Wednesday, May 17, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 17: EdVotersPA: Mythbusting PA’s EITC/OSTC Programs

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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 17, 2017:
EdVotersPA: Mythbusting PA’s EITC/OSTC Programs

Turzai’s letter raises serious issues of public concern
The notebook Commentary by Rich Migliore May 15, 2017 — 1:32pm
Rich Migliore is a retired School District administrator, an attorney, and author of "Whose School Is It?" The Democratic Imperative for Our Schools." 
Speaker of the House Mike Turzai’s recent letter to the School Reform Commission criticizing the District’s charter school renewal process raises serious issues of public importance. All of us who care about public education should be alarmed at what was said by Representative Turzai.  Turzai not only levels an unfounded attack on the SRC members, he attacks Philadelphia in his letter and makes a not very veiled threat to the SRC members: if they do not renew the charters in question, funding for Philadelphia’s schools will be in jeopardy. That is a misuse of his office.   SRC Chairwoman Joyce Wilkerson responded to Turzai in a letter defending the SRC’s charter renewal process. As a retired teacher and principal, and an advocate for public education, I also responded directly to Turzai. My 8-page letter to him addresses the impropriety of his actions and the issues which his actions raise. They are issues of public concern. Neither the District’s renewal process for the 26 schools in question, nor the SRC’s conditions for renewal are “overreach or inappropriate” as Turzai described them. Pursuant to the Charter School Law, the SRC and the District have an “affirmative legal duty” to assess whether our charter schools are meeting the requirements for student performance, meeting the “conditions” of its charter, and to determine whether the charter school is complying with applicable law.

Education Voters PA Posted on May 16, 2017 by EDVOPA
Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs funnel $125 million tax dollars into unaccountable private and religious schools in PA every year.  These scholarships are marketed as offering low-income students increased educational opportunities and “choice.”  In reality:
·         students in families that earn $106K/year are eligible for scholarships (these are not low-income students);
·         scholarships may be awarded to students who are already in private school (this doesn’t offer new opportunities); and
·         private/religious schools that receive this taxpayer funding are allowed to discriminate against any student for any reason (schools have a choice, not students).
To learn more, read our Mythbusting Tax Credits in the EITC/OSTC programs:

Sens. Toomey, Portman asked to find common ground to fix House's health reform bill
TRACIE MAURIELLO Post-Gazette Washington Bureau 11:07 PM MAY 16, 2017
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, have staked out opposite positions on Medicaid, but now they’ve been tasked with finding a way forward.
They’re still looking for common ground, Mr. Toomey told Pennsylvania reporters in a conference call Tuesday.  Mr. Portman, who was not available for comment Tuesday, is among several expansion-state Republicans who want to protect Medicaid coverage.  Pennsylvania also is among the states that accepted funding under Obamacare to expand Medicaid coverage to poor able-bodied adults. Obamacare fully funded expansion coverage for two years and 90 percent of the cost thereafter.  The reform bill that recently passed the House would abruptly end that coverage, reducing access to life-saving care, Mr. Portman and three other expansion-state Republicans wrote in a recent letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Because of that change, they’ve said they can’t support the House bill.

Sen. Pat Toomey says he's open to 'smoothing' transition for Medicaid changes
Laura Olson Contact Reporter Morning Call Washington Bureau May 16, 2017
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey has been tapped to hammer out Medicaid changes as Senate GOP writes health care bill.  As he and other Senate Republicans craft their own bill to replace Obamacare, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey says he's open to finding a smoother transition for those enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program than what House Republicans proposed.  Pennsylvania is among 31 states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, which allowed a new category of adults to access coverage beyond the traditional program. Medicaid provides health coverage to low-income, elderly and disabled individuals.  The federal government has been paying the full cost of that health care, but that will drop to 90 percent in 2020.  Under the House bill, those payments to state governments would drop to roughly 57 percent, saving federal taxpayers billions, but threatening health care for millions of people.  That would happen "in one shot," which Toomey said could pose problems for states that will need to fill in the financial gap or reduce services. "I think you can make a reasonable case that there ought to be a transition," Toomey said. The House approach "probably is a little too sudden, and that is problematic for many state budgets. So I'm open to that conversation. But I think the transition has to happen."

“Expenditures are expected to increase $10.1 million over this year, almost all of it found in six areas: retirement contributions at $2.66 million; salaries at $2.3 million; charter school tuition at $1.9 million; private school tuition at $1.45 million; staffing services at $1.27 million; and employee benefits at $144,403.”
Tax increase proposed for Upper Darby school budget
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, on Twitter POSTED: 05/16/17, 7:57 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Upper Darby >> After two years with the same millage rate in the Upper Darby School District, taxes are slated to go up for the next school year.  The first look at the proposed final budget for 2017-18 shows a 2.99 tax increase in the $199 million budget while also earmarking $6.9 million in fund balance usage to make up help cover a looming shortfall. Before the tax increase and fund balance money the district was short $9.79 million.  A 2.99 percent tax increase another $2.88 million will be generated by taxpayers. The millage rate will jump just over one-half of a point to 36.2689. A house assessed at $100,000 will see their tax bill increase $158.

“Eighty-five percent of Bucks County school districts had fewer funds available for instructional needs in 2014 than they had during the worst years of the recession. By 2015, districts had about $10,000 less per classroom, or about $409 less per student, than they did in 2009.”
Schools play pivotal role in child's success or failure
Intelligencer By Paul Karsevar and Tomea Sippio-Smith May 15, 2017
Parents are neither the only investors, nor the only stakeholders, in a child’s success. For 180 days, or nearly 50 percent, of the year, a child’s potential is molded by a local school. The quality of a child’s learning and engagement in the classroom impacts their ability to succeed in college or pursue a career. A young person’s failure or success impacts their neighborhood, community and, ultimately, the strength of Pennsylvania’s economy.  School districts must budget to meet the needs of students. When schools don’t have adequate funding to meet each child’s needs, all children are left out.  Eighty-five percent of Bucks County school districts had fewer funds available for instructional needs in 2014 than they had during the worst years of the recession. By 2015, districts had about $10,000 less per classroom, or about $409 less per student, than they did in 2009.  Unfunded mandates have contributed to these expenses. According to Public Citizens for Children and Youth’s recent report, “Left Out: The Status of Children in Bucks County," between 2008 and 2014 school district budgets had to absorb an 11 percent inflation rate and were required by the state to cover $36 million more in pension costs. Consequently, many school districts have been forced to rely on local property owners to pay more in taxes, cut educational programs, increase class sizes or use a combination of these measures to remain solvent.

Governor Wolf Announces ‘Troops to Teachers’ Grant Program
Governor Wolf’s Website May 16, 2017
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today announced $400,000 in federal funds will provide support to veterans transitioning from military service to careers in education. The Troops to Teachers grant program, managed by the Defense Activity for Nontraditional Education Support (DANTES), will create a robust network of teacher preparation programs around the commonwealth supporting veterans as they earn their teaching certifications.  “It is critical to ensure Pennsylvania’s veterans have the opportunity to pursue fulfilling new careers and that systems are in place to support them as they transition,” said Governor Wolf. “Additionally, by assisting veterans in their journey to become educators while partnering with high-need schools, the Troops to Teachers program will benefit not only our veterans, but also our schools, classrooms, and students.”  The Troops to Teachers grant program, in partnership with high-poverty and/or high-minority schools across the state, will enable veterans to gain critical skills and experience in the classroom, and help them with everything from navigating the certification process to securing a job in the field. The program will also provide targeted, intensive support during grantees’ first year by pairing them with teacher mentors and a Pennsylvania Department of Education certification staff point of contact. Under the program, certification costs will also be discounted, and application processing will be expedited.

CODE TALKERS: Pottstown Middle School 5th-graders learn computer coding at Google event
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 05/15/17, 5:16 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 HR AGO
POTTSTOWN >> Fifth-graders at Pottstown Middle School got another lesson in computer coding Monday courtesy of Google and U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-6th Dist.  Google delivered the Computer Science First Road Show — a computer science education presentation developed by Google for fourth- through eighth-grade students — to fifth-grade students in Pottstown. Two Google employees delivered the hour-long presentation, which focuses on teaching students both problem-solving and technical-coding skills through a series of interactive activities. The Roadshow teaches students about the importance of STEM education and uses interactive activities to teach them coding basics.  The presenters encouraged kids to develop an interest in computer science education by giving real-life examples of how coding and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education can lead to educational opportunities and exciting careers.

Which Philly schools don't have instrumental music?
As the School District of Philadelphia rebuilds its music program, data shows that more than 50 schools still don't have instrumental music instruction through the district — and that those schools serve disproportionately high numbers of minority students.  The new numbers come courtesy of City Councilwoman Helen Gym's office, which requested them from the district. The school district has 66 itinerant instrumental music teachers who travel from school to school and another 20 school-based instrumental music teachers. Despite the efforts of those teachers, 51 Philadelphia schools do not have any sort of instrumental music instruction provided by the district.  The schools without instrumental music are concentrated in North and West Philadelphia. They also tend to serve relatively few white students.

“Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania consistently have the most extreme levels of partisan bias. Collectively, the distortion in their maps has accounted for seven to ten extra Republican seats in each of the three elections since the 2011 redistricting, amounting to one-third to one-half of the total partisan bias across the states we analyzed.”
Gerrymandering: Extreme Maps
NYU School of Law Brennan Center for Justice by Laura RoydenMichael Li May 9, 2017
Using data from the 2012, 2014, and 2016 election cycles, Extreme Maps finds that partisan bias resulting largely from the worst gerrymandering abuses in just a few battleground states provides Republicans a durable advantage of 16-17 seats in the current Congress, representing a significant portion of the 24 seats Democrats would need to gain control of the House in 2020. These "extreme maps" were all drawn in states under single-party control; the report finds that conversely, maps drawn by independent commissions, courts, or split-party state governments had significantly less partisan bias in their maps. 

The Privatization Prophets
Jacobin Magazine by JENNIFER BERKSHIRE May 15, 2017
For years, millionaires and religious zealots have teamed up to preach "school choice" in an effort to dismantle public education.  During a recent talk to tech investors and “edupreneurs,” Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, the least regarded of all of the rogues and billionaires who compose the Trump cabinet, returned to a favorite theme of hers.  Apple, Uber, and Airbnb have worked their disruptive magic on one industry after another. Why aren’t our public schools being similarly disrupted? “Who here can pull out their Blockbuster card?” she asked the crowd.
But if the nation’s schools are the equivalent of a kitchen-wall rotary phone or the cab that never comes, DeVos was eager to let the audience know that a quick fix is at hand: school choice. The way to disrupt our educational malaise once and for all is to shift the way we think about education to focus “on students, not buildings. If a child is learning, it shouldn’t matter where they learn.” Even the best schools won’t be the right “fit” for all kids, DeVos noted. “The simple fact is that if a school is not meeting a child’s unique needs, then that school is failing that child.”
Beneath the folksy tech talk, though, lurks a radical vision, one that is taking root in state after state. The ultimate aim of the project of which DeVos is now the most visible face is to remove education from the public system. Those “buildings” of which she speaks so disdainfully, the disparaging “status quo” never far behind, represent the entire architecture of public education, and more importantly, its democratic control.  Diminishing this is key to reaching the promised land of privatization. Stodgy school boards are standing in the way of getting there; so are superintendents and parent teacher associations and teachers unions — above all, the teachers unions.

New charter schools debate: Are they widening racial divides in public education?
Washington Post By Mandy McLaren May 16 at 5:50 PM
VACHERIE, La. — At the new public charter school in this Mississippi River town, nearly all students are African American. Parents seem unconcerned about that. They just hope their children will get a better education.  “I wanted my girls to soar higher,” said Alfreda Cooper, who is black and has two daughters at Greater Grace Charter Academy.  Three hours up the road, students at Delta Charter School in Concordia Parish are overwhelmingly white, even though the surrounding community is far more mixed.  As the charter school movement accelerates across the country, a critical question remains unanswered — whether the creation of charters is accelerating school segregation. Federal judges who oversee desegregation plans in Louisiana are wrestling with that issue at a time when President Trump wants to spend billions of dollars on charter schools, vouchers and other “school choice” initiatives.

AP-NORC poll: Most know little about charter schools
WASHINGTON — May 13, 2017, 2:22 AM ET
Even as fierce political battles rage in Washington over school choice, most Americans know little about charter schools or private school voucher programs. Still, more Americans feel positively than negatively about expanding those programs, according to a new poll released Friday. "I wonder what the fuss is about," said Beverly Brown, 61, a retired grocery store worker in central Alabama. Brown, who doesn't have children, says American schools need reform, but she is not familiar with specific school options and policies. "Educational standards have to be improved overall."  All told, 58 percent of respondents say they know little or nothing at all about charter schools and 66 percent report the same about private school voucher programs, according to the poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.  Charters are schools funded by taxpayer money, but they operate independently of school districts and thus have more freedom in setting their curriculum and hiring staff. Vouchers are publicly funded scholarships given to low-income families to help cover tuition in private schools, including religious ones.  Using taxpayer money to aid struggling public schools or diverting it to fund more charter schools or make private schools available to more families has been hotly debated since Donald Trump was elected president. During the campaign, Trump promised to fund a $20 billion school choice program. He picked a long-time charter and private school advocate, Betsy DeVos, as his education secretary. Last week the president welcomed a group of students who were voucher recipients to the White House and asked Congress to work with him to make school options available nationwide.

“As Willen noted, the audience, a friendly one of entrepreneurs, probably expected her to talk exclusively about educational technology.  What she talked mostly about, though, is what she always talks about — school choice — and she renewed previous attacks she has made on the value of government and public schools. If anybody thought that having the responsibility of running the entire Education Department would broaden her scope, this speech should disabuse them of that.”
This is the new Betsy DeVos speech everyone should read
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss May 16 at 5:40 PM 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made news (again) recently when she was booed by students at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Florida, while she delivered a commencement speech. Students were upset that she had earlier this year called historically black colleges and universities “pioneers” in school choice rather than necessities because blacks weren’t allowed at white schools.  But in terms of education policy substance, the substance of a speech she gave a day earlier deserves at least as much attention. (See full text below.) The Michigan billionaire appeared at the 2017 annual technology and innovation conference in Salt Lake City sponsored by Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley, delivering a speech and answering questions from Jeanne Allen of the nonprofit Center for Education Reform, who, as Liz Willen, editor of the Hechinger Report, said in this column, “threw one softball after another, such as: “What would you say to people about technology?”

Charter backers poised to win their first L.A. school board majority
L.A. Times by Howard Blume and Anna M. Phillips Contact Reporters May 16, 2017
The Los Angeles Unified School District appeared to have undergone a major political shift Tuesday night, as the curtain dropped on what has been the most expensive school board election in the nation’s history.  Less than two hours after polls closed, with many ballots left to be counted, the president of the school board, Steve Zimmer, conceded the race. Addressing a crowd of supporters, Zimmer called his loss to candidate Nick Melvoin “devastating” and vowed never to run for office again. In a sign of how deeply polarizing this election has been, and how difficult it will be to forge consensus in the weeks and months to come, Zimmer said he would not call Melvoin.  “I may have lost an election … but my soul is intact,” he said. Of his opponent’s supporters, he added darkly: “They know what they did.”  From the moment the candidates filed to run for the Los Angeles Board of Education, the election has been a proxy war between wealthy charter school advocates and public employee unions. Charter supporters seemed poised early Wednesday morning to secure their first-ever majority on the seven-member Los Angeles Board of Education.

Nominations for PSBA Allwein Advocacy Award due by July 16th
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform.  In addition to being a highly respected lobbyist, Timothy Allwein served to help our members be effective advocates in their own right. Many have said that Tim inspired them to become active in our Legislative Action Program and to develop personal working relationships with their legislators.  The 2017 Allwein Award nomination process will begin on Monday, May 15, 2017. The application due date is July 16, 2017 in the honor of Tim’s birth date of July 16.

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!
  • 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

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.