Wednesday, May 10, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 10: Whose tax dollars are paying for school choice?

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 10, 2017:
Whose tax dollars are paying for school choice?

Blogger note - Heads Up – Here comes the 2017 version of Vouchers, yet another way to divert public tax dollars to unaccountable private and religious schools while continuing to significantly underfund our public schools….
Joint Public Hearing on Education Savings Accounts.
PA Senate Education Committee and House Education Committee
Wednesday, May 24, 2017 9:00 AM Hearing Room 1, North Office Building

What $55M in state funding for PUBLIC instead of private/religious schools would mean for each PA school district:
Education Voters PA May 2017
Additional 2017-18 funding PA public school districts would receive if the PA legislature provided $55M in new Basic Education Funding instead of $55M in new funding for private/religious school vouchers through the EITC and OSTC programs.

Public schools and choice
Gettysburg Times Opinion by Dr. Larry R. Redding Posted May 5, 2017
Dr. Larry R. Redding is the superintendent at Gettysburg Area School District.
Recently I had a high school student approach me and ask if he could ride an Uber to school instead of the school bus. He didn't like that the big yellow bus came to his house so early and he said it took too long to get the school. I didn't respond until I got the bill from the Uber service. When I asked the family why I was getting the bill for school transportation, they responded, I have school choice. While this is a fictional story, this is the root of school choice: a family, with or without cause, can send me the bill for cyber school tuition, charter school tuition and transportation costs and I can't say no. These costs are incurred under current PA Cyber and Charter School Laws, by groups that have no publicly elected school boards to evaluate the quality and efficiency of educational services.
Should local taxpayers pay for low-performing cyber and charter schools? If local taxpayers don't like how the cyber or charter school is operating, how do they vote to remove a school board director? This seems to me like the classic constitutional premise of taxation without representation. In an age of high accountability and transparency, how can we continue to support spending school tax dollars without the same scrutiny required for a public school district? How many people would love to go into Kennie's Market, select a bag of groceries and pass the bill to the next customer in line? Why do we let school choice go on unchecked?
The one thing that is truly missed in the choice argument is this: If I choose to take my school tax dollars to a cyber or charter school - that could be defendable. However, if that choice means you can take my school tax dollars, too, without my consent or approval - that is wrong.
As unlikely as my transportation example may seem, consider this: The US Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos stated on March 29, "Picking a school should be like choosing among Uber, Lyft, or a taxi."
Choosing to send your children to the Gettysburg Area School District or any other public school district, provides your children with guaranteed educational programs and services. We don't discriminate when it comes to the delivery of our quality programs. We serve children that are either rich or poor, able-bodied or disabled, English language proficient or not. Every family that entrusts their children to a public school, will receive the best education available and if problems exist, you have local school board members working hard to be responsive to our local needs. Accountability and transparency is severely missing from the operation of cyber schools and charter schools while plans and new laws are crafted to divert more funds from top-performing public schools by those who think school choice has been successful. Fact check - public schools in Adams County out-perform cyber and charter schools .

“As of Tuesday morning, the House version of the bill has garnered 88 co-sponsors, about a dozen votes shy of the majority needed to pass that chamber, assuming party leaders allow a floor vote.  In both chambers, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has rallied around the cause.”
'Slay the gerrymander': Is Pa. ready for redistricting reform?
Penn Live By Wallace McKelvey | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 09, 2017 at 1:01 PM, updated May 09, 2017 at 6:36 PM
For decades, various lawmakers and activist groups have tried to slay the gerrymander.
That, of course, is the word coined by a 19th-century cartoonist to describe a politician's efforts to redraw electoral district boundaries in order to advantage his cronies and marginalize his opponents.  Every 10 years, a group of Pennsylvania party leaders convenes to redraw the state House and Senate districts. Its U.S. congressional boundaries, meanwhile, are subject to an often-partisan vote by the Legislature before going to the governor.  In Pennsylvania, like many other states with similar redistricting systems, that has led to a number of curiously drawn districts that resemble Rorschach test ink blots. Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district, for one example, has been described as "Goofy kicking Donald Duck."  The map below shows the jagged district lines in southeastern Pennsylvania. The 7th district is in pink.  Lawmakers and citizens groups have fought for decades to reform the system to no avail. This year, however, an effort to change the state constitution has gained traction in the Legislature.  Two bills, one introduced in each chamber, would create an independent commission designed to reduce the influence of party leaders when it comes to drawing the districts that determine who represents the state's voters.  "These bills are a way to slay the gerrymander once and for all," state Rep. Pam DeLissio, a Philadelphia Democrat, said at a rally Tuesday on the Capitol steps.

Gerrymandering: Has your state House member cosponsored HB722 redistricting reform bill?

Lawmakers pressed for time on gerrymandering amendment
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | May 10, 2017 5:03 AM
 (Harrisburg) -- Around the state, advocates and frustrated Pennsylvanians are pushing lawmakers to change the rules governing how district lines are redrawn every ten years.
The current process lets politicians the skew districts in their political favor--a process known as gerrymandering.  But it's going to take some serious legislative might to make changes.
On Tuesday, a crowd of protesters nearly filled the Capitol's front steps--many holding up green signs that read "end gerrymandering in PA."  They're supporting bills in the House and Senate that aim to do just that, by amending the state constitution to make redistricting more impartial.  Time may not be on the legislature's side though. Constitutional amendments have to be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions--a slow process.  Democratic Senator Lisa Boscola, of Lehigh County, is a sponsor on her chamber's bill and said it has to pass by next summer.  "When you look at these districts, they make no sense," Boscola said. "[Some look like] salamanders, mine looks like a transformer--it's got to change."  Monroe County Republican Mario Scavello is the cosponsor on the bipartisan Senate bill.

Stop Gerrymandering
March on Harrisburg begins Saturday
Morning Call Opinion by Bill White Contact Reporter May 8, 2017
Gerrymandering reform supporters will gather in Harrisburg Tuesday and march Saturday
wrote Sunday about the upcoming March on Harrisburg, designed to free three government reform bills from the clutches of legislative leadership and get them to the floor for a vote.     If you're interested in learning more about the nonpartisan marchers' goals and how you can help, go their website. It begins 10 a.m. Saturday with a rally in Philadelphia's Thomas Paine Plaza, outside of City Hall. The 10-day trek to the state Capitol begins at noon and will be followed by three days of lobbying and "creative acts of nonviolence" in Harrisburg.  I have some more information that I couldn't squeeze into my column, but first, I'll share a press release about another event, this one scheduled for Tuesday. It focuses on redistricting reform, one of the targets of the March on Harrisburg and a subject that has been stirring increasing grassroots support in the Lehigh Valley and around the state. Here's the release:

For more info on efforts to create an independent commission designed to reduce the influence of party leaders when it comes to drawing the districts that determine who represents the state's voters check out the Fair Districts PA website:
Fair Districts PA Website
Pennsylvania is one of the most gerrymandered states in the union. Behind closed doors, despite the conflict of interest, lawmakers draw the borders of their own voting districts. Politicians are picking their voters, not the other way around. Many districts are no longer competitive. A growing number of candidates run unopposed. Voters feel their votes don’t count, and the gridlock in Harrisburg gets worse

100 men read to children setting good example in York
York Daily Record by Paul Kuehnel , Published 7:06 a.m. ET May 9, 2017
My Brother’s Keeper York, PA collaborated with the 6th Annual Reading IS Essential: 100 Men Reading Program in York, bringing mentors into schools to read children a story.  Male students, coaches, educators and members of the community read stories to children at several York City School District elementary schools, Logos Academy and York Academy Regional Charter School on Monday.  "I'm a product of this community, I went to Ferguson Elementary School, Smith Middle School and ultimately graduated from William Penn Senior High School, and I want them to know that if they stay focused that they can accomplish anything they want to," said reader Clovis Gallon, William Penn basketball coach and educator.

Wolf pushes for increase in Pre-K funding
Meadville Tribune By John Finnerty CNHI News Service May 9, 2017
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf was joined by advocates for early childhood education Monday to defend his plan to boost Pre-K funding by $75 million.  Wolf's budget proposals include $2 billion in cuts where he thinks the state government can manage them. But, he stressed Monday, he thinks the state needs to target increased spending in some areas, including early childhood education.  “It is proven that children who participate in high quality Pre-K perform better in school later on," Wolf said. "They graduate at higher rates, they learn more now, and they earn more later. Good early childhood education levels the playing field for high and low income students.”  Wolf, a Democrat, said the investment pays off in the long run because the societal costs of not preparing children for school far exceed the upfront costs of preschool programs.  It was a point backed up by Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed, a Republican.  Freed said he won’t suggest the state should increase its total budget spending, but he thinks the government ought to put its money on efforts that are worth the investment.  About half the inmates in Pennsylvania’s prison system dropped out of school, he said.
“That’s the reason so many in law enforcement support this,” he said. “Studies show the programs work.”

Pa.'s investment in preschool lags behind other states, study shows
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 08, 2017 at 6:51 PM, updated May 09, 2017 at 6:57 AM
Advocates pushing for an increase in state funding for preschool programs in the 2017-18 state budget released a study on Monday that shows Pennsylvania's investment in pre-K programs is lagging behind other states.  It shows 19 states and the District of Columbia have a higher per-capita investment in high-quality preschool programs than Pennsylvania, which invests $682.17 per child, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. Fifteen states invest more than $1,000 per child including economic competitors New Jersey and New York.  What's more, Joan Benso, president of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, said, "Sixty-four percent, two-thirds basically, of Pennsylvania 3- and 4-year-olds who are eligible for high-quality pre-k still don't get the opportunity to attend. Why? Because we don't invest enough state money."  Her organization along with the Pre-K for PA campaign are calling on lawmakers to support Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed $75 million increase for Pre-K Counts and Head Start, and not the $25 million one included in the House-passed Republican budget.

Saucon Valley budget proposal calls for property tax hike
Charles Malinchak Special to The Morning Call May 9, 2017
The tax hike machine might being coming out of storage in the Saucon Valley School District with a proposed budget calling for a 2.5 percent tax increase. It would be the first increase in eight years.  The proposed $46 million budget calls for a tax hike of 1.29 mill,s which would raise the tax rate from the current 51.74 mills to 53.03 mills.  The hike is expected to generate about $737,000, which district business manager David Bonenberger said would be used to pay for about half of the district's $1.4 million deficit.  The other half of the deficit will be taken from the district's $11 million fund balance, which is similar to a savings account.  School Director Sandra Miller said if the budget with the tax hike gains final approval in June it would mark the first hike in eight years.  For the owner of a property assessed at $100,000, the tax bill would rise from $5,174 to $5,303, a hike of $129.

Hanover teen earns college degree before high school diploma
York Dispatch Staff report Published 9:03 a.m. ET May 9, 2017 | Updated 10 hours ago
HARRISBURG — A Hanover student has earned an associate’s degree at a community college even before she’ll receive her high school diploma next month.  Seventeen-year-old Sadira Stallings will receive her degree in business administration from Harrisburg Area Community College on Thursday, according to the college.  Stallings completed 63 credit hours through HACC’s dual-enrollment program and is the first high school student from the community college’s Gettysburg campus to earn her degree before finishing high school, the school said.  Stallings completed most of her classes online through the college’s virtual learning program, allowing her the flexibility to work two jobs to pay tuition and maintain high school activities, according to the college.

Cheltenham residents air grievances, rally support after student brawl
For each person who wanted more discipline, there were those who worried about stigmatizing problem students.  For each person who said staff was inconsistent in how it doled out punishment, there were those who said staff doesn't have the leeway needed to intervene when fights develop.  And for each person who bemoaned a lack of safety, there were those who said their school isn't as lawless as it's been portrayed.   Less than a week after a student brawl left 10 staff members injured and led to four student arrests at Cheltenham High School, residents of the Cheltenham School District just north of Philadelphia gathered to air grievances and rally support. The opinions were as numerous as the attendees.  Before a packed high school auditorium — and over more than four hours of testimony — they held forth on topics as diverse as school safety, the treatment of black students, property taxes, mentoring, and academic tracking.

New study shows girls of color are more likely to be suspended than white classmates
Nationwide, black girls are five and a half times as likely to be suspended from school than white girls. The same National Women's Law Center study places Pennsylvania and New Jersey near the top of that list.  Neena Chaudhry, the center's education director teaches us more about the issue. Listen below.   For more information and interactive maps visit

Essay: The negative effects of implicit bias in schools
Last week at Colgate University in central New York, reports of a black male carrying a gun — which in reality was a Colgate student carrying a glue gun for a school project — prompted school officials to put the campus on lockdown. In a message to the university, President Brian W. Casey wrote: "It is important that we understand the role that implicit racial bias had in the initial reporting of and responses to the events of last night."  African Americans have learned to expect bias in their lives from an early age, and very little has been done to counteract the effects associated with implicit biases. If black students experience the effects of implicit bias from the first day they step into a school, how can we expect them to develop healthy or positive attitudes toward authority figures later in life? While we may think of ourselves as unbiased, it is important for educators to recognize and purposefully counteract any effects of implicit bias by beginning with staff and then spreading understanding beyond schools and into the public mindset.

The Future Ready PA Index 
Pennsylvania Department of Education Website
In looking at ways to create a more holistic school evaluation tool, the Pennsylvania Department of Education conducted dozens of feedback sessions to solicit recommendations from more than 1,000 stakeholders around a new measure.  The proposed Future Ready PA Index will serve as Pennsylvania’s one-stop location for comprehensive information about school success, and will use a dashboard model to highlight how schools are performing and making progress on multiple indicators.  The proposed dashboard approach to school reporting:  
·         Increases emphasis on student growth measures, which incentivizes a focus on all learners and is less sensitive to demographic variables.
·         Measures English language acquisition among ELL students, not simply performance on a test of grade level ELA standards.
·         Incentivizes career awareness instruction beginning at the elementary level.
·         Addresses the issue of unequal weighting of content areas in the current SPP.
·         Provides indicators of student success after graduation.
·         Increases the emphasis on student access to course offerings such as AP, IB, college credit, and CTE programs of study.
·         Allows LEAs to include locally-selected reading assessments (Grade 3) and math assessments (Grade 7) as additional snapshots of student progress.
·         Incentivizes schools to offer career pathways that culminate with high value, industry recognized credentials.
·         Recognizes schools for reducing the percent of students scoring at the Below Basic level.
Download a PDF document of the above text that can be printed or emailed.

Sen. Bob Casey sponsors 'lunch shaming' bill to keep kids from being singled out
Penn Live By Christian Alexandersen | Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on May 09, 2017 at 10:22 AM, updated May 09, 2017 at 6:37 PM
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey joined lawmakers Tuesday to sponsor a bill to prohibit schools from "lunch shaming" children that are unable to purchase meals at school.  The legislation -- which has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives -- would forbid schools from discriminating against or stigmatizing children who have outstanding credit or don't have enough money to pay for meals. It would ban the practice of singling out children -- like making them wear wristbands or have assigned chores.  Casey sponsored the legislation with Senators Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, and Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico. The bill is officially being called the "Anti-Lunch Shaming Act."

Today's Editorial: Include taxpayers in contract talks
Daily Item Editorial May 9, 2017
A bill awaiting a final vote in the state Senate would offer a huge victory for taxpayers and the advancement of transparency in government.  The measure would require any proposed contracts for state workers and school district employees to be released to the public before they are approved.  “Taxpayers have a right to know how their money is spent on contracts that are negotiated behind closed doors,” said state Sen. Pat Stefano, R-Fayette County, the author of the bill. “Providing greater openness is a core tenant of good government.”  Under provisions of Stefano’s bill, a contract agreement would have to be posted online two weeks before and 30 days following the signing of the collective bargaining agreement. Similar legislation has been introduced in the state House, but has not moved out of committee in that chamber.  Critics say it is an unfair attack on public sector unions and that making contract proposals public inhibits the ability for parties, such as school board and teachers union representatives, to reach a compromise and agreement.  The problem with that argument is that taxpayers are a party in these negotiations. They pay the bills.  “Public employers across the Commonwealth currently negotiate contracts costing billions of dollars without any public review or oversight,” Stefano said. “I believe taxpayers have the right to know how their hard-earned money is being spent.”

“Another reporter asked what DeVos' plans are for helping to revamp struggling traditional public schools. DeVos quickly pivoted back to choice.
"We've attempted [fixing public schools] for many decades," she said. While she acknowledged that the feds and the state have seen some success, "There are still far too many kids being left behind. Many states have also tried to improve their traditional public education systems. ... The reality is that there are still far too many kids being left behind. Every year that we fail to give parents the kinds of choices they need for their individual children is a tragic year for [each child] that is denied that opportunity."  
Betsy DeVos: Federal Progress on School Choice Coming Soon
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on May 9, 2017 5:23 PM
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said the Trump administration and Congress will move forward on their vision for school choice "in the not-too-distant future."  It's no secret that expanding school choice is the Trump administration's favorite K-12 policy. But the administration has yet to release a detailed proposal explaining how it plans to make that a reality. The best clues are in the administration's preliminary budget request, which was released in March and calls for ramping up charter school funding, allowing some federal funding to encourage public school choice, and a new private school choice initiative. But the request doesn't offer many specifics.  DeVos didn't get into the details during a press availability on Tuesday at the Granite Technical Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah, captured on Periscope by the Salt Lake Tribune's Benjamin Wood.  One reporter brought up Utah voters' rejection of vouchers at the ballot box. DeVos said that she thinks states should ultimately get to decide if they want to do school choice, but she sees energy for the policy growing.  "I think it has to be up to the states what and whether to adopt in terms of choices. I'm very much a federalist in that regard," DeVos said. "I think the momentum around this has continued to build. And more and more people are supporting this notion that everyone should have the opportunity to make multiple choices."

Electing PSBA Officers; Applications Due June 1
All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall send applications to the attention of the chair of the Leadership Development Committee, during the months of April and May an Application for Nomination to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. “The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by June 1 to be considered and timely filed.” (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5.E.).
Open positions are:
·         2017-19 Central Section at Large Representative – includes Regions 4, 5, 6, 9 and 12  (for the remaining two years of a three-year term)
·         2018-20 Western At Large Representative – includes   Regions 1, 2, 3, 13 and 14 (three-year term)
In addition to the application form, PSBA Governing Board Policy 302 asks that all candidates furnish with their application a recent, print quality photograph and letters of application. The application form specifies no less than three letters of recommendation and no more than four, and are specifically requested as follows:
o    One from superintendent or school director of home entity
o    One from a school director from another school district
o    Other individuals familiar with the candidate's leadership skills
PSBA Governing Board Policy 108 also outlines the campaign procedures of candidates.
All terms of office commence January 1 following election.

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 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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