Tuesday, June 6, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 6: PASA White Paper on Charter School Reform: Recommendations for Policy Makers

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup June 6, 2017: PASA White Paper on Charter School Reform: Recommendations for Policy Makers

Blogger note: Powerful and poignant testimony by three students begins at minute 92:50 of this video
Senate Education Committee Hearing on Keystone Exams Elimination  West Chester University June 2, 2017
Senator Dinniman’s Website June 5, 2017 Video Runtime: 168 minutes

Senate passes pension reform bill described as 'the medicine that will move us forward'
Penn Live BY JAN MURPHY   jmurphy@pennlive.com Updated on June 5, 2017 at 4:58 PM Posted on June 5, 2017 at 1:50 PM
The state Senate on Monday passed a pension reform bill that would give most future state and school employees three choices for retirement savings, none of them would be exclusively the guaranteed pension plan current employees have.   By a vote of 40-9, the Senate approved the bill that was a product of closed-door negotiations involving the House and Senate Republicans and Democrats and Gov. Tom Wolf's administration.   "This is the medicine that will move us forward in a way that future Legislatures will be proud of," said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, during a near hourlong floor discussion of the bill.  Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, R-Lehigh County, said the plan ensures workers will have retirement income that is over 95 percent of their take-home pay when they were working once Social Security income is included.

“But actuaries note that creating the new benefits plans still leaves Pennsylvania's massive pension debt intact, and will not stop the rising pension obligation payments that are squeezing the budgets of school districts”
Bill To Rein In Pennsylvania Pension Benefits On Fast Track
Most rookie teachers and newly minted Pennsylvania government employees would see a smaller retirement benefit in the coming decades through the state's two big debt-plagued pension systems, under legislation that passed the Senate on Monday and has the backing of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.  The Republican-controlled Senate's 40-9 vote could be followed by swift House action this week to send the just-unveiled bill to Wolf's desk.  The bill is the product of months of closed-door negotiations and more than four years of Senate Republicans pushing to end or reduce the traditional pension benefit for future state government and public school employees in favor of a 401(k)-style benefit. If it becomes law, it would be the second pension benefits reduction of future employees in eight years, both spurred by a debt tied to the pension benefits of current and retired public employees.  The bill, unveiled Sunday, would create a less expensive and less generous pension benefits structure in the future, while also shifting some risk of investment losses off taxpayers and onto the public employees of tomorrow.

Editorial: Bill retires very concept of reform
The Democratic Wolf administration and Republican legislative leaders have overcome deep partisan division with an agreement to do ... well, not much.  Senators conducted a rare Sunday session to advance a supposed pension reform bill that does nothing to reduce the vast amounts of money that the state’s two big and vastly underfunded pension systems will suck out of the state and school district budgets for the next three decades.  After months of secret negotiations among the Republican House and Senate majorities and the Democratic administration, the key question that emerged is: What took so long?  The bill cannot be construed as true reform. The state and school districts will continue to shake down taxpayers to cover the unfunded pension liability at the same rate as now, while shifting any change well into the future, onto people who have not yet been hired by schools or the state government.

Pennsylvania's public sector unions have called a strategic retreat on pension bill
Penn Live BY CHARLES THOMPSON  cthompson@pennlive.com Updated on June 5, 2017 at 9:19 PM Posted on June 5, 2017 at 5:54 PM
This post was updated at 9:20 p.m. Monday to note that Sen. Scott Wagner was the only Republican senator to vote 'no' on the pension bill, Senate Bill 1, in Monday's floor action.
One of the oddities of this week's public employee pensions debate is how so many of the state's major public sector unions are sitting it out.  They have, after all, reliably opposed most pension reform measures since passage of Act 120 in 2010. Until now, the combined forces of their Democratic and Republican allies in the state House have been just enough to stop other bills in their tracks.  This time?  No pitchforks. Just crickets.  And that, so far at least, is giving more labor-sensitive Republicans and some Democrats license to support the current bill, which passed the state Senate on a 40-9 vote Monday afternoon.  Later Monday, the bail passed a preliminary vote in the House State Government Committee, keeping on course for a final passage vote in that chamber on Thursday.  Major public-sector unions like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Service Employees International Union (both state workers) and the Pennsylvania State Education Association (school teachers), have all agreed to stand silent on this bill.  Only one major union is singing in a different key - the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, which sent a letter opposing the bill to lawmakers last Friday.  There appear to be two major reasons for this mass stand-down by organized labor, according to sources familiar with the discussions:

Capitolwire: New pension plan being pushed by Senate appears to do less than their last pension bill
But the numbers that appear to matter are the votes legislative leaders expect it will get in the General Assembly.
PSBA Website POSTED ON JUN 5, 2017 By Chris Comisac, Capitolwire Bureau Chief
HARRISBURG (June 4) – During a rare Sunday evening session of the state Senate, a pension bill that doesn’t appear to save any money for or shift much risk from taxpayers was positioned for a final Senate vote on Monday.  The Senate Appropriations Committee, on a near party-line vote, adopted two amendments to the bill, the original version of which was nearly identical to the bill reported from a conference committee late last session that failed to get voted by either chamber of the General Assembly.  Proponents of the new bill, Senate Bill 1, say this time around, the measure will win approval in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, which during the last four or five years, has been the more difficult chamber of the two in which to find enough votes for a pension bill.  “To get a bill that can be passed by the Senate, passed by the House and signed by the governor means compromise,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, following the committee meeting about SB1. “This is far, far better – significantly – and still provides a good benefit. I’m not going to quibble and say this bill save more money than that bill … What I’m going to say is this is what can get two chambers to pass, and the governor to sign, and that’s the most important thing, because the other bills couldn’t, so therefore they don’t save anything.”

Pa. legislators move to overhaul public employee pensions
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis, Harrisburg Bureau @AngelasInk acouloumbis@phillynews.com Updated: JUNE 5, 2017 — 6:40 PM EDT
HARRISBURG — The Republican-controlled legislature is racing to send Gov. Wolf a long-sought bill by week’s end that would overhaul retirement benefits in Pennsylvania’s two debt-riddled public pension plans.  The Senate approved the bill Monday in a 40-9 vote, and the House is expected to vote by Thursday on the measure, which seeks to shift some, if not all, benefits for future state and public schools employees into 401(k)-style plans. The goal is to create pension plans that cost less state money and do not hold taxpayers entirely liable for backing them, regardless of how the markets perform.  A spokesman for House GOP legislative leaders said there are enough votes in the chamber to pass it. Wolf, a Democrat, has said he supports the legislation.  On the surface, it looks like a deal, but no one is calling it done.  Less than two years ago, a pension-reform effort imploded at the eleventh hour, prolonging the budget impasse in Wolf’s first year in office.

Pennsylvania Senate backs hybrid pension plan
A Senate panel voted Sunday night to change pension benefits for all new school employees and most state workers after 2018.
Steve Esack Contact Reporter Morning Call Harrisburg Bureau June 4, 2017
The state Senate voted today on a bill to drastically change retirement benefits for most state employees and all school employees hired after 2018.  The 40-9 vote came a day after the Senate convened for a rare Sunday night session to begin moving the bill, which seeks to reduce the long-term risk associated with taxpayers bailing out the state’s two debt-ridden pension plans in bad economic times.  The Republican-controlled Senate's vote moves the bill to the GOP-controlled House, where it is expected to also be approved and sent to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's desk for his signature.  The bill would move affected workers from a fully backed taxpayer-funded pension plan in which retirements benefits are guaranteed regardless of Wall Street performance to a so-called hybrid plan. That hybrid would keep about half of workers’ pensions in the taxpayer-backed guaranteed plan. The other half would go into a corporate-style 401(k) plan that goes up and down with the market, reducing taxpayer exposure by more than 50 percent.  New workers could also elect to have all retirement benefits placed into a 401(k) instead of one of two hybrids.  “This is the largest risk transfer in a public pension system of our size in the nation’s history,” Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Sunday night.  The hybrids would also reduce retirement benefits by 18 percent for new school employees and by 16 percent for most new state workers compared to current employees hired after 2010.

Estimated 500 gather in Harrisburg to rally for a "budget that puts people first"
Special to PennLive BY SARAH MEARHOFF Posted on June 5, 2017 at 3:17 PM
With the June 30 state budget deadline fast approaching, an estimated 500 people from all corners of the commonwealth filtered into the Capitol Rotunda Monday afternoon to advocate for a budget that "puts the people first."   The rally, organized by Pennsylvania's Choice, was backed by 35 special interest organizations advocating for issues like healthcare, education, environmental protection and more.   "We need a decent, balanced, on-time budget passed by July 1," emcee Jeff Garis said. "And when we say a decent, on-time, balanced budget, we mean - unlike the last number of years - we do not want a budget based on cuts."  "No cuts to human services, no cuts to environmental protection, no cuts to education," Garis continued. "We are here to insist on a budget that makes investments...that benefit all of us," Garis said.
Speakers at the rally ranged in passions from environmental protection in coal regions, to rights for home care workers. But all of them stood together in the Rotunda chanting for a "fair budget."

EdVotersPA: The next 26 days
Education Voters PA Posted on June 5, 2017 by EDVOPA
Decisions PA legislators make in the upcoming weeks will have a lasting impact on PA’s public school students. From now until June 30th, when the state budget is due, lawmakers will be passing legislation and cutting deals as they determine how much state funding our children’s school districts will receive.  We need to be ready to make regular calls to state lawmakers until the budget is passed. Lobbyists for special interest groups will be in the Capitol every day pressuring lawmakers to support legislation that will siphon money out of public schools and into private pockets.  Lawmakers need to hear from their constituents to be reminded that voters back in their districts expect a budget and policies that will support strong public schools.
To get ready to make these calls, click HERE to find your state lawmakers’ phone numbers and put them in your cell phone or write them down near your home phone. These calls only take a few minutes and as few as 5 phone calls to a lawmaker’s office about a specific issue can have a significant impact on the decisions s/he makes.

Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators White Paper
Dr. David Baugh Superintendent, Centennial School District
Dr. Brett Gilliland Superintendent, Mount Union Area School District
Mr. James Estep Superintendent, Mifflin County School District
Dr. Mark DiRocco Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators
Executive Summary: The conversation around charter schools continues to split the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This is based on the deeply flawed assumption that the same amount of money can appropriately fund two separate and distinct systems of education. The collaboration between charter schools and public education has not occurred because of the inherent competitive structure built into the legislation. Recently, the conversation has shifted somewhat to the notion of choice as a means of supporting charters. However, the underlying flaws of the charter school legislation are cause for serious concern and prompt action. The charter school law in Pennsylvania is in need of substantial reform, as was made highly evident by on April 12, 2016, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who released a Performance Audit of the Philadelphia School District’s Oversight and Monitoring of District Authorized Charter Schools. The report was very critical of the Pennsylvania Charter School Law and its negative impact on the fiscal operations of the Philadelphia School District. At a press conference, DePasquale stated, "Our charter school law is simply the worst charter school law in the United States.” Specifically, DePasquale said, the law fails to give districts the power to ensure that only high-performing charters that serve equitable populations of children are opening. And he lamented that districts waste too much time and too many resources fighting to close underperformers (Newsworks, 2016).

Montgomery, Chester county schools oppose state bill limiting assessment challenges
Pottstown Mercury By Evan Brandt, ebrandt@21st-centurymedia.com@PottstownNews on Twitter POSTED: 06/03/17, 4:02 PM EDT | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
LOWER POTTSGROVE >> School leaders are speaking out against a bill that could limit a school district’s ability to challenge a property assessment and, they say, could cost districts millions in revenue.  The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Warren Kampf, R-157, and is needed, he says, to help improve Pennsylvania’s business climate.  In a memo to other legislators Kampf wrote in February before he introduced the bill, he called the practice “spot assessment” and wrote that “it is one of the most anti-competitive government practices in existence today.”  But Pottsgrove schools Superintendent William Shirk said in a May 22 letter to district residents that the bill “doesn’t help senior citizens, low-income families or homeowners. It only helps commercial property owners. Unfortunately, this could come at the expense of our schools.”  Although Pottsgrove has not challenged commercial property assessments, but “moving forward we want to preserve our right to appeal, because of the potential revenue it could create for the district,” Shirk wrote.  In fact, Pottsgrove has wrestled with the opposite problem, challenges that reduce revenue and don’t raise it.

Fair Districts PA promotes eliminating gerrymandering
Centre Daily Times BY SARAH RAFACZ srafacz@centredaily.com June 5, 2017
In a polarized political climate, finding nonpartisan issues isn’t always easy.
But for Fair Districts PA, doing away with gerrymandering is just that: nonpartisan.
Gerrymandering is drawing legislative and congressional districts in a way that favors one party or group.  On Monday, Foxdale Village hosted “How to Solve Pennsylvania’s Gerrymandering Problem,” which was presented by Fair Districts Centre County Outreach Coordinator Andrea Harman.  Fair Districts PA is a nonpartisan coalition that supports an independent commission to ensure fair districting.  Everything in politics has been moving to the edges of left and right, and part of the reason for that is gerrymandering, Harman said.  Two pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 22 and House Bill 722, have been introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature to reform the district lines are drawn, calling for a commission comprised solely of independent citizens.

Letter to the Editor: How Medicaid cuts will hurt our most vulnerable students
Delco Times Letter by Michael Faccinetto, President, Bethlehem Area School District School Board and President, PA School Boards Association and  Joseph Roy, Superintendent of Schools, Bethlehem Area School District  POSTED: 06/05/17, 8:54 PM EDT
To the Times:  Congress is making momentous decisions that could fundamentally reshape U.S. health care with a serious negative impact on our most vulnerable children. The House already voted in favor of $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid, the program that covers one in three American children today.  Local critics have focused on the immense harm that would come from taking $2 billion away from Pennsylvania by 2020 and threaten health care that reaches 2.8 million residents.  Make no mistake, Medicaid cuts are a backdoor cut to K-12 education funding.  Pennsylvania schools stand to lose over $40 billion in Medicaid reimbursements that pay for health care for disadvantaged children and special-education services delivered on site. That will mean employing fewer nurses, physical therapists, speech pathologists, and other professionals. Vision, hearing, asthma, and mental health screening programs may go away. It will also become more difficult to integrate the necessary support and technologies that empower disabled students to learn alongside their peers.  We know that our most vulnerable families need access to high-quality medical care, safe and affordable housing, and jobs with family sustaining wages so that students are well positioned to take full advantage of learning opportunities available in our public schools. We use the term “collective impact” to describe the team effort needed to support our neighbors in need.

“Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Republican, said that ideally the Senate would vote this month, but certainly before scattering for Congress' annual August recess.  “The sooner we can do that the better and obviously it gives us time to work through whatever differences there are between our bill and the House bill,” Thune said.  Republicans control the Senate 52-48 and will need 50 votes, plus Vice President Mike Pence, to pass their bill. That means they can only lose two lawmakers, a tall order given significant disagreements that persist over Medicaid and other issues, including money for Planned Parenthood.”
Senate GOP aiming for vote this month on health legislation
Trib Live by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | Monday, June 5, 2017, 11:12 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Senate GOP leaders plan to vote as soon as this month on major health care legislation even though they remain uncertain, for now, whether their still-unwritten bill will pass, lawmakers said Monday.  The House narrowly passed its own version of legislation to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's health care law last month. Senate Republicans have rejected the House bill but have struggled to come to agreement on a version of their own.
But now, with pressing budget deadlines looming and President Donald Trumpeager to focus on tax legislation, Senate GOP leaders have decided it's time to vote and move on.  “We've been talking about this for seven years, so now is the time to start coming up with some tangible alternatives and building consensus,” GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said Monday.
Cornyn and others said Senate Republicans would be presented with legislative options at a meeting Tuesday with the goal of making decisions on what is in and what's out of their bill. A sticking point remains how to unwind the Medicaid expansion in Obama's law, since some states expanded Medicaid and some did not, and there are Republican senators representing states that did both.

Black men inspiring hope
A study found that it benefits students’ graduation rates and college aspirations to have more African American teachers. But their numbers are dropping.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa June 5, 2017 — 11:45am
Stephen Flemming is one teacher in one classroom, but he may be doing as much to keep his low-income black students in school – black males in particular – as any formal program targeted toward “at-risk” students.  Flemming teaches English language arts to 5th graders at John B. Kelly Elementary School in Germantown. All but three of his students, spread over three homerooms, are African American.  Of the District’s teachers, just 4 percent are African American males, like Flemming, and he’s one of a mere handful at the elementary level.  In his spacious classroom, some of the students, especially the boys, are so eager to participate that they can hardly stay in their seats. One boy grasps a basketball and occasionally bounces it. Flemming doesn’t tell him to put it away.  Arrayed in a circle, they are discussing a book featuring a bullied high school student, learning on this Tuesday morning about how to spot bias in writing and the use of metaphor. Flemming, in his 10th year at Kelly, darts up and down inside the circle, coaxing out answers, prodding for more, lavishing praise, and all the while conveying an infectious enthusiasm about what they are reading and about school itself. He knows how to keep the discussion at a high level and also how to rein it in.

Education: A Comprehensive Look At Charters And What They Mean For Philadelphia’s Education
Philadelphia Neighborhoods by Diamond Jones and Mackenzie Dougherty May 8, 2017
A Publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab
It is 4:20 p.m. and the security line at the school district’s Education Center was beginning to grumble with agitation. A mother clutched a poster-board using it as a fan as she stood in line in the heavy humid air. The small crowd took steps forward almost in unison, rushing to the auditorium hoping to get one of the limited seats.  As the group entered, the tension in the room could immediately be felt, sticking to everyone like that heavy humid air outside. The School Reform Commission budget meeting started and the agitation only grew.  Students, teachers, education advocates and community members filled the seats of the auditorium while the presiding board ushered through the meeting’s presentations. The room would erupt in cheers one second then a wave of groans and sighs would roll through the back of the hall.
Filling up four rows of chairs were members from Memphis Street Academy, a charter school recommended for closure by the school district board. They wore bright orange shirts holding up signs saying “Save Our School” when speakers of their group were up at the podium.
Memphis Street Academy is one of two charter schools at risk of closing its door due to a non-renewal contract recommendation.   “The community and our scholars will face a great lost if Memphis were to close,” Tracey McKnight, a Memphis parent, urged while speaking at the meeting.  For many years charter schools have been popping up throughout the city of Philadelphia. While the number of schools grow, the misunderstanding and lack of information on what exactly a charter school is, also rises. A school, in general, is supposed to serve as a place of learning and as a pillar in communities for families. So then, what are charter schools and why have they sprouted in almost every neighborhood of Philadelphia?

York Supt. Holmes: Revoke charter for Helen Thackston
York Dispatch by Junior Gonzalez , 505-5439/@JuniorG_YD Published 7:21 p.m. ET June 5, 2017 | Updated 2 hours ago
York City School District Superintendent Eric Holmes is recommending that the district revoke the charter for the Helen Thackston Charter School.  The board will vote on the recommendation on June 21.  Thackston has been under public scrutiny for allegedly not following its charter with the York City School District and not being transparent with its financial information.  The York City School District held a public meeting in February during which administrators outlined several issues they've had with Thackston over the past year or two. The problems included troubling test scores, a lack of transparency regarding finances and little programming related to homeland security, a focus of the charter school.  At the February meeting, the district presented a resolution to the York City school board that outlined each problem in detail and assigned recommendations and due dates for corrective action.  The Helen Thackston Charter School on Philadelphia Street was chartered in February 2009 and officially opened Aug. 19, 2009. The charter lasted  five years through the district and was renewed in 2014.  The school is up for review in 2018. If it doesn't meet the deadlines the district has set, its charter might not be renewed, which is what happened to New Hope Academy Charter School in 2014, according to the resolution which was shared with the school board.

Penn Hills schools getting 'financial consultant'
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette DAN MAJORS dmajors@post-gazette.com 12:00 AM JUN 6, 2017
The state Department of Education is assigning a financial consultant to help the Penn Hills School District deal with a negative balance in its general fund that is projected to exceed $10 million this year.  But district superintendent Nancy Hines, who made the announcement Monday, stressed that the assignment of a consultant is similar to a step that was taken with the district in the latter half of 2013-14 and is not as serious a step as turning the district’s finances over to the state.  The state, she said, “has concluded that such drastic measures are not warranted.”
Ms. Hines said such consultants, who typically are retired business managers, review records and make recommendations that the school board could accept or reject.  “This way, the board still has the authority to make decisions,” she said. “In a receivership, the board really isn’t involved. Another group is handling district affairs.”

Proposed SCASD budget includes smallest real estate tax increase in 10 years
Centre Daily Times by BY LEON VALSECHI lvalsechi@centredaily.com June 5, 2017
The State College Area school board on Monday reviewed the district’s 2017-2018 proposed final budget during a public budget hearing held ahead of next week’s vote.  Business Administrator Randy Brown and Assistant Business Administrator Donna Watson presented the board with the proposed budget, which includes $150,229,781 in revenue and $152,122,249 in expenses.
The proposed revenue reflects about a 4 percent increase from last year, and the expenses are increased by about 3 percent.  The budget proposes a real estate tax increase of 1.55 percent, the district’s smallest increase since the 2007-2008 school year. The millage will be 44.15, which is an increase of .67.  The tax increase equates to an additional $49 per year for residential homeowners with an assessed property value of $72,239.  Local revenue, which includes property tax, accounts for about 81 percent of the district’s funding. State funding accounts for the remaining revenue.

Pa. senators, representatives join to sponsor anti-"lunch shaming" bills
Special to PennLive BY SARAH MEARHOFF Updated on June 5, 2017 at 8:22 PM Posted on June 5, 2017 at 5:58 PM
Lawmakers gathered Monday to announce their legislative battle against "lunch shaming": the practice of shaming students because of their overdue or unpaid lunch account balances at school.   The practice, which has occurred for years, prompted an internet uproar last year when Stacy Koltiska, a previous cafeteria employee in Washington County's Canon-McMillan School District, posted a Facebook status about her experience being told to take a hot lunch from a first-grade student.  "I will never forget the look on his face and then his eyes welled up with tears," Koltiska wrote in her September post, which has been shared over 7,000 times.  She joined some of the sponsors for the House and Senate companion bills addressing "lunch shaming" at a news conference in the Capitol.  Accounts have reported students throughout the commonwealth - notably in Dauphin County - getting stamped on the arm, given a wristband, forced to do chores to pay off their accounts or being given an alternative lunch of a cold cheese sandwich when their accounts are overdue. Or, if in seventh grade or above, students can be denied lunch entirely.

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Tweet from Mayor's Office of Ed‏ @PHL_MOE June 5, 2017

“And now the Trump administration says it wants school choice policies that are “evidence-based…to improve student achievement.” But we have had charter schools and voucher programs since 1990, and there is a growing body of data showing that they do not improve student achievement. Milwaukee opened charter schools and a voucher program for poor children in 1990. It now has three competing sectors: public schools, charter schools, and voucher schools. The latter two sectors get to choose their students and prefer to avoid students with profound disabilities or who are in the process of learning English. The public schools are required to take all comers. Nonetheless, there is little if any difference in test results among the three sectors. And Milwaukee is one of the lowest performing urban districts in the nation on the federal tests called the National Assessment of Educational Progress. No rising tide there.”
The Demolition of American Education
New York Review of Books by Diane Ravitch June 5, 2017
Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’s proposed budget for the US Department of Education is a boon for privatization and a disaster for public schools and low-income college students. They want to cut federal spending on education by 13.6 percent. Some programs would be eliminated completely; others would face deep reductions. They want to cut $10.6 billion from existing programs and divert $1.4 billion to charter schools and to vouchers for private and religious schools. This budget reflects Trump and DeVos’s deep hostility to public education and their desire to shrink the Department of Education, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of it entirely.
The proposed budget would shrink the assistance programs that now enable 12 million students to attend college: funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, thus “saving” $490 million. It would eliminate a student loan forgiveness program, enacted in 2007, that encourages college graduates to enter careers in public service—such as social work, teaching, or working as doctors in rural areas—by relieving them of their college debt at the end of ten years of such employment. Some 550,000 young people have joined this program in the past decade; the first wave are due to have their debts forgiven in 2017, but it is not clear if the administration will follow through on the promise to cancel their debt.

The Battle Over Charter Schools
HarvardEd Magazine BY ZACHARY JASON, ON MAY 20, 2017 5:11 PM
How did things become so polarized?
The fiercest battle yet in America’s struggle over charter schools erupted last fall in Massachusetts. If passed, a ballot initiative in the general election would have given the Commonwealth the power to annually add up to 12 new charter schools — publicly funded, independently run alternatives to traditional public schools. They would have been built in a handful of urban communities, where 32,000 children, a majority black and Latino, were sitting on waiting lists of existing charters as they languished in underperforming district schools. But teachers, parents, and investors across the state, and the country at large, took to picketing, advertising, evangelizing. In one corner formed Save Our Public Schools (aka No on 2), a coalition that included teachers unions, PTA committees, the Jewish Labor League, and the Brazilian Women’s Group, and aligned with the likes of the NAACP, the mayor of Boston, and Senator Elizabeth Warren. They argued, broadly, that charters pilfer money and students from district schools, aren’t held accountable, and privatize public education.
Their opponent called themselves Great Schools (Yes on 2), a cluster of charter advocacy groups, funded by the Walton family and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and aligned with low-income parents of public school children and Governor Charlie Baker. Yes on 2 insisted that all families should have the ability to choose their education, and teachers should have the freedom to innovate. Both sides spent a combined $33 million, one of the largest ballot-item campaigns in the state’s history. A week before the election, polls showed a dead split.
To help decide, dozens of constituents asked Professor Paul Reville, former secretary of education in Massachusetts, how they should vote. Reville was the chief architect of the Education Reform Act of 1993, which introduced chartering to Massachusetts, and he’s been an outspoken champion of charters since. But whenever someone asked, “What do you think of charter schools?” Reville was quick to respond, “Which school are we talking about?”

States Struggle to Define 'Ineffective Teachers' Under ESSA
Education Week By Daarel Burnette II May 30, 2017
Teacher evaluations—both their role and the mechanics of carrying them out—are a politically fraught subject, and the Every Student Succeeds Act has kicked the dust up once again as states wrestle with how to comply with teacher-quality sections of the new law.  ESSA, which goes into effect this fall, does away with the "highly qualified teacher" mandates under its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act. It also bans the U.S. secretary of education from dictating the ways in which states grade their teachers, a sore spot under the NCLB law.  At the same time, ESSA requires states to provide a single definition of "ineffective teachers" in the plans they submit to the federal government and then describe how they will ensure that poor and minority students aren't being taught by a disproportionate number of them.  This shift in policy has reignited battles over who should stand in front of America's classrooms, whether state or local leaders should make those decisions, and what information about teachers' performance should be reported.

The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools
New York Times By NATASHA SINGER JUNE 6, 2017
In San Francisco’s public schools, Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce, is giving middle school principals $100,000 “innovation grants” and encouraging them to behave more like start-up founders and less like bureaucrats.  In Maryland, Texas, Virginia and other states, Netflix’s chief, Reed Hastings, is championing a popular math-teaching program where Netflix-like algorithms determine which lessons students see.  And in more than 100 schools nationwide, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief, is testing one of his latest big ideas: software that puts children in charge of their own learning, recasting their teachers as facilitators and mentors.
In the space of just a few years, technology giants have begun remaking the very nature of schooling on a vast scale, using some of the same techniques that have made their companies linchpins of the American economy. Through their philanthropy, they are influencing the subjects that schools teach, the classroom tools that teachers choose and fundamental approaches to learning.  The involvement by some of the wealthiest and most influential titans of the 21st century amounts to a singular experiment in education, with millions of students serving as de facto beta testers for their ideas. Some tech leaders believe that applying an engineering mind-set can improve just about any system, and that their business acumen qualifies them to rethink American education.

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.

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.

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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