Thursday, March 23, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 23: Education Tax Credits – No Free Lunch

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 23, 2017:
Education Tax Credits – No Free Lunch

Vote expected today: Call your Congressman’s office this morning 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 students, district and taxpayers

Letter to Congress from 50 Education Groups:

PP4C: What’s at stake for kids if ACA is repealed?

How Medicaid, CHIP, and the ACA Cover Pennsylvania’s Children

Where do Pa.'s Republican U.S. House members stand on GOP healthcare reform bill?
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 22, 2017 at 11:36 AM, updated March 22, 2017 at 1:29 PM
With a vote looming in the U.S. House on Thursday on the Republicans' Obamacare replacement plan, the 13 members of Pennsylvania's Republican Congressional delegation have been all over the map with their positions.  Some have been publicly ambivalent, others have been forthright in their opposition or support.  As crunch-time closes in, and when every vote counts, here's the most recent tally on where the Keystone State's GOP House members stand on the issue. We'll update as we receive fresh information.

“A late-night meeting of moderate-leaning members in Speaker Paul Ryan’s office Wednesday broke up without resolution or a deal as most lawmakers and Ryan himself left out of side exits and avoided talking to reporters.  One lawmaker present, GOP Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania, said members had been asked to weigh in on the changes being offered to the Freedom Caucus. He demurred on how the concessions might impact his vote, but said, “The Freedom Caucus has presented what it will take for them to make some ‘yeses’ and I think there are a lot of members who will now have to evaluate things a little bit further.”
Shortly thereafter a key moderate who had been in the meeting, Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, issued a statement saying he would be voting “no” on the health bill. “I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans,” said Dent, a leader of the Tuesday Group of moderate-leaning Republicans.”
GOP health bill on the brink hours from House showdown vote
Delco Times By Erica Werner and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, The Associated Press POSTED: 03/23/17, 5:28 AM EDT
WASHINGTON >> The GOP’s long-promised legislation to repeal and replace “Obamacare” stood on the brink just hours before Republican leaders planned to put it on the House floor for a showdown vote. Short of support, GOP leaders looked to President Donald Trump to close the deal with a crucial bloc of conservatives, in the first major legislative test of his young presidency. The stakes could hardly be higher for a party that gained monopoly control of Washington largely on promises to get rid of former President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement and replace it with something better. Now Republicans are staring at the possibility of failure at the very moment of truth, an outcome that would be a crushing political defeat for Trump and Hill GOP leaders and would throw prospects for other legislative achievements into extreme uncertainty.  Frenzied last-minute wheeling and dealing was under way on Capitol Hill and the White House, where Trump summoned the balky conservative Freedom Caucus to meet with him mid-day Thursday, ahead of the planned vote. But concessions being offered to the conservatives, who sought to limit requirements for health plans to offer certain benefits including substance abuse and maternity care, appeared to be scaring off moderate Republicans.

Rothfus surveys constituents on health care on eve of House vote
By TRACIE MAURIELLO Post-Gazette Washington Bureau 7:59 PM MAR 22, 2017
WASHINGTON -- Just hours from a House roll call where every vote counts, the normally decisive U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus is seeking counsel from constituents.  Wednesday Mr. Rothfus, R-Sewickley, sent a two-question survey to people who signed up for his legislative e-mail list. “I want to know your position on the efforts of President Trump and Republicans in Congress to improve healthcare for the American people. As we work to craft solutions, however, we want to hear from you,” he wrote.  Two questioned follow: “Do you support the newly proposed American Health Care Act?” and “What do you want to happen to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)?” The latter offers multiple choice responses of “keep in place as is,” “keep but make some changes,” “keep but change significantly” or “just repeal.”  Republicans would be hard pressed to do anything but repeal it after years of promises to repeal the law. And Democrats say if they wanted to change it they’ve had more than seven years to propose amendments.  Mr. Rothfus has been a consistent opponent of the Affordable Care Act, calling it unworkable. In a Post-Gazette op-ed last month he said “We have no choice but to scrap this failed program and replace it with a system that gives Pennsylvanians access to the care they need, at a price they can afford and from a doctor they choose.”

Smucker likely to vote in favor of American Health Care Act; Meehan stays mum
Lancaster Online SAM JANESCH | Staff Writer March 23, 2017
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker is likely to vote in favor of the Republican health care plan when it comes up for a floor vote in the House as soon as today, his spokesman said.  Smucker, a freshman congressman who represents most of Lancaster County in the 16th Congressional District, has called the American Health Care Act “a good start to ensuring Pennsylvanians will have access to the care they need at a price they can afford.”  He was among five House Republicans from Pennsylvania who suggested they would vote for the bill. The others are Lou Barletta, Mike Kelly, Tim Murphy and Bill Shuster.  Three Republicans — Brian Fitzpatrick, Scott Perry and Glenn Thompson — have said they opposed it.  Five other Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, who represents a small portion of eastern Lancaster County, were not saying how they would vote.  “Congressman Meehan continues to review the legislation, listen to his constituents and talk with his colleagues,” Meehan’s spokesman, John Elizandro, wrote in an email Wednesday.  The other Pennsylvania Republicans who were not saying Wednesday how they would vote are Ryan Costello, Charlie Dent, Tom Marino and Keith Rothfus, according to The Associated Press.

Meehan says he’s still not decided on GOP health plan
By Kathleen E. Carey, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 03/22/17, 9:11 PM
As of late Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-7 of Chadds Ford, continued to evaluate the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act as a vote on the legislation is anticipated today.  A member of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, the congressmen has been meeting with various district residents and other legislators in coming to a decision. He voted for the bill in committee.  The plan has drawn unanimous condemnation from Democrats and fire from both conservative and moderate Republicans. The Congressional Budget Office initially found that while it will reduce the deficit, it could strip 24 million people of their health insurance by 2020. It would also largely dismantle the federal Medicaid insurance for the poor and turn its funding over to the states as block grants.  His spokesman, John Elizandro, issued a statement on behalf of Meehan even as the plan was being debated in the House Rules Committee Wednesday.  It read, “Congressman Meehan continues to review the legislation, listen to his constituents and talk with his colleagues.”

Charlie Dent say he'll vote against Obamacare repeal bill
Laura Olson Contact Reporter Morning Call Washington Bureau March 22, 2017
Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent says he'll vote against the Obamacare repeal bill, a decision he announced late Wednesday after he and other centrist Republicans huddled with House Speaker Paul Ryan.  Dent, who had repeatedly said he had "serious reservations" about the legislation, said the bill "misses the mark."  "I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans, particularly for low-to-moderate income and older individuals," said Dent, whose 15th District includes Lehigh County and part of Northampton County.  He continued: "We have an important opportunity to enact reforms that will result in real health care transformation--bringing down costs and improving health outcomes. This legislation misses the mark."

U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent: I'll oppose health care reform bill
By Jim Deegan | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 22, 2017 at 11:09 PM, updated March 23, 2017 at 12:21 AM
Remove U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent from the list of those likely not to vote for the Republicans' health care overhaul bill.  Dent, R-Lehigh Valley, issued a statement Wednesday night saying he will not support the health care reform bill that Republican leaders hope will replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.  A vote in the U.S. House is set for Thursday.  Dent's announcement came after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., met with moderate Republicans and congressional leaders in attempts to placate conservatives who threatened to reject the legislation.

Once a 'No,' Rep. Lou Barletta is now a 'Yes' on GOP healthcare bill
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 22, 2017 at 1:30 PM
After saying he couldn't support it, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11th District, now says he'll vote in favor of a Republican-authored healthcare reform bill due to come to the floor of the U.S. House on Thursday.  In a statement, the Hazleton Republican, who's one of the Trump White House's closest Congressional allies, said he'd switched his vote after receiving reassurances from U.S. House leadership that the bill would bar undocumented immigrants from receiving tax credits under the revised law.

On eve of critical vote, South Jersey Republican Rep. LoBiondo says he'll oppose Obamacare repeal
Inquirer by Jonathan Tamari, Washington Bureau  @JonathanTamari | Updated: MARCH 22, 2017 — 5:05 PM EDT
WASHINGTON -- South Jersey Congressman Frank LoBiondo has become the latest Republican to announce he will vote against his party’s health care overhaul, breaking with GOP leadership Wednesday and dealing a blow to the bill’s hopes a day before a critical full House vote.  With a number of conservatives and moderates balking, the vote is expected to be excruciatingly close, and every undecided lawmaker is being watched in a major policy battle that could affect health coverage across the country.  LoBiondo’s decision imperils the promise to repeal Obamacare that has driven Republican leaders and voters for years. Despite long opposing the health law pushed by former President Obama, LoBiondo said the GOP plan is worse.  “Simply put, this bill does not meet the standards of what was promised; it is not as good as or better than what we currently have,” LoBiondo said in a statement. “Accordingly, I will vote no on this healthcare plan.”

Leaders Struggle to Unite House Republicans Behind Health Bill
New York Times By ROBERT PEAR and THOMAS KAPLAN MARCH 22, 2017
WASHINGTON — The House bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act faced an uncertain fate on Wednesday as conservative Republicans pushed to eliminate federal requirements that health insurance plans provide certain benefits to consumers.  House Republican leaders met with members of their party late into the night on Wednesday as they struggled to muster support for the bill, scheduled for a vote on the House floor on Thursday.  President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, worked through the day to placate conservative House Republicans who said that the bill did not do enough to lower health insurance costs by reducing federal regulations. The legislation would roll back major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, a major pillar of President Barack Obama’s legacy.  But in trying to satisfy conservatives, the Trump administration and House Republican leaders risked jeopardizing support for the bill among more moderate Republicans. On the eve of the crucial vote, party leaders appeared to be short of a majority and were working into the night to whip their members into line.

How House Republicans Are Planning to Vote on the Obamacare Replacement
By THE NEW YORK TIMES UPDATED Thursday, 12 a.m. Eastern
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is still trying to build a majority to pass the Republican health care bill, which is scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives on Thursday.  The bill needs 216 votes to pass. None of the Democrats in the House have said they support it, but at least one is expected to miss the vote. That means no more than 22 Republicans can vote against the bill, if it is to pass. Of the 237 Republicans in the House …

Keystone Crossroads Video: Education Equity
Written by, | 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?

“Tax credits may not increase the budget but that doesn’t mean they are free: a $20 billion tax credit would mean the federal government collects $20 billion less in revenue.”
Education Funding: Tax Credits Cost the Federal Government Money
By Nora Gordon·March 21  McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University
The Issue: President Trump pledged to devote $20 billion in federal funds to expand "school choice" programs for low-income students during the presidential campaign. The administration's budget proposal included $1.4 billion in spending towards school choice initiatives that would eventually "ramp up" to $20 billion. In the absence of greater policy details, many observers have looked at scholarship tax credit programs, especially Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, as one potential model for how the federal government could fund greater access to private education. A major source of this approach’s political appeal is that it does not require Congressional appropriations but could be passed as part of a tax reform bill instead.
Tax credits may not increase the budget but that doesn’t mean they are free: a $20 billion tax credit would mean the federal government collects $20 billion less in revenue.
The Facts:
·         Observers are looking to the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program as a potential model for federal policy because President Trump singled it out during his address to the joint session of Congress. Trump also conducted his first school visit as president to a private religious school in Orlando, Florida, that serves almost 300 scholarship recipients.
·         Tax credit scholarships allow taxpayers to make a contribution to a scholarship program of their choice and subtract the value —in most cases the full amount of the contribution— from taxes due. As of January 2017, 17 states had such programs. Under a program with a 100 percent tax credit, a $1000 contribution would reduce federal taxes owed by $1000 — essentially making the donation “free” to the taxpayer. Tax deductions, in contrast, reduce taxable income. For example, under the current federal tax code, at the maximum income tax bracket of 39.6 percent, a similar $1000 charitable contribution would reduce taxable income by $1000 and reduce federal taxes owed by $396. In some states, you can get 100 percent state credit, making it a free donation, and then take the federal deduction for your donation. For someone in the 39.6 percent tax bracket, they would save $1.40 in total taxes for every dollar donated to the state tax scholarship program.

Editorial: Fighting poverty with education
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 equitablyAs 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).
·         Pennsylvania must adopt a funding formula which ensures that the funding system matches the system for providing education and that adequately meets the needs of every student.
·         Until that time, Pennsylvania must restore the “charter reimbursement” line, cut in 2011, which provided state funding to districts for the costs and financial exposure resulting from the addition of charter schools.
Communities must be able to negotiate the role of charters locally, including the ability to stop approving new charters or expansions based on academic or financial considerations.

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
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
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 / 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, 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
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

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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