Friday, April 21, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 21: #HB97: House vote as soon as Monday; Urge legislators to work with PSBA/PASA to improve the bill

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April 21, 2017:
#HB97: House vote as soon as Monday; Urge legislators to work with PSBA/PASA to improve the bill

Call your state lawmakers now. Tell them that HB 97 is NOT charter reform that was worth the 20-year wait.
PA House may vote on HB97 as soon as Monday

Critics say charter bill shortchanges school districts
Meadville Tribune By John Finnerty CNHI News Service April 20, 2017
HARRISBURG — A proposed rewrite of the state charter school law would allow public schools to keep almost $30 million by adding deductions for costs that computer-based schools don't have. Democrats contend the state could provide five or 10 times as much relief for school districts if it more aggressively linked charter payments to the actual cost of educating their students. In 2014-15 Pennsylvania's 500 school districts paid about $1.5 billion in tuition to charter schools, according to Education Department data.  The legislation, authored by state Rep. Mike Reese, R-Westmoreland County, would create a special commission to examine how much districts should be paying to cyber schools.  The legislation would also make changes to the way the state oversees charter schools, how they are approved and how their teachers are rated.  “The reforms embodied in my legislation are critical to improving and strengthening our Charter School Law, which was groundbreaking upon its enactment in 1997 but has become outdated over time,” Reese said in a memo to other lawmakers.  Charter school operators think the deductions proposed by Reese's bill are too drastic.  “We are happy with some of the provisions” in the legislation, said Ana Meyers, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. “However, the cuts for cyber schools are steep."

Charter school funding worries Estep
New bill strips local school board’s control
The Sentinel by JOE CANNON APR 21, 2017
LEWISTOWN – Proposals for charter school funding on the state level have brought concern to the superintendent of the Mifflin County School District.  During a brief committee-of-the-whole meeting Thursday, James Estep told members of the district board of directors he has concerns about a charter school funding bill that is being, what he termed, “fast tracked” through committees in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
“This bill falls short with what’s wrong with charter school funding,” Estep said. “It doesn’t address the disparity in special education funding versus our district. It strips away the local school board’s ability to have control over the formation of charter schools in districts. It does nothing to address the horrific performance of cyber charter schools who have never, never, made benchmarks.”
Estep said he has reached out to state Reps. Adam Harris and Kerry Benninghoff, urging them not to support the bill as it is written. He said the proposed bill could cost between $1.7 and $1.8 million “coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets even though we offer the equivalent right here in the Mifflin County School District.”

EdVotersPA: PA House Poised to Ram Through Horrible Charter Bill
Education Voters PA Posted on April 20, 2017 by EDVOPA
We need your help to stop HB 97. The PA House may vote on this deeply flawed charter school legislation next week, as early as Monday, April 24th.
We had hoped that the PA House would work toward charter reform that would protect taxpayers and students and improve PA’s system of public education.  Our hopes were misplaced.  On Tuesday this week, members of the House Education Committee passed HB 97 out of committee on a vote of 17 to 10.  Before they voted, lawmakers were assured that HB 97 was a work in progress and would be amended to address many significant problems and deficiencies in the bill.  That didn’t happen.
During the House session on Wednesday, Republican leadership and most Republican lawmakers opposed nearly every substantial amendment that was introduced to fix HB 97.
Click HERE to tell your state representative to oppose HB 97. The House will be in session next week and is poised to ram through HB 97 without any further improvements.
·         HB 97 does not address the $100 million profit (and growing) that charters reap off students with disabilities each year from the broken special education funding system.
·         HB 97 does nothing to address the continued abysmal academic performance of the state’s cyber charter schools — none of which have met the minimum proficiency standard on the state’s school performance profile.
·         HB 97 creates separate performance standards by which to evaluate charter/cyber charter schools and district schools, making a comparison of education quality between the two sectors impossible. Cyber charter performance won’t look as bad if cyber charters are compared only to other charter schools, many of which are also very low-performing.
·         HB 97 strips local control from school boards. If HB 97 becomes law, local school boards would be prohibited from requesting any information from charter applicants beyond the information in a state-created application form; local school boards would be subjected to the whim of charter operators to amend their charter; and local school board decisions regarding charter applications and renewals would be at the mercy of the state’s Charter Appeal Board, which would be stacked with charter school supporters.
HB 97 improves ethics and transparency standards for charters and temporarily makes very small reductions in school district payments to cyber charters. In exchange for these modest modifications to the current law, legislators are handing charter lobbyists their wish list with a bow on top.  Making charters play by similar rules as other publicly funded entities should not earn the PA legislature high praise. These are necessary and important changes to the PA legislature’s broken law that should have been made years ago.
Click HERE to contact your state lawmakers to tell them to oppose HB 97. Please share this action with your networks so that together we can stop HB 97.

SB22: Pennsylvania anti-gerrymandering bill gaining traction
WFMZ69 By: Bo Koltnow  Posted: Apr 18, 2017 06:35 PM EDT
In just a few years, voting districts will be redrawn across the country, and there's a bipartisan push trickling down to the Lehigh Valley to do away with "gerrymandering."  Every 10 years, voting lines are redrawn with the census.  Gerrymandering refers to manipulating voting district lines to benefit a party. It's named after Eldridge Gerry, a former vice president and Massachusetts governor in the early 1800's.  In Pennsylvania, the political party in charge draws the lines.  With the lines set to be drawn again in 2020, there is a growing movement to change how the districts are divided.  Frederick "Fritz" Walker is with Fair Districts PA, a non-partisan group formed under the League of Women Voters with the goal of changing how voting lines are drawn.  "In places it's only 800 feet wide, can you imagine that," said Walker.  Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional district is considered one of the most gerrymandered in the country.
"You look at and say what the heck does this have to do with fairness. The answer is nothing," Walker said. "It's very nefarious and both parties do it when they have the opportunity."

Philly schools to add teachers, save against federal cuts with new city money
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: APRIL 20, 2017 — 8:53 PM EDT
Armed with a $65 million annual windfall, thanks to the city’s reassessment of commercial properties, the Philadelphia School District will invest in more teachers and sock money away against a possible loss of federal education dollars.  The school system plans to hire 66 teachers, officials told the School Reform Commission at Thursday's hearing on the district’s proposed $2.9 billion 2017-18 budget, to eliminate virtually all split classes — those where students from different grades learn in the same classroom with one teacher.  The district will also  hire 47 teachers to end leveling in grades kindergarten through 3. Through that process, some schools now lose educators in October if enrollment is under projections. Students and staff describe that process as enormously disruptive. In total, the district will spend $13 million on the extra teachers.  “Leveling has been a long nightmare for teachers and students and principals in the district,” said SRC member Christopher McGinley, a longtime educator.  Uri Monson, the district’s chief financial officer, said the district would also set aside more than $17 million annually to cover costs now paid for by federal Title II money. The Trump administration has proposed eliminating that program, which now pays for teacher training and early-literacy programs.  If the school system’s spending on its own schools increases, payments to charter schools go up, so Monson said some of the money must also be set aside to cover those costs.

District to limit disruptive staffing practices with new city money
WHYY Newsworks by Avi Wolfman-Arent and Darryl Murphy April 20, 2017 — 9:31pm
Thanks to an unexpected $65 million injection of tax revenue from the city, the School District of Philadelphia plans to hire more teachers and squirrel money away in case of federal budget cuts. In a budget presentation Thursday night, district Chief Financial Officer Uri Monson proposed hiring 113 new teachers, which would allow the district to reduce its reliance on unpopular and disruptive staffing practices.  Specifically, those additional hires would eliminate the need to combine any first and second grade classes--an austerity measure known as “split classrooms.” The district also plans to eliminate so-called “leveling” for grades K through 3. During the annual leveling process, the district moves teachers at schools with lower-than-expected enrollment to over-enrolled schools.  Under the new proposal, all K-3 teachers would remain at their original schools and teachers would be added to schools in need of overflow relief.

William Penn SD talks diverse workforce in district
News of Delaware County By Kevin Tustin @KevinTustin on Twitter April 19, 2017
Yeadon>> Comprised of a student population that is 90 percent non-white, the William Penn School District is striving to further diversify its faculty and staff to better reflect the student makeup of the schools.  A special meeting of the district’s diversity and minority representation subcommittee Wednesday evening addressed the topic, and while the district is already above the national average of the percentage of minority administrators and faculty members it employs, they want to further grow those numbers.  “Our purpose today is to increase minority participation in the William Penn School District,” said subcommittee chair and William Penn School Board Director Robert Wright, Sr. to a crowd of parents, stakeholders and students at Bell Avenue Elementary School. “And hopefully we’ll be a vanguard of what’s taking place across Delaware County, Philadelphia, the state, and the country.”  For the present school year, 25 percent of the professional staff and administration is identified as black, Asian or multi-Hispanic, with the makeup of black professional staffers at approximately 22 percent (94 of 417 people). The racial markup of the 39-member district and building administrators is split evenly between white and the aforementioned minority groups.

Another court setback for Lower Merion schools in tax case
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer  @Kathy_Boccella | Updated: APRIL 20, 2017 — 1:57 PM EDT
The Lower Merion School District has suffered another setback in its court battle to keep the 4.4 percent tax increase it imposed on residents for the 2016-17 school year.  Last August, Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Smyth ordered the district to cut the rate to no more than 2.4 percent. Lower Merion appealed, but on Thursday, a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel dismissed the case, citing a procedural issue: The district had failed to meet the 10-day deadline for filing post-trial motions after Smyth's ruling.  “This is incredibly good for the people,” said aviation lawyer Arthur Wolk, of Gladwyne, who brought the suit with two other plaintiffs over tax bills that had increased 53.3 percent since 2006. They maintain that Lower Merion misrepresented how much it had in the bank, and was able to exceed the state-capped increase by claiming deficits that didn’t exist.

'Recipe for disaster': Pa. auditor general slams financial negligence at York schools
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on April 20, 2017 at 1:55 PM, updated April 20, 2017 at 3:17 PM
Unexplained credit card purchases, missing equipment and a lack of financial oversight were among the many problems Pa. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale discovered while auditing the City of York School District.  On Thursday, DePasquale announced the results of an audit of the school district from July 2010 to June 2015. The result of the audit were 18 recommendations and four findings -- one positive, one technical in nature and two major issues that need to be addressed.  Questionable credit card purchases, unreliable financial reporting and wasted money were among the issues Pa. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said he uncovered while auditing the City of York School District.  The audit was performed after the school district was declared in moderate financial recovery status by the Pennsylvania Department of Education in December 2012.  DePasquale did not point blame for the various problems he discovered as part of the audit. The problems included missteps on every level - including employees, managers and the school board.  "I'd love to say it's sloppiness," he said. "But I don't think it's sloppiness. It is, at a minimum, negligence."

Norwin school board asked not to cut classes, raise fees
Post Gazette by ANNE CLOONAN APR 21, 2017
The Norwin school board meeting drew a crowd Monday, with audience members asking the board not to cut art, music or home economics classes and not to raise fees for use of the high school pool by about 600 percent.    An estimated 60 to 75 people turned out to make the requests as the board struggles with a projected $3.3 million budget deficit for the 2017-18 school year.  Student Martina Mandella said the possibility of the district cutting arts and music programs has been increasingly discussed at the high school.  She said she plans to be a plastics engineer, but she urged school directors not to cut arts programs, saying the classes are important for teaching students innovative, critical and analytical thinking.  In an earlier news release, the district stated that school directors and administrators are addressing the budget deficit “by taking a comprehensive, strategic approach which doesn’t target any one area or department, but instead looks at all areas for possible expense reductions.”

New name for Central, other changes coming to Erie schools
Administration working through massive reconfiguration plan. Athletics, transportation, enrollment will all see adjustments.
Go Erie By Ed Palattella Posted at 12:01 AM April 21, 2017
Central Career & Technical School will get a new name and a new mascot.
Central and Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy will get more students.
Strong Vincent and East high schools will become middle schools.
And students at Emerson-Gridley and Wayne elementary schools will go elsewhere as their schools close.  The 11,500-student Erie School District redoubled its efforts to work through a long list of changes on Thursday, the day after the School Board voted 7-2 to accept the district administration’s recommended reconfiguration plan that will be effective by Aug. 28, the first day of classes for 2017-18.  The board still must hold a final vote on the plan on June 22 to abide by the state rules that set the timeline for school closings.  But Wednesday’s vote all but ensures that the recommended plan will become reality in 2017-18. And, at the very least, the vote gave the administration direction on what it needs to accomplish in four months.

State Senate Education Committee to visit Central
Go Erie By Ed Palattella  April 21, 2017
The Erie School District’s budget crisis is getting more direct attention from Harrisburg.

The state Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on the crisis on May 12 at Central Career & Technical School, the Erie School District building at the core of the district’s reconfiguration plan and in the need of the most renovations.  The entire committee — nine Republicans and four Democrats — is expected to attend the hearing, tentatively set for noon at the Central library, district officials said. They said the committee members also plan to tour Central.  A member of the committee, state Sen. Dan Laughlin of Millcreek Township, R-49th Dist., helped arrange the hearing, said Laughlin’s staff and district officials. Laughlin, elected in November, has been pushing to get additional state funding to alleviate the school district’s budget woes, including a projected deficit of $9.5 million in 2017-18.  The district hopes to get the extra aid in the 2017-18 state budget, due July 1. The committee hearing should help the district’s cause, Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams said.  “We are really pleased to be able to tell our story and involve key legislators in our planning,” he said.  The district announced the Senate committee hearing on Wednesday night, the same day the School Board approved a reconfiguration plan that will be effective in full in 2017-18.

Please take this 5 min survey to help improve PA schools!
The Education Law Center and Youth United for Change are working to improve our schools and support student success, but we need your help to advance our advocacy. We're asking community members statewide -- including students, parents, school staff, and others connected to public schools -- to complete this short survey. Please take 5 minutes to share your story to inform legislators about what your school/district needs and how cuts to education have impacted you. Survey responses preferred by April 30th. ALL INFORMATION IS CONFIDENTIAL.

Where Did All the Black Teachers Go?
New York Times Opinion Editorial Observer By BRENT STAPLES APRIL 20, 2017
I started first grade at an all-black elementary school in Chester, Pa., a deeply segregated factory town near Philadelphia, in 1957 — three years after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that school segregation was unconstitutional.  The crisply dressed first graders who moved hesitantly that day through the halls of the Booker T. Washington Elementary School — built expressly for “colored children” — would be the first in their families to find relief from some of the most egregious humiliations that had come with being black in our town.  A popular restaurant nearby that used to turn away black patrons had begrudgingly begun to seat them. The movie theaters (including the one where black townspeople had watched “Gone With the Wind” from “colored” seats in the balcony) no longer separated patrons by race. The skating rink was the lone Jim Crow holdout: Black skaters could attend only if it was “ebony” night.

The Effectiveness Dilemma
Teacher prep programs have mixed results but experts question President Donald Trump's decision to cut them.
US News By Lauren Camera | Education Reporter April 21, 2017, at 6:00 a.m.
The most important factor in a student's academic success is an effective teacher, most education policy experts agree. In fact, high quality instruction can counter crippling disadvantages, like those associated with low socioeconomic background.  That's why Florida's Palm Beach County school district, where about 65 percent of its 190,000 students are poor enough to qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch, places so much emphasis on teacher preparation and professional development.  "As a superintendent, the better you hire and the better you develop, the better the outcomes," says Robert Avossa, superintendent of Palm Beach County school district. "We have to invest in people and we have to invest in them fast and furious because the kids are coming to us more and more disadvantaged, more children from single-family homes, more children living in poverty."  Avossa directly credits those efforts with spring boarding 21 of its 28 schools labeled "F" or "D" last year to a "C" or higher this year.
If having great teachers in the classroom is so important, why then is $2.4 billion in federal funding for teacher preparation, the third-largest federal K-12 program in the country, on the chopping block?

I support all schools that put students first: Betsy DeVos (Opinion)
By Guest Columnist/  Betsy DeVos on April 20, 2017 at 7:58 AM, updated April 20, 2017 at 8:41 AM
Betsy DeVos is the U.S. secretary of education
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In today's polarized environment, it can often be hard to discern the truth. So allow me to lay out two facts plainly and clearly:  I believe every student should have an equal opportunity to get a great education.  And I believe many of those great educations are, and will continue to be, provided by traditional public schools.  These are not new views for me. You may just never have heard them if you only read about my views in the press.  Since taking office, I've visited traditional public, public charter, private, parochial and Department of Defense schools. I intend to visit schools of every type to see firsthand what's working - and what's not - for students across the country.

Teachers union hosts DeVos on visit to public schools in rural Ohio
Washington Post By Emma Brown April 20 at 5:19 PM 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited an Ohio school district Thursday at the invitation of one of her chief critics, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who used the occasion to make a case for investment in public schools.  The two combatants in the nation’s education battles met for several hours, touring classrooms and hearing from teachers and students in Van Wert, a rural community of about 11,000 in northwestern Ohio.  Weingarten said her goal was to show DeVos the good things happening in public schools. She also wanted the secretary to see how the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts would undermine successful programs in a place where voters overwhelmingly supported President Trump, and where there are few choices beyond public schools.  Trump has proposed slashing the Education Department’s spending by $9 billion, including funds for after-school programs, teacher training and smaller class sizes.

Ohio Town’s Schools Hope to Be ‘More Than a Line Item’ in the Federal Budget
New York Times By ERICA L. GREEN APRIL 20, 2017
VAN WERT, Ohio — Ken Amstutz’s phone did not stop buzzing long enough for him to think about what could happen in 24 hours. He was fielding questions from public officials and the national news media, keeping tabs on planned protests and coordinating a meeting with United States Marshals.  “Nothing like this happens in Van Wert!” said Mr. Amstutz, a small-town school superintendent.  Then on Thursday, Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, and Randi Weingarten, her antagonist and president of the American Federation of Teachers, descended on this small, rural school district for a highly anticipated meeting of two polarizing education leaders. In a town that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump, and that takes pride in its public school system, educators hoped the two leaders could find common ground.

Rifts Remain as Betsy DeVos, Randi Weingarten Tour Ohio District
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on April 20, 2017 7:42 PM
Long-time adversaries U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten spent more than four hours touring this rural Ohio district together Thursday. Both were still alive and well by the end of the day.  And so were the deep divisions in this corner of the country over K-12 education and President Donald Trump.  Even as DeVos and Weingarten counted model dinosaurs with preschool students, watched high school students demonstrate their robotics know-how, and chatted with teachers about social-emotional supports, small groups of protestors from both sides of the political divide gathered outside. One demonstration featured American flags and pro-Trump signs, another assailed DeVos and her pro-school choice views.  Inside the schools, staffers who work together every day had very different takes on how DeVos and Trump are handling public education—and on the direction of the country in general.

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!

Pennsylvania Education Leadership Summit July 23-25, 2017 Blair County Convention Center - Altoona
A three-day event providing an excellent opportunity for school district administrative teams and instructional leaders to learn, share and plan together
co-sponsored by PASA, the Pennsylvania Principals Association, PASCD and the PA Association for Middle Level Education
**REGISTRATION IS OPEN**Early Bird Registration Ends after April 30!
Keynote speakers, high quality breakout sessions, table talks on hot topics, and district team planning and job-alike sessions will provide practical ideas that can be immediately reviewed and discussed at the summit and utilized at the district level.
Keynote Speakers:
Thomas Murray
, Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools, a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education
Kristen Swanson, Director of Learning at Slack and one of the founding members of the Edcamp movement 
Breakout session strands:
*Strategic/Cultural Leadership
*Systems Leadership
*Leadership for Learning
*Professional and Community Leadership 
CLICK HERE to access the Summit website for program, hotel and registration information.

Save the Date 2017 PA Principals Association State Conference October 14. 15, 16, 2017
Doubletree Hotel Cranberry Township, PA

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