Friday, May 12, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 12: PA lawmakers to consider Education Savings Accounts - Betsy DeVos Vouchers on Steroids

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 May 12, 2017:
PA lawmakers to consider Education Savings Accounts - Betsy DeVos Vouchers on Steroids

“The advocacy group, Fair Districts PA, reports that 9,000 people have learned about gerrymandering and fair representation at meetings around the state. More are scheduled in Jenkintown, Doylestown, Philadelphia, Malvern, and elsewhere, including Robesonia. You can learn more at”
Legislators draw odd district lines that cheat Pennsylvania voters
State legislators are able to choose their voters by drawing district lines that favor their reelection.
by Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: MAY 12, 2017 — 5:00 AM EDT
Opposition to rigged elections is growing in Pennsylvania, where advocates have secured 101 co-sponsors on House and Senate bills aimed at redrawing the state’s preposterous legislative and congressional districts.  The clearest result of Pennsylvania gerrymandering is poor representation, and few regions are more hobbled by that than Philadelphia. The city’s schools are historically underfunded and the city can’t get traction in the legislature on curbing illegal guns.  For some reason, six Philadelphia lawmakers don’t seem to understand that if legislative districts were drawn less lopsided, the city would have a better chance to resolve its issues. Under the current arrangement, Harrisburg doesn’t even have to listen because legislative leaders are able to pick their voters and ensure eternal job security.

Editorial: Can't anybody fix pensions?
Doylestown Intelligencer Editorial May 11, 2017
This week education reporter Gary Weckselblatt filed yet another story detailing the financial misery school districts are enduring thanks to the crisis with Pennsylvania's pension system for retired public school teachers (PSERS). This latest installment in what seems to be an ongoing series quoted North Penn School District business manager Stephen Skrocki, who described a seven-year increase in the district's pension costs — from $6 million to almost $40 million — as "totally mind-boggling."  This isn't just North Penn's problem. Officials in most other school districts, among them Centennial, Central Bucks and Quakertown Community, are just as exasperated at having to continuously raise property taxes to cover ever-increasing pension costs. And they don't mince words when laying the problem at the feet of state lawmakers, who have done virtually nothing to address the pension issue and the resultant local budget-busting.
Every time we read one of these pension stories, we're reminded of the words of that legendary baseball manager Casey Stengel, who upon reflecting on his dismal 1962 New York Mets asked rhetorically, "Can't anybody here play this game?" (This was later the title of a book written by Jimmy Breslin.)  Allow us to paraphrase Casey's words vis-a-vis the state pension debacle: Can't anybody in Harrisburg fix this problem?

Education Voters PA Posted on May 11, 2017 by EDVOPA
On Wednesday, May 24 at 9:00 am, the PA House and Senate Education Committees will be holding a joint public hearing about “education savings accounts” or ESAs.
Education Savings Accounts are Betsy DeVos vouchers on steroids.  They are an underhanded attempt to re-brand extremely unpopular school voucher programs that divert taxpayer dollars out of public schools and into private pockets.
Click here to sign up to join us in Harrisburg at 8:30 am on Wednesday, May 24th, to demonstrate public opposition to this new generation of school vouchers.
States with ESAs (Arizona, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee) provide parents with a debit card that has been pre-loaded with taxpayer dollars that that would have otherwise been spent educating a child in a public school. Each state determines the amount of taxpayer dollars that each student receives. It could be a flat amount ($6500 per student in Mississippi) or percentage of the funding that would have been spent educating a child in a public or charter school.  The use of the debit card is restricted to educational expenses, which can include online courses, private/religious school tuition, home school supplies, college tuition, and tutors. In most states there is little or no accountability for student academic performance in the ESA programs.
Click HERE to sign and share a petition telling state lawmakers to OPPOSE ESAs and other school privatization schemes in PA.
PA lawmakers will likely claim that they are only interested in providing ESAs to students with disabilities and students who attend low-performing schools in order to empower parents and improve the educational choices of these students.  However, if ESAs are enacted in Pennsylvania there is little reason to believe that eligibility would remain restricted  to a small group of students.

“Senator Pat Browne and Senator Randy Vulakovich are currently proposing a similar charter funding commission as a stand alone piece of legislation. Perhaps that would be a great place to start to untie the Gordian Knot that charter reform has become in Pennsylvania.  HB97 as written would remove local control over charter schools, and would make sure that state control is pro-charter expansion regardless of taxpayer wishes manifested by their elected school boards. It also doesn’t address the core funding problem: That one family’s decision will take resources out of the classrooms of other kids, primarily in our most underfunded districts.”
Guest Column: House bill is no solution to charter school reform
By Lawrence A. Feinberg, Delco Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 05/11/17, 9:20 PM EDT
Lawrence A. Feinberg is serving his fifth term as an elected school board member in Haverford Township. He also serves as chairman of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council and is a member of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association’s Governing Board.
After 20 years, it is long past time for meaningful reforms to Pennsylvania’s charter school law that will benefit students and parents while also protecting our taxpayers. House Bill 97, in its present form, however, is not the legislation to do that.
The bill would significantly diminish local oversight and control by elected school boards who have a fiduciary responsibility to represent the taxpayers who pay for these publicly funded but privately managed schools. HB97 also encourages expansion of the charter sector without appropriate measures to ensure that they are of high quality. Our costly and chronically underperforming cyber charters, authorized by the state, are a prime example of that approach.
Charter operators have no accountability to the taxpayers footing the bill. Their funding comes “shrink-wrapped,” based on local school district spending, with no local press coverage of charter board meetings; no public budget process; no public check registers. For charters that are run by private management companies, like Chester Community Charter, the state’s largest brick and mortar charter, taxpayers know virtually nothing about how their money is spent.

Wolf's approvals are on the way up in new poll, but challenges remain: Analysis
Penn Live By John L. Micek | Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 11, 2017 at 5:30 AM, updated May 11, 2017 at 7:31 AM
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Donald Trump made history last November when he became the first Republican to snap a four-decade Democratic stranglehold on Pennsylvania's presidential vote.  Trump won in traditionally Democratic strongholds in the southwest and northeast. And he put up a serious fight in the Philadelphia suburbs, eating into rival Hillary Clinton's margins on his way to a win in a key electoral battleground.  A new Franklin & Marshall poll out this morning contains some good news for Gov. Tom Wolf as he heads into a bruising 2018 re-election campaign. But the Democrat still has his work cut out for him.

F&M Poll: Wolf 41%, Casey 38%, Trump 37%, Marijuana 56 Percent
Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates May 11, 2017
A new Franklin & Marshall Poll reported Thursday shows Gov. Wolf’s approval rating stands at 41 percent, an increase of 3 percentage points from February.   This is no worse than Gov. Rendell’s in 2006 when he won re-election.  Gov. Ridge still has the highest approval rating at this point in his term of over 60 percent.  Of the most important issues facing Pennsylvania, those polled said: 22 percent government and politicians, 17 percent education, 12 percent taxes, 8 percent unemployment, 8 percent healthcare and insurance, 5 percent crime, drugs, violence and guns, 4 percent roads, infrastructure, transportation, 3 percent economy and finances, 3 percent environment, 2 percent social issues, 1 percent energy issues, gasoline prices, 1 percent retaining, attracting businesses, 1 percent immigration and 1 percent senior issues.
U. S. Senator Bob Casey's rating is up only 1 point to 38 percent.   President Trump’s approval rating rose to 37 percent, up 5 points from February.  56 percent of Pennsylvania voters now support legalization of marijuana, a sharp turnaround from two years ago when 54 percent were opposed and from 2006 when just 22 percent supported legalization.

“District officials pointed to rising pension costs as the main reason for raising taxes.  “Every single district in the commonwealth is facing this,” board President Tamra Smail said. “We're just not getting the help we need at the state level.”
The district's contribution to the Pennsylvania State Employees' Retirement System is expected to rise from $6.9 million in 2016-17 to $7.7 million in 2017-18.
Gillespie said rates for the pension contribution have risen from about 6 percent around 10 years ago to 33 percent today.”
Kiski Area School District weighs tax increase for 2017-18
Trib Live by EMILY BALSER  | Thursday, May 11, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Homeowners in the Kiski Area School District could face a higher real estate tax bill next year if the school board approves a preliminary 2017-18 budget as proposed.  Under the $60.2 million spending plan, the district's Westmoreland County communities would see a 3.5 percent tax increase, while those in its only Armstrong County community, Parks Township, would see an almost 4 percent tax increase. The average annual increase on tax bills would be $49 for Westmoreland homeowners and $37 for Armstrong homeowners, said district Business Manager Peggy Gillespie.

Bald Eagle Area school board approves 2017-18 proposed final budget
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO May 11, 2017
In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Bald Eagle Area school board approved a proposed final budget of $32,855,311 for the 2017-18 school year.  District business manager Craig Livergood said it’s “a work in progress.”  By state law, a final budget must be approved by the end of June. The proposed final budget calls for a 3.4 percent tax increase — or 1.8574 mills — from the current school year.  That means the average homeowner with an assessed value of $30,137 could pay about $56 more per year, or $4.66 more per month, in real estate taxes.  Livergood said 64 percent of the proposed final budget would go toward salaries and benefits, and includes a 9 percent increase in health care costs.
It also includes a 19 percent increase in charter school tuition costs to about $683,000.

“As with most, if not all, school districts in Pennsylvania, the largest chunk of the increase is due to increases in pension obligations. North Hills will transfer $1.29 million to the budget from a fund balance set aside specifically for pension costs.”
North Hills schools propose tax increase
Post Gazette by SANDY TROZZO 12:00 AM MAY 12, 2017
The North Hills school board last week approved a proposed final budget that, if it remains unchanged, will result in an average tax increase of $25 for property owners.  Final approval of the 2017-18 budget is scheduled for June 8.  The $79.19 million spending plan comes with a 0.2-mill increase in the property tax rate, bringing the rate to 18 mills. The millage increase is 1.1 percent, half of what the district is allowed under state Act 1.  The increase would cost a resident with the median home value of $135,000 an additional $25 per year.  “I think that’s a fair shake because I think all those homes are going to increase in value more than $25. Home values are skyrocketing in North Hills,” board member Lou Nudi said at the May 4 meeting.

Listen: Artist and physicist Melina Blees talks with Kara Newhouse for 'Women in STEM' podcast
LANCASTERONLINE | Staff May 11, 2017
Art and science have a lot more in common than many people believe, according to this week’s guest on Women in STEM with Kara Newhouse. Melina Blees is an artist and physicist with a PhD from Cornell University. She is currently the creativity director for Skyscraper, Inc., a product design company in Lancaster. In this episode she talks about:
• why being uncomfortable is an important part of the artistic and scientific processes.
• the psychology of creativity and the value of looking at topics from new angles.
• the flaws in popular images of scientists and artist as inherent geniuses.
Blees and Newhouse also shared several STEM-related entertainment recommendations for listeners to check out, including Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine,Nautilis livestream the ocean floor, the Story Collider podcast and Beyond Infinity by Eugenia Cheng.

2017 Lindback Award-winning Philly teachers
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: MAY 11, 2017 — 3:01 AM EDT

“Hoosier Academy Virtual School is run by one of those companies, K12 Inc. which is based in Herndon, Va. K12 Inc. is the country's largest for-profit operator of full-time, online charter schools and runs effective lobbying efforts in more than 20 states, including Indiana, where, according to Education Week's investigation, it had spent around $1 million dollars lobbying state lawmakers and donating to their campaigns and political parties since 2007. “
Indiana Virtual Charter School Escapes the Ax Again, Despite Poor Academic Record
Education Week By Arianna Prothero on May 11, 2017 9:45 AM | 3 Comments
Indiana education officials have decided to give a long-troubled virtual charter school another chance to right its academic ship, despite earning six consecutive years' worth of failing grades from the state.  Hoosier Academy Virtual School's fate has been in limbo for two years as state officials have deferred taking the extreme measure of closing the school because of its persistently low academic scores. The school serves more than 3,000 students.  On Wednesday, the state board of education opted instead to ban the school from enrolling new students and slash how much the school's authorizer can collect in administrative fees. 
As I wrote in an investigation by Education Week into full-time online charters last fall, Hoosier Virtual Academy's story is not unusual.  Similar scenarios of state scrutiny and near misses involving other online charter schools have played out across the country since the early 2000s. As part of that report, Education Week found that despite more than a decade of state investigations, news media reports, and research documenting at times startling failures and gross mismanagement in full-time online schools, the sector—dominated by two for-profit companies—continues to expand, spreading into new states and enrolling more students. Virtual charter schools, which collectively receive more than $1 billion in taxpayer money each year, are rarely shut down.

Morningstar: K12, Inc (LRN) Executive Compensation

“Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was over $1.2 billion; $393.5 million, $398.8 million and $436.1 million respectively.  Not one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters has achieved a passing SPP score of 70 in any of the four years that the SPP has been in effect.  Most PA cybers never made “Adequate Yearly Progress” under No Child Left Behind.”
Chart: School Performance Profile Scores for PA Cyber Charters 2013 through 2016
Keystone State Education Coalition October 16, 2016
Source: PA Department of Education website; A score of 70 is considered passing
Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was over $1.2 billion; $393.5 million, $398.8 million and $436.1 million respectively.
Not one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters has achieved a passing SPP score of 70 in any of the four years that the SPP has been in effect.

Please take this 5 minute survey to improve PA schools
Education Law Center/Youth United for Change May 2017
This is a short survey developed by Youth United for Change and the Education Law Center, which we're asking community members statewide - including students, parents, school staff, and others connected to public schools - to complete. The survey asks respondents to share their story to inform legislators about what their school/district needs and how cuts to education have impacted their education. While we'd prefer responses by April 30th, the survey will remain live at least until June. We'd be incredibly appreciative if you could share the survey with your networks - by including the link in your monthly newsletter, sharing via your social media postings, or as its own e-blast - to help as many people as possible share their stories. We expect the survey will take respondents less than 5 minutes to complete and can be completed anonymously.
Access the survey here:
Questions or comments? Contact Michaela Ward at / 267-825-7710 or Alia Trindle at / (215) 534-1314.

EPLC's "Focus on Education" TV Program on PCN - this Sunday, May 14 at 3 p.m. 
Part 1: Guests will be:
Mike Faccinetto, President, PA School Boards Association
Jackie Cullen, Executive Director, PA Association of Career and Technical Administrators

To discuss the 2016-2017 State of Education report, which was recently released by the PA School Boards Association and highlights success and challenges facing public education.
Part 2: Guests will be:
Greg Rudder, Executive Director, State YMCA of Pennsylvania
David S. John, Jr., Executive Director, PA State Alliance of YMCAs
To discuss YMCA Youth and Government Programs in Pennsylvania.
All EPLC "Focus on Education" TV shows are hosted by EPLC President Ron Cowell.

Visit the EPLC and the Pennsylvania School Funding Project web sites for various resources related to education and school funding issues.

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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