Monday, March 6, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 6: Property Tax Cost Drivers: PSERS costs up from 3% of North Penn's budget in 2010-11 to 16% in 2017-18 — a jump from $6.1 million to $40 million

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 6, 2017:
Property Tax Cost Drivers: PSERS costs up from 3% of North Penn's budget in 2010-11 to 16% in 2017-18 — a jump from $6.1 million to $40 million

The PA Department of Education Appropriations hearings are:
March 6th 10:00 AM House Hearing Majority Caucus Room, Main Capitol 140
March 7th 10:00 AM Senate Hearing Hearing Room 1, North Office Building

Also, on March 20th at 10:30 AM a joint Public Hearing by the PA House and Senate Education Committees is scheduled regarding the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Hearing Room #1, North Office Building

Blogger note: PA school districts' special ed programs currently receive about $130 million in Medicaid reimbursement
Medicaid Cuts
AASA Website March 2017
Superintendents and other school district leaders are “overwhelmingly concerned” and “deeply worried” about students in special education programs and those living in poverty if Republican proposals to refinance Medicaid are enacted according to a new AASA survey.  In Cutting Medicaid: A Prescription to Hurt the Neediest Kids, close to 1,000 school leaders detailed the educational and economic consequences of a proposed 30 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursements. Republicans have expressed a desire to reduce federal Medicaid spending by 25 percent by distributing funding through a block grant or a per-capita cap, which would shift costs to states.  Access the full report of Cutting Medicaid here. an executive summary that details the survey findings in brief here, and an infographic with the eight facts you need to know about children on Medicaid and the services they receive in schools here.

“He spent several minutes focusing on the "mind-boggling" growth of state-mandated contributions to the Public School Employees' Retirement System, which have risen from 3 percent of North Penn's budget in 2010-11 to 16 percent of its budget in 2017-18 — a jump from $6.1 million to $40 million.  "I can't emphasize enough how staggering a figure that is," Skrocki said.”
North Penn eyes $14.7 million budget hole, slams 'mind-boggling' retirement costs
Intelligencer By Gary Weckselblatt, staff writer March 2, 2017
The North Penn School District is looking at a $14.7 million deficit in its 2017-18 draft budget, unveiled to the finance committee Thursday night.  "That is clearly an astronomical number," business manager Stephen Skrocki said, adding that he used "ultra conservative" revenue figures in the $258.6 million spending plan that increases expenditures by $13.1 million, or 5.6 percent. he budget was developed without a tax increase and committee Chairman Frank O'Donnell said he hoped it stayed that way.   In November, the school board passed a resolution to limit any potential increase in property taxes to 2.5 percent, the amount allowed by Act 1, the state's property tax law.  A 2.5 percent tax increase would generate $4.2 million and cost a resident with a home assessed at the district average of $147,965 an additional $90. The school tax bill would rise to $3,669. Taxes were raised 2.4 percent, $84, this year.  "I don't know how we can walk around (the community) and tell people that taxes are going up $90," O'Donnell said.  Skrocki said salaries, benefits and debt payments make up nearly 90 percent of the budget. He cited the major increases coming from retirement costs, salaries, curriculum improvements to elementary science and high school English, debt service, medical costs and charter school payments.

State's decades-old charter school law needs major overhaul, Lancaster County officials say
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer  Mar 5, 2017
With Betsy Devos, a big charter school advocate, occupying the nation’s highest education office, there is growing expectation that it may soon become easier for parents to choose nonpublic schools.  When parents choose privately run charter schools, tax dollars typically follow the students and flow out of public schools. And that frustrates administrators at public schools, where more than 90 percent of the state’s schoolchildren learn.  Last year, Lancaster County public schools paid nearly $19 million to charter schools, up about $6 million from six years ago. Charter school enrollments have gone up to 1,570 from 1,265 in 2010.  Besides attracting tax dollars out of public schools, local school education leaders say that charter schools need better oversight. Pennsylvania’s two-decades-old charter school law, which a top state official called the “worst in the nation,” just won’t do, they say.  School-choice advocates, however, argue that charter schools get a bad rap simply because of the apparent differences in the way they approach education, compared to traditional public schools.

“Ah, but now, amid new (often angry) citizen interest in government and politics, there’s a move to push gerrymandering off our list of political problems; there even are sparks of hope behind it.   There’s the nonpartisan Fair Districts PA crossing the state, drawing big crowds, backed by the Committee of Seventy, Common Cause, and others, including the conservative Commonwealth Foundation.  There’s bipartisan-sponsored Senate Bill 22 (Democrat Lisa Boscola, of Lehigh County; Republlican Mario Scavello, of Monroe County) to take redistricting away from politicians and hand it to an independent citizen commission.  And there’s federal court action suggesting gerrymandering could be in trouble.”
Baer: Gerrymandering: Is Pennsylvania waking up to the issue?
by John Baer, Political Columnist  MARCH 5, 2017 1:42 PM EST
I’m sure you’re aware that, when it comes to reform or almost any sort of awakening, the Pennsylvania legislature has institutional narcolepsy.  So don’t be surprised when its general response to efforts to end gerrymandering is great gaping yawns.  After all, the longstanding, democracy-draining practice of carving up legislative districts to benefit one party or the other is the featherbed in our system of self-protective politics, in which lawmakers luxuriate.  Gerrymandering rigs the system to favor those who run it.  It eliminates competition (in 2016, half our legislative races had only one candidate). It preserves incumbency and ensures the status quo. And our pols like nothing more than wallowing in status quo.  That’s why, unlike other states, we’ve got no term limits (15 states do), no citizen initiative or referendum (26 states do), no recall of state officials (19 states do), all despite our cradle-of-democracy heritage.  We the people might want reform. Our political class does not. It wants preservation of power.  So we get districts drawn to protect or punish that have nothing to do with public service and everything to do with politics.

“If our state legislators actually represented Pennsylvanians, these two proposals would fly through the legislature, for neither proposal will increase taxes on Pennsylvanians, but instead will raise revenues from people and corporations in other states.”
Op-ed: If Pa. lawmakers actually represented Pennsylvanians, tax policy would make more sense
Marc Stier is the director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.
When I was in graduate school in political science many years ago, I had a teacher — a moderate Republican — who used to say that government in representative democracies is tricky because you can always ask, "who do the representatives actually represent?"  That's a question all Pennsylvanians should keep asking during this year's budget cycle.  Along with his bold plan to restructure Pennsylvania's government and save $2 billion, Gov. Tom Wolf has put forward two proposals that will raise $375 million and take a small step towards fixing our broken tax system. Taxes in Pennsylvania are upside down. At the bottom and middle of the income scale, Pennsylvanians pay 12 percent and 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes. The top 1 percent pay only 4 percent of their income. And while taxes have gone up on working people and the middle class in the last 20 years, taxes on corporations have been cut. It's those cuts — and our whole broken tax system — not non-existent spending increases, that account for the $3 billion deficit we need to close this year.  One of the governor's proposals is a severance tax on natural gas drilling. The other is a proposal to institute combined reporting of corporate taxes, while also reducing the corporate tax rate.

Stroudsburg School District has mixed financial forecast
By Kevin Kunzmann  Pocono Record Writer  Posted Mar 4, 2017 at 8:21 PMUpdated Mar 4, 2017 at 8:27 PM
A handful of particular circumstances has the Stroudsburg Area School District's preliminary budget looking in good shape for the 2017-18 school year, but superintendent Cosmas Curry is cautious about future fund balances.  Curry presented a preliminary budget for approval at the school board's Wednesday night meeting, projecting an income of local, state and federal sources to equate about $106.5 million for next year. The total is a boost from the 2016-17 budgeted $104.4 million and is aided by various one-time contributions. Curry cited a $1 million grant awarded from the penned efforts of then-state senators David Parker, Mario Scavello and Rosemary Brown that will be accounted for next school year.  The district also received a $1.9 million reimbursement from the state for Planning and Construction Workbook-eligible projects, and had a major jump in local tax funds as well. The district, which generally sees a tax collection rate of 89 to 91 percent, collected 91 to 93 percent this past year, Curry said.

Lots of questions for Erie School District
Go Erie By Ed Palattella Posted Mar 5, 2017 at 2:00 AM
Here's what to expect with proposed changes
The Erie School District just ended a momentous week, with plenty of change coming soon.
The state Department of Education rejected the 11,500-student district's financial recovery plan on Monday.  Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams then directed his administration to develop a strategy to eliminate the district's projected $10 million deficit in 2017-18.  The major initiatives involve a consolidation of the district's four high schools and the closing of two elementary schools. If the School Board approves the changes, they would be effective after July 1, the first day of the 2017-18 academic year.  The district has scheduled five public hearings on the proposed changes. The first is March 13 at 6 p.m. at the Booker T. Washington Center, 1720 Holland St. The district originally scheduled that meeting for East High School.  Here is an overview of some of the major issues. The district also has information at

Vouching for vouchers
School vouchers get a bad rap, but they can pay huge dividends for Pennsylvania’s students
Post-Gazette By Chris Brueningsen March 5, 2017 12:00 AM
The debate on school choice has been reignited with the recent appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. Fair questions about her qualifications to run this agency were raised during her confirmation hearings, and in many educational circles her policies have been viewed with uncertainty and concern. But the fact that Ms. DeVos is pro-vouchers shouldn’t cause people to capriciously discount the benefits of such programs. When structured thoughtfully, school choice programs can offer worthwhile alternatives for students who are looking for improved educational opportunities.  The number of state-sponsored school choice programs has grown considerably in recent years. According to a report by the Shorenstein Center at Harvard, the number of students using school vouchers grew from 61,700 in 2008 to over 153,000 by 2015 — an increase of nearly 150 percent. The same report indicates that vouchers cost taxpayers just over $6,000 per child each year, compared to public school per-pupil spending, which exceeded $11,000 on average.

MaST: A high-tech Philly charter school in high demand
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda | Updated: MARCH 6, 2017 — 5:00 AM EST
Perched in a corner of the Far Northeast, Math, Science and Technology Community Charter School has been popular since it opened in 1999.  But MaST, as it is known, has become one of the hardest schools to get into in the region. Applicants have a better chance at Harvard.  The K-12 charter received nearly 9,200 applications from across the city for just 96 seats in the fall. That translates to a 1 percent chance; Harvard admitted 5.4 percent of 39,041 applicants in 2016. MaST recently held a lottery to determine who would win a golden ticket for a seat in September.  What’s behind MaST's draw? Is it the state and national accolades, such as being recognized by Apple for innovation, leadership, and educational excellence three years running? The fact that about 90 percent of grads go to college? The focus on technology and the arts? The 3-D printers and robotics labs?  Could it be the virtual Wii fitness center, the video studio, or the three-story media and library wing with a projection screen in the floor? Or, are parents lured by the school’s rooftop telescope?

OJR is the third district in Chester County to consider altering start times. Unionville-Chadds Ford and Phoenixville districts are also looking at the logistics of changing start times. At this time, there are no recommended changes to the 2017-18 school schedule.”
Owen J. Roberts start time survey splits community
Daily Local By Eric Devlin, on Twitter POSTED: 03/05/17, 5:56 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
SOUTH COVENTRY >> A new survey conducted by the Owen J. Roberts School District shows that a little over half of parents and students surveyed support the idea of shifting to a later start and dismissal time at the middle and high schools. About 20 percent of staff members, however, agreed.  The results of the survey conducted last month were presented at Monday’s school board meeting as part of the district’s nearly year-long study of the topic. The district received over 2,000 survey responses — 1,352 parents, 446 students and 287 staff members. The results are available to view on the district’s website.  Tellingly, the survey results featured some of the anonymous comments the district received from respondents who fell on both sides of the issue.  “The sleep patterns of teens are different than those of adults,” said one comment. “Let teens get the sleep they need by making the start time later.”  “I believe altering the start time for middle/high school is not teaching a valuable life lesson,” said another. “Life often begins before 8:30 a.m. and employers are often are not flexible. It is important to set up healthy sleep and work ethics, and I disagree that switching the time would be effective.”

“Camden Community Charter, which opened in 2013, is managed by CSMI. The company also manages Chester Community Charter School in Pennsylvania and Atlantic City Community Charter School.  The company’s CEO is Vahan Gureghian, a Main Line lawyer and prolific political donor. He was a top local donor to the super PAC supporting Gov. Christie’s unsuccessful presidential campaign, and has given more than $15,000 to the campaign committee of U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, a South Jersey Democrat, among a multitude of federal and state donations. Norcross and Redd attended the school’s ribbon-cutting in 2013.”
Camden charter school says it has mayor’s support, will ‘aggressively fight’ closure
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Trenton Bureau  @maddiehanna | Updated: MARCH 3, 2017 — 6:03 PM EST
The Camden charter school directed to close by June 30 is telling parents it intends to “aggressively fight” the state’s decision.  Camden Community Charter School also says it is supported by the city’s mayor, Dana L. Redd, according to a copy of a letter students at the North Camden school were given Friday.  “I am proud to let you know that we have received the full support of Mayor Dana Redd and other education leaders in the community who know what an important role our school is playing in the education of your sons and daughters,” the president of the school’s board of trustees, Edmond George, said in the letter, addressed to parents. “Mayor Redd and others who have visited the school have witnessed firsthand the impact that CCCS is having, the education it is providing, and the opportunities it is helping its students realize,” George said.

Award-winning author visits Olney to discuss memoir
The notebook by Camille DeRamos March 3, 2017 — 3:31pm
Author M.K. Asante, who grew up in Philadelphia, discussed his memoir with 10th graders at ASPIRA Olney Charter School on Thursday.
The auditorium of sophomores at ASPIRA Olney Charter High School erupted with applause and loud cheers when M.K. Asante, award-winning author of Buck: A Memoir, walked down the aisle toward the stage.  The students had recently finished studying Asante’s book in their English classes, and now the author, who grew up in Philadelphia, had returned home to talk to them about his troubled childhood, the struggles he faced, his careers as a writer, rapper, and filmmaker, and using life as a basis for writing,  For the teachers and students, Asante rapped and spoke in lyrics, as the students nodded to the beat of his words.   Gwynae Seegars said, “My dream and a lot of other kids’ dreams [who grew up in Philly] is to get out of the hood and make it big – like Asante.    “But having him come back to Philly and speak to us inspired me. You can’t forget where you came from, because how and where you start is more important than the journey and the end.”  

“Pretty good for Gongol and Jeremy Lloyd, childhood friends who met at Haverford High School and who named their jazzily electronic songwriting-singing-production duo after two characters from The Music Man (Marian Paroo and Harold Hill).  … Like any lifelong pals, Gongol and Lloyd  — both 26 — each anticipate what the other will say, finish each other’s sentences, and talk quickly over each other while doing so. “We had classes together in middle and high school,” says Gongol. “There was Seventh Heaven choir, rehearsal mornings at 7 a.m.,” says Lloyd.”
The music in that crazy catchy Apple ad? It comes from a Philly band
by A.D. Amorosi, FOR THE INQUIRER Updated: FEBRUARY 1, 2017 — 4:45 PM EST
By now, you’ve probably seen the new, black-and-white Apple ad for its iPhone + AirPods that does as much for its product as it does the music behind it (if you haven't, check it out above).  “Play Marian Hill,” is the first (and only) phrase uttered in the bright, prancing commercial, followed by a subtle robotic beat, a twitchy piano, a whistling electronic ambience, and the softly skittering voice of Samantha Gongol – from  the Main Line  duo’s 2016 tune “Down,” off their debut album, Act One.  It’s no surprise that with such a showcase, “Down,” long outside the Top 200,  jumped onto iTunes’ single sales chart at No. 12 after the commercial’s Jan. 14 debut. It rose to No. 8 this week,  with Act One  at No. 7 on the album chart. Also this week, Marian Hill released “Back to Me,” a high-profile duet with Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui.   “That’s the theater geek in us,” says Lloyd, who, after high school, studied music theatre at Yale University;  Gongol split for Manhattan and music business courses at New York University. Marian Hill’s occasional third member is experimental saxophonist Steve Davit (a Drexel University music industry major), whose smoky, supple subtone gives Marian Hill’s bluesy, jazzy vibe greater heft. “He’s our secret weapon,”  Gongol says of Davit.

Bellefonte teachers contact Sen. Toomey, speak out against Betsy DeVos
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO MARCH 5, 2017 9:35 PM
Donna Smith has been working at Bellefonte Area Middle School for 32 years. She teaches eighth-grade language arts.  But for her, teaching is more than just a job.   “Teachers are a different breed,” Smith said. “It’s not just a job. It’s our life, our passion.”  That’s why she helped spearhead an effort with members of the Bellefonte Area Education Association to reach out to U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, regarding his vote in favor of confirming Betsy DeVos as secretary of education — a pick who is reportedly pro-alternative education at a time that teachers, like some of those at Bellefonte Area School District, are fighting for public education. “The motivation was that I’ve been a teacher for more than 30 years, and teaching is very important for me, and it was very hard to accept,” she said about the DeVos pick. “I wasn’t ready to accept it. I personally felt like I had been punched in the stomach and it was really upsetting. If the vote came down to it, I had some hope he (Toomey) would have been the senator to vote no.” Toomey released a statement Feb. 3 about his vote for DeVos, stating he was in support of the secretary of education because of her experience fighting to ensure “poor children trapped in failing schools have the same opportunities that wealthy and middle class kids already have.”

Kansas Supreme Court rules the state has failed to ensure adequate education funding
Kansas lawmakers have until the end of June to fix the state’s school finance system after the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state had failed to ensure adequate funding for public schools.  The court determined that the state is failing to provide roughly one-fourth of its public school students with basic math and reading skills. If the state fails to demonstrate the adequacy of a new funding system by June 30, then the state’s current system will become invalid, which would trigger a shutdown of the schools.  Four school districts, including Kansas City, Kan., first sued the state in 2010 for more education funding, contending that the state was failing to meet a constitutional requirement for suitable funding.  Thursday’s ruling did not specify an exact dollar figure for fixing the finance system, but it did reference conclusions previously made by a district court that restoring the state’s old school finance system and increasing the base aid per student would satisfy the requirement.

America Needs Public School Choice, Not Private School Vouchers
The Century Foundatiion MARCH 2, 2017 — RICHARD D. KAHLENBERG
·         The Trump administration is reportedly considering a proposal devoting up to $20 billion to create the nation’s first federal tax credit program (or possibly a voucher program) to support students attending private schools. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been a long-time supporter of private school vouchers.
·         Direct private school vouchers and a private school tax credit both threaten the quality of public education; reduce accountability and civil rights protections for students; cause further segregation of pupils by race and class; reduce overall student achievement; and decrease teaching of democratic ideals and values, which are not usually prioritized in private school curricula.
·         School choice such as public magnet schools provide families with different educational options while also fostering racial and socioeconomic integration. Beyond furthering social mobility and cohesion, integrated schools underline the democratic message that in America, we are all equals.
We are in a moment of crisis for American public education. President Donald Trumpand his Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are pushing an effort to create the first federally funded national program to support private school education. In a nation long committed to a public schooling for students of all backgrounds, we could end up taking a critical step down the road to privatization of American education.  The threat is very real. I have been researching and writing about public schools for more than two decades. I also have strong familiarity with public education debates dating back to the early 1960s, having written a biography of Albert Shanker, the longtime president of the American Federation of Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers in New York City.1 In my view, American public education is in greater jeopardy than at any other time in the last fifty years.Moreover, this crisis for public schools could not be coming at a worse time. Public education is critical to American democracy, which itself is under greater strain than at any time in recent memory. Public schools are charged with teaching students an appreciation for democracy and what they have in common as Americans. Yet the new administration is bent on promoting private school vouchers, which decades of research suggest would be bad for social mobility and social cohesion.

How States Turn K-12 Scholarships Into Money-Laundering Schemes
American Prospect by CARL DAVIS MARCH 3, 2017
“School choice” happy talk obscures how privatizing education dollars allows wealthy taxpayers to scam the government.
Politicians have long had a knack for framing policy proposals, however controversial, in terms that make them more palatable to voters.  This is why unpopular tax cuts for the wealthy are often sold as plans to “invest” in America or to stimulate “growth.” Likewise, school voucher programs that funnel public money to religious schools are cast as “school choice,” because underwriting parochial schools with taxpayer dollars is controversial.  The “choice” frame has heightened public awareness of school voucher programs, and helped their advocates make significant inroads in convincing states to allow the use of public dollars for private schools. Obscured in the spin, however, is how some states, in their zeal to subsidize private schools, have created an egregious tax scam that allows wealthy taxpayers to profit by donating to private school scholarship funds in return for lucrative tax credits.  Many states have constitutional provisions that expressly prohibit the use of public dollars for private religious schools. To sidestep these prohibitions and public aversion to the practice, voucher proponents and their legislative allies in 17 states have created generous tax credits to encourage taxpayers to donate to private school scholarship funds.

Betsy DeVos: President Trump delivers on education promises
USA Today Opinion by Betsy DeVos Published 8:02 a.m. ET March 2, 2017 | Updated 12:05 p.m. ET March 3, 2017
We cannot rely on throwing money at education like administrations past.
Betsy DeVos is the secretary of Education.
Corrections & clarifications: An earlier version of this column misidentified a Department of Education program called “School Improvement Grants.” 
President Trump’s first address to the joint session of Congress was clear: promises made, promises kept. The president promised to shake up the status quo in Washington, and he has. From keeping Carrier in the United States to nominating the highly qualified Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, our president continues to follow through on his word.  He’s also delivering on his promises for education.  The president made a point during the campaign to highlight the problems low-income families face in accessing a quality education. We cannot hope to get America back on track if we do nothing to improve education for the poorest among us.  The achievement gaps in education result in hundreds of billions of dollars of lost economic potential every year. And these gaps disproportionately harm minority students. Currently, more than 40% of African-American male students do not graduate high school.

Betsy DeVos has a lot of work to do on charter schools
CNN By Andre Perry Updated 10:52 PM ET, Thu March 2, 2017 
·         Andre Perry says the education secretary should begin her tenure by cleaning up the charter school mess that she helped create
·         Instead of expanding mediocrity, she should encourage true innovation among charters, says Perry
Dr. Andre Perry is the former founding dean of urban education at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Michigan and author of "The Garden Path: The Miseducation of a City." He was the CEO of the Capital One-University of New Orleans Charter Network, which consisted of four charter schools in New Orleans. Follow him on Twitter @andreperryedu. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.  (CNN)In his first address to Congress, President Donald Trump teed up his $20 billion dollar voucher program, which he first announced on the campaign trail, for newly installed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to implement.  This is the same DeVos who inexplicably said in a written statement a day earlier that historically black colleges and universities are "real pioneers" of school choice. HBCUs emerged during a time when blacks were not allowed to attend white institutions -- blacks didn't have a choice.  The Every Student Succeeds Act, a federal education law passed last year, was designed to prevent overreach by a secretary of education. 

Trump Makes His First Visit To A School As President, And It’s A Private Religious One
President Trump has consistently emphasized school choice plans that give children the option to attend private schools.
Huffington Post By Rebecca Klein 03/03/2017 07:38 pm ET
President Trump made his first visit to a school as president on Friday, amid reports that he is planning an expensive and widespread federal school choice program.  He did not visit one of the traditional public schools that 90 percent of American students attend. Instead, he spent the afternoon in a private Catholic school that participates in Florida’s tax credit scholarship program. That program gives tax breaks to corporations and individuals who donate money to a scholarship granting group. This group, in turn, helps low-income kids attend private schools.  Trump’s visit has been seen as a show of support for programs like Florida’s, which make it easier for students to attend private schools. He has signaled his support for such programs before, although it is unclear what a school choice initiative from his administration would look like. 

For Trump and DeVos, a Florida Private School Is a Model for Choice
New York Times By MICHAEL D. SHEAR MARCH 3, 2017
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — President Trump on Friday hailed a Florida school tuition assistance program as the future of education, joining Betsy DeVos, his education secretary, at a Catholic elementary classroom to kick off an intense political battle on behalf of school choice in America. The president and Ms. DeVos, who for years championed school vouchers as an antidote to failing schools and falling test scores, met with parents, teachers and students at St. Andrew Catholic School, which has embraced a Florida program that uses public money to allow low-income students to attend private schools.  Hundreds of low-income students, many of them African-Americans, attend the private religious school thanks to tuition assistance from the Florida Tax Credit scholarship program. Critics say it diverts money that would otherwise go to the state’s public school system.  Tuition at the school, just outside Orlando, is normally $6,260 per year, according to the school’s website. The Florida scholarship program allows businesses in the state to receive tax credits for donating to nonprofit scholarship organizations that give tuition assistance for students to attend schools like St. Andrew.

Watch the Great Debate: Are Charter Schools Overrated?
Diane Ravitch’s Blog by dianeravitch March 2, 2017
This is a fun debate to watch, sponsored by Intelligence Squared.
The proposition: Are Charter Schools Overrated?
The debaters:
For the proposition: Julian Vasquez Heilig and Gary Miron. They argue that charter schools are overrated.
Against the proposition: Jeanne Allen and Gerard Robinson. They argue that charter schools are great.

Public Education Funding Briefing; Wed, March 8, 2017 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM at United Way Bldg in Philly
Public Interest Law Center email/website February 14, 2017
Amid a contentious confirmation battle in Washington D.C., public education has been front and center in national news. But what is happening at home is just as--if not more--important: Governor Wolf just announced his 2017-2018 budget proposal, including $100 million in new funding for basic education. State legislators are pushing a bill that would eliminate local school taxes by increasing income and sales taxes. And we at the Law Center are waiting on a decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as to whether or not our school funding lawsuit can go to trial.   How do all of these things affect Pennsylvania's schools, and the children who rely on them? Come find out!   Join Jennifer Clarke, Michael Churchill and me for one of two briefings on the nuts and bolts of how public education funding works in Pennsylvania and how current proposals and developments could affect students and teachers. (The content of both briefings will be identical.)  The briefings are free and open to the public, but we ask that you please RSVP. 

Briefing: Public Education Funding in Pennsylvania March 15, from 5:30-7:00 p.m.,
On March 15, from 5:30-7:00 p.m., join attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a briefing on public education.
Topics include:
·         the basics of education funding
·         the school funding lawsuit
·         the property tax elimination bill and how it would affect school funding
1.5 CLE credits available to PA licensed attorneys.

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 #4 – Indiana University of Pennsylvania Tuesday, March 14, 2017 – 1011 South Drive (Stouffer Hall), Indiana, PA 15705
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

PASBO 62nd Annual Conference, March 21-24, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh.
Register now for the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference March 25-27 Denver
Plan to join public education leaders for networking and learning at the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference, March 25-27 in Denver, CO. General registration is now open at A conference schedule, including pre-conference workshops, is available on the NSBA website.

Register for the 2017 PASA Education Congress, “Delving Deeper into the Every Student Succeeds Act.” March 29-30

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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