Tuesday, March 28, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 28: Report: Lack of Rural School District Spending Impacts PSSA Results

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 28, 2017:
Report: Lack of Rural School District Spending Impacts PSSA Results

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.  http://video.witf.org/video/2365980015/

“The report, along with data for each of Pennsylvania’s 260 rural school districts, is available at: http://www.papartnerships.org/work/k12/k12-reports.
Report: Lack of Rural School District Spending Impacts PSSA Results
Explore Venango by Ron Wilshire | March 23, 2017
HARRISBURG, Pa. (EYT) – Doing more with less is a reality for local school districts, but one state organization sys the lack of adequate state funding for rural school district Pennsylvania is showing itself in lower scores on standardized tests.  State funding for public education impacts student achievement in rural Pennsylvania, according to a report released Monday by Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children that looks at how spending levels in the state’s 260 rural school districts impacts student results on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments (PSSAs).  Only Forest County and Cranberry Area in Venango County in exploreClarion’s coverage area of Clarion, Forest, Jefferson, and Venango counties exceed “adequate” funding.  Forest County’s district spending is 22.5 percent more than the adequacy target and Cranberry Area is 13.7 percent more. The figures also likely represent the total amount of funding, including local taxes.  Clarion Area receives the smallest amount of state funding in the area.  The report, “Spending Impact on Student Achievement: A Rural Perspective,” shows when rural school districts spend below the amount needed to educate students – or their adequacy target – that under spending is a direct result of inadequate state support and negatively impacts student achievement.

State legislators, education officials gather at Plum for PlanCon hearing
Trib Live by PATRICK VARINE  | Friday, March 24, 2017, 10:21 p.m.
State legislators and education officials joined Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera in Plum on Friday for the latest in what will be eight statewide hearings on the PlanCon program, which aims to reimburse school districts for construction costs.  The committee is tasked with issuing recommendations for changes to the program by mid-May — in time for lawmakers to consider as they work on next year's budget.  Superintendents from Franklin Regional, Plum, Pittsburgh, West Greene and Sharon City school districts all told the committee, which met at O'Block Junior High School, that they would like to see the process streamlined and urged raising the cap on which projects require prevailing wages.

'You need 60 votes to get anything in the Senate - including a bathroom break,' Rep. Charlie Dent says of healthcare collapse
Penn Live By John L. Micek | jmicek@pennlive.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on March 27, 2017 at 8:17 AM, updated March 27, 2017 at 8:18 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
In an appearance on CNN this Monday morning, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent bemoaned the collapse of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill that partially contributed to the Trump administration's stinging defeat last week on healthcare reform.  Dent, R-15th District, and the co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group, said President Donald Trump surrendered too much to hard-line conservatives as he tried to build support for his doomed healthcare package.  "We need a durable, sustainable bill that will pass in a bipartisan manner," Dent told CNNon Monday morning. "And everyone knows that."

Meehan: GOP in great divide after health care fiasco
Delco Times By Rick Kauffman, rkauffman@21st-centurymedia.com@Kauffee_DT on Twitter
POSTED: 03/27/17, 12:42 PM EDT | UPDATED: 48 SECS AGO
SPRINGFIELD >> The divide within the Republican Party has never been greater, said U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan, R-7 of Chadds Ford, in a interview with the Delaware County Daily Times Monday morning.  This comes just days after the congressman called the proposed bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act not “satisfactory ... nor an adequate replacement” after President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled it prior to a vote.  On Monday Meehan said he was a firm “no” vote on the American Health Care Act, though he earlier voted for it as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. “I thought it was a responsibility to continue to move the discussion along,” Meehan said. The committee OK’d the AHCA on March 9. “It has fundamental problems and it was important to begin to look at ways in which it can be fixed.”  He said the bill didn’t do enough and left too many health care recipients in the lurch — namely the elderly and those recovering from opioid abuse.

“But enough places are expected to apply to create between 25,000 and 35,000 video game terminals, Mustio said. If projections hold up, Mustio said he estimates the state would generate $100 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year that starts July 1 and then up to $500 million annually. Of the total, all counties would split $50 million. Another piece of it would go to municipalities and $2.5 million would be set aside for gambling addiction programs.”
Lawmakers want bars to have legal video gambling terminals
Morning Call Steve Esack Contact Reporter Call Harrisburg Bureau March 27, 2017
Pennsylvania lawmakers want bars to have legal video gambling terminals
In 2004, federal authorities raided a small social club in Easton that was the center of an $8.4 million illegal video gambling ring.  In the years before and since that Fleas Club raid, state Sen. Lisa Boscola said Monday, illegal gambling has been occurring at social clubs, bars and other places across the Lehigh Valley and rest of Pennsylvania. That's why it's time for government to get in on the action by legalizing and taxing tens of thousands of video game terminals, she said.  "We need to legitimize this activity," Boscola, D-Northampton, said at a news conference in the state Capitol announcing a bill to create up to 35,000 legal video gambling terminals in the state. "It's been going on for decades in basements."  The bill is not yet written. But the bipartisan group of Democratic and Republican supporters are envisioning a jackpot of revenue.

Oped: State pension reform needed now
York Dispatch Opinion by Warren C. Bulette, Spring Garden Township  March 27, 2017
 Warren C Bulette is a member of the York County Taxpayers Council and Spring Garden Township resident.
Evidently, too many legislators don't understand that we must legally stop now, as best we can, the Pennsylvania Defined Benefit Pension cost bleeding. Legislators should end all current defined benefit plans on Dec. 31, 2017 with a buyout option to retire in 2017 under the present calculation. Current pensioners will not be cut. A hybrid plan the legislators are working on will not stop enough pension-cost bleeding. All our property taxes (school, county, municipal) will, under the hybrid plan, continue to rise at an unsustainable rate unless proper action is taken now. More property taxpayers will be driven from their homes by a hybrid plan.

Erie School District at work on new number
Go Erie By Ed Palattella  March 28, 2017
The Erie School District has renewed its search for a magic number.  Following state Education Secretary Pedro Rivera's visit on Thursday, the district is revising its financial recovery plan to include a request for additional state funding in an amount that Rivera, Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly will find reasonable.  The amount must be low enough to gain support in Harrisburg but high enough to allow the district to offset its projected $10 million deficit in 2017-18 and eliminate a structural deficit going forward, Brian Polito, the Erie School District's chief financial officer, said Monday. He said the district would need the most help in fiscal 2017-18, which starts July 1.  "This is the big year," he said.  Polito said the district is examining potential savings and reviewing the details of the deficit to settle on a final figure. Superintendent Jay Badams, at a public hearing on Wednesday, the day before Rivera's visit, suggested that the district might ask for $15 million.

Pulaski Elementary to close
New Castle News By Mary Grzebieniak New Castle News March 28, 2017
The Wilmington Area Board of Education voted 6-2 on Monday night to close Pulaski Elementary School effective June 30.  The vote came after board members heard arguments for and against the closing before about 150 people in the Wilmington High School cafeteria.  Voting for the closing were President Bo DiMuccio, Lynn Foltz, Robert Curry, Jennifer Hunt, Autumn Miller and Jacob Berlin. Voting against were Joe Kollar and Kathryn Riley. Member William Taylor was absent due to a trip he could not reschedule when the board set the meeting date, DiMuccio said after the meeting.  Those attending dispersed quietly after the vote following a night of impassioned arguments for and against the closing.  Just prior to voting, Foltz warned that “this will be the first of many difficult decisions in the next few years,” and said public education itself and the district’s survival will increasingly be at stake due to financial issues.

School District of Lancaster notches another legal victory over rejected charter school
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer  March 28, 2017
School District of Lancaster has marked another victory in its costly, three-year battle with the Academy of Business and Entrepreneurship Charter School.  The state’s Commonwealth Court last week upheld a Lancaster County Court ruling that struck petition signatures that ABECS needed to file an appeal to the Pennsylvania Charter School Appeals Board.  The county court’s action followed the school district’s rejection of two applications from ABECS, which had sought to open a business-related charter school with an eventual enrollment of 400 students in kindergarten through ninth grade.  SDL’s current charter tuition rates are around $10,000 per regular education student and $23,000 per special education student, according to the district’s chief financial officer, Matt Przywara.  That would translate to several million dollars out of the school district’s budget for a charter school that lacked a satisfactory curriculum, building safety plans and community support, district officials said.  “This latest court ruling is further validation of our decisions in 2013 and 2014, and our efforts since,” School District of Lancaster Superintendent Damaris Rau said in a statement.

What would an adequate budget for Philly schools actually look like?
The SRC told District officials to put one together that would let elected officials know what is actually needed
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa March 27, 2017 — 7:59am
The School Reform Commission shocked most everyone Thursday night when it passed a $2.9 billion budget outline for next year, but then declared it inadequate and ordered District finance officials to craft a document that, in the words of chair Joyce Wilkerson, “reflects the real needs of the children of Philadelphia.”  The unforeseen action was instigated by Commissioner Bill Green, who extracted an admission from Superintendent William Hite that the modest increase in the budget from this year to next was due to fixed costs such as pensions and debt service, not because of significant new investments in schools.  Green was the only one of the four commissioners to vote against adopting the so-called “lump sum” budget, so it passed. But the commissioners, Hite, Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson, and speakers at the meeting all agreed, tacitly or otherwise, that what they agreed to isn’t adequate for the District to fulfill its mission – making sure that all its students graduate with the skills and knowledge to succeed in college or the workforce.  "We are not receiving adequate funding, but I think it makes sense to spend time to develop what a real budget would look like for the District," Wilkerson said.

Here's who's benefitting from Philly's pre-K expansion
As Philadelphia's pre-K program approaches its three-month anniversary, new data on the program shows that families in PHLpreK are, on the whole, poorer than the city average.
That's one of many inferences that can be drawn from a raft of new figures released Monday by the mayor's office.  The data dump details the number of children enrolled in the new program; the types of providers serving them; and demographic information about the families who've taken advantage of the city's high-profile pre-K expansion.

Impacts of school choice on segregation
Penn State News by Kristie Auman-Bauer March 27, 2017
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Diversity in schools is important for students’ experiences and outcomes in schools and beyond, reducing prejudices and ensuring the likelihood of living and working in integrated environments as adults. Penn State researchers are exploring how school choice is affecting racial composition and segregation in Pennsylvania schools.  According to lead researcher Erica Frankenberg, associate professor of education and Population Research Institute associate at Penn State, this is one of the first studies to explore how charter schools could be affecting the racial composition of public schools.  “It is critical to assess how student movement from charter schools affects school segregation during this time of persisting neighborhood segregation, and to see what choices students and parents make when or if more integrative options exist," said Frankenberg.

Commentary: Pa. lawmakers should keep expanding school choice
Inquirer Commentary By James Paul Updated: MARCH 28, 2017 — 3:01 AM EDT
James Paul is a senior policy analyst with the Commonwealth Foundation.
Thrilling competition, Cinderella stories, and office bracket pools are the essence of March Madness. The NCAA basketball tournament's single-elimination format, where drama is high and outcomes uncertain, has the nation on the edge of its seat.  At the same time, Philadelphia's students face a different version of March Madness. One full of drama, heartache, and uncertainty - but with far more at stake. March brings the slim chance for children to escape a failing school system and enroll in charter schools.  Unlike the NCAA tournament, skill and preparation are irrelevant in this competition: Instead, random lottery determines a child's educational fate.  At MaST Community Charter School this year, nearly 9,200 applicants vied for just 96 seats, meaning one percent of children emerged winners. For reference, it's easier to get into an Ivy League university: The University of Pennsylvania accepts 9 percent of applicants.

Keystone Oaks teachers' union threatens to strike Thursday
Teachers in the Keystone Oaks Education Association on Monday announced their intention to go on strike Thursday morning if a tentative agreement cannot be reached with the school district.
The teachers’ union, which has been working without a contract since June 30, issued the 48-hour strike notice to school board President Matthew Cesario.  The strike authorization was overwhelmingly approved by the membership at a Dec. 22 meeting.  “The teachers, nurses and counselors who work so diligently for the education and welfare of our students deserve a fair and equitable contract,” association President Kevin Gallagher said in a statement.  The two sides are scheduled to resume negotiations at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Mr. Gallagher said.  State law requires teachers’ unions to give districts 48-hours notice before engaging in a strike.

Apollo-Ridge renews deal for substitute teacher provider
Trib Live by TOM YERACE | Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 12:09 a.m.
The Apollo-Ridge School Board has renewed a contract with a New Jersey company that provides substitute teachers to school districts.  An agreement with Source4Teachers of Cherry Hill, N.J., was approved in a 6-0 vote Monday, with board members Dominick Duso, Jim Ferguson and Forrest Schultz absent.  “We've been with Source4Teachers for the past couple of years,” Superintendent Matt Curci said.  The agreement is for four years, and, by accepting a longer term, Curci said the district was able to get a discounted rate.  The district's typical pay rate for a short-term substitute, for a full-day's work, is $90, he said. Source4Teachers has a typical billing rate of $123.  “They handle all the calling, all the placement,” said Curci, adding that using the company has expanded the district's pool of substitutes and helped ease the shortage of qualified substitutes.

Trump's proposed budget cuts alarm Pa. educators
York Dispatch by Junior Gonzalez , 505-5439/@JuniorG_YD11:29 a.m. ET March 27, 2017
  • York City School District among the top 25 schools most at risk of "considerable losses" from cuts.
  • Federal funding for teacher staffing and retention would be completely eliminated under Trump budget.
  • Federal budget calls for a a $9 billion reduction in funding to the Department of Education.
Teacher training, after-school programs and federal college grants programs may be eliminated under the President Trump's recently announced budget plan.  The proposal calls for a 13 percent reduction in funding for the U.S. Department of Education and the elimination of several programs, including a teacher staffing and retention program, the 21st Century after-school program, and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, which provides tuition assistance to college students with severe financial need.  Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera called the cuts “devastating.”  In a letter sent to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last week, Rivera said he and the rest of Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration are “steadfast in ... opposition” to education cuts under the proposed federal budget.

Trump signs bills overturning Obama-era education regulations
Washington Post By Emma Brown March 27 at 4:43 PM 
President Trump signed bills Monday overturning two Obama-era education regulations, continuing the Republican majority’s effort to undo key pieces of the previous administration’s legacy.  Trump’s move scraps new requirements for programs that train new K-12 teachers and rolls back a set of rules outlining how states must carry out the Every Student Succeeds Act, a bipartisan federal law meant to hold schools accountable for student performance. In a signing ceremony at the White House Monday, the president hailed the measures for “removing an additional layer of bureaucracy to encourage freedom in our schools.”  Leaders of the Republican majority claimed that the accountability rules represented an executive overreach by former president Barack Obama. Democrats argued that rescinding the rules opens loopholes that states can use to shield poorly performing schools from scrutiny, especially when they fail to serve poor children, minorities, English-language learners and students with disabilities.

“There hasn’t been much attention paid to closures in the law,” Tillotson said of charter laws nationwide. “The laws are more forward-looking than backward-looking when things might blow up.”  That lack of clarity has suddenly started to matter a lot in Memphis, where charter schools are struggling to attract enough students to stay viable. Both KIPP and Gestalt blame their impending pullouts on under-enrollment — a challenge faced by more than half of the 31 Memphis schools operated by the ASD.  But having enough students wasn’t the focus when the ASD began taking over low-performing schools in 2012 and recruiting charter operators to turn them around. The assumption was that charter schools would have too many students and not enough seats, especially if those schools were under new management.”
Why charter operators exiting Tennessee’s turnaround district can walk away
Each of the state-run Achievement School District charter operators have an agreement that allows them to close for any reason.
When two charter school operators announced plans to leave Tennessee’s turnaround district this spring, many people were surprised that they could break their 10-year agreements.  “How could any charter management company come into a community and up and decide we’re not going to play anymore?” asked Quincey Morris, a lifelong resident of North Memphis, home to two schools that abruptly lost their charter operator.  But in Memphis and across the nation, there’s nothing to stop charter operators from leaving, even when they promise to be there for a long time.
Contracts signed by both Gestalt Community Schools and KIPP contain no penalties for exiting the Achievement School District before agreements run out, according to documents obtained by Chalkbeat.  And by design, that’s not unusual in the charter sector. For better or worse, operators are given that autonomy, according to Dirk Tillotson, a lawyer and founder of a charter incubation organization in California.

“Early signs indicate that DeVos will help make it easier for kids to attend similar private, religious schools. President Donald Trump’s budget proposal sets aside $250 million for a “new private school choice program” ― something DeVos said in a statement would place “power in the hands of parents and families to choose schools that are best for their children.”
Welcome To The Private Evangelical School Of Betsy DeVos’ Dreams
Teachers sign a statement of faith and kids learn about creationism and the Bible. It’s also the education secretary’s inspiration.
Huffington Post By Rebecca Klein 03/28/2017 05:45 am ET
It takes more than just a solid resume and stellar references to get hired at The Potter’s House, a school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The job application also requires prospective teachers to sign and accept a statement of faith.  “We believe that the world was perfect at creation, but sin intervened, severing all people’s perfect relationship with God and bringing consequences on every object and institution within the creation,” the statement reads, in part.    The Potter’s House is a private school that is “evangelical in nature” and reportedly teaches creationism alongside evolution. It’s also the type of school that Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, apparently believes can level the playing field in educational inequality. The nondenominational Potter’s House makes a special effort to serve students of all races and income levels.   DeVos has been deeply involved with The Potter’s House for years ― as a donor, volunteer and board member. She has mentioned the school by name in speeches and interviews, saying schools like The Potter’s House have given “kids the chance to succeed and thrive” and that the institution inspired her to advocate for education-related causes.  

Measuring up to the Model: A Ranking of State Charter Public School Laws
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools March 2017 Report

Trump's Education Cuts Would Squeeze Charter, Private Schools
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on March 27, 2017 7:17 AM
Private and charter schools were considered the big winners in President Donald Trump's budget blueprint, which sought new money to expand student options, while slashing other K-12 spending. The problem for some schools of choice? Private and charter schools would be squeezed by the proposed cuts, just like regular public schools.  The Trump administration's budget blueprint would include $1.4 billion in new money for school choice, but it would get rid of Title II, the $2.3 billion main federal program for improving teacher quality, and the 21st Century Community Learning Center program, a $1.1 billion program which helps finance afterschool and extended-day programs. Private and charter schools receive funding, or at least services, from both programs, explained Sheara Krvaric, an attorney with the Fed Ed Group, a law firm that specializes in K-12 programs.  Here's a breakdown of how that works: 

Will High Court Ruling Raise Expectations for Special Ed.?
Education Week By Christina A. Samuels and Mark Walsh March 24, 2017
Advocates for children with disabilities are cheering a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court as a clear win that establishes more-ambitious academic standards for special education students.  Representatives for some educational groups and districts, on the other hand, have a more measured response. They say that the March 22 decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District sets forth a standard for the level of benefit required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act that most school districts were exceeding already.  Both sides can find support for their views in the text of the unanimous decision, which was written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. for the eight-member court.  The high court rejected language in a lower court ruling that special education must provide “merely more than de minimis”—or trivial—benefit to students.  “When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all,” Roberts said.

A Review of the Supreme Court’s Decision in Endrew F. F.: Thoughts on its Impact on Special Education Law and Practice in Pennsylvania
Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, 2017 WL 1066260 (2017)
To meet IDEA substantive obligation must offer IEP “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

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

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