Wednesday, March 8, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 8: Call your Congressman’s office today to let them know that PA could lose over $143M in reimbursement for services school districts provide to special ed students

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup March 8, 2017:
Call your Congressman’s office today to let them know that PA could lose over $143 million in reimbursement for services school districts provide to special education students

Pennsylvania's Special Needs Children at Risk from Medicaid Overhaul, Advocates Say
Changes proposed by the Republican Congress would be the most sweeping in a decade, advocates say, and threaten more than $140 million for Pennsylvania children.
NBC10 Philadelphia By Brian X. McCrone March 7, 2017
Special needs administrators in Pennsylvania are worried that an expected Republican overhaul to Medicaid could affect, or possibly eliminate, as much as $143 million in funding for thousands of children.  About 3,000 children in Montgomery County, for instance, receive more than $12 million in Medicaid-funded services that would be in jeopardy if Congress makes significant changes, administrators said.  Low-income families, in particular, would face a much greater burden in finding ways to pay for special needs services, they said.  “My fear is this gets lost in the shuffle,” said Dr. John J. George, executive director of the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit (MCIU), the local agency responsible for overseeing Medicaid funding to children. “It is time to impress upon the legislators how this money is used. I’m not even sure they know about this, and how children would suffer.”

What's at Stake For Schools in the Debate Over the Affordable Care Act
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on March 7, 2017 7:54 AM
The Trump administration and congressional Republicans are in the midst of trying to figure out whether to tweak, or toss the Obama administration's biggest domestic achievement, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—or "Obamacare" to the haters. (In fact, the House GOP released an ACA overhaul plan late Monday.)  Believe it or not, the law has had big implications for school districts and kids—and getting rid of it or changing it significantly could end up being a big deal for educators.  What exactly are we talking about? Check out a quick list of things to watch for in the debate over ACA below, and then head over to this story for even more detail:
What happens with Medicaid?
The ACA enticed most states to expand eligibility for Medicaid, a big federal and state partnership program that helps low-income people, including children, get access to health care. It's not clear if that expansion will continue if ACA is scrapped.

Call your Congressman’s office today to let them know that Pennsylvania could lose over $400 million in reimbursement for service that school districts provide to special education students

“The district’s current $2.8 billion budget includes $875 million for charters, including transportation.  The five-year plan projects that charter costs will reach $1 billion in the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2019. The plan also shows that — without new sources of revenue — the district will face a $64.5 million deficit that year.  Monson pointed out that while some charter schools have waiting lists, others have space. He said there were 1,700 available seats across the city.  “If kids aren’t going to those schools, we’re not paying for them,” Monson said.  Based on a formula in state law, the district is paying charters $8,487 per student this year, $25,624 for each in special education.  Turzai’s bill, which has been referred to the House Education Committee, also would mandate that the SRC add an equivalent number of seats at another school if a charter loses its operating agreement or closes. “
A Harrisburg bill would force Philly to add 3,000 charter seats each year
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda | Updated: MARCH 7, 2017 — 6:54 PM EST
To reduce the number of children on waiting lists for charter schools, Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai has introduced a bill that would require the Philadelphia School District to add 3,000 charter seats a year.   “More than 30,000 Philadelphia school-age kids want to change their public school and are stuck on a waiting list,” the Allegheny County Republican said in a statement Tuesday.  “Parents and students want a choice and the status quo is just unacceptable,” he said. “Every child should have the opportunity for a successful education in an environment which suits their needs. This bill is aimed at reducing these waiting lists and increasing these opportunities.”  The district has nearly 65,000 students at 86 charters in the city.  If approved in Harrisburg, the measure would take effect in the 2017-18 school year. It would add at least 15,000 students and boost charter enrollment to 80,000 by 2021-22.

As school choice goes national, a city shows its perils
Inquirer by MICHAEL MELIA, The Associated Press Updated: MARCH 7, 2017 11:11 AM EST
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Hailed nationally as a success story on school choice, Hartford in the two decades since a desegregation order has seen growing racial integration and new levels of academic achievement. That is, at least for students who win seats at magnet schools through a lottery.  Traditional public schools still educate about half the city's children, but they are not moving in the same direction. The schools serve disproportionately more students from disadvantaged backgrounds, have lower graduation rates and their racial isolation remains as severe as ever.  With U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stressing alternatives to traditional public schools, Hartford illustrates a key challenge: how to manage the loss of students, and the funding that goes with them, for the schools and communities left behind.

Betsy DeVos’s Education Agenda Can Be Overturned. This City Shows How.
What Philadelphia’s fight against market-driven school“reform” can teach us about resisting attacks on public education.
The Nation By Helen Gym March 7, 2017
Last month, with the help of a tie-breaker vote, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos squeaked through one of the most humiliating confirmations ever for a cabinet official. In the weeks leading up to the vote, millions of Americans deluged congressional phone lines with calls and faxes urging their elected representatives not to confirm DeVos. GOP leaders may have pushed through this disgraceful nomination, but they unleashed a tsunami of citizen activism that won’t let up when it comes to the fight for our public schools.  In Philadelphia, we have learned a thing or two about beating back a top-down, anti-public school agenda. From our experiences, we’ve learned how to build a movement that will not only hold accountable people like Betsy DeVos but will also lift up a vision of vibrant public schools and restore them to the center of our civic life.  In 2002, the state of Pennsylvania took over Philadelphia’s public schools, stripping away local control, massively expanding charters, and starving existing public schools of funding and resources. Then, in 2013, thanks to a GOP-led state austerity budget that cut almost a billion dollars from public education, Philadelphia’s state-controlled school system closed down 24 public schools and lost thousands of school staff in the name of cost savings, then expanded thousands of new charter spots at nearly the same cost.  In response, Philadelphians took to the streets and organized. Parents, educators, students, and community members built coalitions among labor, clergy, business, and civic organizations. We fought against an agenda of disinvestment, consolidation, and neglect, and instead pressed forward with a commitment to establishing a baseline level of staffing and resources for every school.

Pa. senators question Wolf's proposed school transportation cuts
Trib Live JAMIE MARTINES  | Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 5:15 p.m.
HARRISBURG — State senators Tuesday questioned Education Department officials on proposed changes to transportation funding as hearings on Gov. Tom Wolf's budget plan continued for a second day.  “There's too many variables in the transportation issues,” Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, said of the proposal to cut $50 million in state funding for school transportation.  Vulakovich thinks regional differences related to fuel prices, traffic patterns, weather and road conditions and the needs of school districts will make it challenging to develop a funding formula that will realize savings at schools across Pennsylvania, as the governor has proposed.  Several lawmakers said the cuts could put extra pressure on districts responsible for transporting special needs students, while others pointed out that some districts struggle to find bus drivers who are well-trained and willing to stay on the job.

Gerrymandering promotes political divide 
 Chester County Press 03/06/2017 12:05PM, Published by Steven Hoffman
Compromise used to be at the heart of governing. It wasn't that long ago that U.S. lawmakers like Bob Dole and Tip O' Neill were able to work with leaders from both parties to move legislation forward for the betterment of the country. Compromise tended to move the legislation toward the middle ground that would be acceptable to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.  These days, compromise is almost non-existent. There has been unprecedented gridlock in Harrisburg and Washington D.C. as a result. Gerrymandering has played a part in the gridlock and the growing political divide.  This week, Kennett Square Borough Council discussed a resolution supporting efforts to bring reform to the redistricting process in Pennsylvania—to have a transparent, impartial, and depoliticized process to draw the boundaries for the state legislative and congressional districts.  The current system is anything but fair, transparent, impartial, and depoliticized.  According to Governing Magazine, Pennsylvania is the tenth-worst state in the country when it comes to gerrymandering. Some of the worst examples of gerrymandering in the state can be found right here in southeastern Pennsylvania, where the sprawling 6th Congressional District contains parts of Chester, Montgomery, Berks, and Lebanon counties. Republican Ryan Costello currently represents the 6th Congressional District.

End gerrymandering
Trib Live LETTER TO THE EDITOR by Julie Holm | Tuesday, March 7, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Americans are tired of gridlock and division in our government. “Compromise” has become a dirty word, and we as citizens suffer the consequences: ugly rhetoric, lack of commonsense approaches to problems, and reduced accountability. This is not the way our government should function.  There is now an opportunity to improve this situation. State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Lehigh/Northampton, and state Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe/Northampton, are planning to introduce legislation that will improve the situation by ending gerrymandering, the practice of drawing unfair congressional districts.

State senators want more transparency in collective bargaining for public school and government employees
Lancaster Online by SAM JANESCH | Staff Writer March 7, 2017
Negotiations that change the taxpayer-funded salary and benefits for government and public school employees should be more transparent, two Lancaster County state lawmakers said Monday.  Sens. Ryan Aument, R-Landisville, and Scott Martin, R-Martic Township, have introduced legislation that would open up collective bargaining processes to Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act and Right To Know Law.  If enacted, the legislation could provide the public with more insight into the deals that can sometimes lead to tax increases or strikes among the public workers.  Last October, faculty at Millersville University and 13 other state universities went on strike for the first time in its union’s 34-year history after lengthy negotiations came to an impasse. The strike lasted three days.  “Given the scope and costs associated with collective bargaining agreements, it is only fair that the public should have every right to understand the decisions that are being made about how their tax dollars will be spent,” Aument said in a statement.
Martin said in a statement, “State and local contract negotiations can have a significant impact on taxpayers, but in current practice, they often can’t provide any input on the process until long after they’re stuck with the bill. The public and the affected employees have a right to access the materials and information being used to negotiate contracts that include their salaries, healthcare, safety, and bottom line.”

New leader at Philadelphia Futures aims to build on organization’s success
The notebook by Amy Xu March 7, 2017 — 11:35am
It’s the first week of new leadership at Philadelphia Futures, and Sara Woods, who now heads the nonprofit that provides resources for low-income, first-generation-to-college students, said she will work hard to build on the organization’s success.  “We want to get more students. ... We want to make sure the world knows about Philly Futures,” Woods said.  “[I know that] I have a lot of learning to do, but I hope to encourage and engage and empower the staff to do the amazing work they’re already doing.”  Woods started in her new role on March 6, succeeding Joan Mazzotti, who announced in October that she would be stepping down after leading the organization for 16 years.  “I’m confident that [Woods will] bring a wealth of new ideas and new sources of support for the organization. I wish Sara all the best, because she’s going to have the best job in Philly,” said Mazzotti in an interview.     As the new executive director, Woods will preside over a nonprofit that has doubled its staff, nearly tripled its budget, and helped more than 500 students go to college. Philadelphia Futures helps high school students apply to and successfully attend college, through direct service programs and broader community outreach.

Reform retirement system for legislators
Lancaster Online Letter by Rick Creamer March 7, 2017
The debate over public employee/teacher retirement remains in sharp focus. Lawmakers in Harrisburg maintain a retirement program change is fundamental to a balanced state budget. In fairness, lawmakers did attempt to make a change last fall, which failed.  Interestingly, had the bill passed it would have exempted legislative members from any benefit reductions. I agree that a public retirement system redesign is necessary to make it sustainable. Such an initiative offers legislators an excellent opportunity to lead by example. (By way of disclosure, I am married to a retired public school employee.)  A few facts for context: Rank-and-file legislators’ base pay for 2017 is $86,478.50; in 2016, the Pennsylvania House had scheduled 70 days to be in session; and members can purchase health care for $1,000 a year — an amount many Pennsylvanians pay per month.  The largess provided members does not end with retirement. Benefits are generous and, to my knowledge, not under fire except by the tepid criticism offered occasionally by some apparently embarrassed members. Retired legislators can collect full benefits with as little as eight years of service at age 55. Public employees must have 35 years of service before age 60, 30 at age 60 or three at age 62 to collect full benefits.

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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