Monday, April 10, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup April10: Every tax dollar diverted to EITC/OSTC vouchers creates a hole that must be filled by taking money from other programs & services

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup April10, 2017:
Every tax dollar diverted to EITC/OSTC vouchers creates a hole that must be filled by taking money from other programs & services

PSBA Advocacy Forum & Day on the Hill APR 24, 2017 • 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
“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

Budget fight of cuts vs. taxes heads to Pa. Senate
Penn Live by Dan Gleiter | Updated April 09, 2017  Posted April 09, 2017
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's House Republican majority this week muscled through a $31.5 billion response to Gov. Tom Wolf's budget plan. It now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate with a heavy emphasis on belt-tightening in human services, prisons and state operations to whittle down a massive deficit.  The big challenge in the Capitol is figuring out how to fill a stubborn post-recession deficit, recently projected at nearly $3 billion. Wolf, a Democrat, in February proposed a $32.3 billion spending plan, a relatively austere budget compared to his two previous proposals.  A look at how the competing plans shape up:

“Since the PA budget operates with a deficit, every tax dollar diverted to a private/religious school voucher creates a hole that must be filled by taking money from other programs and services.  “
A stunning priority in the PA House budget
Education Voters PA Posted on April 8, 2017 by EDVOPA
Advancing the Betsy DeVos school privatization agenda has emerged as a top budget priority for PA House members, even though this will provide very little or no benefit to the communities many rural lawmakers represent.  On a near party-line vote of 114-84, the PA House approved a budget proposal that retains the very modest $100 million increase in Basic Education Funding and the $25 million increase in special education funding that that Governor Wolf has proposed.  
The House budget, however, significantly undermines support for young children and working families by cutting $50 million in funding increases for Pre-K programs proposed in Governor Wolf’s budget and providing $62 million less in Child Care Services and Assistance. The House budget also contains an $800 million deficit and slashes funding from human services, environmental protections, and other vital programs and services that support our communities.
In this context of this austere budget, it is stunning that many PA lawmakers voted for a $75 million increase in funding for the Educational Opportunity Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs.  In their budget, $55 million in new EITC/OSTC funding will be dedicated to providing vouchers for private/religious schools, bringing the total taxpayer funding for private/religious school vouchers to $180 million/year.

HYH: Tax Credits for Dummies
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Saturday, April 8, 2017
I get hugely behind in my podcast listening-- I'm far better at absorbing information through my eyes than my ears, and listening to a full podcast requires a level of attentiveness that I can't always muster. That's unfortunate for me, because every time I finally get around to listening to casts, I end up wishing I'd listened sooner.  Tops on my list of podcast catch-ups is Have You Heard, a cast now in its second season and featuring the team of Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider. Both are long-time knowledgeable observers of the education; Berkshire is one of the best interviewers in the civilized world, and Schneider knows more about the history of education than just about anybody. They share a gentleness and decency that allows them to talk to the most difficult of subjects (check out their conversation with She Who Will Not Be Named)

School districts: Wolf's vow of more funding undercut by $50M drop in transportation dollars
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call April 9, 2017
Proposed $50 million cut to transportation aid adds potential budget bane for districts
A $50 million cut for transportation in Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed budget has Lehigh Valley school districts concerned the changes would wipe out some if not all of the funding gains he is promising them.  Wolf's 2017-18 spending plan includes a $200-million hike in education funds for the state's 500 school districts, but reduces transportation reimbursements by nearly 9 percent to $499 million. The hit comes at a time when districts are tasked with busing an increasing number of students to charter schools that can be as far as 10 miles from a district's border.  Districts are basing their predictions on calculations made by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and the Pennsylvania Association of School Board Officials. These estimates apply to cutbacks in a flat 8.64-percent decrease — Wolf's proposed cut — to each district. The state Education Department declined to specify how such reductions would be dispersed.

Pa.'s 500 school districts watching state budget negotiations
Herald Mail Media by Jennifer Fitch Apr 9, 2017 Updated 10 hrs ago
WAYNESBORO, Pa. — As the Pennsylvania legislature hammers out the state's 2017-18 budget, Franklin County public school districts are joining others across the state in questioning what their state funding level will be.  Early indications are local districts could receive increases of 1 percent to 2 percent in basic education funding.  Chambersburg Area School District Business Manager Steve Dart said a 2 percent increase in basic education funding doesn't address the district's overall hikes in expenditures. Chambersburg is facing an 8.5 percent increase in pension contributions and a 4.4 percent increase in health-insurance rates.  "The list goes on, but on the expenditure side, very few expenditure categories are expected to increase by less than 2 percent," he wrote in an email.  In addition to basic education funding, schools receive state dollars for special-education students, prekindergarten and all-day kindergarten, and a few other programs.  Waynesboro Area School District stands to receive an additional $90,000 from the state, but district officials are worried about the possible effects of a proposal to cut $50 million statewide to reimbursements for busing students, Business Administrator Eric Holtzman said.

“For example, wealthy Lower Merion School District in Montgomery County would receive 22 times as much in state funds under school property tax elimination as low-income Reading School District in Berks County, $23,219 per student as compared to $1,034 per student.  Eliminating property taxes does nothing to address school funding disparities, the report said, but increasing state funding would alleviate some of the pressure on districts to continually raise taxes.”
Report: Eliminating property taxes would lead to middle-income families paying more in income, sales taxes
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose Apr 7, 2017
A proposal to eliminate Pennsylvania property taxes in favor of higher income taxes and expanded sales taxes would ultimately lead to higher taxes for middle-income families, a Harrisburg research center says in a new report.  The left-leaning Keystone Research Center released a report Thursday that claims middle-class families in Pennsylvania would pay $334 more per year in taxes under a plan to abolish property taxes, raise income taxes 61 percent, raise the state sales tax by 1 percent and expand the sales tax to previously non-taxed items.  Mark Price, Keystone's labor economist and research director, wrote the report and said that while eliminating property taxes would reduce local tax bills by $1,685 per family on average, the accompanying changes in income and sales taxes would cost them $2,000 on average.  Families earning between $22,000 and $63,000 would see their taxes increase between $269 and $326 on average, according to the report. Any plan to eliminate property taxes would have to replace about $14 billion in revenue.  Price cites two reasons for the tax hit to working families: The tax burden would be shifted from corporations to families, and most property tax relief would benefit “affluent families” in wealthy school districts that have high property taxes now to fund their local schools.

Study says property tax elimination bill will cost middle class households more
Delco Times By Evan Brandt, on Twitter
POSTED: 04/10/17, 6:17 AM EDT | UPDATED: 15 SECS AGO
The property tax elimination bill likely to be taken up in Harrisburg this year is a windfall for business and wealthy school districts and will end up costing middle class taxpayers more than they pay now in taxes, according to an independent analysis.  Produced by the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, the study — titled “Who Pays for Property Tax Elimination?” — pulls no punches.  “Far from providing relief for working families, recent proposals to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania would increase taxes on the middle class while sabotaging the chance to adequately fund Pennsylvania schools for middle-and low-income families,” is the report’s very first sentence.

Study: School Property Tax Elimination Plan Would Cost Most People More In PA
PA Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates April 7, 2017
The Keystone Research Center Thursday released a new report that provides the first estimates of the impact of property tax elimination proposals on families in Pennsylvania.  The report finds that, far from providing relief for working families, recent proposals to eliminate school property taxes in Pennsylvania would increase taxes on the middle class while sabotaging the chance to adequately fund Pennsylvania schools for middle- and low-income families.  In the proposal being considered by legislators in Harrisburg, the elimination of school property taxes across the state is offset by increases which include raising the personal income tax by 61 percent (from 3.07 percent to 4.95 percent); increasing the sales tax rate 14 percent to 7 percent (from the current 6 percent); and expanding coverage of the sales tax to previously untaxed goods like food and services.  The report, authored by labor economist Mark Price, finds that such a proposal would, on net, raise taxes for virtually all Pennsylvania residents.   Even after accounting for a reduction in local property tax bills of, on average, $1,685, the typical tax bill for Pennsylvania families would rise by $334 next year.

“Fair Districts PA says that inequitable school funding can be traced right back to gerrymandering.  With the Erie School District facing a $10 million deficit, gerrymandering is impacting our area more than people may realize.  "If your legislatures aren't listening, if they're not representing you, if they're not trying to solve the problems that bother you, and school funding is a very large one, then people oughta be paying attention and thinking why legislatures have not resolved this."
Ending Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania
Presentation at Blasco Library educates Erie residents about gerrymandering
Your Erie By: RYAN EMERSON  Posted: Apr 06, 2017 11:37 PM EDT
ERIE, Pa - The manipulation of electoral district maps for a partisan benefit is known as gerrymandering.   Hundreds attended the presentation by Fair Districts PA held at Blasco Library Thursday night.   Fair Districts PA has hosted nearly 100 events just this year to educate Pennsylvanians about strategy to end gerrymandering.  They say when lines are drawn to protect incumbents, then new votes are never heard and new solutions never come forward.  "It's time for Pennsylvania residents to say we want an independent commission to draw the lines. We're tired of legislatures choosing their voters rather than voters choosing their legislatures."  They explain that Erie County should have one congressional district, but instead we have two...represented by Congressmen Mike Kelly and Glenn Thompson.   That change happened after the 2010 Census.

Your challenge: Get answers from Pa. legislators
Philly Daily News by John Baer, Political Columnist Updated: APRIL 9, 2017 — 8:42 PM EDT
Look, I know you don’t want to do this but it’s such a good opportunity.  With your lawmakers out of session for two weeks, it’s a perfect time to reach out and touch them.  They’re off for a much-needed rest after being in Harrisburg crafting really important laws to improve the quality of your life … no, wait, that can’t be right.  They’re off for Easter/Passover break just like their lovable counterparts in Congress. You know how it works: You get a day, maybe two around a holiday; your elected officials get a week, maybe two.  Sigh.  Anyway, I propose using this time to contact lawmakers. Call, write, email, ask questions (or vent), and maybe get some answers.  It’s easy. If you don’t know your lawmakers, go to the General Assembly’s website (, go to “Find My Legislator,” click on “Your Address,” type your address and, voila, names and links for your guys and gals (though this IS Pennsylvania, so mostly guys).

Editorial: State is failing local schools by forcing PSSAs
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 04/08/17, 11:45 PM EDT | UPDATED: 23 HRS AGO
Schools are busy this month administering the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, more commonly known as the PSSAs.  But while students are sharpening their No. 2 pencils, many are asking if standardized tests, particularly the PSSAs, are nothing more than a waste of time and money.  Local school boards have gone on record complaining about the rigid requirements and lack of consistent scoring information. Last summer, many districts adopted a resolution to the Legislature stating the state testing mandates are counter-productive to education.  The Pennsylvania School Boards Association last year studied Pennsylvania standardized testing and concluded standardized tests in Pennsylvania are “too long, too frequent and not developmentally appropriate.”  The study noted: “Districts need an accountability system that gives them the ability to substitute different assessments to meet accountability requirements ... Tests should be implemented, scored and used in ways to reduce student and teacher anxiety and promote learning.”  The authors wrote that assessments should measure student achievement, and needs, but not teacher effectiveness.  The study also noted that emphasis on test scores can negatively affect a community’s reputation and be a factor in real estate values and tax base.

State considers changes to PSSA
As area students prepare for a second week of state tests, exams next year could look different.  The Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal education law signed by President Barack Obama in late 2015, replaces the No Child Left Behind Act and provides flexibility for states. Pennsylvania must submit its plan to the U.S. Department of Education in September.  “It’s a great opportunity and a great responsibility,” Matthew Stem, the state’s deputy secretary of elementary and secondary education, said during a meeting last week in Scranton.  Each spring, third- through eighth-graders take Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams in English language arts and math. Fourth- and eighth-graders also take the science exams. High school students take Keystone Exams — end-of-course assessments in literature, biology and algebra. The state planned to make Keystone Exams a graduation requirement starting in the 2018-19 academic year, but that could change.  Ideas being reviewed by the state include:

SB406: New legislation would make it harder for school boards to increase property taxes
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer  Apr 9, 2017
Already feeling encumbered by unfunded mandates from the state, school boards in the near future may have a more difficult time passing property tax increases to help pay for them.  That’s because a bill in the state Legislature, Senate Bill 406, would require a two-thirds vote to approve tax increases, rather than a simple majority.  For a nine-member school board, that would mean six votes rather than five.  And in some local cases, tax increases would have been defeated if the bill had been law at that time.  “Before a school board is able to raise a school property tax, there would have to be true deliberation,” said Republican state Sen. Mike Folmer, who serves parts of Dauphin, Lebanon and York counties.  Folmer is a co-sponsor of the bill, whose prime sponsor is Republican state Sen. John Rafferty, who serves parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties.  The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved the proposal March 29 and it is now headed to full Senate for consideration.

State lawmaker Christiana joins 2018 GOP primary field for US Senate
AP April 8, 2017
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A five-term state representative from western Pennsylvania is the third Republican to say he'll seek the nomination next year to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.  Rep. Jim Christiana said Friday he'll emphasize his work bringing people together, developing the state's economy and making government more transparent.  The 33-year-old lives outside his hometown of Beaver, where he was elected to the borough council as a 21-year-old college student.  Other announced Republican candidates are Allegheny County state Rep. Rick Saccone and Berwick borough councilman Andrew Shecktor.  Casey plans to seek a third six-year term next year. He's a Scranton native and the son of the former state governor with the same name.  Next year's primary and general election races for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania are likely to be very costly.

“Students First has donated nearly $300,000 to support the campaigns of seven state representatives on the House education committee, with Jim Christiana, a Republican, receiving the most”
Reprise December 2016: Super PACs and school reform
A pro-charter group – started by Trump’s nominee for education secretary – has given millions to Pennsylvania lawmakers.
The notebook by Greg Windle December 19, 2016 — 12:22pm
There's an old saying for those who want to understand political influence: Follow the money.
In the case of Harrisburg’s interest in the governance of Philadelphia’s schools, that trail leads from pro-charter political action committees to the millions of dollars they donate to support the campaigns of state legislators and leaders.  Super PACs – political action committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money for causes but cannot donate directly to a campaign – play key roles in decisions that affect Philadelphia’s school system, from input on the wording of proposed legislation to financial support for pro-reform candidates.  The pro-charter super PAC called Students First PA – which was started by President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos – drew attention during the 2014 election cycle by donating a total of $7.6 million to groups supporting at least 10 Republican and Democratic candidates around the state. Students First PA raises most of its money from just four local millionaires and American Federation for Children, an organization run by DeVos’ out-of-state billionaire family.

“The pattern of racial discrimination by the Pennsylvania legislature against schools with high percentages of minority students, which Coleman fought against, continues, as recent reports by David Mosenkis of the Power interfaith group show. Today, Philadelphia's African American students don't walk past schools closed only to them, but walk past schools closed to all students. They are closed because of the legislature's long refusal to fund districts like Philadelphia, Erie, Reading, York, and Harrisburg - heavily attended by poor minority students - in the same way they fund more rural districts in the commonwealth with poor white students.”
Coleman's fight for equal Pa. schools not over
Inquirer Commentary by Michael Churchill Updated: APRIL 6, 2017 — 12:33 PM EDT
Michael Churchill is an attorney at the Public Interest Law Center.
William T. Coleman Jr., who died last week at the age of 96, ended life as a Washington insider's insider, but he started life as complete a Philadelphian outsider as could be.  A Negro child in Germantown, he walked past all-white elementary schools he could not attend to reach the segregated school he was allowed in. Perhaps that is why Coleman understood the face of discrimination in education and fought it so long.  Coleman was no stranger to the injustice of discrimination. Germantown High School disbanded its swim team when he tried out for it. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he interrupted his study of the law at Harvard during World War II to enlist in the Army Air Forces, training with the segregated Tuskegee Airmen. After leading his 1946 Harvard Law School class and clerking for Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter - the court's first African American clerk - he could not obtain a job in a major Philadelphia law firm. Later, the firm led by Richardson Dilworth broke the color line to hire him.

Nonprofit to teach coding to minority boys in Pittsburgh
SEAN D. HAMILL Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12:00 AM APR 10, 2017
When his high school had someone come and talk to students about what software coding was, Myeir Woodard was not inspired.  “He just explained what coding is and it did not sound interesting,” Myeir, 15, a freshman at Sto-Rox High School, said Friday while attending the Adonai Center for Black Males conference at the Sheraton Hotel at Station Square. “But these guys, the way they talked about how you could design video games, and it could help your career? Now I’m interested.”  “These guys” were the employees of All Star Code, a New York City-based nonprofit that teaches African-American and Latino teenage boys how to code and become an entrepreneur during free, six-week-long summer programs. This coming summer, the 4-year-old organization will expand outside New York City for the first time and host a program for 20 boys at Chatham University in Pittsburgh.

“Unfortunately, disputes concerning transgender students have been amplified by forces waging fierce proxy battles. That includes the Arizona-based ADF, which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as a hate group. The ADF has sued or threatened to sue more than a dozen school districts. It also fought to retain Texas laws criminalizing gay sex.  The ADF has been lobbying state legislators to pass so-called bathroom bills, which require students to use restrooms based on their gender at birth. Bills have been introduced in about 20 states. But North Carolina recently rewrote its bathroom law after businesses boycotted the state and the NCAA decided not to hold its basketball championship there.”
Applaud Boyertown School District for supporting a transgender student
Inquirer Opinion Updated: APRIL 10, 2017 — 3:01 AM EDT
The Boyertown Area School District, northwest of Philadelphia straddling Montgomery and Berks Counties, deserves applause for not flinching at a lawsuit that would prevent a transgender student from using the boy's locker room to change for gym class.  Similar suits have been filed by anti-LGBT groups across the country. A federal judge has ruled three transgender girls can use the bathrooms of their choice in the Pine-Richland District near Pittsburgh. But controversy has led the Egg Harbor Township, N.J., District to abandon a policy of tolerance.  The Boyertown suit was filed in March by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of an anonymous boy who said he felt sexually harassed by having to share a locker room with the transgender student. The Boyertown school board responded that it was committed to treating all students "with the same degree of respect, dignity, and sensitivity."

School Reform Commission's new committee aims to open policymaking to public view
Morning scheduling of meetings raises concerns, activists say.
The notebook by Darryl Murphy and Dale Mezzacappa April 7, 2017 — 4:57pm
The School District held its first meeting of its policy committee at its headquarters on Thursday, three weeks after being approved by the School Reform Commission.   Christopher McGinley, the SRC’s newest member, urged the formation of the new committee to open up some internal deliberations to public view.  “There are two places to look to find out what a school district values,” said McGinley, who served as superintendent in two suburban districts, Cheltenham and Lower Merion. “One is its budget, and the other is its policies.”  And he said policies exist with three main purposes: to safeguard the health and wellbeing of children, to inform district employees about aspects of their work, and to provide clear descriptions of what to do in issues of legality. If policies aren’t clear, he said, “they aren’t valuable for the district.”  They can range from employee harassment to management of food allergies to copyrights to educator misconduct to the investment of district funds.

EPLC Education Policy Forums in February and March – PowerPoint Slides Presented By Speakers
Please click here to see links to the PowerPoint presentations presented at EPLC’s Education Policy Forums in February and March 2017.
In February, Governor Wolf delivered his 2017-2018 state budget proposal to the General Assembly. EPLC held four forums in various regions of Pennsylvania, as 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. The forums were held in Pittsburgh, the Harrisburg Area (Enola), Philadelphia, and in the Lehigh Valley (Schnecksville).  A fifth forum was scheduled for March 14 at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. It was cancelled due to snowy weather, but it will be rescheduled.  Each of the forums took the following basic format. Ron Cowell of EPLC provided an overview of the Governor’s proposed budget for early education, K-12 and higher education. The overview was followed by remarks from a panel representing statewide and regional perspectives concerning state funding for education and education related items. The speakers discussed the impact of the Governor’s proposals and identified the key issues that will likely be considered during this year’s budget debate.

Pa. Education Department introduces Equity and Inclusion Toolkit after incidents
York Dispatch byJunior Gonzalez , 505-5439/@JuniorG_YDPublished 2:55 p.m. ET April 6, 2017
The Pennsylvania Department of Education has announced a new resource to guide schools' response to race and bias incidents occurring within their facilities.  Dubbed the Equity and Inclusion Toolkit, it is the latest of several resources released by the department since the 2016 presidential election. Other recent initiatives include a hotline for school districts to report incidents and obtain assistance, as well as a crisis plan template and curriculum guides, according to a news release.  “A healthy and safe environment can help our students thrive, and every student regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression should be provided the opportunity to learn free from discrimination, fear, or harassment,” said Gov. Tom Wolf in a statement.

Norwin officials look at possible teacher furloughs, property tax increase
Trib Live by JOE NAPSHA  | Sunday, April 9, 2017, 11:15 p.m.
Norwin school officials could furlough teachers or offer early retirement incentives, eliminate aides and possibly raise taxes to reduce a projected $3.3 million deficit for next school year.  The district does not anticipate eliminating any program or service in the 2017-18 school year, but some programs will need to be streamlined, according to a statement released Friday.  The administration has held discussions with the Norwin Education Association, which represents the teachers, about how to minimize furloughs and reassign staff based on dual certifications by subjects, the district said. The district said it is considering offering an incentive to teachers nearing retirement under terms “financially practical” and palatable to teachers. Norwin has about 320 teachers and almost 5,600 students.

Gateway school board hears suggestions for closing achievement gap
Post Gazette By Deana Carpenter April 7, 2017 12:00 AM
A panel that has been studying the achievement gap between black and white students in the Gateway School District is recommending that the district focus on culturally responsive teaching, provide diversity training to staff, and emphasize parental and community involvement.
The school board on Tuesday discussed those recommendations and others made by the achievement gap committee, a panel of parents, administrators and board members that has been meeting for about a year.  The committee recommended the district establish a connection between the Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching, which the district currently uses, and student-centered teaching that approaches instruction from each student’s cultural strengths.
The panel recommended that Evergreen and Cleveland Steward Elementary Schools serve as pilot schools for the program for the 2017-18 school year. Those schools were chosen because the students there showed the largest achievement gap. Diversity training would be provided to all staff at the two schools.

Federal judge sides with prosecutors in unsealing Trombetta case records
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by TORSTEN OVE 2:12 PM APR 7, 2017
Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta and his legal team, who have been sparring with the government for weeks following his conspiracy conviction, lost an attempt today to have a judge punish federal prosecutors for filing a pre-sentencing document publicly instead of under seal.  U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti denied a motion by Mr. Trombetta's lawyers to hold the U.S. attorney's office in contempt and to fine prosecutors for their conduct.  Prosecutors also asked that two documents that had been temporarily sealed pending the judge's decision be unsealed, and the judge agreed.Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Kaufman said there is no reason to seal anything in the case and Judge Conti concurred.  "This is an open court," the judge told Trombetta lawyer Adam Hoffinger. "We don't seal these proceedings."  Mr. Trombetta pleaded guilty last year to tax conspiracy in siphoning off some $8 million from the school he created, although the exact amount is in dispute. His sentencing has been delayed while the parties haggle over restitution and sentencing issues.

Red Lion schools keep tax rate steady
York Dispatch Junior Gonzalez , 505-5439/@JuniorG_YD7:36 p.m. ET April 9, 2017
The Red Lion Area School District has no plans to raise taxes on property owners as part of its annual budget, continuing a tradition it has followed for the past six years.  The proposed 2017-2018 budget has estimated total expenses at $89.8 million, an increase of 1.5 percent over the 2016-2017 operating budget of $88.5 million. Revenues from local, state and federal resources amount to $86.6 million for the proposed budget.   “Red Lion is in a very good spot as compared to many school districts around the county,” said Red Lion Chief Financial Officer Tonja Wheeler.
The budget was made with an expectation that state funding for regular and special education programs will remain the the same. The district also budgeted for a slight decrease in federal revenue. "We have a healthy savings that we could rely on when we need it, but it all depends on the state and what kind of mandates they continue," Wheeler said. "If they continue to fairly fund, we'll be fine."

Avon Grove School District renews charter
By Chris Barber, Daily Local News POSTED: 04/08/17, 8:18 PM EDT | UPDATED: 17 HRS AGO
LONDON GROVE >> The members of the Avon Grove School Board received a standing ovation following their unanimous vote to renew the charter school’s charter on Thursday.  An audience of about 250 representing the Avon Grove Charter School rose to their feet in the Avon Grove High School auditorium, applauded and cheered when it was made official that their charter had been renewed for another five years.  Along with that, they were pleased that the charter action brought with it the ability to float a bond for expansion at a rate that would enable expansion of the Kemblesville Early Learning Center as well as improvements to the windows and rest rooms.
The Avon Grove Charter School, like all Pennsylvania charters, must be approved by the local school board, in this case Avon Grove, although it accepts students from the other southern Chester County districts as well as Coatesville, and has a total population of about 1,700.

How Are Charters and District Schools Working Together? In Many Ways
Education Week District Dossier By Denisa R. Superville on April 7, 2017 12:00 PM
Single enrollment systems. Shared school buildings. Common accountability. Joint teacher-professional development.  A decade ago, these types of collaboration between charter schools and traditional district schools were extremely rare. More often, the two sectors were at war over funding, students, facilities, and more fundamentally, whether the charter movement would help shore up, or tear down, traditional public schools.   But the number of school districts and charter schools that are interested in actively working together is on the rise, according to Robin Lake, the director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, which researches district-charter collaborations and provides technical assistance to districts and charter schools looking to work together.  Doing so makes sense for charters, districts, students, families, and communities because that means better coordination and delivery of services and smarter use of public resources, Lake said this week at a convening of a group of charter and district leaders in Cleveland. 

Are charter schools truly public schools?
Network for Public Education April 2017
“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expense of it.” – John Adams
 No. Charter schools are contractors that receive taxpayer money to operate privately controlled schools that do not have the same rules and responsibilities as public schools.

Betsy DeVos isn't listening to parents: Column
US News by Joshua P. Starr 6:02 a.m. ET April 6, 2017
Education secretary is out of step with public views on vouchers and school spending.
Betsy DeVos, our new secretary of Education, claims that she wants the federal government to become more responsive to the will of the American people. As she argued at her Senate confirmation hearing: “[I]t’s time to shift the debate” about school reform “from what the system thinks is best for kids to what moms and dads want, expect and deserve.” The solution for what ails public education won’t be found in Washington, D.C., she added. “The answer is local control and listening to parents, students and teachers."  Fair enough. So when it comes to public education, what do the American people want?  Judging by her support for President Trump’s budget proposal, DeVos thinks that most Americans want the Department of Education to spend a lot more money to promote school choice programs (a $1.4 billion increase, including more than $400 million for public and private school tuition vouchers) and to spend a lot less money on just about everything else. Overall, the budget would slash the department’s funding by $9 billion and, in the process, do away with programs that support teacher development, after school services, literacy instruction, college access for low-income students and more
But is that really what Americans want?

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, a longtime advocate for school choice, does not seem to be bothered by that complaint.  She is driven instead by the faith that children need and deserve alternatives to traditional public schools. At a recent public forum, DeVos said her record in office should be graded on expansion of choice-friendly policies. She did not embrace a suggestion that she be judged on academic outcomes. “I’m not a numbers person,” she said.  In a nutshell, that explains how the Trump administration wants to change the terms of the debate over education policy in the United States.”
DeVos praises this voucher-like program. Here’s what it means for school reform.
Washington Post By Emma Brown April 9 at 10:13 PM 
Florida has channeled billions of taxpayer dollars into scholarships for poor children to attend private schools over the past 15 years, using tax credits to build a laboratory for school choice that the Trump administration holds up as a model for the nation.  The voucherlike program, the largest of its kind in the country, helps pay tuition for nearly 100,000 students from low-income families.  But there is scant evidence that these students fare better academically than their peers in public schools. And there is a perennial debate about whether the state should support private schools that are mostly religious, do not require teachers to hold credentials and are not required to meet minimal performance standards. Florida private schools must administer one of several standardized tests to scholarship recipients, but there are no consequences for consistently poor results.  “After the students leave us, the public loses any sense of accountability or scrutiny of the outcomes,” said Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County public schools. He wonders what happens to the 25,000 students from the county who receive the scholarships. “It’s very difficult to gauge whether they’re hitting the mark.”

In Arizona, all children are now eligible to use public dollars for private education
Washington Post By Emma Brown April 7 at 2:03 PM 
All students in Arizona will be eligible to use public dollars for private education under a bill that Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed into law Thursday, creating one of the nation’s most expansive school-choice programs.  Advocates for vouchers and other alternatives to public schools, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, hailed the measure for extending choice to more families.  Critics said it would weaken Arizona’s public schools by siphoning away students and needed funds, and would be more likely to subsidize affluent families’ private-school tuition than to help poor children access new opportunities.  Arizona has long been among the most aggressive states in pushing for alternatives to public schools, and in 2011 became the first to offer “education savings accounts” to parents who withdraw from public schools. Unlike traditional vouchers, which can generally be used only for private-school tuition, education savings accounts (ESAs) can be used in a number of ways — for private tutoring at home, for private-school tuition or to save for college or other education expenses.  Until now, Arizona’s ESA program was limited to certain groups of students — those who attended D- or F-rated schools, were adopted from foster homes or lived on Native American reservations, for example. About 3,400 students are enrolled this year, each receiving up to $4,900 per year, according to EdChoice, an advocacy group. Students with disabilities could receive more.  Now, all 1.1 million students across the state will be eligible for the money, though not all will be able to enroll. Under a deal negotiated to ensure the legislature’s approval, 5,500 additional students will be able to enroll each year, up to a cap of 30,000 in 2022, according to the Arizona Republic.

The cost of Betsy DeVos’s security detail: $1 million per month
Washington Post By Emma Brown and Devlin Barrett April 7 at 11:51 AM 
Federal marshals are protecting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at a cost to her agency of $1 million per month, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.  The Education Department has agreed to reimburse the marshals $7.78 million for their services from mid-February to the end of September of this year, according to a spokeswoman for the Marshals Service — an amount that works out to about $1 million per month. Marshals will continue providing security for the education secretary for the next four years, or until either agency decides to terminate the arrangement, under an agreement signed last week.  While the department is spending the additional money on DeVos’s security, members of the in-house security team that guarded previous secretaries remain on the payroll. But they are not guarding DeVos and have not been assigned new duties, according to a department employee who was not authorized to speak to a reporter and asked for anonymity.  A department spokesman, who declined to be identified, said he could not comment on personnel decisions. He said the agency deferred to the federal marshals’ threat assessment and determination about what would be necessary to keep the secretary safe and able to do her job.  The new outlay is a tiny fraction of the department’s budget, but comes as the Trump administration has proposed slashing the spending plan by $9 billion, or 13.5 percent.

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.

PSBA Advocacy Forum and Day on the Hill APR 24, 2017 • 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the fourth annual Advocacy Forum on April 24, 2017, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hear from legislators on how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. Government Affairs will take a deeper dive into the legislative priorities and will provide tips on how to be an effective public education advocate. There will be dedicated time for you and your fellow advocates to hit the halls to meet with your legislators on public education. This is your chance to share the importance of policy supporting public education and make your voice heard on the Hill.
“Nothing has more impact for legislators than hearing directly from constituents through events like PSBA’s Advocacy Forum.”
— Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh), Senate Appropriations Committee chair

SAVE THE DATE LWVPA Convention 2017 June 1-4, 2017
Join the League of Women Voters of PA for our 2017 Biennial Convention at the beautiful Inn at Pocono Manor!

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

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