Tuesday, April 18, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 18: HB97: Charter Reform that is Not Worth the 20-Year Wait

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 18, 2017:
HB97: Charter Reform that is Not Worth the 20-Year Wait

HB 97: Charter Reform that is Not Worth the 20-Year Wait
Education Voters PA Posted on April 17, 2017 by EDVOPA
It has been 20 years since the law that established charter schools in PA was enacted. Significant flaws in this charter school law have surfaced over the past two decades and legislators are now making what appears to be a serious effort to improve it.
On Tuesday, April 18th, the House Education Committee will begin fast-tracking HB 97, comprehensive charter school reform legislation. Unfortunately, HB 97 is a tremendous disappointment.
Call your state lawmakers now. Tell them that HB 97 is NOT charter reform that was worth the 20-year wait.
HB 97 increases transparency and holds charter schools to similar standards as other publicly funded entities. These are important and necessary changes to the law. Unfortunately, however, these changes aren’t enough to make HB 97 a bill lawmakers should support in its current form.
Lawmakers must substantially change HB 97 in order to address critical funding and academic performance issues, ensure that charters will serve all students equitably, and  ensure that communities are able to plan and exercise appropriate fiscal and academic oversight over their public education system(s).
Call your state legislators to urge them to work toward charter school reform that will  address all of the significant problems in the current charter law and improve PA’s system of public education for all students.  HB 97 fails to address critical funding problems with the current law.

Please Vote No: House Bill 97 does not provide real charter school reform
The PA House of Representatives is preparing to fast-track another charter school proposal. House Bill 97 (Rep. Reese, R-Westmoreland) was introduced this week and is scheduled for vote by the House Education Committee next Tuesday, April18. Once passed out of the committee, House Bill 97 will move to the House floor so it is important to reach out to all House and Senate members now to make them aware of your position on the proposal.
Tell your legislator to vote "No" on House Biill 97. Here are some of the reasons why -
·         School districts won't get a fair trial: House Bill 97 stacks the Charter School Appeal Board (CAB). The CAB would move from 6 to 9 members with only one of the three new members representing traditional public schools.
·         Lack of accountability and oversight: The bill expands the terms for charter school approval and extensions from 3 to 5 years to 5 to 10 years. This will leave longer periods of time with charters going unchecked by their authorizers.
·         Commission misses the mark: The proposed Charter School Funding Commission created in House Bill 97 goes way beyond addressing funding issues with charter schools and dives into charter authorization and a performance matrix. A true Charter School Funding Commission should focus solely on funding issues.
Once again, the stage is being set to rush through another comprehensive charter bill under the guise of “reform.” Tell your legislators to vote NO on House Bill 97.  

Where Pennsylvania Charter Schools are Located
151 Charter Schools; 13 Cyber Charter Schools; 10 Regional Charter Schools
PA Department of Education Website

SB383: Tell your PA lawmakers to keep guns out of our public schools
Education Voters PA Posted on April 18, 2017 by EDVOPA
On Wednesday, April 19th at 9:30 am, the PA Senate Education Committee will meet in Harrisburg. They will not be discussing how to adequately fund our schools so districts throughout PA can avoid making another round of brutal cuts in programs and services for students. They will not be discussing  how to ensure all children in PA receive a quality education. They will also not be discussing how to reduce the time spent and emphasis placed on standardized testing.
Instead, some PA senators on the Education Committee will be pushing an agenda that has nothing to do with improving education quality for students. They will be voting on SB 383, a bill permitting school personnel to carry concealed firearms in our children’s public schools.
If you don’t want teachers and staff carrying loaded guns in your community’s public schools, please CLICK HERE to contact your legislators NOW. Tell them to oppose SB 383 and to keep guns out of Pennsylvania’s public schools.
There is NO evidence that arming school personnel increases school safety. In fact, the National School Safety and Security Services advises against arming teachers and school staff and has stated it is, “a high risk to the safety of students, teachers, and other school staff.”

March 2017 Letter to Senate Education Committee Regarding SB 383
Education Law Center March 2017
Dear Senate Education Committee,
The Education Law Center is a non-profit legal advocacy and educational organization dedicated to ensuring that all of Pennsylvania’s children have access to a quality public education.
Our work on school climate focuses on engaging the whole school community — teachers, parents, students, administrators, and community members — in the creation of safe, positive environments. With forty-one years of experience working on school climate issues, we write to oppose SB 383, the bill permitting school personnel to carry concealed firearms in schools. While we share your desire to protect students and ensure schools are safe places, arming teachers and other school personnel is not the appropriate way to do so.
There is no evidence that arming school personnel increases school safety, and nationally, arming school personnel is not a recommended practice.  National School Safety and Security Services, a national school safety-consulting firm, advises against arming teachers and school staff.  According to NSSSS president Kenneth Trump, “School districts considering arming teachers and school staff with guns would take on significant responsibility and potential liabilities that I firmly believe are beyond the expertise, knowledge-base, experience, and professional capabilities of most school boards and administrators…Suggesting that by providing teachers, principals, custodians, or other school staff with 8, 16, 40, or even 60 hours of firearms training on firing, handling, and holstering a gun somehow makes a non-law enforcement officer suddenly qualified to provide public safety services is an insult to our highly trained police professionals and a high-risk to the safety of students, teachers, and other school staff.

Studies show racial bias in Pennsylvania school funding
Pottstown Mercury By Evan Brandt, ebrandt@21st-centurymedia.com@PottstownNews on Twitter POSTED: 04/14/17, 3:51 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
POTTSTOWN >> People objecting to Pennsylvania’s status as the state with the widest gap between funding for rich and poor school districts have argued that a zip code all-too-often determines the quality of a student’s education.  Apparently the color of a student’s skin matters even more.  New research has found that the less white a district’s students are, the more unfair the funding gap in state basic education dollars.  The discovery was made by two separate fair funding advocacy groups as they began applying Pennsylvania’s new “fair funding formula” to the finances of the state’s 500 school districts.  Because the state is only putting 6 percent of its total education funding through the formula, researchers at the Education Law Center and POWER (Philadelphia Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild) wanted to see what funding would look like for poorer districts if all the state’s education funding were distributed using the formula.

Local supporters rebut criticism of education tax credit programs
At a time when the White House administration has verbally embraced school choice, a new report sharply criticized the use of education tax credits — giving businesses a tax reduction for money donated to pay for private school tuition. Local agencies involved in Pennsylvania’s education tax credit programs rebutted some of the report’s claims.  Issued by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, “Still no accountability” contends the timing is right for a closer look at education tax credit programs. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf wants to trim the existing Pennsylvania programs, but the the Republican-controlled legislature wants to expand them.  Pennsylvania has two programs, the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC). Combined, the two allow up to $125 million in tax credits annually to companies that contribute to Scholarship Organizations, or SOs, which in turn provide tuition assistance for students attending private schools.

SB76: A looming disaster for Pennsylvania and education
Bucks County Courier Times By JAMES TAYLOR April 17, 2017
James Taylor, Oreland, is a member of Pennsylvanians for Public Education.
The Property Tax Independence Act (PTIA) has known many names in our state Legislature. It was first introduced as House Bill 1776. Later, it was proposed as House Bill 76/Senate Bill 76. It was defeated by a tie-breaking vote cast by the lieutenant governor in 2015.  Currently, with the change in political climate, the PTIA is once again gaining traction with cross-party backing. Supporters are hoping to introduce it again in the 2017/2018 legislative session. The PTIA has been misrepresented as the cure for funding public education by promising to end school property taxes, lessen the burden on taxpayers, provide equitable funding for public schools, and provide a boom to the Pennsylvania economy. The truth is far from the promises.  In October of 2013, the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released its findings on the PTIA. The IFO report is the most cited by supporters as showing proof their plan will work. However, a thorough and careful reading of the report demonstrates it does not support the claims of proponents and sponsors. The Property Tax Independence Act spells disaster for Pennsylvanians and public education.

Sturla, Cutler receive 2017 Pre-K Champion awards for efforts supporting early childhood education investments
Lancaster Online by JONAS FORTUNE | Staff Writer April 18, 2017
Two Pennsylvania lawmakers from Lancaster County were honored Monday for their support to expand investment in early childhood education across the state.  Pre-K for PA, a statewide campaign to bolster early childhood education, honored Democratic state Rep. Mike Sturla and Republican state Rep. Bryan Cutler with its 2017 Pre-K Champion award at an event at Lancaster Recreation Commission.  Pre-kindergarten education focuses on the developmentally sensitive ages of 3 and 4 as children prepare socially and cognitively for life and school, said Bruce Clash, state director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and a Pre-K for PA advocate.  “High-quality pre-K involves a highly qualified teacher with a bachelor’s degree that understands child development, that can identify kids with learning disabilities,” Clash said. “Identifying them and getting them the help they need early gets them back on grade level with their peers later on.”  However, budgetary issues have limited the number of children who can participate in state-funded programs, Clash said.  Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2017-18 $32.3 billion state budget proposal includes $65 million in additional funding for the Pre-K Counts program and an additional $10 million for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance program.  State House Republican leaders countered Wolf’s spending plan with a $31.5 billion budget proposal that trims the governor’s proposed additional $75 million for early childhood education to $25 million.

'Incredible' Philly principal shines
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag |  kgraham@phillynews.com Updated: APRIL 17, 2017 — 7:45 PM EDT
Jeannine Payne has brought new life to Richard Wright Elementary School.  In two years, she’s connected with children, brought in parents, neighbors and volunteers, and endeared herself to teachers.   “She’s incredible,” said Amanda Dorneman, who has taught at Richard Wright for 16 years. “She’s constantly asking us what we need to better do our job.”  Payne, 41, is one of seven Philadelphia School District leaders to be honored Tuesday with 2017 Lindback Awards for Distinguished Principal Leadership. She and the others — Joanne Beaver, Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts; Simon Hauger, the Workshop School; Christopher Johnson, Science Leadership Academy @ Beeber; Guy Lowery, Mayfair Elementary; Andrew Lukov, Southwark Elementary; and Crystle Roye-Gill, Thomas Holme Elementary — are among the school system’s best, chosen from among 47 nominees.  The awards are given annually by the Lindback Foundation to recognize strong principals. School communities nominate candidates, and a committee of district officials and a foundation representative choose the winners.

Supreme Court, with Gorsuch, set to hear church-state case
Post Gazette By Mark Sherman and Maria Danilova / Associated Press April 17, 2017 8:07 AM
WASHINGTON — Justice Neil Gorsuch’s first week on the Supreme Court bench features an important case about the separation of church and state that has its roots on a Midwestern church playground. The outcome could make it easier to use state money to pay for private, religious schooling in many states.  The justices on Wednesday will hear a Missouri church’s challenge to its exclusion from a state program that provides money to use ground-up tires to cushion playgrounds. Missouri is among roughly three dozen states with constitutions that explicitly prohibit using public money to aid a religious institution, an even higher wall separating government and religion than the U.S. Constitution erects.  Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, says its exclusion is discrimination that violates its religious freedoms under the U.S. Constitution.  If the justices agree, “the decision could have implications far beyond scrap tires and playgrounds,” said Michael Bindas of the Institute for Justice, which is backing the church. “It has the potential to remove one of the last legal clouds hanging over school choice.”
That prospect worries groups of public school teachers and others who oppose vouchers and other forms of public aid for private schooling.

Here We Go Again? How a Government Shutdown Could Impact Schools
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on April 17, 2017 7:35 AM
Did you miss games of chicken over keeping the federal government open? Your happy days might be here again.  On April 28, the measure Congress approved late last year to keep the government funded for fiscal 2017—known in Beltway lingo as a "continuing resolution"—will expire. Without it, major parts of the government will cease to operate. President Donald Trump's administration has sent lawmakers a spending proposal that would cover the rest of fiscal 2017, which ends Sept. 30, including major cuts to Title II grants for teaching programs. But so far, Congress hasn't been eager to enact Trump's fiscal 2017 spending plan. (All this is separate from Trump's fiscal 2018 budget plan, in which Title II state grants would be eliminated entirely. That 2018 Trump spending plan also isn't particularly popular on Capitol Hill.)  Politically, the shutdown would also be notable because unlike during past shutdown showdowns of President Barack Obama's tenure, Republicans control the legislative and executive branches of government. By no means are we saying it's a certainty, or even likely. But what happens if Trump and Congress can't agree on some sort of 2017 spending plan by April 28?

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

PSBA Spring Town Hall Meetings coming in May!
Don’t be left in the dark on legislation that affects your district! Learn the latest from your legislators at PSBA Spring Town Hall Meetings. Conveniently offered at 10 locations around the state throughout May, this event will provide you with the opportunity to interact face-to-face with key lawmakers from your area. Enjoy refreshments, connect with colleagues, and learn what issues impact you and how you can make a difference. Log in to the Members Area to register today for this FREE event!
  • Monday, May 1, 6-8 p.m. — Parkway West CTC, 7101 Steubenville Pike, Oakdale, PA 15071
  • Tuesday, May 2, 7:30-9 a.m. — A W Beattie Career Center, 9600 Babcock Blvd, Allison Park, PA 15101
  • Tuesday, May 2, 6-8 p.m. — Crawford County CTC, 860 Thurston Road, Meadville, PA 16335
  • Wednesday, May 3, 6-8 p.m. — St. Marys Area School District, 977 S. St Marys Road, Saint Marys, PA 15857
  • Thursday, May 4, 6-8 p.m. — Central Montco Technical High School, 821 Plymouth Road, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
  • Friday, May 5, 7:30-9 a.m. — Lehigh Carbon Community College, 4525 Education Park Dr, Schnecksville, PA 18078
  • Monday, May 15, 6-8 p.m. — CTC of Lackawanna Co., 3201 Rockwell Avenue, Scranton, PA 18508
  • Tuesday, May 16, 6-8 p.m. — PSBA, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
  • Wednesday, May 17, 6-8 p.m. — Lycoming CTC, 293 Cemetery Street, Hughesville, PA 17737
  • Thursday, May 18, 6-8 p.m. — Chestnut Ridge SD, 3281 Valley Road, Fishertown, PA 15539
For assistance with registration, please contact Michelle Kunkel at 717-506-2450 ext. 3365.

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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