Wednesday, May 3, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 3: The school choice of nearly all Americans is public schools. Time to support them.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup May 3, 2017:
The school choice of nearly all Americans is public schools. Time to support them.

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

“The number-one issue for Philadelphia education, for education in Pennsylvania, is inequality in education funding,” Hughes said. “If he was so damn concerned about Philadelphia kids, he’d be working aggressively to solve this problem. If this was going on in his legislative district, he wouldn’t tolerate it.”  Pennsylvania lawmakers have passed a new funding formula, but it will take about 20 years for it to fully address funding inequalities, Hughes said. (Others, including experts at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, say that the inequities will never close under the current formula.)  According to federal data, Pennsylvania has the largest gap in funding between wealthy and poor districts.”
State Sen. Hughes to House Speaker Turzai: 'Stay the hell out of Philadelphia'
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: MAY 2, 2017 — 6:11 PM EDT
State Sen. Vincent Hughes has a message for House Speaker Mike Turzai.
“Fix the school-funding issue, or stay the hell out of Philadelphia,” Hughes (D., Phila.) said in an interview.  Turzai this week inserted himself into Philadelphia charter schools’ beef with the School Reform Commission, suggesting that the SRC was running afoul of state law through “overreach.”  A number of schools have refused to sign new charter agreements, saying the Philadelphia School District is requiring provisions with which they are uncomfortable. The district wants to be able to change charters’ boundaries, for instance, to have a say over how often charter school boards meet, and to require academic standards critics say are stricter than those of the system’s own neighborhood schools.  Turzai wrote in a letter to the SRC that the district was trying to “drastically overstep” charter law. He also said that going into state budget season, it would be “tough to justify increases in expenditures to the School District of Philadelphia if the additional money is going to pay for lawyers to draft contracts which go beyond the scope of the law.”  On Tuesday, Hughes was furious.

Most families will choose good public schools first
Post Gazette Opinion by STEVEN SINGER, White Oak The writer is a teacher. 12:00 AM MAY 3, 2017
Conservatives often say we need school choice, but what happens when people choose public schools?  Because that’s what the overwhelming majority of Americans have done for years. Only 10 percent of U.S. students go to private or parochial schools. Around 5 percent go to charter schools.  The lion’s share of our kids go to public schools — not because they have no other option, but because that is what we’ve selected. 
It’s been this way for generations. Most Americans pick their local community schools — the same schools where Mom and Dad and Grandpa and Grandma went, schools where our aunts and uncles serve as school directors, where teachers aren’t nameless cogs in a machine, but a rite of passage whom most everyone knows and loves.   We prefer that our kids go to the schools at the heart of our neighborhoods where people meet for bake sales, after-school programs, adult education classes, student productions of Broadway musicals and a plethora of sporting events.
In fact, whenever something like school vouchers has been put to voters in a referendum, Ma and Pa Taxpayer have turned it down. Again and again!
That’s not an accident. They are telling you what they want — and it’s public schools.
Conservatives should stop pretending they’re just giving us all a choice. Americans have largely made up their minds — we just didn’t make the selection you desire.   The school choice of nearly all Americans is not private, parochial or charter schools. It’s public schools. Time to support them.

Education Inequality: What happens when a public school district is underfunded?
Keystone Crossroads May 2017 Grapple Podcast Listen to Episode 15: What happens when a public school district is underfunded?
Erie, Pennsylvania has public schools that have been underfunded for years. And today, the school district is in a dire situation. Erie’s story raises broader questions about education equality, and to what extent kids can be successful when they go to schools with limited resources. In this episode, you’ll hear from a range of people — including parents, teachers, students, and school officials — about what the impact has been.

“In the 2015-2016 school year, the tuition paid by conventional districts to charters ranged from $6,865 to $18,750. That particularly makes no sense for cyber charter schools, which do not have the same physical plant costs as conventional schools that pay the cyber tuition.  Lawmakers also should eliminate disparities in special education funding for conventional and charter schools. Those payments are based on average rather than actual costs. In 2015-2016, charters were paid $294.8 million for special education, whereas they reported special education costs of $193.1 million.”
Editorial: Charter plan falls short
Pennsylvania’s embrace of publicly funded charter schools is so great that, two decades along, state lawmakers refuse to enact reforms to correct problems that adversely affect conventional public schools.  Republican legislative leaders recently approved some modest reforms while establishing a study commission, which apparently will discover what 20 years of experience have failed to reveal.  The goal should be simple — to ensure that conventional and charter publicly funded schools are on equal footing regarding funding, operations, performance and evaluation. Despite the recent modest reform package, that continues not to be the case.  The first and most obvious reform should be to ensure that charter schools are funded based on their actual cost-per-student. Instead, local conventional districts pay charters based on the home districts’ cost-per-student, which most often is higher than charters’ costs.

Anti-gerrymanderring forum scheduled in Unionville
Daily Local By Staff Report POSTED: 05/02/17, 4:49 PM EDT | UPDATED: 8 HRS AGO
EAST MARLBOROUGH >> Carol Kuniholm, leader of Fair Districts PA (FDPA), and state Rep. Eric Roe, R-158, will speak about efforts to eliminate gerrymandering in Pennsylvania at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Unionville High School.  Gerrymandering is the practice of changing representative district boundaries to assure the election of a particular politician or political party.   Fair Districts PA, a nonpartisan group, is promoting reform of this redistricting process. Roe and state Rep. Steve Samuelson, D-Northampton, have co-sponsored House Bill 722, a bill enabling a change in the state Constitution, which would take redistricting power from politicians and place it in the hands of an independent Citizens Commission.  This commission would be responsible for drawing new voting district boundary lines after the 2020 U.S. Census that would be fair, independent, and nonpartisan.  How the boundaries could be changed and who would be appointed to this Citizens Commission will also be discussed.  The Unionville High School Auditorium is at 750 Unionville Road (Rt 82), Kennett Square 19348.

Pennsylvania's deficit growing as fiscal year winds down
Steve Esack Contact Reporter Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau May 2, 2017
Last year, Gov. Tom Wolf and legislative leaders balanced the state's budget by assuming new revenue from a stronger economy and additional spending on alcohol, gambling and tobacco.  But the proverbial smoke in those backroom negotiations must have clouded visions.  Year-to-date tax revenue is running 4.5 percent below estimate and the gambling expansion law has yet to materialize in the Legislature, creating a $1.2 billion deficit with just two months left in the fiscal year. And there's little chance the state will suddenly see a windfall of the corporate, wage and sales taxes that are the backbone of the state's $31.6 billion budget.  Taxes on corporate net income, personal income and sales are off nearly $1.1 billion at the end of April, state data shows. Other levies on inheritance and home sales also are off. There's no way the Legislature will pass new gambling laws in time to generate the $100 million that was budgeted.

Pennsylvania sees biggest budget shortfall since recession
Inquirer by Marc Levy, The Associated Press Updated: MAY 2, 2017 — 7:17 PM EDT
HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania state government is heading into the 2017 budget season with its biggest revenue shortfall since the recession, leaving budget makers to address an unexpectedly large gap with just nine weeks left in the fiscal year.  Democratic Gov. Wolf and the Republican-controlled House and Senate majorities are putting a wide variety of pieces on the table that could go into a final budget bill.  It is not clear whether Wolf and lawmakers can avoid an epic budget stalemate like the one that lasted through most of the 2015-16 fiscal year.  The state Department of Revenue reported this week that it has a shortfall in excess of $1 billion 10 months into the fiscal year. That's more than 4 percent, a bigger margin at this point than in any fiscal year since 2010.  In January, the Legislature's nonpartisan Independent Fiscal Office projected a shortfall of nearly $3 billion for the two fiscal years ending June 30, 2018, including the cost to maintain the state's current programs. April's results would push that shortfall to more than $3 billion.  Similar budget struggles are happening across the nation: The National Association of State Budget Officers said 29 states have lowered their current fiscal year revenue estimates, the most since the recession.  The state Department of Revenue attributes April's poor tax collections, in part, to the U.S. economy's recording its slowest quarter in three years.

Teaching civics, economics, ethics will make better citizens
Centre Daily Times Letter BY DOROTHY LUTZ MAY 02, 2017 7:21 PM
Having read that the State College Area School District is planning to add 54 minutes to the school day, I’d like to suggest a way to make good use of that extra time. It’s my contention that there are three basic areas of instruction sadly neglected in U.S. schools: 1. Civics, 2. Economics and 3. Ethics.  Regarding the first of these: We seem to have produced a populace with little knowledge of how our republic works and why it was designed with a constitution, a Bill of Rights with a means of adding amendments, and a three-way balance of power to prevent abuses from any one of the three bodies (executive, legislative and judicial.) If it were a true “democracy” — that is, one person, one vote — the need for an educated public, willing to take on the serious responsibilities of self-government, would be even more crucial.

Officials argue for gas severance tax at hearing
WILKES-BARRE — With Pennsylvania sitting on the third largest pocket of Marcellus Shale natural gas in the world, the state is poised to become an energy exporting giant and should have a severance tax in place when the boom begins, state officials argued Monday during a public hearing.  “The eyes of the world are watching,” said Dennis Davin, secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development. “Pennsylvania is at the epicenter of an energy revolution.”  Natural gas prices are currently low in the region and production is at record low levels because the state has a limited pipeline infrastructure to export gas, causing a surplus of the natural resource.

Cumberland Valley School Board to take wait-and-see approach to gender identity policy
Phyllis Zimmerman For The Sentinel May 1, 2017
Cumberland Valley School District officials are taking a “wait and see” approach to adding gender identity and expression to its nondiscrimination policy, district solicitor Michael Cassidy said at Monday night’s school board meeting.  Cassidy said he recommends that approach after hearing a presentation at a district policy committee meeting last month by Stuart Knade, chief counsel to the Pennsylvania School Board Association. At the meeting, Knade reportedly advised the district to wait until ongoing public school lawsuits related to transgender identify issues are resolved before making a final decision on revising the policy.  “We’re focusing on the ever-changing landscape of transgender litigation throughout the country. In Pennsylvania, there’s a number of pending cases,” Cassidy said.  In western Pennsylvania, a group of transsexual students are suing their school district after the school board passed a resolution stating that students would be recognized by their biological sex, Cassidy said. Meanwhile, a student and his parents have filed a federal lawsuit against the Boyerstown School District, claiming the student’s right to privacy was stolen from him because the district allowed a transgender student to use the high school's male locker rooms and bathrooms.  “There will be a resolution to these cases,” Cassidy said. “Meanwhile, (Cumberland Valley) should continue to work with families of transgender students on a case-by-case basis.”

Olney Charter HS teachers ratify first union contract
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: MAY 2, 2017 — 12:43 PM EDT
Two years after voting to unionize, teachers at Olney Charter High School have ratified their first union contract.  The two-year deal guarantees raises totaling 4 percent over the life of the contract, which was struck with Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania, the school’s charter operator.  More than 120 teachers, nurses, counselors, and instructional assistants are covered by the deal, which includes performance-based pay.  “Our contract ensures fair, consistent, and transparent working conditions for all of us at Olney,” Ellie Sammons, a veteran Olney teacher, said in a statement. “We all know what we are responsible for, and we all know what kind of supports we can rely on from our administration.”

“The American Federation for Children has long lobbied for choice programs, and, now that DeVos is education secretary, continues to do so. It has been lobbying Congress and state legislatures this year to push for more school choice programs, specifically for an extension of the only federally funded school voucher program in the country, the one in Washington.”
Betsy DeVos-founded group lobbies Congress for D.C. voucher program extension
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss May 2 at 2:41 PM 
The American Federation for Children is a 501(c)(4) lobbying and advocacy group founded by the billionaire family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. It calls itself “the nation’s leading school choice organization,” and, according to its website, is affiliated with the American Federation for Children Action Fund, a political committee that supports and opposes state-level candidates for elected office. It also works with the American Federation for Children Growth Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization, “to promote the benefits of — and the need for — school choice, make parents aware of their options, mobilize grassroots supports and ensure private-school-choice-laws work for students.” (See below for the difference between groups designated 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4).)
DeVos was chairman of the tax-exempt 501(c)(4) lobbying group for years until she was nominated late last year to be education secretary by President-elect Donald Trump, at which time, the organization noted in a statement about her successor, Bill Oberndorf:
Under Betsy’s visionary leadership, AFC has more than doubled the number of children and families we serve through educational choice programs. While we regret that Betsy will have to step down as AFC’s chairman due to her nomination to be the next secretary of education, we are incredibly excited about the impact she can now have by leading the fight at the federal level to expand education opportunities across the entire country. We also know that under Bill’s leadership, AFC will continue to have a lasting impact on education in America.

Trump Takes Aim at School Lunch Guidelines and a Girls’ Education Program
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration took aim Monday at two signature programs of the former first lady Michelle Obama, rolling back her efforts to promote healthy school lunches nationwide and potentially rebranding her program to educate adolescent girls abroad.  Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that school meals would no longer have to meet some requirements connected with Mrs. Obama’s initiative to combat childhood obesity by overhauling the nation’s school menus.  The nutrition regulations were part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and were advocated by Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. For the last five years, schools have been required to reduce the amount of calories, fat and sodium in their cafeterias and increase offerings of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nonfat milk to the roughly 32 million students who receive federally subsidized meals.  Beginning next school year, schools can request an exemption from the whole grain requirements and delay the sodium mandate. They will also be able to serve 1 percent flavored milk instead of nonfat.

How Would Changes to ESSA's Block Grant Work?
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on May 2, 2017 7:56 AM
UPDATED - The Every Student Succeeds Act may be less than two years old, but its funding provisions are already getting a makeover, at least temporarily, in a spending bill expected to be approved in Congress this week.  The bill would make a really important change to the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, or Title IV of the law (aka the "big giant block grant"). Some quick background: ESSA collapsed a bunch of smaller programs into the grant, with the idea of giving districts more say over how they spend their federal funds. ESSA envisioned Title IV as a $1.6 billion grant that would go out by formula to districts, who could use it for everything from school safety to AP course fees, to technology, to arts education.  But, in the funding bill likely to be approved this week would only provide $400 million for the program, which is obviously a lot less than $1.6 billion.  So lawmakers are allowing states to distribute the funds competitively, instead of by a formula.

Budget Deal for 2017 Includes Increases for Title I, Special Education
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on May 1, 2017 8:40 AM
UPDATED - 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.

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 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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