time. The school district and the foundation last month reached a settlement in the suit, which required the monument to be removed and the district's insurance company to pay the legal fees in the case.
Supreme Court sets higher bar for education of students with disabilities
Washington Post By Emma Brown and Ann E. Marimow March 22 at 6:27 PM
The Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously raised the bar for the educational benefits owed to millions of children with disabilities in one of the most significant special-education cases to reach the high court in decades. The opinion rejected a lower standard set by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and used in a subsequent case by President Trump’s nominee to the high court, Neil Gorsuch, during his tenure on the appeals court. The high court’s ruling quickly became the focus of questions Wednesday at Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing. In its unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court said that a child’s “educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances” and that “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives” even if the child is not fully integrated into regular classrooms. The court stopped short of setting a bright-line rule, deferring to the expertise and judgment of school officials and acknowledging the unique set of circumstances of each child with a disability. But the justices sent a strong, clear message with their unanimous decision that the 10th Circuit standard was too low. Any standard, the court said, that is not centered on “student progress would do little to remedy the pervasive and tragic academic stagnation that prompted Congress to act” when it passed the 1975 law that provides federal funds to help states cover the cost of educating students with disabilities.
U.S. High court rules public schools must do more to educate special-needs kids
By CAITLIN EMMA 03/22/17 12:58 PM EDT Updated 03/22/17 04:07 PM EDT
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that school districts must go the extra mile to accommodate students with disabilities in a unanimous decision that could dramatically expand the rights of special education students. All eight justices sided with the Colorado student in the case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, in one of the most significant special education cases in decades. Endrew was diagnosed with autism and his parents feel his public school and individualized education program had failed him. They sought reimbursement for the cost of sending him to private school. The ruling is a major victory for special education advocacy groups. The higher standard has been endorsed by the Obama administration, more than 100 current and former Democratic members of Congress and a host of special education advocates. However, school officials have warned that imposing higher standards could be prohibitively expensive for some districts.
Supreme Court Rejects Education Minimum Applied by Gorsuch
New York Times By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA MARCH 22, 2017
WASHINGTON — Schools may not settle for minimal educational progress by disabled students, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, rejecting a standard that some lower courts have applied, and that the nominee to join the high court, Neil M. Gorsuch, has been criticized for using. The federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act requires “free appropriate public education” for all children. In multiple cases, the federal Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in Denver, has held that the law demands little “more than de minimis” — merely a program intended for a student to show some annual gains. “It cannot be the case that the Act typically aims for grade-level advancement for children with disabilities who can be educated in the regular classroom, but is satisfied with barely more than de minimis progress for those who cannot,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a unanimous court.
Where in the World Is Betsy DeVos? Track Her School Visits With Our New Tool
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on March 23, 2017 7:34 AM
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made big news—twice—the first time she visited a school in her new job. Ever since then, educators, advocates, and others have expressed keen interest in keeping close tabs on each time she visits a school to see how things go, and what she says during and after her visit. Now you can easily keep up with DeVos' visits to schools: Click here to use our handy interactive map and tracking tool. Each time she stops by a school, you'll see a slide with the name and location of the school, along with any other pertinent information and coverage we have of her trip. The interactive tool also adds up not just the number of times she's visited schools, but the types of schools she's visited: traditional public, private, and charter schools. You can also check out an embedded version of the tracker below:
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.
Education Roundup: Recruitment fair for Black male educators March 25
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).