Monday, March 27, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 27: Since 2010-11, PA school pension costs have increased 257% while school salary costs have actually dropped by 4%

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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 27, 2017:
Since 2010-11, PA school pension costs have increased 257% while school salary costs have actually dropped by 4%

Keystone Crossroads: Education Equity – Video Runtime 26:46
Every child in Pennsylvania is offered an education through their local school district, but not every district is able to provide the same opportunities. A lot depends on the where the student lives.

“To take all of that money and put it in the hands of Harrisburg would be a big mistake,” Stoll said.
3 Delco pols oppose property tax bill
Delco Times By NEIL A. SHEEHAN, Times Correspondent POSTED: 03/25/17, 7:42 PM EDT | UPDATED: 15 SECS AGO
NETHER PROVIDENCE >> Bipartisanship can be hard to come by these days, but three area lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are united in opposing a bill that would dramatically alter the way schools in the state are funded.  During a town hall-style meeting on Friday night at Strath Haven High School, state Sen. Tom McGarrigle, R-26, state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161, and the chief of staff for state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, were unequivocal in declaring Senate Bill 76 as a non-starter as far as they are concerned.  McGarrigle said the bill, which has been dubbed the “Property Tax Independence Act” by its backers, would “destroy” education in Southeastern Pennsylvania.  “It (the current approach of relying primarily on property taxes) is a system that’s been in place for many years, and it’s a system that works,” he said near the outset of the gathering, which drew about 250 residents.  At a later point in the session, he said, “The last thing you want is Harrisburg telling Wallingford-Swarthmore it knows how to run this school district. Every district has unique characteristics.”  Krueger-Braneky said the legislation’s impacts would be “devastating” and would not entirely eliminate property taxes.  And Killion Chief of Staff Mike Stoll, who said the senator had prior commitments and therefore could not be on hand, said the proposal would cede control of school district decision-making to the state.

Since 2010-11, school pension costs have increased 257 percent, at the same time that school salary costs have actually dropped by 4 percent, said John Callahan, assistant executive director of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.  “We’ve been controlling our costs,” Callahan said. “It’s the things we can’t control, like pensions, that are driving local property tax increases.”  State Rep. Mark Longietti of Hermitage, D-7th District, said the pension bill proposed by the Republicans won’t deliver any meaningful short-term relief for schools.
“School districts are going to be disappointed,” he said.
Budget challenges ahead for Pennsylvania lawmakers
Sharon Herald By JOHN FINNERTY CNHI Harrisburg Correspondent March 26, 2017
HARRISBURG – Lawmakers and lobbyists are expressing modest optimism as state budget talks get underway a month after Gov. Tom Wolf laid out his $32.3 billion spending plan for 2017-18.  How firmly rooted that optimism will be is far from clear as looming questions suggest serious challenges must be overcome to rein in a $3 billion shortfall. Wolf has suggested the gap can be closed without sales or income tax increases by improving government efficiency and increasing some business taxes.  The push for greater efficiency is striking the right tone, said Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.  But Wolf’s business taxes, including a new tax on drilling, “are problematic,” Barr said. He believes most Republicans in the Legislature are as leery of those tax increase proposals as his group is.  State Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Northumberland County, agreed.  “I’ve learned to never say never,” Masser said. “I’d be surprised if there are any major tax increases.”  It’s not the only stumbling block.  Republicans, particularly in the Senate, have been adamant that the state tackle pension reform. While other long-thorny issues, like liquor law reforms, have gotten across the finish line, pension bills have repeatedly stalled.

Pa. senate education chair Eichelberger, NAACP talk education
Philly Trib Ryanne Persinger Tribune Staff Writer March 25, 2017
Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair County) — the state legislator who said his words were misunderstood after it was reported last month that he said inner city students should pursue vocational careers as opposed to college — met with the NAACP of Pennsylvania last week.
Eichelberger, also the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, had a conversation with state and local leaders of the NAACP to discuss how the Commonwealth can improve education opportunities for all students.  Attempts to reach Joan Duvall-Flynn, president of the PA-NAACP, were unsuccessful. However, in a statement she said, “We had an honest conversation about teaching, vocational education, school funding needs and guidance counseling in schools.”  She continued, “It was an important start to a dialogue that needs to be on going as we come to understand each other’s views on the best ways to serve the needs of Pennsylvania’s school children.”  Eichelberger said his number-one priority is to ensure that children are offered educational opportunities that will provide them with a path to succeed no matter where they live.  “I am committed to taking a closer look at education to ensure that every student has the chance to get ahead,” said Eichelberger in a statement. “My goal is to identify and support initiatives that work, while helping low-income children statewide get out of under-performing schools.”

House Republicans, short of votes, withdraw health care bill
Lancaster Online by ERICA WERNER and ALAN FRAM | Associated Press  Mar 25, 2017
WASHINGTON (AP) — In a humiliating failure, President Donald Trump and GOP leaders pulled their bill to repeal "Obamacare" off the House floor Friday when it became clear it would fail badly — after seven years of nonstop railing against the law. Democrats said Americans can "breathe a sigh of relief." Trump said the current law was imploding "and soon will explode."  Thwarted by two factions of fellow Republicans, from the center and far right, House Speaker Paul Ryan said President Barack Obama's health care law, the GOP's No. 1 target in the new Trump administration, will remain in place "for the foreseeable future."   It was a stunning defeat for the new president after he had demanded House Republicans delay no longer and vote on the legislation Friday, pass or fail.  His gamble failed. Instead Trump, who campaigned as a master deal-maker and claimed that he alone could fix the nation's health care system, saw his ultimatum rejected by Republican lawmakers who made clear they answer to their own voters, not to the president.  He "never said repeal and replace it in 64 days," a dejected but still combative Trump said at the White House, though he repeatedly shouted during the presidential campaign that it was going down on Day One of his term.  The bill was withdrawn just minutes before the House vote was to occur, and lawmakers said there were no plans to revisit the issue. Republicans will try to move ahead on other agenda items, including overhauling the tax code, though the failure on the health bill can only make whatever comes next immeasurably harder.

Trump, GOP fall short on Obamacare repeal vote
Inquirer by Jonathan Tamari, Washington Bureau  @JonathanTamari | Updated: MARCH 24, 2017 — 8:23 PM EDT
WASHINGTON — President Trump suffered a stinging defeat Friday as Republicans shelved their plan to overhaul the U.S. health-care system and roll back the Affordable Care Act, despite the president’s personal appeals on the first major legislative test of his young administration.  GOP leaders canceled a House vote on the plan after they couldn't secure the support to pass it, despite finally having control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. The collapse signaled the end, for at least some time, of their attempts to fulfill a long-held promise to repeal and replace the law often called Obamacare.   "Obamacare is the law of the land,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a news conference. "We are going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future."  He said the GOP would turn to tax reform, another of its top priorities.  Perhaps more significantly, the bill's collapse undercut the new president’s attempts to validate his boasts as a deal-maker. Trump spent the previous week cajoling lawmakers in the White House and then, late Thursday, demanded they vote, essentially daring those in his own party to defy him.   Many did, including five GOP members of Congress  from the Philadelphia region. Three — Reps. Charlie Dent of Allentown, Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, and Frank LoBiondo of South Jersey — had announced their opposition to the bill in recent days, edging it toward defeat.  Two others, Reps. Ryan Costello of Chester County and Pat Meehan of Delaware County, had backed the bill in committee hearings but said after the vote was canceled Friday they had intended to vote against it. All said their concerns had grown as more details came out and the bill was changed to appease conservatives.

Lloyd Smucker 'very disappointed' in health care setback
Lancaster Online by SAM JANESCH | Staff Writer Mar 24, 2017
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker expressed his dismay Friday afternoon after a House Republican health care plan was pulled for lack of enough support.  Smucker, a West Lampeter Republican representing the 16th Congressional District, had indicated he would vote in favor of the bill which was supported by House Speaker Paul Ryanand President Donald Trump but failed to garner enough other support from Republicans in the House.  “I am very disappointed," Smucker said in a statement. "But we’re moving forward. We have an agenda the American people expect us to accomplish, and I remain hopeful we can come together to enact reforms that will have a direct, positive impact on the people I am here to represent.”  U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, who represents a small portion of eastern Lancaster County, had not publicly said which way he would vote if it were brought to a floor vote. However, after the bill was pulled, Meehan told The Philadelphia Inquirer he would have voted "no."

GOP's failed bid to repeal Obamacare could haunt some Pa., NJ Republicans
Inquirer by Jonathan Tamari, Washington Bureau  @JonathanTamari | Updated: MARCH 25, 2017 — 1:40 PM EDT
WASHINGTON -- Republican leaders canceled a House vote on their repeal of the Affordable Care Act on Friday to avoid having an ugly defeat punctuated by a lopsided tally.  But for some, damage may have been done already.  Three Republican congressmen from the Philadelphia area had either announced support for the bill or cast committee votes to advance an earlier version, putting them on the record backing an unpopular plan that ultimately went nowhere.  The trio -- Chester County’s Ryan Costello, Delaware County’s Pat Meehan, and South Jersey’s Tom MacArthur -- now have to carry the weight of backing the plan without any benefit they might have accrued by delivering the GOP’s long-promised repeal of the law known as Obamacare.  “I wouldn’t want to be in that situation, let’s put it that way,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, an Allentown Republican who had declared his opposition to the bill. He was one of three Republicans from the greater Philadelphia region to come out against the measure before Friday, publicly defying President Trump and helping sink his first major legislative push.  Meehan and Costello said late Friday, after the effort collapsed, that they would have voted against the final version of the bill in the House, and all three said they had tried to improve the measure to address its flaws.

Here are the Republicans who forced Trump to pull the health-care bill
Washington Post By Amber PhillipsKevin Schaul and Kevin Uhrmacher Updated March 24 at 4:30 p.m.
House Republican leaders pulled their health-care reform package from consideration Friday just before the expected vote. Amid last-minute negotiations, a collection of amendments was added to the bill to coax support from both conservatives and moderates who had expressed reservations, but it became clear to leadership that there still weren’t enough votes.

“Mayor Kenney bet big on community schools, a concept started elsewhere and brought to Philadelphia this school year. He ran on a promise to bring 25 of them to the city in four years, and pledged $40 million over four years to fund them.”
Is Kenney's community schools initiative making a difference in Philly?
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: MARCH 27, 2017 — 5:00 AM EDT
South Philadelphia High School has the same challenges it always had: a large, needy student body with perhaps the city’s highest concentration of special-education students, a high percentage of English-language learners, and a shoestring budget.  But things feel different at the school this year, principal Kimlime Chek-Taylor said. South Philadelphia is one of the city’s initial nine community schools -- learning institutions with embedded social services and other supports.  Southern, as it’s known, now has a city-funded community school coordinator, an employee to match student needs to available partnerships, another adult to keep the school’s 568 teenagers on track. It has a new clothes closet, a food pantry, more after-school programs, and a focus on finding jobs for those who want them.  As a result, student attendance is up, Chek-Taylor said. The school’s climate is better.  “Having the support from the mayor’s office -- it just gives me a very different perspective when I come to work,” Chek-Taylor said. “There’s a sense of urgency. Being a community school just changes the perception of South Philadelphia High”

Keystone Exams a work in progress
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s experiment with a high-stakes student test remains in limbo as state lawmakers digest the impact of the latest changes in education policy from Washington.  The Senate and House education committees held a joint hearing last week on the impact of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act signed in 2015 by former President Barack Obama. This law outlines how states are to establish student performance goals in public schools and hold schools accountable for academic progress. It’s the successor to the No Child Left Behind Act, which put more emphasis on teaching to pass tests.

Report: Most Northern Tier of Pennsylvania schools underfunded
By ALEX DAVIS Special to the Olean Times Herald March 26, 2017
BRADFORD, Pa. — A majority of school districts across the region are spending less on educating students than what’s needed to ensure the state’s rigorous academic standards are met.  That’s the word from the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, which released a report this past week on the spending impact on rural school performance.  Eight of 14 schools in McKean, Elk, Potter and Cameron counties didn’t meet the grades for adequate education funding. Around the state, 202 rural districts are not receiving their fair share of state funding, which is forcing them to spend less and risk student achievement or raising taxes, the organization states in its report.  “This information highlights how inequitable funding is across the state,” St. Marys Area School District’s superintendent, Dr. Brian Toth, said.  His district is 21.8 percent below the funding adequacy target computed in the report.  “It is impossible for us to make up a 21 percent deficit of the adequacy target without the state committing to Fair Funding,” Toth said. “Research shows that funding for schools to increase student achievement does make a difference.”

Mahanoy Area business administrator: Financial situation for school districts still tight
Republican Herald BY JOHN E. USALIS / PUBLISHED: MARCH 25, 2017
MAHANOY CITY — The Mahanoy Area School District Business Administrator John J. Hurst told the school board at a recent meeting that a study of the financial situations of many districts show they “continue to tread water financially.”  Hurst referred to “The PASA-PASBO Report on School District Budgets” released in January, saying that “with mandated expenses continuing to rise at alarming rates, most districts are not any closer to reaching the safety of a dry shore. Instead, they continue to tread water. Class sizes continue to increase while districts are forced to raise property taxes or spend down dwindling reserves to maintain the status quo. The vast majority report they’re not closer to restoring the cuts they have been forced to make since 2010.”  The study and report were prepared by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.  “We had 361 school districts of the 500 in Pennsylvania, and basically it shows the districts continue to tread water financially at cost of mandated retirement expenses, health care, special education and charter schools, which has outpaced state funding.”

Layoffs, school closings under consideration by Quakertown school board
A middle school and two elementary schools would be closed. The job losses would come through attrition over the next two years.
Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer March 25, 2017
The Quakertown Community School District is considering closing three schools and eliminating nearly 50 jobs to cut a $4.7 million structural budget deficit and move forward with its facilities plan.  The jobs losses, which officials hoped could be made through attrition, would be felt over the next two years by teachers, administrators and support staff.  The schools targeted for closing are Milford Middle School and Quakertown and Tohickon Valley elementaries, "our three worst facilities," said Superintendent William Harner, who described those buildings as obsolete.  "Doing nothing puts us where we could have a catastrophic failure in our core programs in what we're going to be able to deliver in 2018-19," Harner said.  Harner, under orders from the school board to create a plan to get the budget in balance to allow borrowing to build an elementary and middle school, developed several options for the board to consider, including the consolidation of schools. His 37-page report, unveiled to the board and community Thursday night, saves millions that won't have to be spent on aging schools.

“For the last 18 years I have been a public school superintendent and served more than 30 years in public education as a teacher and administrator.  I have long been and still remain a public school educator who supports and defends parental school choice for their children.  I overwhelmingly support a true voucher program that when properly implemented sets clear parameters making sure all federal and state constraints or regulations are followed by any educational institution or home school program in order to receive voucher funding.    A true voucher system would call for one set of accountability measures, requirements and guidelines to apply to all educational institutions and all educators, regardless of public or private affiliation.”
If public schools are as good as we say, there's no reason to fear school choice: Don Bell
PennLive Op-Ed  By Don Bell on March 24, 2017 at 7:00 AM
Don Bell, an occasional PennLive Opinion contributor, is the Superintendent of Schools for the Northern Lebanon School District.
Are we in the public schools really as good as we say we are?
I recently read a news article about the public school union uproar behind the visit of President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to a Florida private school and had to chuckle at the irony of it all.  On one hand protesters helped block DeVos from entering a public school.  And yet when a private school in Florida welcomed Trump and DeVos into their schools, the public school unions quickly criticized them for being "hostile" toward public schools.  Then while DeVos was being forced by protesters, who were most likely influenced by union opinion, in the "backdoor" of a public school, those same unions are accusing the Trump and DeVos of not being transparent by pushing a "backdoor" voucher program for parental school choice.  Does a voucher system that gives financial support to a child's education, regardless of where they attend school, "turn education into a money making business" as the public school unions' fear?

Avon Grove School District schedules renewal date for charter
Daily Local By Marcella Peyre-Ferry, For Digital First Media POSTED: 03/26/17, 6:56 PM EDT 
NEW LONDON >> “We are on the path of charter renewal, not revocation,” Avon Grove School Board President Bonnie Wolff said near the close of Thursday’s school board meeting. “We believe charter schools serve a purpose.”  Wolff’s comment came in response to rumors and media accounts of the latest Avon Grove Charter School Board meeting, where the charter renewal process and the charter school’s relationship to the Avon Grove School District was a hot topic of conversation.   The Avon Grove Charter School’s charter with their home public school district expires on April 11, which makes for a tight schedule for charter renewal action from the district. The district has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday, April 6, to hear the renewal issue. One of the concerns of charter school supporters is that if the renewal is not voted on that night, and the charter expires even temporarily, there could be an impact on borrowing or plans for growth of the charter school.

Combating violence: students take the issue into their own hands
U School students mentor younger peers and encourage artistic expression. The program grew out of the Aspen Challenge.
The notebook by Melanie Bavaria March 24, 2017 — 12:06pm
Quran Kelly spent much of Monday morning banging on desks.  Kelly, a junior at The U-School, was teaching 7th graders at nearby McKinley elementary how to make music with their hands.  “My brain is always a million miles ahead of my mouth, so it is hard for me to talk…I used to get angry because I couldn’t talk with people,” he said. “I would probably just hit somebody or something, which is bad.” Listening, and then making music, was a way for him to express his anger.  “I want to show them that not only do you not need any money [to make music], but you can use your hands or fists for something else other than fighting,” he said.  Kelly and the seven other U-School students who were working with McKinley students March 20 are part of Breakout, a mentorship program that aims to fight violence through artistic expression. The students formed the group as part of the Aspen Challenge, which is partnering with the Philadelphia School District to inspire high school students to create projects that help tackle some of the city’s - and the world’s - most difficult problems. Twenty Philadelphia public high schools are participating in the Aspen Challenge this year.

District plans to overhaul Eat. Right. Now. program
The move will outsource the jobs of 10 union nutrition educators and expand to higher-poverty schools.
The notebook by Greg Windle March 24, 2017 — 3:36pm
The School District plans to overhaul a portion of Eat. Right. Now., its longstanding federally-funded nutrition education program, outsourcing the jobs of 10 teacher-educators and refocusing the K-12 program on the K-5 grades, although some K-12 programming will still be offered.  This portion of the program, paid for with a federal grant administered by Penn state, operates in 43 Philadelphia schools, while another 175 schools have programming provided by five other partner organizations that will not be affected.  Under the changes, Penn state's portion of the program would pull out of lower-poverty schools and expand programming in higher- poverty schools.  While the District says the goal is to make the program more effective and focus on the neediest students, the upheaval has triggered an online petition claiming that the change is unnecessary and another example in a pattern of eliminating union jobs in the name of efficiency.  “This plan takes away all the experience, expertise, and the long, successful relationships built over many years with students, school staff members, and the communities they serve,” David Hensel, the dean of students at Taggart Elementary School, wrote in the petition. “We are asking Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Tracks, the providers of the same generous grant that has funded the program each year, to ask the School District of Philadelphia to keep our experienced, excellent nutrition educators.”

School breakfast programs could get boost from state
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO  MARCH 25, 2017 6:07 PM
To honor National Pancake Day on March 7, Wingate Elementary School treated students to a pancake-themed breakfast.  Second-grade students Stephanie Cooper and Anna Peters, both 8, said their favorite item on the menu was “Piggy in a Blanket” — a corn dog-style treat with a pancake wrapped around a piece of sausage on a stick.   Promotional breakfast items were available not just for one day but the whole week as part of a celebration at the district for National School Breakfast Week. District Food Service Director Laura Frye said Bald Eagle Area elementary schools had special items and activities for students. Building principals were even invited to be servers.  The celebration came about a month after Gov. Tom Wolf presented a 2017-18 preliminary state budget that includes plans to add $2 million into breakfast programs in schools throughout the commonwealth.

Sharks aren't just for boys: Gills Club inspires aspiring female biologists
Marine biologist Heather Marshall's interest in sharks stemmed from fear that turned into fascination.  "When I first started thinking about this career my mom got me the book 'The Lady and the Sharks' by Dr. Eugenie Clark, and you know, obviously I was initially just captivated by the fact that it was a woman doing this research," Marshall says.  Eugenie Clark is one of the first female shark biologists and is known for her work in marine conservation, as well as for founding Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida.   Clark died of lung cancer in 2015 at 92, but she went on scuba diving expeditions even during her last year of life.  In the 1940s and 50s, when Clark began her career, it was unusual for a woman, particularly one of Japanese descent, to be doing the work she loved.  "I read about William Beebe, who...was of course a great explorer. And I thought, wouldn't it be wonderful to go down the way William Beebe did? And my parents would say, 'Well maybe you can study typing and how to be a good secretary, and you can become a secretary to somebody like William Beebe. That would be exciting wouldn't it?' And I said, 'No, I don't want to be anybody's secretary. I want to do that stuff myself. I want to be like William Beebe,'" Clark said in an interview.

PSBA: Transgender Legal Update (March 23, 2017)
For many years, PSBA has urged its members to work with transgender students and their families to meet the needs of individual students and to provide them with a safe and supportive school environment.  In addition to continuous updates on the law, PSBA has provided in depth training and materials on practical ways to accommodate transgender students.  However, there are lawsuits pending in Pennsylvania and the United States that still must be decided before we know whether Title IX and the Unites States Constitution Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment can be used to protect individuals from discrimination based on gender identity.  Some of these cases have been in the news in recent weeks and orders have been issued.  Links to these orders are found at the end of this article.

Private schools, charters have same advantages
Beaver County Times Letter by Bradley Booth, Chippewa Township, March 25, 2017
I just read Mike Bires' column concerning the PIAA Class 3A basketball title game in Hershey. I was both amused and bewildered. I am wondering whether he left his sense of fairness at a toll booth on the turnpike.  Comparing Neumann-Goretti and Lincoln Park basketball programs is like comparing apples to apples. He seems to think it's unfair for Neumann- Goretti to get players from all over the Philadelphia area and beyond. How is that different than a charter school getting players from all over western Pennsylvania playing against schools that can't get them?  He wonders about the amount of satisfaction Neumann-Goretti players get from beating up on far lesser opponents. I have often wondered that about a Midland school that has been doing this for the last 10 years.  Lastly, he wonders how many Neumann-Goretti players go there for a faith-based education and how many go there just to play basketball? Did he ever wonder how many players go to Lincoln Park to further their careers in the performing arts and how many go just to play basketball? Probably not. It's all apples to apples.  I think the scholastic sports writer at The Times needs to open his eyes and see the statewide situation. After all, shouldn't what's unfair about the goose (Neumann-Goretti) also be unfair about the gander (Lincoln Park)?

Gerrymandering: Rep.Daley to host town hall on redistricting reform March 27
PA House News Release by Rep. Mary Jo Daley    March 21, 2017 | 2:44 PM
CONSHOHOCKEN, March 21 State Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery, will co-host a town hall meeting on redistricting with Fair Districts PA at 7 p.m. Monday, March 27 at Colonial Elementary School, 230 Flourtown Road in Plymouth Meeting.  “Redistricting 101: A Conversation with Fair Districts PA and Rep. Mary Jo Daley” will feature discussion and a question-and-answer segment.  Every 10 years following the most recent U.S. Census, the boundaries of Pennsylvania's state House and Senate districts, as well as its congressional districts, must be redrawn to reflect changes and shifts in population. These plans are drawn by five people – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and a fifth member selected by the legislative leaders. If the four members are unable to agree on the fifth member of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court selects the final member.  According to Daley, who is a member of the State Government Reform Caucus, politics often plays too big of a role in the process, and bringing attention to the matter is the only way to affect change.  “Redistricting reform is one of the most important topics we have to deal with in the legislature because it affects nearly every partisan vote we face in session,” she said. “Too often, the party in power has too much influence on drawing political boundaries, and the process becomes nothing more than gerrymandering.  “I hope to see as many people as possible at the town hall – our voices on the matter can help make a difference.”

“Pennsylvanians can reclaim their power by supporting a bill, introduced in the Senate at the end of February, to establish an independent redistricting commission.  To transfer redistricting authority to a new citizens’ commission, state lawmakers must pass an identical bill in two consecutive legislative sessions — 2017-18 and 2018-19. The potential amendment must then pass in a public referendum in 2020 to take effect in time for the next district redraw.
In other words, that process has to start now if citizens are to have a greater say in the redistricting after the next Census.”
Editorial: Take fight vs. gerrymandering to courts
Delco Times POSTED: 03/26/17, 11:05 PM EDT | UPDATED: 21 SECS AGO
Are Pennsylvania voters starting to wake up?  Carol Kuniholm thinks so — and we hope she’s right.  The chairwoman of Fair Districts PA said she has been “stunned” by the turnout at meetings she has organized across Pennsylvania during the past few months.  The gatherings are intended to educate people about gerrymandering — when the party in power redraws legislative maps to ensure victory in a disproportionate number of districts — and enlist their help in changing the system.  In a nutshell, gerrymandering lets majority party leaders put a foot on the scale — drawing maps around friendly voters and corralling opposition voters into fewer, nonthreatening districts.  It leads to noncompetitive districts, where elections are decided in primaries and where voters’ choices are limited to varying extremes of one particular political philosophy. Representatives are less beholden to their constituents in these safe districts than to their party leaders.  Nowhere is that more vividly depicted than the bizarre, cookie-cutter shape of the 7th Congressional District, which includes most of Delaware County, but now also sees its tentacles snake out to portions of seemingly every suburban Philadelphia county. The result? What was once considered a tossup district is now solidly Republican, held by U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan.

“In other words, redistricting doesn’t only affect which legislators are elected, but how they choose to govern.”
Fixing Gerrymandering Doesn’t Just Make Elections More Fair
It also encourages elected officials to adjust how they govern. By Perry Grossman March 20, 2017
Redistricting recently moved Florida state Sen. Anitere Flores from a safely Republican district into a Democratic-leaning one. It changed how she votes, too.   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.

Wisconsin Has Taken Its Partisan-Gerrymandering Case to the U.S. Supreme Court—Here’s What Happens Next
The Brennan Center Blog Thomas Wolf March 24, 2017
This blog was revised to reflect updates in Whitford V. Gill on March 24, 2017.
With February's filing of a notice of appeal by the State of Wisconsin in Whitford v. Gill, the U.S. Supreme Court may be poised to take its first look at the constitutionality of politically driven line-drawing in more than a decade.  Wisconsin is seeking the Court’s review of a recent 2-1 ruling holding that the state's 2011 assembly redistricting plan was a partisan gerrymander that violated both the First and the Fourteenth Amendments. The 116-page majority opinion described the gerrymander as “an aggressive [one]” that guaranteed a Republican majority in the state assembly “in any likely electoral scenario.”  The panel’s ruling for the plaintiffs was a signal event. It marked the first time in more than three decades that a federal court ruled for the plaintiffs in a partisan-gerrymandering suit after a full trial.

Flynn meeting allegedly discussed removal of Muslim cleric in Poconos back to Turkey
Inquirer by Chris Mondics, STAFF WRITER  @cmondics | Updated: MARCH 25, 2017 — 12:49 PM EDT
Ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn met with Turkish officials last fall and allegedly took part in a discussion about whisking Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from his secluded Pocono Mountains retreat and returning him to Turkey, where the government blames him for inciting last year’s failed but bloody coup.  The Sept. 19 meeting was described by former CIA Director James Woolsey in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, and set off a new round of speculation about Flynn’s actions while he was advising Donald Trump’s presidential campaign last year. Woolsey said the discussion involved the possibility of spiriting Gulen out of the country outside of legal extradition procedures. He could not recall whether it was Flynn himself who voiced the idea, or someone else at the meeting.  “It was brainstorming about what would have been a pretty clear violation of the law," Woolsey told the newspaper.  The Turkish government has repeatedly called on the United States to extradite Gulen, without success so far. A spokesman for Flynn said that Woolsey’s description of the meeting was inaccurate and that there had been no discussion of removing Gulen from the country. Woolsey attended the meeting in his capacity as a member of an advisory board to the Flynn Intel Group, Flynn’s consulting firm.

Reprise 2014: 120 American Charter Schools and One Secretive Turkish Cleric
The FBI is investigating a group of educators who are followers of a mysterious Islamic movement. But the problems seem less related to faith than to the oversight of charter schools.
The Atlantic by SCOTT BEAUCHAMP  AUG 12, 2014
It reads like something out of a John Le Carre novel: The charismatic Sunni imam Fethullah Gülen, leader of a politically powerful Turkish religious movement likened by The Guardian to an “Islamic Opus Dei,” occasionally webcasts sermons from self-imposed exile in the Poconos while his organization quickly grows to head the largest chain of charter schools in America. It might sound quite foreboding—and it should, but not for the reasons you might think.  You can be excused if you’ve never heard of Fethullah Gülen or his eponymous movement. He isn’t known for his openness, despite the size of his organization, which is rumored to have between 1 and 8 million adherents. It’s difficult to estimate the depth of its bench, however, without an official roster of membership. Known informally in Turkey as Hizmet, or “the service”, the Gülen movement prides itself on being a pacifist, internationalist, modern, and moderate alternative to more extreme derivations of Sunni Islam. The group does emphasize the importance of interfaith dialogue, education, and a kind of cosmopolitanism. One prominent sociologist described it as “the world’s most global movement.”

Liberals, Conservatives Agree: Big Mistake for White House to Push Private School Choice
So who exactly supports private school choice?
US News By Lauren Camera, Education Reporter | March 24, 2017, at 5:21 p.m.
Having just sent a memo to the Democratic caucus Wednesday morning outlining a strategy to oppose the Trump administration’s plans to push private school choice, Sen. Patty Murray headed to the left-leaning Center for American Progress to further condemn the idea.  “Unfortunately, our system breaks down completely when it comes to public money going to private schools,” the Washington Democrat and ranking member of the Senate education committee said to a room of mostly like-minded liberals. “Without accountability and without transparency, too many students fall through the cracks and we fly blind without the information we need to make sure all students are succeeding.”  At the same moment, across town at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, a panel of conservative and libertarian education policy experts waxed on the very same private school choice proposal. And, like Murray, they also concluded – though for very different reasons – that the Trump administration should not be pushing such an agenda.

Betsy DeVos: States Should Decide How Much Testing Is "Actually Necessary"
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on March 26, 2017 7:26 PM
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a video interview that it should be up to states and districts to decide how frequently to test their students.   "It's really a matter for states and locales to determine how much testing is actually necessary for measuring what students are learning," DeVos said Friday. "I think it's important to know and understand, however, what they are learning, and it's important for parents to have that information, so that they can be assured that their students are in the right place. ... Testing is an important part of the equation, but I think it's really a matter for the states to wrestle with, to decide how and how frequently the testing is actually done."  Her answer came in response to a question from WFTV Florida's Martie Salt, who asked DeVos how much testing is enough and what should change about testing.  The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to test students in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. But the law also allows states to offer a number of smaller, interim tests for accountability purposes, instead of one big test at the end of the year.  And it allows states to experiment with new forms of testing in a few districts before taking them statewide, as well as use federal funds to take a close look at the amount of state and local tests they offer.  It's not clear if DeVos was referring to those flexibilities in her remarks, or something broader. The U.S. Department of Education did not immediately respond to an email sent Sunday night seeking clarification.

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

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:

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

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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.