Monday, August 7, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug 7: Education Savings Accounts - GOP senator wants to bring next generation of school vouchers to Pa.

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

PDE Powerpoint: The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): Pennsylvania’s Proposed Consolidated State Plan August 2, 2017

Lawmakers move to protect own funds during budget stalemates
Inquirer by MARK SCOLFORO, The Associated Press Updated: AUGUST 6, 2017 9:51 AM EDT
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Tax increase proposals drew most of the attention when the state Senate approved a package of legislation late last month designed to bring Pennsylvania's budget stalemate to an end, but lawmakers also tacked on a provision that would give them more leverage during any future standoff with the governor.  The bill that passed comfortably and was sent over to the House would enshrine into law the power to take the type of actions made by lawmakers during a standoff two years ago, by giving them explicit power to borrow money to pay salary, benefits and bills if their reserves run dry during drawn-out budget negotiations.  The proposed changes to the Fiscal Code, long used as a catch-all for budget-related items, said money "available" to the House or Senate through "a short-term agreement or other instrument executed with a lending institution" would be considered "augmenting revenues" and could be used to pay bills and fund paychecks for lawmakers their staff.  The borrowed money would be deposited with the Treasury Department, which would then use it to fund the Legislature's costs. It would be paid back once a deal is done.  It's a provision, said Senate Republican lawyer Drew Crompton, they hope will not have to be used any time in the near future. Because the $32 billion spending portion of the budget has been enacted, it won't be needed this year.

“More than a month past the budget deadline, lawmakers have no agreement on how to balance or pay for $32 billion in spending that started July 1.  This isn’t new. It’s Pennsylvania, where deadlines, duty, and constitutional requirements are regarded as mere suggestions.”
Getting a new Pa. budget; or the art of driving with no hands by John Baer, STAFF COLUMNIST Updated: AUGUST 6, 2017 — 12:01 PM EDT
Among way too many news releases flooding my inbox, one last week caught my eye as a good summation of the budget process.  A release from Rep. Rosemary Brown (R., Monroe) carried this headline: “Brown Introduces Hands-Free Driving Legislation.”  Perfect. Let’s let everyone drive their vehicles the way lawmakers drive the budget – trying to steer with no hands.  Now, of course, Brown’s bill doesn’t call for that. It would ban using hand-held phones while driving (allowing hands-free devices such as Bluetooth). But the headline hit me as an apt description of policymaking in Pennsylvania.  As in, while Gov. Wolf (the invisible man) isn’t driving anything but his Jeep, the legislature careers along making policy “hands-free.”  Who knows where it’s going or who or what it hits en route?

GOP senator wants to bring next generation of school vouchers to Pa.
Penn Live By Jan Murphy Updated on August 7, 2017 at 6:16 AM Posted on August 7, 2017 at 6:15 AM
Will Pennsylvania become the next state to offer the latest iteration of a school voucher program? Freshman Sen. John DiSanto, a Republican from Dauphin County, on Tuesday intends to do his part to make that happen by unveiling his legislation to establish education savings accounts for those who live in attendance areas served by low-achieving public schools.  The way these accounts work is the government deposits funds in an account for parents to use to customize their child's education. The handful of states that have established these programs target them, at least initially, to a specific group of students just as DiSanto's proposal would do.  

Shrinking education funding from Harrisburg, and $1B wasted
Intelligencer Opinion By Mark B. Miller August 7, 2017
Mark B. Miller is an elected school director in Centennial School District, a director of the Network for Public Education ( and a former president of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
 “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.”
— (Article III, Section 14, Pennsylvania Constitution)
The premise sounds so simple. Yet, if you ask 10 legislators what it means, you will get a dozen opinions. If you are a school director, none of those may be exactly what you want to hear. Some of them may be “close." That’s the way it’s been for my three terms as an elected school director in Centennial School District.  Let’s begin with an indisputable fact. Over the last 50 years, the commonwealth’s share of funding for the cost of providing a free and appropriate public education to its children has decreased from more than half to roughly one-third. Because of funding inequities, the portion for Bucks and Montgomery counties is collectively more like one-fifth.  For the third year in a row, despite Gov. Wolf’s good intentions, we sit with a budget that falls short of money to fund it. Effectively, the public education portion of the budget is level-funded, as the General Assembly never addressed “restoring” funds that were cut in the past.  Some of the swing is from direct cuts to funding. A larger factor is the increasing financial burden that comes with the unfunded mandates passed by the General Assembly over the same period of time. It’s kind of like having a boarder in your home tell you what to keep in your refrigerator without contributing to the cost.  Here’s the elephant in both legislative chambers: Of the approximately $6 billion appropriated for public education, more than $1 billion is wasted and/or misdirected. If school boards had the ability to reallocate how those funds were spent, less total money would be needed. As a consequence, because less money would be needed, the state’s percentage contribution would rise (on paper), and taxes for our homeowners would remain level.

Thackston Charter: A look back at New Hope, York City's last charter school fight
York Dispatch by Junior Gonzalez, 505-5439/@JuniorG_YDPublished 3:27 p.m. ET Aug. 4, 2017 | Updated 4:43 p.m. ET Aug. 6, 2017
Upcoming hearings that will determine the fate of Helen Thackston Charter School will mark the second time in five years that the York City school board has sought to shutter a charter school.  Charters are independent, though publicly funded, schools that operate by agreements — or “charters” — with the school districts in which they are based.  A 1997 state law authorized charter schools in Pennsylvania, and at one point York City was home to five of them.  As state and local tax dollars followed students from the district to charters — nearly 1,000 left the district over a five-year period — the already financially and academically troubled district struggled even more.  Teachers were let go en masse, programs were cut and schools were closed.  Yet as bad as things were in the district, the school board argued the situation was worse in one of the charter schools.

TASD sees increase in state funding
The state’s new funding formula gives local district a boost
By Sean P. Ray Titusville Herald Staff Writer Posted: Saturday, August 5, 2017 5:00 am
The Basic Education Funding Formula, passed last summer by the state, is undergoing a trial by fire as school districts adapt to their new levels of state funding.   So how did Titusville Area School District make out?  According to Business Manager Shawn Sampson, things are looking pretty bright. The school saw a 1.1-percent increase in state funding for this fiscal year. While this is lower than the 2.6-percent increase from last year, Sampson had nothing but praise for the formula.  “I think that this formula is the best I’ve seen in years to drive out dollars where they’re needed,” Sampson said.  The formula determines the level of state funding a school receives based on numerous factors, including number of minority students, sparsity of population, ability to raise money from taxes, among others.  Sampson said this metric ensures a school receives a steady and predictable amount of funding, and better reflects the reality of each district’s situation.  “If you’re a school district like us, or Warren County or, especially, Forest county and your students are all spread out, there’s a cost to bringing them all to school,” he said. “The formula accounts for that cost.”  The formula, which enjoyed wide bipartisan support, came into being after Pennsylvania was declared as having the highest public school funding gap in the nation in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Education.  Gov. Tom Wolf has repeatedly supported increased funding for education, his 2017-18 budget calling for a 1.7-percent increase in basic education funding, and a 2.3-percent increase in special education funding.
However, not all schools are enjoying the formula. According to a recent article in the Journal, of Corry, the Corry Area School District received drastically less funding under the formula than before.

University of Pennsylvania program helps students with disabilities
The notebook by Michael Vinci August 4, 2017 — 12:47pm
Joselito "Josie" Torres is 19 years old, but until recently he had never made a purchase at a store by himself. He never rode the subway, nor had he bought a ticket to a museum on his own. But when Torres attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education VAST LIFE program for teenagers with disabilities, that all changed.  VAST LIFE (which stands for Vocational Academic Social Skills Training Life Skills Independence Functional Experiences), is a program that pairs Penn graduate students with high school students ages 14-21 who have moderate to significant developmental and intellectual disabilities. The purpose of the program is to help graduate education students receive the experience they need to meet Pennsylvania requirements for special education certification, while also helping teenagers with disabilities in the tri-state area become more independent.

'You feel helpless': What would Medicaid spending cuts mean for Lancaster County students?
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer August 7, 2017
For Aaron Freas, the very breaths he takes may not be possible without Medicaid.  Freas, a 19-year-old student at Lampeter-Strasburg High School who suffers from a complicated case of spina bifida, is one of the many students in the county who rely on Medicaid services both at home and in school.  If spending for the federal medical assistance program was cut, as many federal lawmakers have proposed in recent months, families such as Freas’ as well as school districts who benefit from it would be fettered by a gaping funding hole. In the school districts’ case, that would likely be filled by taxpayer dollars.   “You feel helpless,” Freas’ mother, Janene, said. “We try to get our voice out there and say this matters. We’re not sure how else to do that.”

What should America do about its worst public schools? States still don’t seem to know.
Washington Post By Emma Brown August 6 at 6:47 PM 
Two years after Congress scrapped federal formulas for fixing troubled schools, states for the most part are producing only the vaguest of plans to address persistent educational failure.  So far, 16 states and the District of Columbia have submitted proposals for holding schools accountable under the 2015 law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act. With few exceptions, the blueprints offer none of the detailed prescriptions for intervention, such as mass teacher firings or charter-school conversions, that were once standard elements of school reform.  Many in the education world, from state superintendents to teachers unions, applaud this hands-off trend. Each struggling school faces unique circumstances, in their view, and deserves a tailored solution shaped by community input — not a top-down directive from faraway bureaucrats.  But others fear a lack of clear road maps from states is a sign that meaningful change remains unlikely in schools that most need it.

PSBA Officer Elections: Slate of Candidates
PSBA Website August 2017
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than June 1, 2017, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 17 at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person's name with an asterisk (*).

The deadline to submit cover letter, resume and application is August 25, 2017.
PSBA seeking experienced education leaders: Become an Advocacy Ambassador
PSBA is seeking applications for six Advocacy Ambassadors who have been involved in day-to-day functions of a school district, on the school board, or in a school leadership position. The purpose of the PSBA Advocacy Ambassador program is to facilitate the education and engagement of local school directors and public education stakeholders through the advocacy leadership of the ambassadors. Each Advocacy Ambassador will be an active leader in an assigned section of the state, and is kept up to date on current legislation and PSBA position based on PSBA priorities to accomplish advocacy goals.  PSBA Advocacy Ambassadors are independent contractors representing PSBA, and serve as liaisons between PSBA and their local and federal elected officials. Advocacy Ambassadors also commit to building strong relationships with PSBA members with the purpose of engaging the designated members to be active and committed grassroots advocates for PSBA’s legislative priorities.  This is a 9-month independent contractor position with a monthly stipend and potential renewal for a second year. Successful candidates must commit to the full 9-month contract, agree to fulfill assigned Advocacy Ambassador duties and responsibilities, and actively participate in conference calls and in-person meetings

September 19 @ 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM Hilton Reading
Berks County Community Foundation
Carol Corbett Burris: Executive Director of the Network for Public Education
Alyson Miles: Deputy Director of Government Affairs for the American Federation for Children
James Paul: Senior Policy Analyst at the Commonwealth Foundation
Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig: Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State University Sacramento
Karin Mallett: The WFMZ TV anchor and reporter returns as the moderator
School choice has been a hot topic in Berks County, in part due to a lengthy and costly dispute between the Reading School District and I-LEAD Charter School. The topic has also been in the national spotlight as President Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have focused on expanding education choice.  With this in mind, a discussion on school choice is being organized as part of Berks County Community Foundation’s Consider It initiative. State Sen. Judy Schwank and Berks County Commissioners Chairman Christian Leinbach are co-chairs of this nonpartisan program, which is designed to promote thoughtful discussion of divisive local and national issues while maintaining a level of civility among participants.  The next Consider It Dinner will take place Tuesday, September 19, 2017, at 5 p.m. at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading, 701 Penn St., Reading, Pa. Tickets are available here.  For $10 each, tickets include dinner, the panel discussion, reading material, and an opportunity to participate in the conversation.

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.

Using Minecraft to Imagine a Better World and Build It Together.
Saturday, September 16, 2017 or Sunday, September 17, 2017 at the University of the Sciences, 43rd & Woodland Avenue, Philadelphia
PCCY, the region’s most influential advocacy organization for children, leverages the world’s greatest video game for the year’s most engaging fundraising event for kids. Join us on Saturday, September 16, 2017 or Sunday, September 17, 2017 at the University of the Sciences, 43rd & Woodland Avenue for a fun, creative and unique gaming opportunity.

Education Law Center’s 2017 Annual Celebration
ELC invites you to join us for our Annual Celebration on September 27 in Philadelphia.
The Annual Celebration will take place this year on September 27, 2017 at The Crystal Tea Room in Philadelphia. The event begins at 5:30 PM. We anticipate more than 300 legal, corporate, and community supporters joining us for a cocktail reception, silent auction, and dinner presentation.  Our annual celebrations honor outstanding champions of public education. This proud tradition continues at this year’s event, when together we will salute these deserving honorees:
·         PNC Bank: for the signature philanthropic cause of the PNC Foundation, PNC Grow Up Great, a bilingual $350 million, multi-year early education initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life; and its support of the Equal Justice Works Fellowship, which enables new lawyers to pursue careers in public interest law;
·         Joan Mazzotti: for her 16 years of outstanding leadership as the Executive Director of Philadelphia Futures, a college access and success program serving Philadelphia’s low-income, first-generation-to-college students;
·         Dr. Bruce Campbell Jr., PhD: for his invaluable service to ELC, as he rotates out of the chairman position on our Board of Directors. Dr. Campbell is an Arcadia University Associate Professor in the School of Education; and
·         ELC Pro Bono Awardee Richard Shephard of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP: for his exceptional work as pro bono counsel, making lasting contributions to the lives of many vulnerable families.Questions? Contact Tracy Callahan or 215-238-6970 ext. 308.

STAY WOKE: THE INAUGURAL NATIONAL BLACK MALE EDUCATORS CONVENING; Philadelphia Fri, Oct 13, 2017 4:00 pm  Sun, Oct 15, 2017 7:00pm
TEACHER DIVERSITY WORKS. Increasing the number of Black male educators in our nation’s teacher corps will improve education for all our students, especially for African-American boys.  Today Black men represent only two percent of teachers nationwide. This is a national problem that demands a national response.  Come participate in the inaugural National Black Male Educators Convening to advance policy solutions, learn from one another, and fight for social justice. All are welcome.

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

Registration now open for the 67th Annual PASCD Conference  Nov. 12-13 Harrisburg: Sparking Innovation: Personalized Learning, STEM, 4C's
This year's conference will begin on Sunday, November 12th and end on Monday, November 13th. There will also be a free pre-conference on Saturday, November 11th.  You can register for this year's conference online with a credit card payment or have an invoice sent to you.  Click here to register for the conference.

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