Wednesday, March 29, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 29: Should PA Legislature be required to pass tax increases by a 2/3 vote? SB406 would require that of school boards.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 29, 2017:
Should PA Legislature be required to pass tax increases by a 2/3 vote?  SB406 would require that of school boards.

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.

Over the past seven years, school boards have managed their budgets by decreasing staff salaries by over 4% and controlling nonmandated costs to a minimal increase of 5% over the same period.  School districts have been dealing with extraordinary pressure from an over 257% mandated increase in pension payments and an over 40% increase in mandated special education costs.
Senate Ed Committee scheduled to vote today on SB406 which would require a 2/3 majority vote for school board to raise taxes

Blogger Commentary:
Is your state senator on the Education Committee?  Ask them to lead by example by first passing legislation requiring a 2/3 vote of the General Assembly to increase state-wide taxes

PP4C Report: A Rural Perspective
Spending Impact on Student Performance - A Rural Perspective
PA Partnerships for Children Report March 2017
View the Report | Sources & Methodology | School District Table
Every child should have an equal opportunity to attend a local public school that has adequate resources to ensure that he or she can learn and meet state academic standards. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many children living in Pennsylvania and is far too often not the case for children living in rural communities. More than half of the rural school districts in Pennsylvania are spending less educating their children than their estimated adequacy target or the amount expected to ensure that children can reach the state's rigorous academic standards.

Education Law Center: Money Matters in Education Justice
Education Law Center Report March 2017
Addressing Racial and Class Inequities in Pennsylvania’s School Funding System
The Pennsylvania Constitution guarantees that children across the state have access to a “thorough and efficient” system of public education, one that enables them to meet comprehensive state academic standards and graduation requirements. Despite this constitutional mandate, hundreds of thousands of children—particularly children of color and children in poorer communities—are denied the school resources they need to be successful in school and beyond. We have a broken school funding system that further entrenches inequities and fails to support Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable students. School districts in Pennsylvania are confronted with two interconnected challenges: the state is not appropriating adequate funding to basic education, and the majority of the funding it does provide is distributed inequitably. • Inadequate funding.

Center on Regional Politics Report: Hard Choices Ahead for PA School Districts
Temple University Center on Regional Politics Report March 9, 2017
A recent policy brief from the Center on Regional Politics, “Hard Choices Still Ahead,” forecasts the fiscal future for all 500 school districts in PA for the period 2015-16 through 2019-20. The brief and supporting interactive graphics and maps (below) project budget shortfalls that will require program cuts, higher taxes, or a combination of the two for the vast majority of Pennsylvania school districts. In short, the hard choices most districts have faced in the recent past will continue, making a decade of fiscal stress “the new normal” for public schools, teachers, students, and their families.  Based on conservative assumptions, total revenues are projected to increase at $700 to $750 million per year at an increasing rate. However, expenditures are projected to increase at $750 to $800 million per year, although at a decreasing rate. What results are continuing shortfalls for most school districts although a net statewide shortfall would be substantially reduced. See the figure “School District Projections” below.

Breakfast programs help students start the day in the right frame of mind: PennLive letters
Penn Live Letters to the Editor on March 28, 2017 at 2:00 PM
By DAVID LLOYD, youth programs manager, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, Susquehanna Township
In his 2017-18 budget address, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed $2 million to help Pennsylvania schools launch or expand school breakfast programs. It's a wise investment. Breakfast programs help students start the day in the right frame of mind: they are calm, attentive, and ready to learn.  I spent 32 years as food services director at the Harrisburg City School District. Working hand in hand with faculty and administrators, I've seen firsthand how school breakfast programs help students. When children start the day with the nutrition they need, they grow up smarter, healthier and stronger.

“The biggest increase in spending is a $740,000 boost in debt payments, reflecting about $10 million borrowed in November and another $10 million the district expects to borrow this spring for the elementary school construction and renovation project. The district also expects to pay $416,000 more for health care, $392,000 more to the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) pension fund and $226,500 for outside placement of students in specialized education programs. The budget shows a $743,000 reduction in salaries — much of that represented by elimination of five full-time jobs and one part-time position by not hiring replacements for retiring teachers.”
Indiana board looks to make up $1 million deficit
Indiana Gazette by CHAUNCEY ROSS on March 28, 2017 10:59 AM  Indiana, PA
The Indiana Area school administration has closed much of a projected $1.7 million deficit for the 2017-18 school year, according to a budget review that calls for raising the real estate tax by 3 percent, the maximum allowed under the local economic index set by the state.  The plan outlined Monday for the school board by district Business Manager Jared Cronauer shows a gap of slightly more than $1 million, with $54.055 million of revenue and $55.060 million of expenses. The district has three months to come up with a final budget.  A month ago, a draft budget showed $54.3 million of income and $56 million of costs for the coming year. Since Feb. 23, the income figures have been revised to show a $230,000 decrease in expected state funding and $19,000 less in federal funding.  In all, the district expects revenue to increase $420,000 over the 2016-17 budget.  Expenses are forecast at $1.159 million more than 2016-17.

Lancaster schools settle lawsuit over refugee enrollment policies
The suit alleged the school’s practices violated the Equal Education Opportunity Act. A federal judge agreed, as did an appellate panel.  So what were the practices?  The district had been sending refugees over the age of 16 to an accelerated credit program at the privately-run Phoenix Academy, a magnet school for students at risk for dropping or aging out before earning a diploma.  The six refugee students (and a few others who ultimately opted out of the case) wanted to go to the former International School program for first-year ESL students at the district’s mainstream McCaskey High School.  A preliminary injunction issued last summer allowed the plaintiffs to choose which school to attend.  Going forward, all students with the lowest levels of English-level proficiency will start out at the International School program, recently renamed the Newcomer School.  “The biggest difference is they’ll all come together in the beginning, which we’re not against,” said Superintendent Damaris Rau. “But we’re talking about maybe 25 kids who come to us as 17-to-21-year-old nonnative English speakers. [Fighting lawsuit] was just taking up an inordinate amount of time."

In suburban Pa., district chooses to defend suit over transgender policy
A suburban Philadelphia school district has opted to defend its policy on transgender students in the face of a recent lawsuit.  Though it does not have an official written protocol, the Boyertown Area School District near Pottstown, Pennsylvania permits students to use the bathroom and locker room that matches their gender identity.  Earlier this month, an anonymous student, backed by a conservative group, sued the district claiming this practice violates his right to privacy and constitutes sexual harassment. The student is represented by the organization Alliance Defending Freedom, that has filed similar lawsuits in other states.  The Alliance and the student offered to settle the case if Boyertown Area officials would reverse their position.  After a charged public meeting Tuesday night, the district's school board rejected that settlement agreement by a vote of 6-to-3.  This headline-grabbing case will now move forward, joining a raft of similar suits that will eventually help determine the rights of transgender students in public schools.

School board won't change transgender policy to stop suit
By Tony Rhodin | For Email the author | Follow on Twitter on March 29, 2017 at 6:29 AM
A Berks County school board didn't back down when offered an exit from a federal lawsuit by attorneys for a student who said he was sexually harassed and his privacy violated when a transgender student born female was allowed to change in the same locker room, a published report says.  The Boyertown Area School District board voted 6-3 after a period of public comment to not force transgender students to use locker rooms that apply to their anatomy rather than their gender identification, the Reading Eagles reports.  If the board had changed the gender-identification policy, attorneys for the Boyertown Area Senior High School student known as Joel Doe said they would drop the lawsuitfiled March 21, the newspaper said.  The back-and-forth was harsh during the meeting, with the parent of a 16-year-old hollering "my child is not a social experiment" when a school board member suggested that's what the district policy boiled down to, the newspaper said.

Wyoming Area School Board approves teachers contract
Citizens’ Voice by MICHAEL P. BUFFER / PUBLISHED: MARCH 29, 2017
EXETER — The Wyoming Area School Board voted 6-2 Tuesday night for a new three-year agreement with the district’s teachers union.  The agreement includes “a true wage freeze” for the current school year, in which teachers will not advance a step on the salary matrix, solicitor Jarrett Ferentino said. The district will save around $200,000 this year because teachers will not advance a step, Business Manager Tom Melone said.  Teachers will advance steps in 2017-18 and 2018-19. But salaries on the matrix will not increase, other than a $550 increase to the top step in 2017-18, union President Melissa Dolman said.  The maximum salary on the top step is $81,892, and the lowest starting salary is around $40,000, Dolman said.

Pennsylvania school board files labor charges against union
Inquirer by The Associated Press Updated: MARCH 28, 2017 — 7:39 AM EDT
DALLAS, Pa. (AP) - A northeastern Pennsylvania school board accuses teachers of mounting an illegal strike and refusing to submit to mandatory arbitration.  Dallas School Board filed a state unfair labor practice charge against the teachers union. The board also alleges teachers have set a date for a second unlawful strike.  The district hopes to save $500,000 in what it says are salaries and benefits that union members will not have earned because they failed to work the required 185 days.  The union's chief negotiator, John Holland, says the district's complaints are "without merit." The union contends the district illegally changed the school calendar.  Teachers in the district outside Wilkes-Barre have been working without a contract since 2015.

Ivanka Trump, Education Secretary DeVos promote STEM careers
Ivanka Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday exhorted young girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, saying those fields will provide the jobs and innovation for the future.  Their tour of the National Air and Space Museum with a group of middle school students came as the Trump administration proposed further cuts to education and science, drawing harsh criticism from teachers' unions and others.  Ivanka Trump, a successful entrepreneur who considers herself as a women's rights activist, lamented that women make up 48 percent of America's work force but only 24 percent of STEM professionals.  This statistic is showing that we are sadly moving in the wrong direction. Women are increasingly underrepresented in important fields of science, technology, engineering and math," Trump said. "But I dare you to beat these statistics and advance the role of women in STEM fields."

“The Trump budget seeks to wipe out NASA’s education office, which oversees efforts to support women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, operates camps and enrichment programs, and provides internships and scholarships for young scientists.”
The irony in Ivanka Trump’s and Betsy DeVos’s push for STEM education
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss March 28 at 1:30 PM 
This belongs in the you-can’t-make-up-this-stuff category.
On Tuesday, presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. According to the Education Department, they were there to “highlight the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education” and to discuss “empowering young women to pursue STEM-related careers.” They also introduced a viewing of “Hidden Figures,” a film about a team of African American women who had a vital, unseen role at NASA when it was first launching men into space.  The event came just a short time after President Trump, Ivanka’s father, advanced his first federal budget, which included some revealing proposals for NASA, the country’s space agency. The Trump budget seeks to wipe out NASA’s education office, which oversees efforts to support women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields, operates camps and enrichment programs, and provides internships and scholarships for young scientists.

How Will Peer Review for ESSA Plans Work Under the Trump Administration?
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on March 28, 2017 4:50 PM
Next Monday, states will begin officially submitting their plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act to the U.S. Department of Education. And then comes the, umm ... fun part. Those plans will be examined through a wonky-but-important process known as "peer review," in which a team of educators and experts essentially takes a close look at a state's vision, to see if it complies with the law.   On Tuesday, the Education Department—now controlled by Team Trump—released guidance spelling out exactly what those reviewers should be looking for. File this under technical-but-good-to-know: The guidance only covers "Title I" (the main section of the law that includes accountablity, school improvement, testing, and more), Title III (the portion of the law that deals with English-language learners), and the portion that deals with homeless students. The other programs in the law, including Title II (which governs many of the teacher portions of the law) will be reviewed by the department. 

Reports Say Trump Seeks Teacher Development Cuts for Coming School Year
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on March 28, 2017 4:32 PM
You might already have read about President Donald Trump's proposed budget for fiscal 2018 that would eliminate $2.3 billion in Title II spending on professional development for teachers and after-school programs, while boosting school choice efforts. But that budget wouldn't kick in until October, and would impact the 2018-19 school year. What about the fiscal 2017 budget that would fund the 2017-18 school year?   It looks like Trump's fiscal 2017 blueprint shares at least one big thing in common with his plans for fiscal 2018: The administration wants a roughly 50 percent cut to Title II grants to states to $1.1 billion, as well as the elimination of a $52 million school counseling program and the $152 million Math Science Partnerships, according to reports in both Congressional Quarterly and Politico. These K-12 cuts would add up to around $1.6 billion. Combined with proposed cuts to Pell Grants, the cuts to the Education Department budget would total $3 billion.   In addition, the fiscal 2017 budget proposal would eliminate funding for Striving Readers ($147 million), a literacy program, $47 million in physical education funding, and $28 million for Advanced Placement, the reports say. Striving Readers was retooled in the Every Student Succeeds Act, but several other programs, like the counseling and math and science programs, were consolidated into the big Title IV block grant of ESSA.

“Many schools have chosen to stock Narcan because they can get it for free. A partnership between Narcan’s producer, Adapt Pharma, and the Clinton Foundation, offers any high school in the country two free doses of Narcan. Adapt Pharma covers the cost of the medication, and the Clinton Foundation does outreach to schools and districts. In an indication of the reach of the epidemic, President Clinton said last year that three of his friends had lost children to opioid overdoses.  An Adapt Pharma spokesman said about 1,300 units have been distributed so far to schools in 15 states, including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Delaware and New Hampshire. After the free supply runs out, schools can buy more for $75 a carton, which contains two doses. The list price for that amount is $125, Adapt said.”
In School Nurse’s Room: Tylenol, Band-Aids and an Antidote to Heroin
New York Times By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS MARCH 29, 2017
At every school in New Rochelle, just north of the Bronx, in Westchester, there is a locked medicine cabinet in the nurse’s office, stocked with things like EpiPens for allergic reactions, inhalers for asthma, Tylenol for aches and pains.  Now, those cabinets also include naloxone, an antidote for people who are overdosing on opioids like heroin. Given as an injection or a nasal spray, naloxone can quickly revive someone who is not breathing. The city keeps it in every nurse’s office, including in its elementary schools.  “We have it the same way we have defibrillators and EpiPens, the way we have oxygen in our schools,” said Adrienne Weiss-Harrison, the school district’s medical director. “Rarely do we pull a defibrillator off the wall, but it’s there if we need it, and that’s how we approach this opportunity to have naloxone.”  There is no comprehensive data on how often students overdose while at school, but it happens. Renee Rider, assistant commissioner at the New York State Education Department, said the department has heard anecdotally of two schools where a student overdosed and was saved by E.M.S. workers using naloxone.

“The legislation, which is backed by the state teachers union and opposed by the State Board of Education, sets up an accountability system for rating schools and prohibits the state school board from using vouchers and charters as a way to fix failing schools.”
Controversial schools bill passes Md. legislature despite Hogan veto threat
Washington Post By Ovetta Wiggins and Josh Hicks March 28 at 6:26 PM 
An education bill that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has promised to veto received final approval in the ­Democratic-controlled legislature Tuesday, despite Hogan’s warning that it is “designed to hide the failures of school leaders and administrators.”  The bill, which passed each chamber with a veto-proof majority, now heads to the governor’s desk.  The legislation, which is backed by the state teachers union and opposed by the State Board of Education, sets up an accountability system for rating schools and prohibits the state school board from using vouchers and charters as a way to fix failing schools.  It was created in response to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which gives the state board the authority to create a new accountability system for school performance.

New Resistance and Reform Tools
National Center for Fair and Open Testing Submitted by fairtest on March 27, 2017 - 4:18pm 
New and Updated Fact Sheets:
Here are new and updated tools that parents, teachers, students and their allies can use to battle the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.

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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