Friday, June 16, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 16: Groups sue PA over congressional district gerrymandering

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup June 16, 2017:

$143 Million in Medicaid funding for services to Pennsylvania special education students would be in peril if U.S. Senate passes House bill

“This week, Mr. Casey sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell charging that “every indication is that you intend to jam this legislation through with minimal opportunity for debate.” The letter noted that there had not been a single hearing on the legislation, nor any discussions within the Senate committees that would ordinarily handle it.”
Toomey works on health-care bill being crafted in secret; Casey challenges process
By Chris Potter / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 15, 2017 8:01 AM
Pennsylvania’s two U.S. Senators agree on this much: There is every chance that Senate Republicans will craft — and possibly pass — a bill to repeal former President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul in the next few weeks.  That’s about as far as the bipartisan consensus goes, however. Republicans hope to pass a measure before July 4, and it remains to be seen how much fire Obamacare defenders can train on a measure that is being crafted in secret.  “I'm operating on the assumption that they are going to get a bill done,” said Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. “For the next two weeks we have to do everything we can to stop them from doing that.”  “I think there’s a reasonable chance that we will see a draft of legislative language as early as next week and we might vote the following week,” Sen. Pat Toomey told Philadelphia talk-show host Chris Stigall on Tuesday. During that period, he said, “everybody can have at it and criticize, attack, praise, suggest changes.”  The Senate took up the repeal effort in May, after the House passed a bill so quickly that Congressional researchers didn’t have time to analyze its effects. The bill has since been projected to cost 23 million people their insurance coverage by 2026, while reducing federal deficits by $119 billion.  While Senate Republicans said they would put forward their own measure, the language has so far been kept under wraps. A small group of senators, among them Mr. Toomey, has led efforts to draw up a measure out of the public eye.

Secrecy Surrounding Senate Health Bill Raises Alarms in Both Parties
New York Times By THOMAS KAPLAN and ROBERT PEAR JUNE 15, 2017
WASHINGTON — As they draft legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republican leaders are aiming to transform large sections of the American health care system without a single hearing on their bill and without a formal, open drafting session.  That has created an air of distrust and concern — on and off Capitol Hill, with Democrats but also with Republicans.  “I’ve said from Day 1, and I’ll say it again,” said Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee. “The process is better if you do it in public, and that people get buy-in along the way and understand what’s going on. Obviously, that’s not the route that is being taken.”  The secrecy surrounding the Senate measure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is remarkable — at least for a health care measure this consequential.  In 1993, President Bill Clinton empowered the first lady, Hillary Clinton, to assemble health care legislation in private, with input from a group of more than 500 experts. That approach won scathing reviews from Republican lawmakers and others shut out of the deliberations. But it took place at the White House, not in Congress. Once the Clintons’ health plan reached Capitol Hill, it died in the public spotlight.  Republican leaders this week defended their actions.  “Look, we’ve been dealing with this issue for seven years,” said the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “It’s not a new thing.”

Wolf, Casey warn about GOP cuts to Medicaid hurting Pennsylvanians
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose June 15, 2017
With Senate Republicans quietly working on their own health-care reform plan, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf partnered on Thursday to warn of the impact more than $800 billion in Medicaid cuts could have on seniors and those receiving nursing care in Pennsylvania.  While the Senate GOP plan remains secret so far, Casey, D-Scranton, said one Republican senator has hinted it reflects 80 percent of the House plan (the American Health Care Act), which the Congressional Budget Office has said would throw 23 million off health insurance plans.  On Wednesday, a new report estimated that the House plan could lead to nearly 1 million job losses across the country by 2026, including 85,000 in Pennsylvania.  “It’s not really a health-care bill. It’s a scheme to give the very rich a lot more money,” Casey said during a conference call with reporters. He predicted that the plan “would be a devastating blow for seniors who need nursing home care or who receive care at home.”  The House plan proposed an $834 billion cut to Medicaid, meaning less money to support seniors, low-income children and people fighting substance addiction.

Behind closed doors, PA budget negotiations are underway
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 14, 2017 7:04 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- With a little over two weeks until the state budget is due, House and Senate Republicans have been holding closed meetings to hash out details.  Few concrete plans are available, but GOP leaders say they're on roughly the same page on spending.  A few months ago House Republicans released their budget proposal, which would spend about $800 million less than Democratic Governor Tom Wolf's blueprint and not raise taxes.  The Senate's GOP majority hasn't released its own plan yet, and it's unclear if they will.  Caucus spokeswoman Jenn Kocher said senators agree with much of the House's early April plan, though with this year's budget shortfall having since grown to well over a billion dollars, she added that it needs some updates.

Inquirer by Chris Potter & Angela Couloumbis, Staff Writers Updated: JUNE 15, 2017 8:39 PM
HARRISBURG — Calling gerrymandering “one of the greatest threats to American democracy,” the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania sued Thursday to have the state’s congressional district map thrown out.  Future maps, the suit urges, should be drawn without “burdening or penalizing an identifiable group, a political party, or individual voters based on their political beliefs.”  Filed in Commonwealth Court on behalf of Democratic voters in each of the state’s 18 congressional districts, the complaint argues that the map, drafted in 2011, “was the product of a national movement by the Republican Party to entrench its own representatives in power.”  The GOP did so, the suit argues, by “utilizing the latest advances in mapmaking technologies and big data to gerrymander districts more effectively than ever before.”  At a news conference Thursday, lawyers involved in the case said both parties engage in gerrymandering, the drawing of district boundaries to maximize political advantage. But they contended that a Republican-controlled legislature created blatantly partisan maps in 2011 that allowed the GOP to take 13 of 18 seats the next year while winning only about half of the ballots cast overall.

“The lawsuit asks the court to declare the 2011 map unconstitutional and order a new map to be created. McKenzie said that could be accomplished through the appointment of a special master or by having both parties submit alternative maps that could then be put to the general assembly.  McKenzie noted similar lawsuits have been filed against Republicans in North Carolina and Democrats in Maryland. The U.S. Supreme Court is also poised to take on a gerrymandering case in Wisconsin that could impact how states nationwide draw their boundaries.”
Group files suit, claims GOP stacked deck in gerrymandered districts
By Alex Rose, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 06/16/17, 4:30 AM EDT
The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging a 2011 congressional redistricting that the organization claims created “safe” districts for Republican candidates while disenfranchising Democrats.  “By any measure, Pennsylvania’s congressional map is among the top three starkest partisan gerrymanders in the country,” said Mimi McKenzie, legal director of the Public Interest Law Center representing the League. “This map was drawn to ensure that our general elections will be decided before voters even go to the polls on Election Day.”  The suit, filed in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, alleges two claims under the state Constitution for violations of the Free Expression and Association Clause and Free and Equal Clause, the state-level equivalents of the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  The petition names the Pennsylvania General Assembly; Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. Michael Stack, both Democrats; House Speaker Michael Turzai, R-28, of Marshall Township; Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-25, of Brockway; Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortés; and Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation Commissioner Jonathan Marks as respondents.  McKenzie said those respondents are not necessarily the same responsible for drawing the boundaries in 2011, but would be tasked with charting the new electoral map if the lawsuit is successful.

Pennsylvania Lawsuit Says House Redistricting Is Partisan Gerrymander
New York Times By MICHAEL WINES JUNE 15, 2017
Voting-rights advocates in Pennsylvania filed suit on Thursday to nullify the state’s congressional-district map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, joining other court battles over the role of politics in redistricting already being waged in three other states.  It is the latest major legal effort arguing that gerrymanders have become so egregious they are subverting democracy and creating legislative races with predetermined results.  In a tactical twist, however, the Pennsylvania lawsuit was filed in a state court, which means that if the plaintiffs prevail, the ruling would set no precedent for challenges in other states.  The three other lawsuits, in Maryland, North Carolina and Wisconsin, were filed in federal court and argue that the maps of congressional or state legislative districts violate the federal Constitution.  Pennsylvania Republicans called the lawsuit baseless. In a statement, Drew Crompton, the general counsel for Republicans in the State Senate, said that the redistricting measure was enacted with some Democratic support and that some claims in the suit were “demonstrably false.”

Phoenixville council calls for end to gerrymandering
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 06/14/17, 6:10 PM EDT | UPDATED: 19 MINS AGO
PHOENIXVILLE >> Phoenixville Borough Council adopted a resolution aimed at ending the practice of gerrymandering in Pennsylvania Tuesday night. With the 6-1 decision, the borough joins just over 50 other municipalities statewide in favor of the move.  Councilman Jon Ichter II dissented, while Councilman Jeremy Dalton was absent.  Wayne Braffman, of Kennett Square, representing the Chester County chapter of Fair Districts PA, a nonpartisan group committed to energizing support around a state constitutional amendment that would eliminate gerrymandering ahead of the 2020 census, gave a brief presentation explaining the resolution and what other municipalities have supported it.  “The resolution you’re considering endorses the concepts of fair and independent and nonpartisan redistricting reform,” he said.

Sen. Vincent Hughes unveils plan to fund schools with $8.25 billion from fracking tax
The state senator from Philadelphia pointed to poor conditions at Cassidy Elementary to illustrate inequity.
The notebook by Darryl Murphy June 15, 2017 — 5:34pm
State Sen. Vincent Hughes chose Cassidy Elementary Thursday as the spot to unveil a new bill to bring money to underfunded schools by taxing natural gas production.  Hughes, a Democrat representing parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties, was returning a favor of sorts. Cassidy students visited the state capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday to urge legislators to address inequity among school districts across the state.  Hughes’ proposed legislation would provide money to repair and upgrade schools and ensure an equitable public education for students statewide.  Among several people at the school to support Hughes was state Rep. Morgan Cephas, a fellow Democrat from Philadelphia, Jerry Roseman, acting director of Occupational & Environmental Health and Safety for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Rev. Gregory Holston, executive director of POWER, and Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn, president of the Pennsylvania NAACP.  Standing in front of the school, just minutes away from Lower Merion Township, one of the wealthiest school districts in the state, Hughes said schools such as those in Lower Merion don’t suffer from the same problems as those in underfunded districts.  “There are two separate and distinct education systems in this state, and they are unequal,” said Hughes. “They are unequal because of race, and they are unequal because of income.”  Senate Bill 777, or The Emergency Equal Education Plan, as Hughes calls it, will cost $8.25 billion, and bring underfunded districts to equitable standards along with more investments in academics.  

“While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle deserve credit for coming together and working to pass the measure, it’s important to note to that its effects won’t be felt for at least another 20 or 30 years down the road.  The bill does nothing to address the current debt, which is estimated at roughly $60 billion and rising every year. The state is paying about $3 billion more per year into the fund than it was a decade ago. Similarly, school districts are being forced to use increasing amounts of property taxes to pay into the pension fund, diverting money that had been going towards the education of students.”
Even with pension reform, problem far from fixed
Beaver County Times Editorial By Calkins Media June 15, 2017
EDITOR'S NOTE: This editorial first appeared in the Uniontown Herald-Standard, a sister publication of The Times.
Everyone was smiling in the Capitol Rotunda Monday as Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill to restructure the state’s public pension system.  According to the Associated Press, legislative leaders congratulated each other during the bill-signing ceremony.  “I couldn’t be prouder to be here ... to get real meaningful pension reform,” said the governor. “Here in Harrisburg we can get important things done in a way that I think a lot of other places cannot.”  Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre County, a leading proponent for pension reform in the Senate, jokingly said, “I’m not sure what I’m going to talk about tomorrow.’’  Under the bill, the state will no longer offer guaranteed pensions to state employees, including teachers. Instead employees hired after 2019 will be offered a 401(k) plan, which many employers in the private sector already use. Employees will have three retirement savings options, but once a decision is made it will be final.  The legislation passed both chambers with bipartisan support. In the Senate, it passed by a 40-9 vote and the House, 143-53.

For public school teachers, it's less about the pension and more about the 'calling'
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer Jun 15, 2017 Updated 21 hrs ago
Twenty-year-old Megan Groff may start her teaching career at a transitional time for Pennsylvania educators — when retirement benefits for incoming public school teachers will be slashed, potentially by a sizable percentage.  But for Groff and many of her friends who find themselves in a similar situation, she said, frankly, it doesn’t really matter.  In fact, they’d be hard-pressed to describe what a pension is.  “A lot of us have no idea about retirement,” said Groff, who is double-majoring in special education and early childhood education at Millersville University. “We really haven’t talked about it.”  Groff expects to graduate in December 2019. When she gets her first teaching job, she will join other teachers starting after June 30, 2019, who will be ineligible for the full, traditional, defined-benefit pension plan.  Instead, Groff and her peers will have to choose one of three retirement plans, including two hybrid pension plans and a 401(k)-style plan. Each is likely to result in benefits that are substantially lower than those of the traditional pension plan.
Pension reform may sound familiar to Pennsylvania’s political observers, public employees and taxpayers.  But the reason Groff and others like her, she said, are pursuing a job in teaching isn’t for the benefits — be it income, health care or retirement — but rather the opportunity to benefit others.

Pennsylvania's rural students missing out on some opportunities, report suggests
Trib Live by JAMIE MARTINES  | Wednesday, June 14, 2017, 3:33 p.m.
There's room for improvement in Pennsylvania's rural schools.
That's according to a new report from the Rural School and Community Trust , an organization based in Washington, D.C., advocating for rural schools.  While Pennsylvania's rural students are likely to perform well in the classroom and have high graduation rates compared to their peers across the country, they are less likely to enroll in Advanced Placement courses or take a university entrance exam, such as the SAT or the ACT, compared to rural students in other states.  Only one fourth of Pennsylvania schools are rural, but they serve more than 280,000 students. That's about 16 percent of the total statewide student population, and the sixth-largest rural student population in the nation. Only Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and New York have more students in rural schools.  Nearly 50,000, or about 17.5 percent, of those students are enrolled in special education services. That's the second-highest percentage in the nation; the national average is 13.4 percent.

Unfunded State Mandates Push Pennsylvania School Districts, Tax Payers Finances to the Brink
Montco Today Posted By: Ken Knickerbocker Posted date: June 15, 2017
With bookbags strapped to the back of Pennsylvania school districts getting heavier and heavier each year, some districts are now starting to stumble.  The weight of new state budget mandates for pensions, special education and charter school tuition is becoming too much for some of them to bear, according to a Penn Live report by Jan Murphy.  “Many school districts are now reaching their tipping point, where they will no longer be able to deliver a quality education to their students due to their financial situation,” said Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators Executive Director Mark DiRocco in the article.  “So subsidy increases need to be greater than the mandated expenditures that districts must pay out.”  Recognizing the dilemma, the Gov. Tom Wolf and the House of Representatives both added $100 million to basic education and $25 million to special education but cut $50 million from school transportation.  Nevertheless, 70 percent of districts are still looking at property tax hikes, the article explained.

Under fire, SRC moves to shut 2 Philly charters
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: JUNE 15, 2017 — 10:13 PM EDT
The School Reform Commission on Thursday took action against two charter schools at a packed, contentious meeting where dozens called for the body to dissolve itself.  The SRC voted, 5-0, to put Eastern University Academy Charter School on notice that its charter will not be renewed because of academic and operational problems. The East Falls school, which objected bitterly to the move, will remain open as it goes through due process.  And the commission took a final vote to close Khepera Charter School in Logan amid news that the school had laid off staff, skipped retirement and health-care payments, and not paid its landlord. The troubled school has also had academic problems.  No representatives of the school showed up to defend it, but it has the right to appeal the SRC’s decision to the state.  Eastern parents and staff showed up in force to say the district had its facts wrong.  Omar Barlow, the school’s principal and CEO, pointed to strong graduation rates and said Eastern takes children who are years behind and puts them on a path to college.  “If our school was to close, where would they go?” Barlow said.  DawnLynne Kacer, the district’s charter schools chief, said the school had significant academic issues. No middle school students reached proficiency in math, for example.  Barlow and others said the school would fight the decision not to renew the charter.  The SRC did not vote on a resolution that it slipped onto the agenda just a few days prior to the meeting: a $36 million contract with Catapult Learning Inc. to establish a school for special education students.

SRC delays vote on $36 million contract for special ed school
City Council had passed a resolution urging rejection. At contentious meeting, SRC also hears calls for it to vote itself out of existence.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa and Avi Wolfman-Arent Newsworks June 15, 2017 — 8:20pm
The School Reform Commission Thursday postponed a vote on a $36 million contract for Catapult Learning, Inc. that would have set up new special education programming in the city to serve students with multiple disabilities who are now sent to private institutions.  The action came at a contentious, nearly five-hour meeting during which speakers repeatedly called on the SRC to disband itself and pave the way for a return of the District to local control.  Superintendent William Hite asked for a delay to revise the motion for the special education school so it “more clearly reflects the intent of what we created this resolution to do.” He said that one urgent purpose is to move students from a school run by Wordsworth, which lost its operating license for a residential treatment facility last fall when one of its students died after an encounter with staffers. The death was ruled a homicide.  That program had housed between 75 and 100 Philadelphia students, who were moved elsewhere -- including to a day program run by Wordsworth in Fort Washington, because there is an acute shortage of appropriate placements for students with complex mental and emotional needs .  “Wordsworth is a school where we have children, and we have to get children out of that school,” Hite said. “We are trying to develop a program to move those children to a more supporting educational program.” The District’s contract with Wordsworth expires on June 30.  Hite later told reporters that there is an acute shortage of appropriate programs in the area to meet the needs of hundreds of city students with multiple disabilities.

Wolf awards $1.5 million to N. Phila. schools for health initiative
Philly Trib by Layla A. Jones Tribune Staff Writer June 15, 2017
Gov. Tom Wolf awarded four North Philadelphia community schools $1.5 million for a pilot health program, connecting the schools to local children’s health services.  The funding seeks to improve health, attendance and academics at James Logan Elementary, William Cramp Elementary, Edward Gideon Elementary and Middle school and Bethune Elementary.  “Governor Tom Wolf continues to be a strong partner in restoring the education cuts of the Corbett years,” state Rep. Donna Bullock (D-195) said in a release about the school funding. “I and my Democratic colleagues will keep working with him to reinvest in our kids.”  Each of the four schools receiving funding are within the North Philadelphia Health Enterprise Zone, a partnership between the Department of Education, the city, area hospitals and other entities created to address health disparities in the North Philadelphia community. The area in the zone include zip codes 19120, 19126, 19130, 19132-19134, 19138, 19140, 19141 and 19144.
Nearly 300,000 Medicaid recipients reside in the area covered by the health enterprise zone and 31 percent of the residents in the zone live below the poverty line. Children within the zone are also expected to live 20 years shorter than children in more affluent zip codes.

Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth to support its first cohort of musicians
The notebook by Ariel Censor June 15, 2017 — 2:32pm
The Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth (PMAY) named 75 rising 5th- through 12th-grade musicians in its first cohort of PMAY Artists on Wednesday. The students, who are mostly from communities that are underrepresented in classical music, were honored at a gathering at City Hall with Mayor Kenney and Chief Cultural Officer Kelly Lee.  The PMAY Artists’ Initiative strives to increase diversity in the professional classical music field. Today, less than 5 percent of musicians in professional U.S. orchestras are African American or Latino, with similarly low statistics for South Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives.  Joseph Conyers, who is music director of the District’s All City Orchestra, executive director of Project 440, and assistant principal bass in the Philadelphia Orchestra, stressed the importance of diversity in classical music during his remarks at Wednesday’s event.  “Classical music is for everyone. Access to music should be universal,” Conyers said.  “With programs like the PMAY Artists’ Initiative, it won’t be long until orchestras across the country will be reflections of the diverse group of musicians before me today. The diversity of your experiences makes the music better.”  In an effort to provide these students with the tools they need to become professional classical musicians, PMAY will provide them financial support for lessons, music classes, youth orchestra participation, and summer music camps. They will also have the opportunity to attend free college and career preparation workshops and receive mentoring from PMAY teachers and staff.

Saucon Valley teachers land contract peacefully for 1st time in decade
BY SARA K. SATULLO, For Updated on June 15, 2017 at 2:32 PM Posted on June 15, 2017 at 2:06 PM
Saucon Valley School District parents can let out a sigh of relief.  They don't have to worry about teacher contracts or strikes for a long time.  Following years of bruising and contentious teacher contract negotiations that divided the school community, the teachers union and school board have quietly agreed to a two-year contract extension.  The current contract expires in July of 2018 and, like earlier contracts, it took more than four years to reach. The new deal expires June 30, 2020.   "We are pleased that we can begin this new era free from the distractions that contract negotiations have historically brought our school district," Saucon Valley Education Association President Robert Kachmar said. "We consider this a fair agreement for this time."  Saucon Valley gained a reputation throughout the region for its arduous negotiations that lasted years, often resulting in state mediation, fact-finding, non-binding arbitrations and several teacher strikes.

Philly’s 7th Ward Blog by  SHARIF EL-MEKKI JUNE 14, 2017
I have many friends who are staunchly “anti-choice” when it comes to educating  Black children. They are awesome people, folks you would trust with your children or money, but I find their hypocrisy alarming.  They can be broken up into different categories. However, one trait they all share is that they consistently exercise choice for their children, yet they expect Black families to only exercise patience.  My friends are hypocrites based off of stories they have shared with me over the years. None of them could be considered anything less than middle-class economically. Many of them not only choose their children’s schools, they exude an inordinate amount of energy to choose their children’s classrooms!  I have heard more stories about my middle-class friends exerting pressure to ensure their children get the best teachers as they matriculate throughout schools. Some have even threatened to pull their children out of a particular school if they don’t get their wishes. Seems like choice to me.

Letter: Teens need more sleep and later school start times
Teens need more sleep and later school start times
Main Line Times Letter by Amy Norr, LMSD Interschool Council Sleep Study Committee
Ellen Keefe, LMSD Interschool Council Sleep Study Committee
Sigal Ben-Porath, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education
Indira Gurubhagavatula M.D., University of Pennsylvania Sleep Medicine
Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., Saint Joseph’s University, Pediatric Sleep Council
To the Editor:  My mind does not function at 7:30 in the morning. I am in a constant state of sleep deprivation. I feel miserable most of the time... I get grueling headaches...I feel sort of sick most days. (Lack of sleep) makes every single task twice as difficult and eats away at my energy, effort and motivation. -  Lower Merion and Harriton High School students, Sleep Survey responses  We are parents (including two sleep professionals) in Lower Merion School District (LMSD) who have been advocating for later high school start times for several years. We appreciate your recent article on Radnor parents and students urging their school board to consider later middle and high school start times (Main Line Suburban Life, June 4, 2017). Locally, kudos are in order for the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, which recently became the first local PA school district to vote for later high school start times for the health and well-being of its students. Hopefully this action will spur other local districts to make similar decisions.  Major national medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine have recommended that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later in order to optimize student health and learning.

“Last month, DeVos told Congress that Washington would need to spend $30 billion on special education in order to meet that 40 percent authorization level. “
Full Funding for Special Education? Lawmakers Try for Fifth Straight Congress
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on June 15, 2017 4:42 PM
Like clockwork in recent years, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing to "fully fund" federal spending on special education.  The IDEA Full Funding Act, introduced Thursday, would ramp up Washington's budget for students with special needs. The legislation calls for the feds to pick up 40 percent of the extra cost of educating a student in special education. That's the share Congress is authorized to spend under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which passed back  in 1975. Congress hasn't come close to that level in years. And right now, the federal government pays for just 15.3 percent of those expenses, leaving the rest to states and school districts. Current federal spending under the IDEA stands at $12.8 billion.   The proposal "would ensure our schools have the resources they need to support students with disabilities, and that Congress finally meets its commitments to all students," Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., a lead author of the legislation, said in a statement announcing the bill.   Special education has gotten more of the spotlight ever since Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' controversial comments about IDEA during her January confirmation hearing. The Trump administration's proposed budget would cut a relatively small amount, about, $100 million, from IDEA spending. DeVos' recent comments about special education services with respect to school choice proposals in the budget have also caused a stir.

Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement
Learning Policy Institute Authors Jeannie OakesAnna MaierJulia Daniel JUN 05 2017
This brief examines the research on community schools, with two primary emphases. First, it explores whether the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) opens the possibility of investing in well-designed community schools to meet the educational needs of low-achieving students in high-poverty schools. And second, it provides support to school, district, and state leaders as they consider, propose, or implement a community school intervention in schools targeted for comprehensive support.  Community schools represent a place-based school improvement strategy in which “schools partner with community agencies and local government to provide an integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement.” Many operate year-round, from morning to evening, and serve both children and adults. Although the approach is appropriate for students of all backgrounds, many community schools serve neighborhoods where poverty and racism erect barriers to learning, and where families have few resources to supplement what typical schools provide.  Community schools vary in the programs they offer and the way they operate, depending on their local context. However, four features—or pillars—appear in most community schools:

“Her remarks were received with limited enthusiasm, among what should have been one of the friendliest crowds the controversial DeVos will address — a group of teachers, administrators and advocates who have embraced school choice as a solution to inequality. Less than half the audience stood to applaud as she finished, and many others remained silent.”
How Betsy DeVos Could Break Up The Charter School Coalition
The fragile bipartisan alliance that formed around the charter school movement could fall apart in the Trump era.
Molly Hensley-Clancy BuzzFeed News Reporter Posted on June 14, 2017, at 3:42 p.m.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made a bold choice of opening anecdote in a speech to charter school advocates on Tuesday: Shetold the story of how her family chose to forego the public education system entirely, sending her young son to a Christian private school.
DeVos spoke of the need to ensure that poor students had the ability to attend not just charter schools, but private schools, too — just as her son had done. It was a heavy allusion to the necessity of a voucher system — one that would allow families to use taxpayer money to pay for private and religious schools.  But vouchers have long been considered politically toxic for many in the charter school movement, who are already wondering how closely their schools — attended primarily by low-income, black, and Latino students — should link their fortunes to those of the Trump administration.  “Charter schools are here to stay,” DeVos told the crowd on Tuesday. “But we must recognize that charters aren’t the right fit for every child. For many children, neither a traditional nor a charter public school works for them.”  When DeVos singled out a charter school for praise, she then praised a private school in the next breath, singling out several "Christian schools," including one that operated, mostly tuition-free, in a homeless shelter.

The Education Department Quietly Invited Anti-LGBT Groups To A Father's Day Event
The move that prompted the national Parent Teacher Association to pull out of the daylong "Engaging Fathers and Families" event.
Molly Hensley-Clancy BuzzFeed News Reporter Posted on June 15, 2017, at 3:44 p.m.
The Education Department invited representatives from two anti-LGBT groups to speak at a secretive event on Thursday, a move that prompted the national Parent Teacher Association to pull out of the daylong "Engaging Fathers and Families" event.  Representatives for the evangelical groups Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council — which advocate for gay conversion therapy — both spoke at the event, according to a copy of the agenda that was obtained by BuzzFeed News, sitting on a panel called "Family Engagement in Faith-based Organizations." The agenda was first reported by Politico.  The National PTA, which has 4 million members nationwide, said it withdrew from the event after it learned of the two groups' participation, saying in a statement that they were "not in alignment" with the PTA's stance on protecting gay youth.  The event Thursday, which was hosted ahead of Father's Day, included several high-level officials, including acting undersecretary Jim Manning and the head of elementary and secondary education.

Principal Advocacy Day at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 19, 2017 at The Capitol in Harrisburg
PA Principals Association Website Wednesday, June 7, 2017 10:03 AM
The PA Principals Association is holding its second annual Principal Advocacy Day at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 19, 2017 at The Capitol in Harrisburg, PA. Once again, a rally in support of public education and important education issues will be held on the Main Rotunda Steps from 12 p.m. - 1 p.m. Visits with legislators will be conducted earlier in the day. More information will be sent via email, shared in our publications and posted on our website closer to the event.
To register, send an email to Dr. Joseph Clapper at before Friday, June 9, 2017.
Click here to view the Principal Advocacy Day Save The Date Flyer.

Apply Now for EPLC's 2017-2018 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program!
Education Policy and Leadership Center
Applications are available now for the 2017-2018 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). Click here for the program calendar of sessions.  With more than 500 graduates in its first eighteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants. Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders. Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization.  The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 14-15, 2017 and continues to graduation in June 2018.

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.

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

Save the Date: PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference October 18-20, Hershey PA

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