Tuesday, May 2, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 2: Cyber curriculum costs PBGH $2808/student; cyber charters charge $14.4K/regular ed and $30.5K/special ed student

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 2, 2017:
Cyber curriculum costs PBGH $2808/student; cyber charters charge $14.4K/regular ed and $30.5K/special ed student

RSVP Now! EPLC’s Education Policy Forum – May 4 in Indiana, PA on Governor Wolf’s Proposed Education Budget

More than 1/3 of PA Reps have cosponsored HB722.  How about yours?
Gerrymandering: Legislators Sign on to HB 722
Fair Districts PA Website May 1, 2017
On April 18, Representatives Steve Samuelson (Democrat from Northampton County) and Eric Roe (Republican from Chester County) shared the co-sponsor memo for House Bill 722. This bill, almost identical to SB 22, would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to establish an independent citizens commission to redistrict Congressional as well as State House and Senate districts.  By April 28, 64 representatives had signed on to co-sponsor the bill. Four more signed on today, bringing co-sponsors to 68, over one third of our PA representatives, in just under two weeks.   Many of the co-sponsors know first hand the disruption to communities when district lines divide municipalities and counties unnecessarily.   Many believe an independent commission would open the door to more accountable government, more effective representation and greater trust in the electoral process.  Many of them have heard from you, their constituents, about the need for change.  Some representatives have asked to see the bill itself before signing on. The blueback (draft copy before introduction) is available online here.

PDE Urges PA Lawmakers to Invest in Students, Reject Funding Cuts in Budget Proposal
PDE 05/01/2017
Harrisburg, PA - In a letter to the chairs of the House and Senate Education committees, Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera urged lawmakers to consider the impact that proper investment can have on students across the commonwealth, and warned that a reduction in funds could hurt schools, students, and taxpayers alike. The House Republican budget proposal eliminates funding to support school safety programs, teacher professional development, anti-campus sexual assault grants, career and technical education, and increased operating funds aimed at leveraging federal funding for school breakfast programs.  “After reviewing the proposal that recently passed the House, I have serious concerns about the impact House Bill 218 would have on the department’s ability to provide local school districts with appropriate support to serve students,” Rivera said. “Over the past several years, reductions in state allocations have negatively altered the breadth and depth of PDE’s services and supports for the commonwealth’s educational institutions. The spending cuts proposed in HB 218 will cause additional challenges, further hindering our ability to achieve the agency’s vital mission of ensuring that every learner has access to a world-class education system that academically prepares children and adults to meet the rigorous expectations we collectively have set for them.”  Rivera noted that education is the most important investment Pennsylvania can make, and cutting that investment will have serious implications for the commonwealth down the road. Pennsylvania is home to 500 school districts and nearly 1.8 million students.

April tax collections bring more bad news for Pennsylvania
Inquirer by MARC LEVY, The Associated Press Updated: MAY 1, 2017 — 6:08 PM EDT
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Another bad month of tax collections is deepening the state government's budget hole, pushing its revenue shortfall to more than $1 billion for a fiscal year that ends in nine weeks.  The Department of Revenue said Monday that April's tax collections came in at $537 million, or 13 percent, below expectations.  The growing gap could put more pressure on Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to accept spending cuts or the Republican-controlled Legislature to raise taxes as they prepare a budget plan for the fiscal year starting July 1. Wolf's proposed budget is $32.3 billion.  Allegheny County Rep. Joseph Markosek, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said in a memo to his fellow House Democrats that April's shortfall must serve as a wake-up call.  In January, the Legislature's nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office projected a shortfall of nearly $3 billion through next summer. But April's results would push that shortfall to more than $3 billion.

2016 apparently not a banner year for enough Pennsylvanians; state tax revenues sag again
Penn Live By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com Email the author | Follow on Twitter on May 01, 2017 at 7:30 PM, updated May 01, 2017 at 8:54 PM
Now that we've all filed our tax returns, the still-forming 2017-18 state budget picture is officially, 10-figures bleak.   Pennsylvania's revenue collections missed their target by about $500 million in April, according to state Department of Revenue figures, blowing a hole in faint hopes that a cascade of personal income tax returns might somehow end a recent string of monthly shortfalls.  Year-to-date that means the state is running about $1 billion behind projected revenue collections, with two months to go in the budget year.  The actual revenue shortfall rests at just more than $1.2 billion.  But Acting Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell noted that after adjustment for some corporate filing changes that should self-correct later this spring, the real gap is closer to $1 billion.  And that's about where the good news ends.  Collections are off-target in almost every category of taxes: Personal income tax, short $324.7 million through April; Sales taxes, short $190 million; Corporate and business taxes, short $577.4 million as a group.

“One of the major incentives for the creation of the Online Academy was saving money for the district. Nearly 700 city residents attend cyber charter schools, down about 90 from 2012. The district by law pays charter schools more than $14,400 for each resident who is a non-special education student and more than $30,500 for each special ed student. Like charter schools, cyber charters are public schools open to students from throughout the state.”
“….For its curriculum, the district has a $900,000 contract set to expire June 30 with the Chester County Intermediate Unit’s Brandywine Virtual Academy at a rate of $2,808 per student.”
Online Academy filling niche for Pittsburgh school district
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette MOLLY BORN mborn@post-gazette.com 12:00 AM  MAY 1, 2017
Weary of being the target of bullies at South Hills Middle School five years ago, Sarina Williams turned to the new Pittsburgh Online Academy.  The aspiring Beechview photographer, now 17, found in the city school district’s cyber school a convenient way to juggle her part-time grocery job at Kuhn’s, an internship, a video-editing gig and an entirely new set of academic challenges.  “Here, it’s self-taught, sort of. … If you don’t do good, you gotta repeat it,” Sarina said. “I’m happy with it, but at the same time, I struggle a lot. I struggle a lot.”  Pittsburgh Public Schools created Online Academy in 2012, hoping to attract city residents away from cyber charter schools. Five years later, now with 183 students, the school has become something of a hybrid. It has drawn back some of those students, as well as others already in the district who opted out of their neighborhood school. Further, some students choose to spend their days at its South Side drop-in center as they would at a traditional brick-and-mortar school.  “It’s definitely not what I thought cyber school would be,” said Cindy Falls, Pittsburgh Public Schools board member representing Online Academy. But “if it’s getting some kids graduated, and that’s what it takes, [then] it’s a positive.”

“The payments are not calculated based on the actual cost of services, which can vary widely depending on a given student's needs. Nor are they based on the actual number of students served.  Instead, payments are calculated by a bafflingly complex formula that treats all districts and disabilities equally. The results can seem absurd, but bust budgets nonetheless.
Chester Upland spends about $16,000 a year on average for each special ed student in its traditional district schools. But the state's formula has forced it to pay more than $40,000 per student to charters, regardless of the child's level of disability.”
Quirk in Pa. charter law cripples traditional districts while giving charters 'cash cow'
WHYY Newsworks by Bill Hangley Jr. April 27, 2017 — 11:01am
When Delaware County's Chester Upland School District raised taxes last summer for the fourth year in a row, it was just the latest move in a long-running attempt to bring a chronically deficit-ridden district back to financial health.  "We keep asking the state to give us more," said Chester Upland's school board president, Anthony Johnson. "And the board's mindset is, we've got to stand up and do for self, too."  The district is pinning its hopes on an unusual strategy: bringing special education students back to district schools from charters — a move that could cut the district's $7 million dollar deficit by almost a third.  "This year we're coming after the cyber [charter] children. If we can get 50 back, that's over $2 million," Johnson said. "That's revenue. You have to look at it as revenue."  In the tangled world of Pennsylvania public school financing, special education payments to charters are a particularly thorny problem. 

SRC approves nonrenewal of Lab Charter, tables decision on Memphis Street
Members urge parents to see to it that operational problems are fixed. Eight other charters are renewed.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa May 1, 2017 — 10:04pm
After hearing fervent, often tearful pleas from parents, the School Reform Commission on Monday voted unanimously not to renew Laboratory Charter School of Communications and Languages, while leaving the door open to reverse the decision if longstanding and serious operational problems are fixed.   It tabled a nonrenewal vote for Memphis Street Academy at J.P. Jones, a low performing former District school converted to a charter for turnaround. The Office of Charter Schools said the school had not made fast enough progress academically since being taken over by American Paradigm five years ago.  But Memphis Street questioned the charter office's analysis of its academics, and SRC members said they wanted more information about its performance compared to peer schools.   Eight other charter schools were renewed, all but one with conditions, and some with expansions that will add a total of 800 seats.  The vote came hours after state House Speaker Mike Turzai sent a letter to the SRC complaining of "overreach" by charter office in imposing renewal conditions on most charters. He accused the District of either wanting to close charter schools "or at the very least purposely make it difficult for them to operate."

Despite pleas, SRC turns down renewal for Lab charter school
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag |  kgraham@phillynews.com Updated: MAY 1, 2017 — 9:23 PM EDT
Amid concerns about “overreach,” the School Reform Commission voted Monday night to not renew the Laboratory Charter School of Languages and Communications, despite pleas from parents, students, and supporters.  It also voted to issue new charters, with conditions, for eight schools, and did not act on the Memphis Street Academy Charter School at J.P. Jones, which Philadelphia School District officials had also recommended for nonrenewal.  Lab, a K-8 school with campuses in Northern Liberties and West Philadelphia, will remain open as it enters a formal hearing process, but SRC members warned that if the school does not make swift and profound organizational changes, it could eventually close.  Despite strong academics, Lab has serious issues in finances and governance. It lacks the basic criminal and child-abuse clearances required of all teachers by state law, for instance. Its educators do not have valid special-education and English-language-learner certifications, the district found, and its board does not meet standards for ethics or adhere to its own bylaws.

Speaker Turzai’s Letter to School Reform Commission
The notebook May 1, 2017

Ahead of controversial charter vote, Pa. House speaker weighs in
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag |  kgraham@phillynews.com Updated: MAY 1, 2017 — 1:26 PM EDT
Ahead of a School Reform Commission meeting to determine the fate of 10 city charter schools, state House Speaker Mike Turzai has again blasted the agency's actions on charters.  Charter officials say the Philadelphia School District has issued an ultimatum, forcing them to agree to provisions that violate the charter school law and squeeze them unfairly over enrollment and other issues.  Charter school leaders say the district wants to reserve the right to change school catchment boundaries, have say over how often charter boards meet, and to require the schools to meet the same academic standards as the district's magnets.  Turzai suggested that the SRC’s actions may have consequences for Philadelphia as the district seeks an increase in state aid.

Turzai accuses District of "overreach" and "constant attack" on charters
House speaker suggests that funding might be affected
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa May 1, 2017 — 12:24pm
This is a developing story, check back for updates.
Hours before the School Reform Commission is scheduled to consider the renewals of 10 charters, House Speaker Mike Turzai sent members a letter expressing concerns that the District "is trying to drastically overstep both the spirit and letter of existing charter school law."   Echoing complaints by several charter schools that have declined to sign renewal agreements, The letter cites "overreaches" by the Charter Schools Office, saying they are "intended to ensure the charter schools cannot continue or at the very least purposely make it difficult for them to operate. It is time for the District and the School Reform Commission to focus on the 'kids' and not their 'turf.' Stop the games."  Twenty-six schools are up for renewal, and 14 have yet to sign agreements. The charter office recommended two charters for nonrenewal, and only one is being recommended for renewal without any conditions attached.   Turzai's letter says that the District is investing in "lawyers and bureaucrats" to perpetuate the "constant fighting" between the District and charters. The letter also implies that the District wants to shut down all charters.

House Speaker Says Philly Charter School Action Could Imperil Funding
CBS Philly May 1, 2017 9:54 PM By Mike DeNardo
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The state House Speaker is suggesting that Philadelphia school funding could be affected because of what he called “overreaches” by the district charter school office.  The School Reform Commission Monday night renewed eight charters, non-renewed Laboratory charter and tabled action on Memphis Street Academy. This, on a day when House Speaker Mike Turzai warned that it would be tough to justify more funding for Philly schools if the district put up roadblocks to charter renewals. Charter operators – including Boys Latin CEO David Hardy — say the district is forcing them to sign burdensome renewal agreements.  “This group of conditions is something we’ve never seen before,” Hardy said. “They’ve overreached in this whole thing.”  Including forbidding charters from using per-pupil revenue for outside real estate deals, and outlining how often charter boards should meet.  “I would hate to see the Speaker pull funding for public education in Philadelphia,” said SRC chair Joyce Wilkerson. “We’re not asking for anything other than compliance with state law in most instances.”

“During the last three budget cycles, the district has been working to absorb the significant cost increases related to the PSERS sate employees retirement system, and increases in tuition paid for district students attending charter schools. They are also working to restore programs that underwent cuts between 2009 and 2013.”
Avon Grove School Board proposes 2.5 percent tax hike
Daily Local By Marcella Peyre-Ferry, For Digital First Media POSTED: 05/01/17, 6:01 PM EDT
Penn TOWNSHIP >> A preliminary version of the 2017-18 budget was approved by the Avon Grove School Board last week. If there are no changes before the document comes back for final approval on June 8, property owners will see a 2.5 percent increase in real estate taxes.  A home owner with a median assessed property value of $169,600 is now paying $4,9250.18 in real estate taxes at a rate of 29.04 mills. Under the proposed budget, at a new rate of 29.77 mills, taxes on the same property would increase by $123.81, going up to $5,048.99. Those figures do not reflect the tax reduction under the homestead exclusion for those who qualify.  The 2.5 percent tax increase is well below the 3.2 percent increase the district would be allowed under the state’s Act 1 index. The new millage rate does not completely cover the increase in spending and reductions in state and federal funding.  The current budget for 2016-17 stands at $91,471,853 while the proposed budget for the new year is $93.8 million. The gap is being filled by money from the district’s fund budget.

Panel discusses elimination of school property taxes
Centre Daily Times BY BRITNEY MILAZZO bmilazzo@centredaily.com April 29, 2017
UNIVERSITY PARK - Senate Bill 76 calls for the elimination of school property taxes in the commonwealth.  While it vows to match dollar-for-dollar funding through an imposed increase in personal income and sales taxes and shift responsibility of school funding from local districts to the state, many local leaders said this kind of tax reform could come at a price for some.  “It has been my experience that trying to find $14 billion, which is what you would need, approximately, to replace the local property taxes, is no simple lift,” Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Bellefonte, said. “The last couple years we have struggled to come up with a billion (dollars) just to balance the budget.”  Benninghoff was among a panel of local leaders and education advocates Saturday morning participating in a public discussion on the bill at the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau.  The event was sponsored by the State College Branch of American Association of University Women, and moderated by State College Area school board member Dave Hutchinson.  Panelists also included state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township; Pennsylvania School Boards Association member Sean Crampsie; and Executive Director for Education Voters of Pennsylvania Susan Spicka.

Outgoing Philly teachers cite frozen wages as reason for quitting
Cassidy elementary school guidance counselor Tara Tyler has reached a breaking point. She's a single mom who's felt the pinch of the rising cost of living, but meanwhile, her job feels more stressful by the week, and her pay has flatlined since 2013.  "I put in all my time with other people's children and it's not being compensated for," she said. "And at the end of the day, I try to explain to my son that I'm doing it for him. He doesn't see it. He doesn't understand it."  So after nine years in the district — all at schools in impoverished neighborhoods — she's submitted her resignation letter.  "I have the skill set where I can get other employment," she said, unsure of what's next, but confident in her abilities.  Tyler spoke about her experience on Monday at an "educator exit" rally hosted by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers outside of West Philadelphia's Lea Elementary. The Philadelphia rally was one of thousands being held worldwide by unions to mark the annual International Workers' Day. 

Teachers protest lack of contract; more than 1,000 out today
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa May 1, 2017 — 9:50am
Teachers led by the activist group Caucus of Working Educators called out of work today in protest of the continued lack of a labor agreement between the School District and their largest union, an impasse that has persisted for more than four years.  They stood outside their buildings as parents and students came to school this morning, often stopping to reassure parents that their children would be safe although many teachers would not be at work.  The protest began a series of May Day activities in the city meant to draw attention to several justice issues, including educational equity, immigrant rights, workers rights and fair wages, and affordable housing.   The WE caucus is a faction of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which did not sponsor the morning protests, but plans an action at Lea Elementary this afternoon after school that will highlight and thank experienced educators who are choosing to leave their jobs due to the stalemate. Most teachers have not received a raise for five years, not even for acquiring additional degrees that under the expired contract should also trigger a bump in salary.
District communications director Kevin Geary said that 1,000 teachers had called out. On a normal day, about 600 are absent, which would make it the "second or third" highest rate of absence this school year.

Another View: School personnel should not carry guns
Ambler Gazette Opinion by Sara Johnson Rothman, Upper Dublin School Board Apr 28, 2017
The Pennsylvania Senate will soon consider a bill that permits school districts to arm their school personnel. What could go wrong with allowing our teachers to pack heat in their kindergarten classrooms?  Schools are not a place for guns.
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Gun-Free School Zones Act to ban unauthorized people from possessing guns on school property leaving the states to determine who the “unauthorized people”are. Since at least 1980, Pennsylvania has criminalized the possession of a gun on school grounds unless for “other lawful purpose” (e.g. an armed police officer being summoned to the school).  Even the late US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a “Constitutional originalist” and ardent Second Amendment defender, understood that schools are sensitive places where guns may be lawfully forbidden.  We ask a lot of our teachers. They are educators, mediators, counselors, referees. We need them to be lifelong learners that are highly adaptable to the new standards and curricula that are continuously rolled out by all levels of government. But, they should not be hired muscle with a firearm at their side. We need them practicing their craft not honing their sharpshooting skills at the gun range.  Senate Bill 383 allows school boards to “establish a policy permitting school personnel access to firearms in the buildings or on the grounds of a school” for the purpose of the “protection and defense of pupils.” No, just no. I say that as a former prosecutor and the policy chair of the Upper Dublin School Board, as well as a parent of two young children, one who attends public school and another who starts kindergarten in the fall. If the concern is the response time of law enforcement to rural areas, this problem should be directly addressed by providing trained professional security personnel for these specific schools.

Computer Science For All in San Francisco Schools: 7 Early Takeaways
Education Week Digital Education Blog  By Benjamin Herold on April 30, 2017 11:04 PM
San Antonio - Since approving a plan in 2015 to make computer science a part of the curriculum for each of its 56,000 students, the San Francisco Unified school system has been at the fore of the national "CS4all" push.  Now almost two years into the initiative, some early lessons have begun to emerge.  "While people here are certainly very excited about computer science, it's still a nascent field, and sometimes the understanding is still superficial," said Bryan Twarek, the district's computer science program administrator.  "We've learned that it's very important to invest not only in teachers, but also administrators, counselors, and other support staff."  Twarek is scheduled to deliver a status report on the effort Monday at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, held here this weekend. San Francisco Unified's initiative is also being evaluated by SRI International, which released last June a report on how Year One went at the district's middle schools.

4 Things We Don't Know About AP Tests
NPR by ANYA KAMENETZ May 1, 20175:53 AM ET
This week and next is a national rite of passage for stressed-out overachievers everywhere. Nearly 3 million high school students at 22,000 high schools will be sitting down to take their Advanced Placement exams.  Created by the nonprofit College Board in the 1950s, AP is to other high school courses what Whole Foods is to other supermarkets: a mark of the aspirational, a promise of higher standards and, occasionally, a more expensive alternative.  AP courses promise to be the most rigorous a school has to offer. They can lift your GPA even higher than a perfect 4.0, thanks to the magic of transcript "weighting." And if you spend $93 to take the exam, plus often hundreds of dollars for textbooks and lab fees, they may be exchangeable for college credit.  Recently the AP has boomed. Participation doubled in the last 10 years, and also doubled in the decade before that. The U.S. Education Department's Office of Civil Rights even collects data on who has access to, and enrolls in, AP courses, using it as a measure of educational equity.  But (and you knew there was a 'but' coming), "remarkably little independent research has been conducted on the academic benefits of AP." 

Is charter school fraud the next Enron?
The Sentinel by Preston Green III University of Connecticut Apr 27, 2017
 (THE CONVERSATION) In 2001, Texas-based energy giant Enron shocked the world by declaring bankruptcy. Thousands of employees lost their jobs, and investors lost billions.
As a scholar who studies the legal and policy issues pertaining to school choice, I’ve observed that the same type of fraud that occurred at Enron has been cropping up in the charter school sector. A handful of school officials have been caught using the Enron playbook to divert funding slated for these schools into their own pockets.  As school choice champions like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos push to make charter schools a larger part of the educational landscape, it’s important to understand the Enron scandal and how charter schools are vulnerable to similar schemes.  What is a related-party transaction?  Enron’s downfall was caused largely by something called “related-party transactions.” Understanding this concept is crucial for grasping how charter schools may also be in danger.  Related-party transactions are business arrangements between companies with close associations: It could be between two companies owned or managed by the same group or it could be between one large company and a smaller company that it owns. Although related-party transactions are legal, they can create severe conflicts of interest, allowing those in power to profit from employees, investors and even taxpayers.

School Vouchers Aren’t Working, but Choice Is
New York Times Opinion by David Leonhardt MAY 2, 2017
Betsy DeVos’s favorite education policy keeps looking worse. Last week, the Education Department, which she runs, released a careful study of the District of Columbia’s use of school vouchers, which she supports. The results were not good.  Students using vouchers to attend a private school did worse on math and reading than similar students in public school, the study found. It comes after other studies, in Ohio and elsewhere, have also shown weak results for vouchers.  To channel President Trump: Who knew that education could be so complicated?  The question for DeVos is whether she’s an ideologue committed to prior beliefs regardless of facts or someone who has an open mind. But that question doesn’t apply only to DeVos. It also applies to all of us trying to think about education, including her critics. And the results from Washington are important partly because they defy easy ideological conclusions.

Congress expected to reauthorize D.C. school vouchers in sweeping budget deal
Washington Post By Emma Brown and Peter Jamison May 1 at 6:47 PM 
Congress is expected to extend the D.C. school voucher program as part of a bipartisan budget deal this week, a move that follows the release of a new federal analysis showing that some voucher recipients in private schools trailed their public-school counterparts on standardized tests.  The legislation would reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which helps 1,100 low-income students attend private schools, through fiscal year 2019. The program is the only federally funded effort of its kind.  The congressional deal would also continue funding at current levels through September, sending a total of $45 million to the District for education, split among D.C. Public Schools, D.C. public charter schools and the voucher program. The program gives poor children up to $8,452 to attend a private elementary or middle school and up to $12,679 for high school.  Advocates for the voucher program said they were relieved after spending years fighting for its survival under President Barack Obama, who opposed vouchers. President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in contrast, have pledged to spend billions of dollars expanding vouchers throughout the country.

“The budget deal doesn't appear to include a new federal school choice program, a top K-12 priority for the Trump administration, although Trump's request for such a program appears in his fiscal 2018 proposal and not his fiscal 2017 blueprint.”
Budget Deal for 2017 Includes Increases for Title I, Special Education
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa May 1, 2017
Federal lawmakers have agreed to relatively small spending increases for Title I programs to districts and for special education, as part of a budget deal covering the rest of fiscal 2017 through the end of September.  Title I spending on disadvantaged students would rise by $100 million up to $15.5 billion from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2017, along with $450 million in new money that was already slated to be shifted over from the now-defunct School Improvement Grants program.  And state grants for special education would increase by $90 million up to $12 billion. However, Title II grants for teacher development would be cut by $294 million, down to about $2.1 billion for the rest of fiscal 2017.  The bill would also provide $400 million for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program, also known as Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Title IV is a block grant that districts can use for a wide range of programs, including health, safety, arts education, college readiness, and more.  Total U.S. Department of Education spending, including both discretionary and mandatory spending covering K-12 and other issues, would fall by $60 million from fiscal 2016, down to $71.6 billion.   Congress is expected to vote on this budget deal early this week, the Washington Post reported.

Can Data Improve Student Achievement for English-Language Learners?
Education Week By Urban Education Contributor on April 27, 2017 6:00 AM | No comments
This week we are hearing from the Philadelphia Education Research Consortium (PERC). Today's post is the practitioner perspective on the research introduced in Monday's post: Partnership With Practitioners Brings English-Learner Research to Life.
PERC (@PHLedResearch) sat down with Allison Still, Deputy Chief of the Office of Multicultural Curriculum and Programs (OMCP) (@sdp_multingua) in the School District of Philadelphia (@PHLschools), and Maria Giraldo Gallo, Special Projects Assistant in the same office. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and length.

Federal government relaxes nutrition standards for school lunches
Agriculture secretary says the program has been undermined by food that “kids aren’t eating.”
Post Gazette by MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press 3:04 PM MAY 1, 2017
LEESBURG, Va. — Schools won’t have to cut more salt from meals just yet and some will be able to serve kids fewer whole grains, under changes to federal nutrition standards announced Monday.  The move by the Trump administration partially rolls back rules championed by former first lady Michelle Obama as part of her healthy eating initiative.  As his first major action in office, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the department will delay an upcoming requirement to lower the amount of sodium in meals while continuing to allow waivers for regulations that all grains on the lunch line must be 50 percent whole grain.  Schools could also serve 1 percent flavored milk instead of the nonfat now required.  “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program,” said Mr. Perdue, who traveled to a school in Leesburg to make the announcement.

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!
  • Tuesday, May 2, 7:30-9 a.m. — A W Beattie Career Center, 9600 Babcock Blvd, Allison Park, PA 15101
  • Tuesday, May 2, 6-8 p.m. — Crawford County CTC, 860 Thurston Road, Meadville, PA 16335
  • Wednesday, May 3, 6-8 p.m. — St. Marys Area School District, 977 S. St Marys Road, Saint Marys, PA 15857
  • Thursday, May 4, 6-8 p.m. — Central Montco Technical High School, 821 Plymouth Road, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
  • Friday, May 5, 7:30-9 a.m. — Lehigh Carbon Community College, 4525 Education Park Dr, Schnecksville, PA 18078
  • Monday, May 15, 6-8 p.m. — CTC of Lackawanna Co., 3201 Rockwell Avenue, Scranton, PA 18508
  • Tuesday, May 16, 6-8 p.m. — PSBA, 400 Bent Creek Boulevard, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050
  • Wednesday, May 17, 6-8 p.m. — Lycoming CTC, 293 Cemetery Street, Hughesville, PA 17737
  • Thursday, May 18, 6-8 p.m. — Chestnut Ridge SD, 3281 Valley Road, Fishertown, PA 15539
For assistance with registration, please contact Michelle Kunkel at 717-506-2450 ext. 3365.

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

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

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

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