Wednesday, May 24, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 24: Here's how PA lawmakers are trying to 'rebrand' school vouchers

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 http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 24, 2017:
Here's how PA lawmakers are trying to 'rebrand' school vouchers


Joint public hearing with the Senate and House Education Committee on education savings accounts
Senate Education and House Education Committees
WEDNESDAY - 5/24/17 9:00 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building

“These education savings accounts do not improve educational opportunities for all students.  Instead, they are an underhanded attempt to re-brand extremely unpopular school voucher programs that remove taxpayer dollars from public schools and use them to provide subsidies to families that choose to send their children to private and religious schools.  With this hearing about school vouchers, Eichelberger and others are following in the footsteps of House Speaker Mike Turzai.”
Here's how lawmakers are trying to 'rebrand' school vouchers: Susan Spicka
PENNLIVE OP-ED By Susan Spicka Posted on May 23, 2017 at 6:45 AM
Susan Spicka is the executive director of Education Voters of PA. 
Making taxpayers foot the bill for private and religious school tuition payments has emerged as a top priority among leaders in the Pennsylvania Legislature.  But ensuring all students in Pennsylvania's public schools have a shot at a decent education has not been priority.
On Wednesday, state Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Blair, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, will co-chair a public hearing about "education savings accounts" or ESAs.  These are a new generation of school vouchers on steroids that have been supported by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and enacted in other states.  These accounts provide parents with a pre-loaded debit card filled with taxpayer dollars that have been removed from public schools. Parents may use this card to pay for their children's educational expenses, including private school tuition, tutors, college savings, and more. 

“Vitulli estimated an annual cost of $2,500 to educate a single, nonspecial student in the district cyber program. He did not have an exact figure available, he said.
Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey Bader said cyber academy costs are included in district’s other expenses; however, he estimated the program costs less than $4,000 a year per student.
Right now, the district pays charter schools $12,735 for each student or $29,731 for each special education student.  In October 2015, East Stroudsburg school district had 202 students enrolled in nine different cyber charter schools, according to Pennsylvania Department of Education records. That total includes 51 special needs students, who have higher tuition costs.”
Cyber schools cost district millions
Pocono Record By Bill Cameron Posted May 23, 2017 at 7:56 PM
Editor’s note: This is part 1 of a 2-part story. More tomorrow.
East Stroudsburg Area School District and its taxpayers paid cyber charter schools $3.7 million last year. That total has climbed consistently for at least the last five years.  The Pennsylvania school code requires that all state funding follow a student regardless of his or her choice of school. Funds are allocated directly to public school districts. Then, charter schools seek a tuition reimbursement from the district that sends the student.  Public schools are obligated to pay, but institutions have clashed on how much. Calculations are currently based on the expenses of the sending school. They do not consider what it actually costs the charter school to educate a student.  “In my opinion, it’s destructive to the public education system,” said Principal Bill Vitulli of Smithfield Elementary School. “Is it reasonable to pay cyber charter schools who don’t have nearly the same costs we do?”  Vitulli also manages the district’s own cyber program, East Stroudsburg Area Cyber Academy. It currently has about 90 students enrolled full-time and closer to 60 attending part-time, he said. All classes are taught by district instructors.  “Cyber charter schools don’t really have any different expenses than we do in our program,” he said. “They might have to hire more staff, but they don’t have all the costs of building maintenance, sports teams or after-school activities.”

Fast. Isolating. Superficial.
What class is like for the millions of high-schoolers now taking courses online.
Slate By Stephen Smiley May 23, 2017
This article is part of the Big Shortcut, an eight-part series exploring the exponential rise in online learning for high school students who have failed traditional classes.
After she failed English her junior year at Riverbend High School in Spotsylvania, Virginia, 17-year-old Amelia Kreck had to retake the class. It took her two days.  In the classroom, Amelia had struggled with essay writing. But the online course her school directed her to take as a replacement had no essays. Nor did Amelia have to read any books in their entirety. Unsurprisingly, she says, she never had to think very hard. That’s because she skipped out of most units through a series of “pretests” at the start, which she says contained basic grammar questions as well as some short readings followed by multiple-choice sections.  Amelia says she enjoyed some of the readings in the online version of the class, created by for-profit education company Edgenuity, including excerpts from Freakonomics and the writings of the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. She also appreciated the flexibility to work from home—until after midnight on one of the two days it took here to recover her credit. But “there was a big component of the original class that was missing from credit recovery,” she says. “Most of it was on the shallow side.” She finished so quickly, she says, that “I didn’t improve in the areas that needed improvement.”

More on PA’s costly and chronically failing cyber charters in our postings from last week…
No PA cyber school has met the state’s academic benchmarks in 4 years.  Great! Let's open another one.....
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup May 19, 2017:

Public hearing on graduation requirements as tools for assessments and accountability
Senate Education Committee Meeting MONDAY - 6/5/17 10:00 a.m., Hearing Room 1, North Office Building

Public hearing on the Keystone Exams
Senate Education Committee Meeting FRIDAY - 6/2/17 12:30 a.m., West Chester University, West Chester

Make education equity a reality in Pa.
Inquirer Opinion by Pedro Rivera & Mairi Cooper Updated: MAY 24, 2017 — 3:01 AM EDT
Pedro Rivera is Pennsylvania's secretary of education. @pedroarivera2
Mairi Cooper is the 2015 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year. @patoy2015
Too often in policy debates, each side comes to the table with talking points and an agenda, rather than an open ear and a commitment to find common ground. When it comes to schools, whatever differences we may have on issues like Common Core, testing, and accountability, our unifying goal must always be to ensure that all children receive a quality education, regardless of zip code, and to find solutions that accomplish that.  In order to move educational equity from a shared priority for policymakers and practitioners to a reality for students in our state, education leaders and advocates have pushed for more intentional conversations and actions to address the underlying problems that prevent so many of our students from working on a level playing field.  This commitment to equity reflects many of the recommendations outlined earlier this year in the joint report from the Aspen Institute and the Council for Chief State School Officers titled "Leading for Equity: Opportunities for State Chiefs." The suggested policy and engagement actions include pushing for greater funding, investing in professional development, and proactively engaging and listening to communities so they can hold state leaders more accountable in meeting goals.

“Everyone who owns property in Pennsylvania is affected because PSERS contributions eat up bigger pieces of school district budgets with each passing year. They accounted for an estimated 11.5 percent this year compared with 2 percent in 2008-09, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. School districts pass those hikes on to taxpayers, who have not seen wages keep up with tax growth.  The trend isn't expected to stop anytime soon. Districts are expected to contribute more than a third of their total payrolls to PSERs by 2021-22. During the same time period, the Independent Fiscal Office projects total school property tax revenue to increase nearly 4 percent annually, by which time it will hit $16 billion.”
School property tax reform an anger-driven substitute to addressing pension debt
Andrew Wagaman Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call May 20, 2017
Is Property Tax Independence Act a good alternative to school property tax?
Larry Kratzer believes Pennsylvania is compromising his golden years to cover crazy retirement promises made to public school employees. This upsets him.  Kratzer, 68, will pay nearly $2,800 in property taxes this year to the East Penn School District, which will raise taxes by 2.9 percent for the 2017-2018 school year. About $72 of the $80 hike to Kratzer's bill will go toward the district's ever-increasing obligations to the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System, based on information the school board provided this month.  Since retiring six years ago from a security job with Lutron Electronics, Kratzer has lived on modest savings from investments plus $1,200-a-month Social Security payments that have grown much slower than his property taxes levied by the borough and Lehigh County. His effective tax rate is more than twice the national median.  Kratzer is not sure how long he can afford to keep his home, assessed at $157,000, but he's certain he will break before the state Legislature reckons with its pension crisis.

“Educational Apartheid” in Pennsylvania must end, activists say
ABC27 By Dennis Owens Published: May 23, 2017, 6:10 pm  Updated: May 23, 2017, 6:50 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Schools in Pennsylvania are separate but not equal.
Or more accurately, according to study after study, the way schools are funded in the commonwealth in inequitable.  “We are experiencing here in Pennsylvania educational apartheid,” said Reverend Gregory Holston, Executive Director of POWER, an advocacy group based in Philadelphia.  Pennsylvania, according to the US Department of Education, is the worst in the US when it comes to funding differences between the HAVE districts and the HAVE NOTS.  “We are the worst,” said Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia). “And not the worst by a little bit, but the worst by a lot.”  Hughes, and activists, called for change in the way schools are funded in PA. He pointed out that Overbrook High School, in his legislative district, spends $12,000 per pupil while Upper Dublin HS, also in his legislative district, spends $24,000, twice as much. Hughes calls that wrong legally and morally.  “Every child, no matter what zip code they live in, is as equal and important as every other,” Hughes said.  A fair funding formula has been created by the legislature, but only six percent of education funds flow through it. That means some schools get more than they should, others get less. The Education Law Center created a graph showing the districts that are winners and the districts that are losers. They produced a second graph showing the racial make-up of those winners and losers. Nearly all of the mostly-white districts were above the line, nearly all the schools below were districts predominately of color.

Pennsylvania school districts (still) hoard your tax dollars
Newly-released state data shows school district reserve funds continue to grow.
Inquirer Opinion by John Baer, Political Columnist  baerj@phillynews.com Updated: MAY 22, 2017 — 6:29 AM EDT
Let’s talk about your tax dollars and public education.  Let’s talk about school districts across Pennsylvania holding reserve funds of your tax dollars in interest-bearing accounts.  State Department of Education data puts the total at the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year at $4.4 billion.  That’s with a “B.” And it’s an amount equal to 75 percent of the state budget for basic education this fiscal year.  Almost every school district (485 of 500 districts; 97 percent) shows reserves. They grow annually. In just five years, they grew by more than $1 billion. They even grow in districts that seek to raise taxes.  To me, this raises some basic questions – again.  I write about this every year. Every year, I get pretty much the same answers.
Districts need reserves in case of state budget delays. Districts face uncertain futures with regard to construction costs and ever-escalating pension costs. Reserves make it easier to borrow since moneylenders like reserves.  Fine. Some reserves are OK, even necessary.  But every year, I’m told reserves are being spent and next year’s totals will go down. Yet they never do. Not even after Gov. Corbett’s 2011 billion-dollar education cut.

Charter school wins legal battle for 5 more years
BY SARA K. SATULLO  ssatullo@lehighvalleylive.com, For lehighvalleylive.com Updated on May 23, 2017 at 2:47 PM Posted on May 23, 2017 at 1:47 PM
Ending months of legal wrangling, Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School has been granted a five-year charter extension by the state.   The Hanover Township, Northampton County, K-12 charter school announced late Friday that it won't be subject to any enrollment caps.  The Bethlehem Area School District approved an extension of the school's charter in December, but sought to place limits on student enrollment in hopes of saving $1 million annually. Charter schools are independent public schools funded by taxpayer dollars funneled from an enrolled student's home district.  Bethlehem wanted the charter school to cap its enrollment of district students at 60 percent of the total enrollment.  As a regional charter school, Lehigh Valley Academy must get charter extension approval from both Bethlehem and the Saucon Valley School District, which in January signed off on an agreement without enrollment caps.  Lehigh Valley Academy filed an appeal with the state Charter Appeals Board and also filed a suit in Northampton County court seeking an extension without enrollment limits.

Innovative Arts Academy authorizes $30,000 loan from landlord at unadvertised meeting
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call Monday, September 12, 2016.
Innovative Arts Academy Charter School Board of Trustees voted to borrow $30,000 from its landlord at a meeting that was not advertised to the public as required under the state's Sunshine Act.  Aldo Cavalli, a consultant for the career-focused Catasauqua charter school serving grades six through 12, said the school failed to advertise the May 10 meeting. He attributed the failure to a mistake on the part of the administration.  The May 10 meeting took place a week earlier than the date agreed upon at the April meeting, but Cavalli said he didn't know why.  Among the action items at the meeting was a vote to borrow $30,000 from Catty School LLC, an entity that is owned by Abe Atiyeh. The prominent Lehigh Valley developer also serves as the landlord for the school at 330 Howertown Road and has lent the school money in the past.  Principal Douglas Taylor and trustee President Kelly Bauer did not respond to messages seeking information on the scheduling change and lack of public notice.

Are charter schools widening racial divides?
Inquirer by Mandy McLaren, Washington Post Updated: MAY 23, 2017 — 9:27 AM EDT
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 Donald Trump wants to spend billions of dollars on charter schools, vouchers and other "school choice" initiatives.

Let Memphis Street Academy continue to thrive
Inquirer Opinion by Sandra Farmer Updated: MAY 24, 2017 — 3:01 AM EDT
Sandra Farmer is president of the Memphis Street Academy Board of Trustees.
Imagine living in a neighborhood with a constant fear of destruction of property. On many Philadelphia streets this is the norm.  A few years ago, in certain sections of Kensington, residents feared even leaving a flower pot on their stoop, not because of neighborhood gangs but because of the destructive behavior from the middle-school students who attended J.P. Jones.  Think about a school where police officers were stationed at every corner, every day, during dismissal in order to try to keep the peace between hundreds of students, many prone to getting in street wide brawls. This was the situation at what is currently Memphis Street Academy.  When schools find themselves in this situation, the district gets involved. Under the Renaissance Initiative, troubled schools are turned over to education management organizations tasked with improving the climate, the culture, and academics.  Chosen to manage Jones in May 2012 was American Paradigm Schools (APS), an organization that has successfully turned around three other district schools since 2011. When APS was given responsibility for Jones, their charge was to salvage what had become one of the most perpetually violent schools in the state.

Blogger note: Speaker Turzai and his PAC have received large campaign contributions from Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children and PA’s Students First PAC in support of school privatization.
Pa. House Speaker Mike Turzai discusses potential bid for governor at Press Club luncheon
BY CHARLES THOMPSON  cthompson@pennlive.com Posted on May 22, 2017 at 3:51 PM
Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai released a couple more trial balloons regarding his potential candidacy for the 2018 Republican gubernatorial nomination Monday.  In an appearance before the Pennsylvania Press Club, Turzai positioned himself as a "reformer with results."  He then proceeded to tick off a few, including:
* A 'no' vote as a junior House member against the double-digit, 2005 pay legislative raise, a moment in recent state history that led to the ouster of several senior legislative leaders attacked the next year as being insensitive to taxpayers.
* Leading the legislative defense against Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed increases in personal income and sales taxes
 in 2015, and then holding firm after other Republicans had agreed to compromise.
* Successfully crusading for the sale of limited amounts of wine and beer at groceries and convenience stores.
Turzai, 57, has been a member of the state House since 2001, and has been in senior House leadership positions since 2011.

“Problem is, Pennsylvanians have listed “government, politicians” as the state’s biggest problem in seven consecutive Franklin and Marshall College polls since August 2015.  So once Turzai thinks it through, once he gets past consultants looking to make money off him, I think some things could give him pause.
For one, know the last person elected Pennsylvania governor directly from the legislature?  That would be State Sen. George Leader, a York County Democrat elected governor in 1954 – more than six decades ago.”
Will Mike Turzai really run for governor?
There are some political reasons that could give him pause.
Inquirer by John Baer, Political Columnist  baerj@phillynews.com Updated: MAY 23, 2017
Despite recent written and spoken suggestions that he’s in the Republican race for governor, I doubt House Speaker Mike Turzai actually will run.  Don’t get me wrong. I hope he does.  A three-way (at least) primary featuring longtime legislative insider Turzai, rabble-rousing first-term Sen. Scott Wagner, and outsider biz-guy Paul Mango offers a smorgasbord for voters and a cage match for media.  Turzai and Wagner, both high-voltage types, would be the main event. I’m seeing elbows and kneecaps. But I imagine Mango, a West Point grad turned Army Ranger, wouldn’t turn down a dance.  It’s almost too much to hope for.  Turzai sure sounds like he’s in. He wrote to state Republican committee folks saying he’s “seriously” considering. And Monday, he told a Pennsylvania Press Club lunch crowd, “I’m that person” Pennsylvania’s looking for to get things done.  Maybe he is: a Notre Dame grad, a Duke law grad, with a pro-growth, pro-jobs, low-tax, and end-the-booze-monopoly agenda that resonates with lots of voters.  He raises money like Iowans raise corn. And he knows a thing or two about government and politicians.

“John George, 56, a former Warwick superintendent and career educator, said he decided to run for political office for the first time because of what he sees as an “attack on public education,” health care and the working class by President Donald Trump and members of the Republican-controlled Congress.”
Former Warwick superintendent John George will challenge US Rep. Lloyd Smucker
Lancaster Online by SAM JANESCH | Staff Writer May 24, 2017
Another Democrat has announced plans to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker in 2018.  John George, 56, a former Warwick superintendent and career educator, said he decided to run for political office for the first time because of what he sees as an “attack on public education,” health care and the working class by President Donald Trump and members of the Republican-controlled Congress.  “Watching what's been playing out in Washington, D.C., has made me more angry and more frustrated each day,” said George, who served as superintendent of Warwick School District from July 2006 to August 2008.  He joins Manheim Township pharmacist Charlie Klein in what could become a crowded Democratic primary motivated by frustrations with the Trump administration.

“More than 80 percent of Parkland's revenue comes from local sources, including 70 percent from property taxes, he said. That's one reason Parkland officials have been adamantly against efforts in Harrisburg to abolish local property taxes.
The state contributes about 14 percent of Parkland's revenue and another 2 to 3 percent comes from the federal government, Vignone said.  The school district's budgeting also benefited from no increase in expected health care costs in 2017-2018. Parkland is part of the Lehigh County Health Consortium, which kept the costs down, Vignone said.  The district was not nearly so lucky in holding down payments to charter and cyber charter schools. Parkland projects it will spend $3.6 million in payments to charters, which is nearly an $800,000 increase over this year, he said.  In 2016-2017, the school district paid $23,122 for each special education student who attended charter schools and $11,534 for non-special education students.”
Parkland school board OKs 1.89 percent tax hike
Special to The Morning Call May 23, 2017
Parkland taxpayers can expect a 1.89 percent tax increase when the school board passes the final 2017-2018 budget next month.  That's lower than district officials were projecting in April when the board was eyeing a 2.5 percent tax hike, which is the state's Act I Index. School officials said higher than expected tax assessments on commercial and industrial properties helped to bring down the overall tax increase.  The school board Monday voted unanimously — with Director Barry Long absent — for the proposed budget which will increase the district millage rate from 14.85 mills to 15.13 mills. At the new millage, a homeowner with Parkland's average assessment of $226,595 would pay $3,428 in property taxes, an increase of $63 over 2016.  The value of the Homestead/Farmstead gaming credit is expected to be $108 for approved properties, according to district officials.

West York combatively passes $56M school budget
York Dispatch by Junior Gonzalez , 505-5439/@JuniorG_YD12:32 a.m. ET May 24, 2017
The West York School Board passed a budget Tuesday night by a close margin as board members argued on a proposed property tax increase.  The $56.8 million budget has essentially the same programs and allocations as last year’s budget, according to district superintendent Emilie Lonardi. It passed by a board vote of 6-3.  She said there were no major additions or cuts to the new budget, but costs went up for existing programs and services.  The millage rate at West York will increase by 3.2 percent to 24.2238 mills. The maximum increase the district was allowed based on the index given to them by the Department of Education was 3.2 percent.  For a home assessed at $100,000, the tax hike will equate to about $72 more in taxes from last year’s millage rate of 23.4727.

York Suburban raises taxes for 2017-18 budget
York Dispatch by Junior Gonzalez , 505-5439/@JuniorG_YDPublished 12:07 a.m. ET May 23, 2017 | Updated 12 hours ago
Residents in York Suburban's district will see an increase on their property taxes next year after school board members approved a final budget Monday night.  The proposal has $54.8 million in expected revenues and $55.7 million in expenditures, leaving a $923,000 deficit to be covered in part by the district’s unassigned general fund and other leftover funds.  Property taxes will increase by 1.5 percent, from 22.41 mills to 22.74 mills.  The district had the opportunity to raise taxes by as much as 2.5 percent without exemptions, a limit set by the Department of Education.  Before the board’s unanimous vote in the affirmative, board member and treasurer John Posenau thanked administrators for producing the budget.  “It represents an opportunity to provide everything that the students need while providing some relief to the taxpayer,” he said.  For the average home in the area assessed at $136,710, a resident would pay $3,110 in property taxes, about $52 more than last year.

Westinghouse Arts Academy to open in September
Trib Live by TORY N. PARRISH | Monday, May 22, 2017, 5:15 p.m.
Organizers of the Westinghouse Arts Academy Charter School envision a performing arts hub that will help change the tide in Wilmerding.  It's already changing Gionna D'Alessandro's life.  Dancing is so important to the South Park teen that she became home-schooled two years ago so her schedule would allow her more time to participate in competitions and practices.  Now Gionna, 13, is once again going to attend a brick-and-mortar school, because her parents plan to enroll her in Westinghouse Arts Academy, which will offer specialized training in dance; literary, studio and digital arts; music; and theater when it opens in the fall.  “I'm so excited,” Gionna said at the recent groundbreaking ceremony for the school that included Wilmerding Mayor Greg Jakub, East Allegheny Superintendent Don MacFann and other officials.  The academy being developed by RPA Holdings LLC will open in the East Allegheny School District's former Westinghouse Elementary School building, which closed at the end of the 2007-08 school year.

At North Philadelphia school, education issues were "On the Table"
Across the city, groups gathered to share a meal and tackle thorny community problems.
The notebook by Darryl Murphy May 23, 2017 — 4:51pm
Throughout the day today, thousands of people across the city participated in a series of roundtable discussions about the challenges facing Philadelphia communities.  “On The Table,” a citywide discussion series managed by the Philadelphia Foundation and the Knight Foundation, assembled 162 community organizations throughout the city to bring people together for a conversation over a meal about specific issues concerning their neighborhoods.  From breakfast until dinner, approximately 3,000 local residents met in libraries, businesses, homes, and other local venues to talk about issues such as the beverage tax, local food and healthy food access, growth strategies for the city, affordable housing, and education.  “The Philadelphia Foundation is very pleased that so many organizations and individuals are taking advantage of this powerful opportunity,” said Pedro Ramos, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Foundation.  “The rich conversations among neighbors, colleagues, and new acquaintances will lift up an array of greater Philadelphia’s needs and aspirations,” he said.  In North Philadelphia, Parent Power, an education advocacy group for parents, hosted a breakfast discussion about the impact race, class, and privilege has on education.  Former School Reform Commissioner and co-founder of Parent Power Sylvia Simms invited her former colleague Marjorie Neff, who resigned from the SRC in November 2016, former chief education officer Dr. Lori Shorr, and a group of about 15 residents from different parts of the city to T.M. Pierce Elementary School.

Philly District to appeal reinstatement order of principals in cheating scandal
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa May 22, 2017 — 4:38pm
The School District is appealing an April Commonwealth Court order to reinstate two principals who lost their jobs as part of the cheating scandal that rocked the District several years ago.  Michelle Burns was principal of Tilden Middle School and Marla Travis-Curtis led Lamberton Elementary when forensic analyses showed statistically improbable numbers of wrong-to-right erasures in PSSA test booklets between 2009 and 2011.  Both were terminated by the District in 2014. But an arbitrator, brought into the case by the Commonwealth Association of School Administrators (CASA), ruled that although cheating occurred under their watch, there was no evidence that they had an active part in it. A Common Pleas Court judge later overturned that decision, but the Commonwealth Court panel agreed with the arbitrator.  In a statement, the District said that they are appealing to the state Supreme Court because of “clear evidence that Dr. Burns and Ms. Travis-Curtis knew or should have known of the widespread, systematic cheating at their schools for at least two years.”


Trump Budget Would Slash Education Dept. Spending, Boost School Choice
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on May 23, 2017 1:45 PM
UPDATED President Donald Trump's full budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Education, released on Tuesday, includes big shifts in funding priorities and makes cuts to spending for teacher development, after-school enrichment, and career and technical education, while ramping up investments in school choice.   A $1 billion cash infusion for Title I's services for needy children would be earmarked as grants designed to promote public school choice, instead of going out by traditional formulas to school districts. These would be called Furthering Options for Children to Unlock Success (FOCUS) grants, according to a summary of the department's budget, that would provide money to school districts using weighted student funding formulas and open enrollment policies.  That would bring Title I grants up to $15.9 billion in all. However, in Trump's budget, states would lose out on the $550 million increase in formula-based funding that Congress approved in a budget deal earlier this year. Total Title I grants to districts through those formulas would be funded at $14.9 billion in Trump's proposed budget.  And charter school grants, which currently get $342 million in federal aid, would get nearly a 50 percent increase and get $500 million. Finally, a program originally tailored to research innovative school practices would be retooled to research and promote vouchers, and get a funding boost of $270 million, bringing it up to $370 million.  Grants for special education, which also go out by formula, get $12.7 billion in Trump's budget, a decline of about $112 million from the amount in the fiscal 2017 budget deal. The biggest single line-item to be eliminated is $2.1 billion for supporting teacher development and reducing class size under Title II. 

Trump Spending Plan Triggers Many Negative Reactions From K-12 World
Education Week Pollitics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on May 23, 2017 5:45 PM
President Donald Trump's spending plan for the upcoming budget year represents a big change of direction, both because of its proposed cuts to numerous U.S. Department of Education programs and its $1.4 billion in new funding for public and private school choice. 
Many of the responses from education organizations focus around overall funding—Trump's proposed budget would cut about $9.2 billion from the current spending level, about a 13 percent reduction—as well as the $158 million increase in charter school grants, new $250 million program to research private school vouchers, and a $1 billion public school choice program under Title I.  Meanwhile, there's also been strong positive and negative reaction to proposed cuts to teacher training, career and technical education grants, literacy grants, and a new block grant under Title IV, among other programs.    Below, we've included some reactions from prominent education groups and individuals to the $59 billion budget plan. Keep in mind that Congress can and will draw up its own spending proposals for education—many, if not most, of Trump's ideas might be left out of those.

“If politicians in a state block education choice, it means those politicians do not support equal opportunity for all kids,” Mrs. DeVos said during a speech Monday night at a policy summit for the American Federation for Children, a group that advocates for school choice that she once chaired.  “They’ll be the ones who will have to explain to their constituent parents why they are denying their fundamental right to choose what type of education is best for their child,” she said.”
Trump Budget Proposal Cuts Work Study, Bolsters School Choice
Blueprint envisions 13.5% decrease in education funding overall
Wall Street Journal By Tawnell D. Hobbs and Josh Mitchell Updated May 23, 2017 4:42 p.m. ET
A significant cut to college work-study programs and elimination of funding for certain teacher training and after-school programs are among $9.2 billion in cuts proposed for the U.S. Department of Education, with some savings shifting to help fund school-choice initiatives.  Details of the Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget were released Tuesday and show $59 billion in discretionary funding for education—a 13.5% decrease.  The budget would bolster school choice through about $400 million for expansion of charter schools and vouchers for low-income students to attend private and religious schools. An additional $1 billion in Title 1 funding, typically targeted for schools with high-poverty rates, would be used for a new grant program focused on open-enrollment to allow students to attend the public school of their choice.  The administration’s plan is to ramp up to eventually invest $20 billion annually for school choice.  President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are ardent supporters of school choice, which they say allows parents to play a greater role in the education of their children by providing options outside of their neighborhood public school. Mrs. DeVos has said it is time to reduce the role that the federal government plays by empowering parents and states.

Blogger note: Billionaires Trump and DeVos have had no direct experience with public education for themselves or their children.  If you value democratically governed public education please reach out to your members of Congress and let them know.
.@Esquire: “DeVos finding ways to fulfill her life's dream of destroying public education & monetizing all those bright shiny faces.”

DeVos to testify on Trump’s budget, her first time before Congress since rocky confirmation hearing
Washington Post By Emma Brown May 24 at 6:00 AM 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is expected to travel to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify about the Trump administration’s proposed budget, her first public appearance before Congress since her rocky confirmation hearing in January.  DeVos will be tasked with explaining a spending plan that has drawn criticism from both ends of the political spectrum. She is scheduled to field questions from members of a House appropriations subcommittee during a hearing that begins at 11 a.m.  President Trump has proposed slashing $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, including after-school programs, teacher training and career and technical education, and reinvesting $1.4 billion of the savings into promoting his top priority: School choice.  The administration is also seeking far-reaching changes to student aid programs, including elimination of subsidized loans and public service loan forgiveness and a halving of the federal work-study program that helps college students earn money to support themselves while in school.

Trump releases budget hitting his own voters hardest
The president's proposal for next year's federal spending calls for more than $1 trillion in cuts to social programs, including farm aid.
Politico By ANDREW RESTUCCIA MATTHEW NUSSBAUM and SARAH FERRIS  05/22/2017 09:00 PM EDT
Donald Trump, whose populist message and promises to help American workers propelled him to the White House, issued a budget proposal on Tuesday that instead takes aim at the social safety net on which many of his supporters rely.  Rather than breaking with Washington precedent, Trump’s spending blueprint follows established conservative orthodoxy, cutting taxes on the wealthy, boosting defense spending and taking a hatchet to programs for the poor and disabled – potentially hurting many of the rural and low-income Americans who voted him into office.  The budget proposal underscores the wide gulf between campaigning and governing, even for a president who promised to rewrite the presidential rule book.  The president’s budget plan calls for more than $1 trillion in cuts to a wide range of social programs with millions of beneficiaries, from farm subsidies to federal student aid. That includes a $600 billion cut to Medicaid over 10 years, despite Trump’s repeated promises on the campaign trail not to cut the program. The budget also takes an ax to the federal food stamp program and Social Security Disability Insurance.

What ‘school choice’ means in the era of Trump and DeVos
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss May 22 
If President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have made one thing clear when it comes to education policy, it is this: Their priority is expanding “school choice.” What is that, exactly?  This is a primer about the school choice movement, which supporters say seeks to expand alternatives to traditional public schools for children who have poor educational options in their neighborhoods and to give parents a choice in their children’s education.  Critics argue that using public funds to support choice schools is undermining the traditional public system, which educates the majority of America’s school-age children, and that it is ultimately aimed at privatizing the most important civic institution in the country.  Whatever the intent, the Trump administration is taking the movement into a new era, elevating it to the center of the national education policy debate after years, under presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, of school “accountability” taking center stage.  DeVos’s Education Department is planning to spend an unprecedented amount of public money — well over $1 billion — to expand school choice in the 2018 proposed budget, and it is said to be considering other ways to promote choice. The secretary has not been shy about expressing disdain for the traditional public school system by calling it a “dead end” and a “monopoly.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/05/22/what-school-choice-means-in-the-era-of-trump-and-devos/

The Little-Known Statistician Who Taught Us to Measure Teachers
New York Times by Kevin Carey MAY 19, 2017
Students enroll in a teacher’s classroom. Nine months later, they take a test. How much did the first event, the teaching, cause the second event, the test scores? Students have vastly different abilities and backgrounds. A great teacher could see lower test scores after being assigned unusually hard-to-teach kids. A mediocre teacher could see higher scores after getting a class of geniuses.  Thirty-five years ago, a statistician, William S. Sanders, offered an answer to that puzzle. It relied, unexpectedly, on statistical methods that were developed to understand animal breeding patterns.  Mr. Sanders died in March in his home state, Tennessee, at age 74, with his name little known outside education circles. But the teacher-assessment method he developed attracted a host of reformers and powerful lawmakers, leading to some of the most bitter conflicts in American education.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/upshot/the-little-known-statistician-who-transformed-education.html


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.
https://www.psba.org/2017/05/nominations-allwein-advocacy-award/

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.
https://www.psba.org/about/governance/electing-psba-officers/

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


1 comment:

  1. Sometimes, it is confusing to see that law is closely connected with the educational process. Sometimes educational process shouldn’t be bothered with politics or law, but if it happens, some very interesting issues are being raised for discussion. This is what happened with the situation described in the post. All that teachers and parents want is to see their kids happy and smart, either with the help of traditional school or with Myessayservice.com internet learning website. I hope to see this issue resolved very shortly.

    ReplyDelete