Friday, October 6, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct. 6: Editorial - How fracking-friendly legislators are running PA into the ground

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PA Ed Policy Roundup Oct. 6, 2017:
Editorial - How fracking-friendly legislators are running PA into the ground

Reclaiming Our Democracy: The Pennsylvania Conference to End Gerrymandering Saturday, October 14th, 2017  9:00am-5:00pm Crowne Plaza Harrisburg, PA

Here's hoping the Supreme Court will put an end to partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts
Lancaster Online Editorial The LNP Editorial Board October 6, 2017
THE ISSUE - The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing the role political partisanship plays in drawing legislative district lines. This week, the court heard a case from Wisconsin where Democratic voters sued after Republicans drew political maps in 2011 that Democrats say entrenched the GOP’s hold on power in a state that is essentially evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. A handful of Republican elected officials, including U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, have joined in the call for the court to rein in extreme partisan gerrymandering. Gerrymandering isn’t good government. It’s not good for Republicans or Democrats. And it’s certainly not good for voters. Of course, for the party in power — whichever party that happens to be when the lines are redrawn every decade — the current system works just fine. At the moment, Republicans control 32 state legislatures, including Pennsylvania’s, so Democrats are squawking. If the situation were reversed, you’d be hearing pleas for justice from the GOP. We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it: Drawing congressional districts should not be a partisan exercise. But it is, especially in Pennsylvania, which has some of the most oddly configured legislative territories in the country.

“It is time that rank and file members of the general assembly have an opportunity to cast an up or down vote on sensible proposals that raise revenues rather than awaiting a funding plan that will likely result in another budget stalemate in 2018.”
State budget: Enough is enough
Centre Daily Times Opinion BY REP. SCOTT CONKLIN OCTOBER 05, 2017 6:15 PM
Scott Conklin is a state representative, D-Rush Township.
Enough is enough. Pennsylvania is more than three months into the new fiscal year and a plan to responsibly fund the 20I7-18 budget has not been brought up for a vote in either chamber of the Pennsylvania general assembly. While legislative leaders and the governor continue to negotiate a plan that relies on one-time budget gimmicks, gaming expansion and borrowing, proposals offered by rank and file members that generate revenues have been buried by legislative leaders and special interest groups. For example, a Republican member of the House of Representatives offered a proposal to tax natural gas extraction, however, the legislation has been stalled via political maneuvering. Since the Great Recession, revenues have lagged in Pennsylvania and the budget deficit continually grows. Pennsylvania has an abundant resource that other states tax, yet ours is continually harvested with very little compensation.

No budget deal? No problem. 'I can do this indefinitely,' Wolf says
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis & Liz Navratil, HARRISBURG BUREAUS Updated: OCTOBER 5, 2017 — 6:55 PM EDT
HARRISBURG — It had been a chaotic few hours in the state Capitol when House Minority Leader Frank Dermody strode out to the hallway outside the governor’s office to vent his frustration. Like most leaders in Harrisburg on Wednesday, the Democrat from Allegheny County was upset that a compromise with House Republicans to end the budget stalemate — which at the start of the week had seemed so close — had suffered yet another spectacular collapse in public view. “I don’t know where we are right now,” Dermody told reporters. Those eight words encapsulated what most everyone in the Capitol was thinking as the week drew to a close: More than three months into the  impasse, those involved in negotiations are out of new ideas for a deal on how to pay for the state’s $32 billion budget. And it raised the prospect, for the first time since the July 1 start of the new fiscal year, that there may be no deal this year — and that instead, Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, will have to maneuver around the Republican-controlled legislature.

It should be noted that House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) has received almost $250,000 in campaign contributions from the industry, and Majority Leader Dave Reed (R., Indiana) has received $147,000 since 2010.
How fracking-friendly legislators are running PA into the ground | Editorial
Editorial by Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: OCTOBER 5, 2017 — 3:01 AM EDT
Pennsylvania hasn’t balanced its budget, is facing a $2 billion deficit, and has seen its credit rating drop, yet state legislators refuse to tap an available and abundant source of revenue.
Their stubbornness has prompted Gov. Wolf to propose a risky plan to borrow more than $1 billion  against the state’s liquor revenue. That could be avoided if legislators who have accepted a fortune in campaign contributions from the gas industry didn’t protect it from shouldering its fair share of the tax burden to run the state. The fracking industry’s wealth has drowned out the voices of everyday Pennsylvanians, who are forced to pick up the industry’s slack. Since 2010, the drillers and their representatives have spent $46.6 million on lobbying and $14.5 million on strategic campaign contributions to legislative leaders and key committee chairs, reported Harrisburg bureau staff writers Angela Coulumbis and Liz Navratil. Those figures don’t even include campaign donations made by gas industry beneficiaries, including pipe layers and utilities. It’s been an effective investment. In the last seven years, fracking-friendly legislators have quashed almost 70 attempts to impose a severance tax on natural gas. Just this week, the House shut down a modest bill bravely put forth by Rep. Kate Harper (R., Montgomery). In June, the Senate passed a severance tax, but when the House took it up after its vacation in September, it predictably killed it.

Natural gas drillers spend more than $60 million to woo Pa. legislature
Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis & Liz Navratil, HARRISBURG BUREAUS Updated: OCTOBER 1, 2017 — 7:14 AM EDT
HARRISBURG — Over the last seven years, Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced no fewer than 67 bills to tax natural-gas drilling companies. In nearly every instance, those measures have died. Supporters of a tax say few other interests have managed to thwart legislation in the Capitol so successfully and for so long, earning Pennsylvania the distinction of being the only major gas-producing state without a severance tax. They point to one reason: the industry’s ability to spend tens of millions of dollars on influence. An Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette analysis of lobbying disclosure and campaign finance records since 2010 shows that natural gas drilling companies and their industry groups have spent at least $46.6 million on lobbying and another $14.5 million on political donations — many of the latter going to legislative leaders who control the flow of bills in the Capitol and the heads of committees that regulate their business. That does not include donations from related industries, such as pipeline construction or utilities, which also spend generously on lobbying and political donations. “It’s difficult to walk through the halls of the Capitol on a session day and not see [natural-gas industry] lobbyists there,” said Rep. Greg Vitali (D., Delaware), a longtime supporter of a severance tax. “Their presence is constant.”

Editorial: No end in sight to Harrisburg budget follies
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 10/05/17, 9:11 PM EDT | UPDATED: 55 SECS AGO
Here’s a suggestion for our friends in Harrisburg: How about we take down that beautiful, shiny dome atop the state Capitol and replace it with a big top. That’s right, folks. Barnum & Bailey is back in town. Welcome to governing, Pennsylvania-style. In case you haven’t been paying attention – and we can only assume our elected representatives hope that is the case – Pennsylvania finds itself in a bit of a fiscal crisis. We know, you’ve heard this all before. It’s not a bad dream. It’s bad governing. Back at the end of June, as mandated by the state constitution, the Legislature signed off on a $32 billion budget. Unfortunately, they could not agree on a method to pay for it, and a $2 billion-plus deficit has been looming over the state ever since. The state Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, a few weeks later passed a funding plan that relied on a slew of new taxes - including the state’s first-ever severance tax on natural gas drillers. Just one problem. The state House – which is also controlled by Republicans – wanted no parts of any tax hikes. They dug in their heels and refused to consider the Senate plan. Democrats? Well, they just sort of sat back and watched this Republican tug of war play out.
Until Wednesday. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who supported the Senate plan but has not exactly been out front on this issue since July, said he’s tired of waiting for House Republicans to take action.

Delco reps explain votes for bringing shale tax to the House floor
By Kathleen E. Carey, Delaware County Daily Times POSTED: 10/05/17, 9:11 PM EDT
The day after a discharge motion attempted to resuscitate a Marcellus shale tax, members of the Delaware County delegation shared their thoughts on move. All of the Republicans – state Reps. Steve Barrar, R-160 of Upper Chichester, Nick Miccarelli, R-162 of Ridley Park, Jamie Santora, R-163 of Upper Darby, Alex Charlton, R-165 of Springfield, and Chris Quinn, R-168 of Middletown, voted to have the bill, HB 113, introduced by state Rep. Kate Harper, R-61, of Blue Bell, moved to the floor for a vote, bucking the majority of their own party. The local Democrats had mixed responses to that move. State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161 of Swarthmore and Brian Kirkland, D-159 of Chester, voted for it. State Rep. Margo Davidson, D-164 of Upper Darby, wasn’t present for the vote and state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166 of Haverford, was the sole vote from the Delco delegation against it. He said that was because the environment took too much of a hit in exchange for the tax in this version.

“Throughout the state, charter school payments have gone up significantly over the years, Mr. Lopretto said during his board report. In the school year starting in 2003, he said, districts in Allegheny County paid $21.3 million to charter schools and that amount increased to $146.6 million in 2015.”
Charter school tuition could lead to tax hike for McKeesport Area schools
Post-Gazette by DEANA CARPENTER 6:00 AM OCT 6, 2017
The McKeesport Area School District is paying $6.37 million to send 588 students to charter schools this year — and that expense could lead to a tax increase, school board President Joe Lopretto said. “What we’re putting out in charter school tuition, it’s really hurting us,” Mr. Lopretto said. “It’s either cut programs, get rid of teachers or raise taxes,” he said at the board’s Sept. 27 meeting. Superintendent Mark Holtzman agreed. The district is “in dire straits” financially and the 2018-19 budget “is not going to be an easy situation,” he said. “We’re going to have to cut staff. We’re going to have to raise taxes,” Mr. Holtzman said. “We’re going to have some tough conversations in the next couple of months.” School districts pay charter school tuition for each student who lives within the district and attends a charter school.

“Fixing gerrymandering is one of the most pressing and fundamental repairs we can apply to our faltering democracy, but leaders in our state government are all but refusing to discuss it, and time is running out. Legislation in the form of House Bill 722and Senate Bill 22 would take the ability to draw districts away from the legislature and put it in the hands of an independent commission, promoting stable, compact districts that represent coherent geographic regions, as opposed to the mess of a map we have today.”
Op-ed: Ending gerrymandering is fundamental, but Harrisburg doesn't want to hear it
Imagine caring enough about good government to walk over 100 miles to the state capital to make your voice heard — and then getting arrested at the end of the trip. That's what happened this spring when several dozen members of the March on Harrisburg group gathered in downtown Philadelphia on a cold, rainy May morning, circled City Hall and set out on the nine-day trek across the state. Among other reforms, the group was marching to raise support for legislation to fix the redistricting process in Pennsylvania, which for decades has been plagued by brazen gerrymandering, or deliberately drawing district lines to maximize partisan advantage and protect incumbents. Lawmakers insulated from the threat of being voted out of office are only accountable to their donors, not to everyday residents of the state.

“Republican state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler quickly jumped into the race for Murphy’s 18th Congressional District seat by announcing his candidacy just hours after Murphy said Wednesday that he would not run for re-election.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy resigns amid scandal, GOP state legislators to run for his seat
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose October 5, 2017
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy on Thursday resigned his seat effective Oct. 21 amid a scandal involving an extramarital affair and, most damaging to the anti-abortion lawmaker, texts showing he urged his married mistress to consider an abortion. “It was Dr. Murphy’s decision to move on to the next chapter of his life, and I support it,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan in a statement released later Thursday afternoon. The resignation triggers the need for a special election for a seat that has already drawn widespread interest from Republicans and Democrats. A special election is certain to draw national attention, as others have, with it considered a referendum on President Donald Trump in a district considered favorable for Republican candidates. Murphy’s lightning quick fall came after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette broke the story earlier this week about the eight-term congressman and anti-abortion advocate urging his mistress to have an abortion when they thought she might be pregnant. At first, he announced he would not seek re-election next year, but rumors of his immediate resignation began swirling Thursday before Ryan’s statement.

Lehigh Valley schools begin enrolling first students from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call October 5, 2017 9:35 pm
Adrieliz Diaz loves her new school. At Donegan Elementary in south Bethlehem, she takes art and music classes, has made a best friend named Juana and gets along with her teachers. “It’s excellent,” Adrieliz, 10, said. “I love this school very, very much.” Adrieliz and her sisters — 9-year-old Genesis and 5-year-old Danieliz — arrived in Bethlehem a week ago with their parents, Alejandro and Jacqueline Diaz. The sisters are among 10 students who have enrolled in the Bethlehem Area School District since since Hurricane Maria struck their home in Puerto Rico last month. Adrieliz remembers cuddling with her sisters and mother as her father fell to his knees and prayed, “Lord, protect my girls.” Adrieliz was scared as she heard the the hurricane ravaging outside, knocking down trees and ripping apart houses. “It was very shaky,” Adrieliz said. “It felt like an earthquake.” The Allentown School District has 30 new students from Puerto Rico, although Superintendent Thomas Parker couldn't say for sure whether they all came directly from the island in the aftermath of the storm.

How the SLA learning approach is adjusting to a neighborhood middle school
The notebook by Melanie Bavaria October 5, 2017 — 3:57pm
In a corner of a classroom at Science Leadership Academy Middle School is a bookcase with green shelves and a plaque on top, where several students wrote their names in marker. Having worked on its design, they claimed the bookcase as their own. Visible around the school are other bookcases, some festooned with polka dots, stripes, handprints, and words, all built by creative 5th graders. These personalized bookcases are the result of both a gift and a problem.  Besides the normal headaches of starting a new school — not having a copy machine until 24 hours before students entered the building, unpacking boxes, getting the phones properly set up — SLAMS was lacking books. The gift: Hilary Hamilton, a math and science teacher, had received a $500 grant from the Philadelphia Writing Project to buy books. However, she wasn’t sure which books to buy, where to store them, and how to make sure the money went toward books that the kids would want to read. SLAMS, as it is known, is the third of three SLA schools in Philadelphia – the others, which are high schools, are SLA Center City and SLA Beeber. SLAMS is the only middle school in the School District's Innovation Network, which includes the two SLA high schools and five other high schools. (SLA Beeber plans to add a magnet middle school next year.) Each is working independently to overhaul what education looks like in the School District. 

Eying expansion, Philly charter school creates incubator for start-ups
Philadelphia Performing Arts: A String Theory Charter School occupies an eight-floor office building at 16th and Vine streets in Center City, Philadelphia. The first seven floors contain classrooms, labs and other fairly conventional school accessories. On the eighth they're cooking up an experiment. On Thursday, the charter network formally unveiled Particle, a co-working space that now houses six startup companies (and, naturally, a pingpong table). Like other co-working spaces, Particle is sleek, open and designed with a minimalist touch. Unlike other co-working spaces, Particle's tenants don't pay a dime. Instead they receive one-year "fellowships" that allow them to use the space for free on one condition: They have to provide some educational benefit to the school, which serves students in grades five through 12 at its Vine Street campus.

On the Ballot: Proposed Constitutional Amendment on Property Taxes
PSBA Handout
This November 7, voters across Pennsylvania will be asked to consider a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution regarding property tax reductions. It is important to understand what the question that will appear on the ballot means, and what the impact will be for taxpayers and taxing bodies, including school boards.

How teacher friendly is Pennsylvania?
Penn Live Posted October 05, 2017 at 08:15 AM | Updated October 05, 2017 at 08:56 AM
Does Pennsylvania provide a friendly work environment for teachers? According to teacher friendliness rankings by WalletHub, in some ways, it does. Pennsylvania  rings in at No. 5 in the nation based on the 21 indicators such as average teacher salary, teacher union strength, and average commute time chosen to arrive at its rankings. “Pennsylvania's high ranking shows that the state is on the right track, from a teacher's perspective,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said. “However, it could still use improvement” in pension and teacher salary growth categories. With today's commemoration of World Teacher Day – a day set aside to raise awareness of the importance of the role played by teachers all over the world, WalletHub issued the rankings to help inform teachers and parents about the best teaching environments in the United States.

“U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has championed charters and for-profit education, contending in Congressional testimony that school choice can lower absenteeism and dropout rates. But at schools like Capital, a ProPublica-USA Today investigation found, the drop-outs rarely drop in—and if they do, they don’t stay long. Such schools aggressively recruit as many students as possible, and sometimes count them even after they stop showing up, a practice that can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for empty desks.”
For-profit charter schools bill taxpayers for empty desks
USA Today By Heather Vogell, ProPublica Published 6:10 a.m. ET Oct. 5, 2017 | Updated 11:39 a.m. ET Oct. 5, 2017
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Last school year, Ohio’s cash-strapped education department paid Capital High $1.4 million in taxpayer dollars to teach students on the verge of dropping out. But on a Thursday in May, the storefront charter school run by for-profit EdisonLearning was mostly empty. In one room, vacant chairs faced 25 blank computer monitors. Three students sat in a science lab down the hall, and another nine in an unlit classroom, including one youth who sprawled out, head down, sleeping. Only three of the more than 170 students on Capital’s rolls attended class the required five hours that day, records obtained by ProPublica show. Almost two-thirds of the school’s students never showed up; others left early. Nearly a third of the roster failed to attend class all week.

Reclaiming Our Democracy: The Pennsylvania Conference to End
Saturday, October 14th, 2017 | 9:00am-5:00pm Crowne Plaza Harrisburg, PA
Crowne Plaza Harrisburg-Hershey 23 S 2nd St.  Harrisburg, PA
Join us for a one-day redistricting conference in Harrisburg for volunteers, supporters, academics, press and legislators. Gubernatorial candidates, legislative leaders and national redistricting experts have been invited to speak about gerrymandering and the potential for reform.  In the afternoon there will be breakout sessions on redistricting issues of interest, including new gerrymandering standards and details on litigation in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other states.

Seventh Annual Pennsylvania Arts and Education Symposium, November 2, 2017 Camp Hill
The 2017 Pennsylvania Arts and Education will be held on Thursday, November 2, 2017 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg Convention Center in Camp Hill.  See the agenda here.
Early Bird Registration ends September 30.

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 Is Open for the 2017 Arts and Education Symposium
Thursday, November 2, 2017 8:30 a.m. - 5:15 p.m.
 Radisson Hotel Harrisburg Convention Center
Registration October 1 to November 1 - $60; Registration at the Symposium - $70
Full-Time Student Registration (Student ID Required at Symposium Check-In) - $30
Act 48 Credit Available

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.

Save the Date! NSBA 2018 Advocacy Institute February 4-6, 2018 Marriott Marquis, Washington D.C.
Registration Opens Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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