Wednesday, June 7, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 7: The shortfall for most cyber students, they said, was equal to losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days in math during the typical 180-day school year. In math, it is as if they did not go to school at all.

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup June 7, 2017:


“Under their proposal, unaffiliated cyber charter schools would receive either the per-student funding amount of the school district cyber school program or the intermediate unit cyber school program, whichever figure is higher.”
McCarter, Sturla to hold Capitol news conference Wednesday on changing the way cyber charter schools are funded
HARRISBURG, June 6 – State Reps. Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery, and Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster and House Democratic Policy Chairman, will discuss their House Bill 1206 at a news conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 7 in the Capitol Media Center.
McCarter and Sturla are sponsors of the bill that would amend the Public School Code to change the way cyber charter schools are funded. The legislation seeks to cap the amount of funding unaffiliated cyber charter schools receive for students who live in an area in which the school district or an intermediate unit operates its own cyber charter school. Under their proposal, unaffiliated cyber charter schools would receive either the per-student funding amount of the school district cyber school program or the intermediate unit cyber school program, whichever figure is higher.  On the eve of budget season, McCarter and Sturla intend to highlight the issue and explain the benefit of their reform legislation to the Pennsylvania taxpayer and to the public education system in the commonwealth.
Media coverage is invited.
CONTACT: Jim Strine, Will Hughes, Shannon Keith, Angie Eyer
House Democratic Communications Office
Phone: 
717-787-7895 Email: LCO-Southeast@pahouse.net

“Cybers' poor results are reflected in national studies. Stanford University reported that online schools have an "overwhelming negative impact," showing severe shortfalls in reading and math achievement. The shortfall for most cyber students, they said, was equal to losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days in math during the typical 180-day school year. In math, it is as if they did not go to school at all. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a charter advocacy group based in Washington, said the findings were so troubling that the report should be "a call to action for authorizers and policymakers."
Reprise August 2016: How can we improve the performance and accountability of Pennsylvania cyber charters?
The notebook Commentary by Lawrence A. Feinberg August 18, 2016
If it sometimes seems as if “tuition-free” cyber charter ads are running non-stop, consider that in just one year, tax dollars paid for 19,298 local TV commercials for Agora Cyber Charter, just one of Pennsylvania’s 13 cyber charters. And far from being tuition-free, total cyber tuition paid by Pennsylvania taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was $393.5 million, $398.8 million and $436.1 million respectively.
Those commercials were very effective, especially if you were an executive at K12 Inc., a for-profit company contracted to manage the cyber school. According to Agora’s 2013 IRS tax filing, it paid $69.5 million that year to K12 Inc. According to Morningstar, total executive compensation at K12 in 2013 was $21.37 million.
What the ads don’t tell you is, first, that they are paid for with your school tax dollars instead of that money being spent in classrooms and, second, that academic performance at every one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters has been consistently dismal. The Pennsylvania Department of Education considers a score of 70 to be passing on its School Performance Profile (SPP). Agora’s score for 2013 was 48.3, for 2014, it was 42.4, and the 2015 score was 46.4.
In fact, not one of Pennsylvania’s cyber charters has achieved a passing SPP score of 70 in any of the three years that the SPP has been in effect.

“Most districts reported that rising state-mandated expenses associated with employee pension contributions, special-education costs, health insurance payments and charter school tuition haven’t kept pace with the state funding districts receive, forcing districts to turn to taxpayers or cut spending to balance the books.  Districts have also had to make adjustments as they accommodate delayed school construction reimbursements from the state and a proposed $50 million cut to student transportation subsidies.”
How Pennsylvania school districts are trying to balance the books for next year: By slashing staff, hiking taxes
Beaver County Times By Katherine Schaeffer kschaeffer@timesonline.com June 6, 2017
As Pennsylvania’s school districts prepare to approve final budgets for the 2017-18 school year, many have confronted the need to raise taxes and make cuts to personnel or programs “just to keep their heads above water,” according to a report released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.   The findings, based on May survey responses from about two-thirds of the commonwealth’s school districts, show that school boards and administrators have chosen to take such measures in attempt to keep pace with rising state-mandated costs and inadequate state funding.  The report's release comes a little more than three weeks ahead of the state’s June 30 deadline for school districts to adopt general-fund budgets for the 2017-18 school year.

“Sadly, there's no break in sight for taxpayers  What the new pension plan doesn't change, for the near-term future anyway, is the budget-crushing payments the state and school districts are required to make now to keep the existing plans solvent.”
Pa. pension bill: What you need to know
Penn Live by Jan Murphy & Charles Thompson Posted June 07, 2017
Pennsylvania’s two major public pension systems are in for a real shake-up under the legislation that the Legislature is expected to send Gov. Tom Wolf by the end of this week.  Starting in 2019, only hazardous-duty state employees, such as state troopers and corrections officers among others, will be eligible to participate in the current defined benefit system that has been part of public school and state employees’ compensation package for decades.  State employees hired after Jan. 1, 2019, and school employees hired after July 1, 2019, will be forced to move into a new plan that offers them three retirement savings options. Employees hired before that date will have the option of making a one-time switch to one of the new retirement savings plan options.

The Pa. Senate's pension bill is a start, but could have gone further: Editorial
BY PENNLIVE EDITORIAL BOARD  penned@pennlive.com Updated on June 6, 2017 at 2:49 PM Posted on June 6, 2017 at 2:48 PM
With a pension reform bill seemingly on the fast track to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk, it appears the Republican legislative leaders and the Democratic administration may be on the verge of cracking a two-decade-old problem.  If only they had solved it all the way.   Yes, the Senate-approved bill scheduled for a House vote on Thursday reduces future pension cost spikes by creating a new retirement system for state workers and public school teachers hired after 2019. That's because taxpayer contributions to a proposed 401(k)-style retirement account can be predictably budgeted each year.  Yes, it would, as supporters argue, increase projected savings from the bill if future investment results from the pension systems failed to meet targeted averages.  And yes, the bill the Senate approved on a 40-9 vote on Monday shifts the risks away from taxpayers and onto state and school employees (who are also taxpayers, we'd add) in the event of future financial market downturns. A Pew Charitable Trust analysis indicates it is the largest shift in taxpayer risk of any state's pension reform enacted to date.
But - and this is a big and important but - critics are also correct that the bill does little to shave much off the unfunded liability have caused state government and school district pension contributions rates to rise.

“There are a lot of things this legislation doesn’t do, though.  It doesn’t make a dent in the massive unfunded liability. And it doesn’t provide any immediate relief for school districts burdened by rising pension costs. (In Lancaster County, those costs are the biggest driver of property tax increases.)”
Pennsylvania Legislature takes a significant, and long overdue step toward pension reform
Lancaster Online Editorial by The LNP Editorial Board June 7, 2017
THE ISSUE: The Pennsylvania Senate voted Monday to overhaul the commonwealth’s two struggling pension systems. The bill, which passed by a 40-9 vote, would change the traditional pension benefit for most state government and public school employees hired after 2019 and introduce a 401(k)-style plan. The bill will not change the pension benefits for any retired or current state or school employees, including lawmakers, nor does it address the $60 billion in unfunded liability the state is projected to owe current workers and retirees. The House is expected to vote later this week. Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will sign the bill.  It’s not perfect, but it’s something.  Republicans are using words like “historic,” which sounds a bit strong, although the bar hasn’t been set terribly high. Compared to nothing, even a small step seems groundbreaking.  “Each year, pension costs to taxpayers increase by hundreds of millions of dollars,” Sen. Ryan Aument, of Landisville, said in a press release following Monday’s vote. “Senate Bill 1 finally stops this hemorrhaging and creates a new system that makes sense both for taxpayers and for state and school employees.”  As LNP reported, under the new system, employees would be offered three options: a 401(k)-style plan or a couple of hybrid options that combine traditional pension benefits with the 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan. The bill shifts more of the risk from taxpayers to state employees, who would bear more of the impact if market investments fail to meet their targets.  “We have an obligation to do everything in our power to reduce the cost of state government,” Sen. Scott Martin, of Martic Township, said in a statement Monday. “By addressing one of the biggest cost-drivers in the state budget and school district budgets throughout the commonwealth, we take a huge step forward toward that goal.” To his credit, Martin has declined to accept a state pension that isn’t a 401(k).

“Political wonks had already dissected the bill by the time the vote was cast and their verdict was unanimous: for taxpayers, there is virtually no impact on the unfunded liability (currently in excess of $60 billion) and, even worse, annual costs continue to increase until 2032. Furthermore, for the “average” state worker or teacher hired in 2019 or later, the normal retirement benefit is forecast to go down by approximately $7,000 per year.  …The challenge for our elected officials is to tackle unsustainable pension payments with the same zeal that they’ve applied to plan designs. Otherwise, school taxes will continue to increase and the economy of the commonwealth will continue its decline.”
This Pa. pension reform bill is political chicanery (column)
York Daily Record Opinion by Joel Sears 9:21 a.m. ET June 6, 2017
Pension reform: for a reporter, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. For the taxpayer, it’s the curse that keeps on taking. During a rare Sunday session on June 4, the Senate appropriations committee passed the latest incarnation of SB1, mostly along party lines. The only member of the committee representing York County, Sen. Scott Wagner, voted against the bill, stating that it didn’t go far enough.  After wading through the bill itself (354 pages in the original version; 725 pages in the amended version), the actuarial note (131 pages), the fiscal note (5 pages) and numerous analyses by think tanks and political writers, it’s clear to me that SB1 is an exercise in political chicanery at its finest. You know something’s up when members of both parties and the governor all sign on.

Push to eliminate Pa. property taxes would have major implications for schools, prioritizing homeowners
WHYY Newsworks BY KEVIN MCCORRY JUNE 7, 2017
A telecom technician by trade, Schuylkill County homeowner Ron Boltz is not your typical suit-and-tie Harrisburg lobbyist.  He's a self-taught policy wonk who walks the halls of the Capitol in jeans and polo shirt — burning endless vacation days in an effort to convince lawmakers to abandon nearly 200 years of history and reimagine the state's tax structure and school finance scheme.  And he's made a lot more traction than many would have guessed.  "It's kind of a 'David and Goliath' fight," said Boltz. "I do feel like David."  His group, the Pennsylvania Liberty Alliance, is one of dozens of taxpayer organizations supporting a bill that would completely eliminate the local school property tax, which garners roughly $12.6 billion statewide, 41 percent of the total revenue of Pennsylvania public schools.  In order to replace that local revenue loss, the bill would hike the state personal income tax from 3.07 to 4.95 percent and raise the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent. Philadelphia's sales tax would rise from 8 to 9 percent. The items eligible for sales tax would also widen to include purchases such as groceries, some clothing and certain professional services.

Pennsylvania Divided: Gerrymandering in the Commonwealth
Fox43 POSTED 10:00 PM, JUNE 5, 2017, BY MATT MAISEL
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Rob Teplitz thought he had won re-election.
Four years earlier, the State Senator from Susquehanna Township in Dauphin County surprised years of Republican establishment, becoming the first Democrat in the 71 year history of the 15th District to win the seat. After his victory in 2012, his district was redrawn, although his confidence never wavered.  Leading up to the November 2016 election, Teplitz was mired in a hard campaign with local businessman John DiSanto. The two traded barbs, and sometimes insults throughout the campaign. On election night, as Teplitz's supporters watched results come in at the Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center, a spokesperson told the anxious crowd that the Senator was feeling so good about the pending results, that he had opened up a bar tab for anyone to get a drink on him.  His campaign numbers were wrong. By the end of the night, DiSanto defeated Teplitz by 4,183 votes.  Teplitz was stunned, telling reporters that night, "If I lost, I am willing to concede, but I have tremendous lack of confidence after what I saw today."  He conceded to DiSanto the next afternoon.  Democrats statewide, led by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery), who at the time was the chairman of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, argue Teplitz's loss was the result of a process called gerrymandering.

“Trombetta, 62, of East Liverpool, Ohio, pleaded guilty in August to using the school's money to fund a lavish lifestyle that included buying a Florida condominium, homes for his girlfriend and mother and a jet airplane. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 20.  His sister, Elaine Trombetta Neil, 59, of Center pleaded guilty in October 2013 to filing a false individual income tax return on her brother's behalf. She is scheduled to be sentenced July 14.”
Judge denies plea change by Trombetta's Beaver County accountant
BRIAN BOWLING  | Tuesday, June 6, 2017, 3:42 p.m.
Keeping his CPA license isn't enough of a reason to allow a Beaver County accountant to change his guilty plea in an $8 million charter school fraud case, a federal judge ruled.  Neal Prence, 61, of Koppel pleaded guilty in September to helping Nick Trombetta avoid federal income taxes on public money Trombetta siphoned from the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. Prence asked U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti in April to let him change his plea to “nolo contendere,” which means he wouldn't challenge his conviction but would not admit guilt.  Unlike a guilty plea, a nolo contendere plea can't be used as an admission of guilt in subsequent civil or criminal proceedings, which would mean his plea couldn't be used to take away his certified public accountant license, the motion says.  Conti denied his motion following oral arguments Thursday, according to court records.

Academic awards show value of public education | Guest column
BY EXPRESS-TIMES GUEST COLUMNIST Robert J. Donchez Updated on June 6, 2017 at 9:33 AM Posted on June 6, 2017 at 9:30 AM
Robert J. Donchez is the mayor of Bethlehem.
Recently it was my honor to address students from Liberty and Freedom High Schools for their selection as the top Bethlehem Area School District students for academic excellence. For the past three years the district has been recognizing its outstanding students -- and their dedicated teachers, mentors, administrators and most of all, their families on Academic Signing Day.  Yes, you read correctly -- it wasn't an athletic signing ceremony, but a unique academic signing ceremony to recognize the top 10 graduating seniors from Liberty and Freedom High Schools. The graduates will attend some of the nation's most prestigious colleges including Harvard University, Cornell University, the University of Pennsylvania, Lehigh University, Bucknell University, George Washington University, Boston University, Temple University, Villanova University, Ohio State University, University of West Virginia, University of Delaware, University of Maryland, UCLA, College of William and Mary and Lafayette College.

Pennsylvania teacher salaries on average rank 12th in the nation
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer June 7, 2017
Pennsylvania teachers on average are the 12th highest paid in the nation, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Financial services outlet GOBankingRates in May compiled average teacher salaries by state – not including District of Columbia – using 2015 federal data of elementary, middle and high school teachers' salaries.  According to the data, Pennsylvania teachers make on average $63,063 per year.  Elementary school teachers in the commonwealth earn an annual salary of $62,250. Middle school teachers make $62,620. High school teachers make $64,320.  Pennsylvania ranked 11th, 13th and 12th, respectively, in those categories.  Neighboring states Ohio, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey on average pay their teachers annual salaries of $59,063, $65,247, $59,853 and $71,687, respectively.  The data show teachers in New York on average are paid nearly $79,000 per year, the highest in the nation. Meanwhile, teachers in Oklahoma on average earn less than $42,000 per year, the least in the country.

Eastern York district raises taxes, depletes fund balance
York Dispatch by Junior Gonzalez , 505-5439/@JuniorG_YD8:45 p.m. ET June 6, 2017
The Eastern York school board passed a 3.7 percent tax increase as the district faces a dwindling reserve fund balance that is estimated to drop even further for the 2017-18 school year.  The final budget, adopted May 18, projects $43.2 million in revenue and $44 million in expenditures for the upcoming school year, leaving a deficit of approximately $800,000.
The budget was reduced by nearly $298,000 from its original plan because of reductions in health care costs, several department budget cuts and deferring capital improvements, according to business manager Teresa Weaver.  To offset the remainder of the deficit, the millage rate will increase from 22.43 mills in the 2016-17 fiscal year to 23.26 mills, representing a 3.7 percent increase in property taxes. For an average home in the district assessed at $121,510, the tax hike represents a $106 increase in the homeowner's tax bill.

Pine-Richland School Board passes 2017-18 budget with small tax increase
KAREN PRICE | Tuesday, June 6, 2017, 12:33 a.m.
The Pine-Richland School Board approved 2017-18 budget Monday night that increases property taxes by almost 2 percent.  Approval came via a 5-4 vote.  The new tax rate will be 19.6 mills – up from 19.2 mills, the rate since 2014-15.  The owner of a home assessed at $200,000 wil pay approximately $3,900 in property taxes to the district next year.  Those who voted in favor of the budget were Greg DiTullio, Peter Lyons, President Jeff Banyas, Dennis Sundo and Marc Casciano.  Opposed were Therese Dawson, Holly Johnston, Steven Stegman and Virginia Goebel.  The budget includes $84,079,405 of total expenditures and revenues.  Under state law, the board could have raised the millage by as much as 2.5 percent.

Parkland School District in discussions over future of high school pro-life club
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call June 6, 2017
PARKLAND — The solicitor for the Parkland School District confirmed that he's been in contact with the attorney for the national law firm that accused the district of violating federal law by denying students the chance to form a pro-life club at the high school.  Steven Miller, solicitor for the Parkland School Board, said he's been in touch with Jocelyn Floyd, the attorney for the Thomas More Society, which is representing senior Elizabeth Castro and junior Grace Schairer.  The Chicago-based law firm takes on anti-abortion and religious liberty cases for free. The firm connected with the Parkland teens through the Students for Lif, a national anti-abortion organization, after Castro reached out for guidance when Parkland denied the club in March.  "The school district is hopeful this matter will be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties," Miller said Tuesday.

Ears on the SRC: May 25, 2017
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools Website by Diane Payne June 3, 2017
This regular Action Meeting of the SRC had been scheduled for the specific purpose of voting on the FY 2017-18 budget. In the three days before the meeting, however, several items were added, including the unannounced reconsideration of Deep Roots charter, whose application was rejected 3-1 in February. All five commissioners attended.  Eight APPS members gave testimony in defense of public education.
SRC’s Willful, Continuous Violations of the Letter and Spirit of the Sunshine Act
The 2016 Commonwealth Court-ordered settlement of the suit brought by APPS after SRC violations of the Sunshine Act stipulates that resolutions must be posted two weeks prior to each meeting.  Unfortunately, there have been repeated violations of this settlement agreement by the SRC. The resolution summary for May 18 was not posted in time. Some resolutions have only a title, but no description, which was the case for all of this meeting’s resolutions with one exception. In the case of the charter school resolutions, the SRC now designates every charter amendment—new applications, renewals, amendments—as “quasi-judicial’, then uses that unexplained designation as justification for 1) not providing full resolutions and 2) discussing charter business in executive session instead of in open meetings. APPS has repeatedly questioned the legality of hiding information from the public regarding the crucial actions on charter school applications, but the SRC continues to stonewall. This SRC changes policy on a whim (the number of speakers at the May 1stmeeting was limited to 24 total, and half were from one school), breaks its own rules (conducting the April 27th and May 1st meetings after Commissioner Green left the meeting in violation of policy 006.1), and ignores the Sunshine Act—all the while paying lip service to transparency and community engagement.

Education Philanthropist Helps Students Excel
George Weiss’ organization helps more than 130,000 public-school students get access to support services and scholarships
Wall Street Journal By  Leslie Brody June 4, 2017 11:57 a.m. ET
When money manager George Weiss made a promise 30 years ago to 112 poor sixth-graders in Philadelphia that he would pay their college tuition, he launched an unusually hands-on philanthropic mission.  He took the teenagers to football games. When he learned that some were dealing drugs, he went to their homes to “get in their faces.” Although he never dreamed it would be necessary, he gave six of them eulogies.  Back then, Mr. Weiss faced heat from some critics who thought it was unfair and arbitrary to shower largess on one grade at one school, rather than rewarding the most diligent. But he stood by his choice and sought to do more. The national nonprofit he founded, Say Yes to Education, says it has raised more than $280 million over the years, and most came from his gifts and their investment returns.  At a time when many wealthy donors attempt to fix U.S. education by funding charter schools, advocacy and political candidates, Mr. Weiss, who is 74 years old, seeks change in the regular public system. His takeaways: Start social services as early as possible. Get local civic leaders to work together. Persist. “Would you give up on your kids?” he asks.


“K12 Inc., the state’s largest for-profit education management organization, received $310 million in state funding over the past dozen years. In 2016, it reported revenue of $872 million, including $89 million paid to its Wall Street investors.  It pays millions to top executives while its average teacher salary is $36,000, thanks to heavy recruitment among young, inexperienced teachers, plus burnout and turnover.  K12 Inc. operates 16 schools in California with about 13,000 students. The average graduation rate of its charter schools is 40 percent, while the statewide rate is 83 percent.  Like many of these for-profit companies, K12 also overstates student performance and attendance data. Students who logged onto their computers for one minute per day were reportedly counted as full-time students, giving the corporation full average daily attendance funding from the state.  Last year, after the state sued the company for manipulating attendance records and overstating student success, the company settled for $168.5 million.  These for-profit companies also have significant influence over charter school boards and, in many instances, place corporate officers on their school boards.”
How for-profit charter schools are ripping off California taxpayers
Sacramento Bee BY KEVIN MCCARTY AND JOSHUA PECHTHALT Special to The Bee June 5, 2017
Across California and the country, corporations are expanding their ownership and operation of charter schools and their profits, subsidized by taxpayers.  In California, 34 charter schools operated by five for-profit education management organizations enroll about 25,000 students. These for-profit charter schools siphon hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money away from students to generate massive corporate profits, and in many cases provide an inferior education.  They exploit loopholes in California’s charter school law allowing them to cheat our students and reap huge profits at taxpayer expense.  We have a long way to go before California’s public education system is adequately funded and cannot afford to line shareholder pockets with scarce state revenues.  The Legislature has the opportunity to fix this flaw in state law. Assembly Bill 406, authored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty and sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers, would prohibit for-profit corporations from operating public charter schools. The bill was approved by the Assembly on Wednesday and now heads to the state Senate.  It is estimated that California taxpayers provide these companies with more than $225 million a year with little public transparency or accountability

‘All but impossible’: Republican senator says Trump’s education cuts won’t get through Congress
Washington Post By Moriah Balingit June 6 at 3:51 PM 
The Republican chairman of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee expressed deep skepticism Tuesday that President Trump’s education budget would survive congressional scrutiny, saying that proposals for drastic cuts in crucial programs would run into bipartisan opposition.  “This is a difficult budget request to defend,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at a hearing held by the subcommittee on labor, health and human services. “I think it’s likely that the kinds of cuts that are proposed in this budget will not occur, so we need to fully understand your priorities and why they are your priorities.”   DeVos appeared on Capitol Hill to argue for a proposal to slash spending for numerous programs while boosting funds for private school vouchers and other school choice initiatives.  Trump seeks to slash $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, including after-school programs, teacher training, and career and technical education. His proposal calls for reinvesting $1.4 billion of the savings into promoting his top education priority: school choice, including $250 million for vouchers to help students attend private and religious schools. The net result would a  13.6 percent reduction in spending in the next fiscal year.

DeVos non-committal on private school LGBT discrimination
Inquirer by MARIA DANILOVA, The Associated Press Updated: JUNE 6, 2017 — 3:21 PM EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) - Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday that schools receiving federal money should follow federal law, but she would not commit to banning discrimination against LGBT students in private schools.  The Trump administration's budget proposal significantly cuts funding for teacher training and after-school programs and student financial aid, while boosting funding for charter schools and vouchers that parents can use to send children to private schools. Critics fear that private religious schools may discriminate against students based on sexual orientation, gender identity, religion or disability.  DeVos was asked during a Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday whether such discrimination would be allowed. DeVos said: "Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law, period."  But when Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, said federal law is unsettled on LGBT discrimination and pressed DeVos to elaborate, she indicated that was not her call to make: "On areas where law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees; that is a matter for Congress and the courts to settle."  "I don't support discrimination in any form," DeVos added.  Similarly, DeVos was asked by Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, whether non-traditional public schools receiving federal funding will be required to accept all students, including students with disabilities, DeVos would not directly answer the question, saying only that schools accepting federal money should follow federal law.

What we just learned from Betsy DeVos’s painful appearance before Congress
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss June 6 at 4:25 PM 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday on Capitol Hill that she won’t offer protections to ensure that public money is not used by for-profit education companies to make their owners rich.
She also said that private schools accepting federal funds in a voucher program would have to follow federal laws but would not promise to protect LGBTQ or other students from discrimination if the law on the issue is foggy.  These were just some of the things DeVos said in defense of the Trump administration’s proposed 2018 Education Department budget, which cuts more than 13 percent, including programs favored by both Democrats and Republicans. After appearing May 24 before a House appropriations panel to talk about the proposed budget, this time she went before the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

Senators Hammer at DeVos on Planned Budget Cuts, Proposed Vouchers
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on June 6, 2017 12:54 PM
Washington Senators had a clear message for U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a budget hearing here Wednesday: Don't get too attached to your budget proposal.  Republican and Democratic senators on the Senate education appropriations subcommittee expressed skepticism about cuts and eliminated programs in the budget proposal for the U.S. Department of Education. And Democrats sparred with DeVos over how the spending blueprint for fiscal 2018 handles Title I spending on disadvantaged students, and how a voucher proposal would handle issues of discrimination.  "This is a difficult budget request to defend," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the subcommittee chairman, told DeVos. And he said the elimination of formula-funded programs like the $2 billion Title II program for teacher training, and the $1 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program that funds after-school, will be "all but impossible" to get through Congress.  The secretary also addressed the civil rights controversy raised last month by the department's $250 million proposal to fund and study the impact of vouchers. Last month before the House education spending committee, DeVos emphasized state and parent prerogatives with respect to voucher programs' legal obligations. On Wednesday, DeVos pledged that any private schools that would participate in the initiative would have to follow federal law governing special education. "Schools that receive federal funds must follow federal law, period," DeVos said repeatedly.

Betsy DeVos: It Is Not The Education Department’s Job To Protect LGBTQ Students
The education secretary faced intense questioning in a Senate hearing about whether she would stand up for the civil rights of students.
Huffington Post By Rebecca Klein 06/06/2017 02:24 pm ET
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday that her agency would not give federal funds to private schools that defy federal antidiscrimination laws. However, she suggested it is not the Department of Education’s job to prevent discrimination against students in cases in which federal antidiscrimination laws are murky, such as with LGBTQ students.  DeVos took part in a contentious hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education on Tuesday morning. There, Democrats and Republicans hammered the secretary on the administration’s proposed budget, which would cut billions of dollars in funding for public education while increasing money to support school choice programs. The budget directs some of this funding toward helping students attend private and religious schools.   While under questioning from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), DeVos wouldn’t definitively say whether private schools receiving federal funds would be punished for religious discrimination or discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students. She maintained that these schools would be required to follow federal antidiscrimination laws, but said the Department of Education would not be issuing any directives beyond that. 


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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