Wednesday, November 1, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 1: Confused about Nov. 7th Constitutional Amendment Referendum?

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 1, 2017:
Confused about Nov. 7th Constitutional Amendment Referendum?


School Report Cards: For 5th year in a row, not one PA cyber achieved a passing school performance score of 70. Do we need another one?


Rep. Madden hosts education funding talk
How can Monroe County effectively fund public education without residents losing their homes to school property taxes?
By Andrew Scott Pocono Record Writer Posted Oct 31, 2017 at 9:23 PM Updated Oct 31, 2017 at 9:23 PM
STROUDSBURG — How can Monroe County effectively fund public education without residents losing their homes to school property taxes? For some time, this question has been on many lips. That’s even more so now, with Pennsylvania residents about to vote on a ballot referendum which would pave the way for school-property-tax-elimination measures if passed. This was the topic of the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee’s public hearing hosted by committee member and state Rep. Maureen Madden on Tuesday at the Eastern Monroe Public Library. Consisting of 11 state representatives from various districts, the committee holds such public hearings across the state and serves as the catalyst to enacting major policy initiatives put forth by members of the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus. “Pennsylvania spends more per student than 43 other states, yet we are 46th in state funding for basic education,” Madden told residents attending Tuesday’s discussion. “The state provides only a third of basic education funding, with the other two thirds coming from property owners. Pennsylvania is dead last in basic education funding equity. “Since so much of the funding comes from property taxes, where your school is located matters,” she said, referring to affluent school districts getting too much state funding vs. financially struggling school districts getting too little. “Money doesn’t equal success, but it helps if your school doesn’t have rusty pipes, doesn’t have to scrape the bottom of the barrel for teachers or doesn’t suffer from inadequate funding.”


Property Tax Reform, Get the Facts on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment
The PA Principals Association, PSEA, PSBA, PASBO, PASA, PARSS and PAIU Tuesday, October 31, 2017 2:57 PM
The PA Principals Association partnered with PSEA, PSBA, PASBO, PASA, PARSS and PAIU on a PowerPoint presentation regarding Property Tax Reform, Get the Facts on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment, which will be a ballot question in the upcoming election, November 7, 2017. Click here for the PowerPoint.

Video: Property Tax Ballot Referendum with League of Women Voters President Roberta Winters & Guests
Main Line Public TV at Radnor Studio 21 Published on Oct 29, 2017 Runtime 33:35
Lawrence Feinberg, Co-Chairman, Keystone State Education Coalition; Roberta Winters, President League of Women Voters; Joel Sears, President, York County Tax Payers Council; Susan Spicka, Executive Director, Education Voters of PA

Referendum forum sparks mixed emotions
By Howard Frank  Pocono Record Writer Posted Oct 31, 2017 at 2:49 PM Updated Oct 31, 2017 at 2:49 PM
The referendum to enable property tax reform won’t put a cent in your pocket any time soon. But it might someday, and it’s a step in the right direction, according to a state official. The ballot item referred to as the Homestead Property Tax Exemption is a bit of a legislative dance, that, if passed, would allow the state assembly to allow local taxing authorities to exclude all of your home property value from taxes. But it’s not so simple. That’s where the dance comes in. Before property tax reduction or eliminating property taxes becomes reality, several things must happen. The residents of the state must pass the resolution to amend the Pennsylvania constitution on Nov. 7. The constitution currently allows up to 50 percent reduction in your assessed value of your home. Then the state must vote a bill into law that allows the full property tax exclusion. That vote wouldn’t make the exclusion mandatory, but presents an option to local taxing authorities, like school districts, counties and municipalities. Next, the local authorities must adopt an exclusion, and find other funding streams to replace the tax revenues used to pay for things like the schools, roads and other municipal projects. Items like personal income tax rates and sales taxes might come into play to replace the lost property tax revenues. But passing the constitutional amendment is a necessary step in the process to make school funding fairer across the state, according to State Rep. Rosemary Brown, who held a forum Monday night at the Hughes Library in Stroud Township to discuss the referendum. “Property tax reduction is my number one priority,” Brown said. “It gives us another tool to go in another direction.” The passing of the referendum would be, she said, first and foremost to confirm to fellow Harrisburg legislators that residential property tax elimination is indeed wanted by the people of Pennsylvania.

Referendum on November ballot opens door to property tax elimination
A referendum that will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot opens the door for the future possibility of eliminating property taxes levied by local governments and school districts in Pennsylvania. For those taxes to go away though will require future legislative action.
Penn Live By Jan Murphy jmurphy@pennlive.com Updated on October 31, 2017 at 9:01 AM Posted on October 31, 2017 at 6:15 AM
Voters who show up at the polls on Nov. 7 will have an opportunity to vote on amending the state constitution to open the door to provide for property tax elimination for Pennsylvania homeowners.    But here's the catch. If the majority of voters vote yes on this referendum, it doesn't mean property taxes will suddenly go away. What it would do is provide a mechanism to target greater property tax relief to residential properties. But before that can happen, state laws need to change to provide for replacement revenue sources to fund school districts, municipalities and counties. "It is a confusing issue," said Hannah Barrick, advocacy director for the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. "This is just step one in the process."

Voters could take step toward property tax elimination Tuesday
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 31, 2017 7:07 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- When Pennsylvanians go to the polls next Tuesday, they'll have a rare opportunity to vote to change the state constitution. They'll decide via ballot measure whether to make property tax elimination an option. However, it would only be the first step in a long process. Property tax rates largely depend on how much school districts and local governments decide to exempt from taxation.  Right now, state law lets them exclude up to 50 percent of an area's median home value. The ballot measure would increase that cap to 100 percent--so jurisdictions could opt to totally eliminate property taxes. But it's not quite that simple. The elimination can't happen until there's a replacement source of revenue--either from the state or local level. Republican Representative David Maloney of Berks County, who sponsored the referendum measure, noted there's still no consensus in that area.

Op-Ed: Vote Yes On Property Tax Referendum On November 7 Ballot
Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates Op-Ed By Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh) & Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) October 31, 2017
On November 7 the citizens of Pennsylvania will have an opportunity to cast their vote for an important ballot question which could lead to real property tax reform. We are urging citizens to vote yes. Due to its legal language and structure, ballot questions are often written in confusing and hard-to-understand and this one is no different. However, the underlying issue is pretty straight forward.  By voting yes, voters will approve a constitutional amendment to expand the homestead exclusion from one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead properties in a taxing district to up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property. Essentially, if approved, this would allow local taxing authorities – school districts, municipalities – to offer not only a reduction in a homeowner’s property tax, but also potentially the elimination of their local property tax.

Blogger note: SB76 is NOT on the ballot for a public vote on November 7th.
Vote 'No' To PA Constitutional Tax Amendment On Nov. 7, TESD Says
The question focuses on Senate Bill 76, which seeks to eliminate property taxes and fund districts through income and sales taxes.
Patch.com By Max Bennett (Patch Staff) - Updated Oct 31, 2017 1:05 pm ET
WAYNE, PA – As the Nov. 7 election grows nearer, many are looking at potential candidates to cast their votes for. But the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District and other Pennsylvania districts are hoping residents take notice of a state ballot question that they say could harm school districts across the state. Senate Bill 76 is up for public vote on Nov. 7 and it has to do with how districts in the state handle property taxes and ultimately how to fund their budgets. While some residents may see the question and think it might be good to vote "yes" as it deals with potentially lower property taxes, the TESD says it's impact could hit hard in ways unseen and unexplained. The bill's primary sponsor, Republican Senator David Argall who represents Pennsylvania's 29th District, says the bill would "promote economic growth and completely eliminate the school district property tax once and for all." Argall's bill, which he calls the Property Tax Independence Act, proposes supplanting property taxes with funds from personal income tax and the sales and use tax.

Pennsylvania's property tax referendum has a long way to go if it passes
Trib Live BOB BAUDER  | Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, 5:30 p.m.
Pennsylvania voters can decide through a ballot referendum next week if local governments and school districts should have the ability to exempt them from paying property taxes on their homes. The question sounds like a no-brainer, but if it passes and state lawmakers go along with it, municipalities and school districts would have to make up the lost revenue through some other tax. “It sounds good,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “We'd all love to eliminate property taxes, but you can't eliminate it unless you have a replacement.” The referendum on the Nov. 7 election ballot asks voters: “Shall the Pennsylvania Constitution be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100 percent of the assessed value of each homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction, rather than limit the exclusion to one-half of the median assessed value of all homestead property, which is the existing law?” What that means is state lawmakers would have the ability to create a law giving counties, municipalities and school districts authority to eliminate property taxes on a person's home, according to state Rep. David Maloney, D-Berks, who sponsored legislation that led to the referendum. It would not exempt commercial and industrial properties.

With SRC on the brink, Philly charter schools in ‘wait-and-see’ mode
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent October 31, 2017
While some public school observers cheer the potential dissolution of Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission, charter advocates have taken a more muted tone. “We’re at a ‘wait-and-see’ point right now,” said Stephen DeMaura, executive director of Philadelphia School Advocacy Partners, a pro-charter lobbying group. For the first time since the SRC began 16 years ago, there seems real momentum toward disbanding it and replacing the five-member body with a local school board. Politically progressive organizations and politicians have spearheaded the push against the SRC. Voices from the city’s large and growing charter sector have been noticeably quieter. One could confuse that silence for opposition, but charter advocates say they aren’t organizing against theoretical governance changes. They just aren’t sure what to make of those changes. “Look, it’s gonna happen,” said David Hardy, founder of Boys Latin Charter School and a vocal charter proponent. “I’m not sure I don’t want it to happen.” If the SRC dissolves, the board that replaces it would oversee the city’s 86 charter schools, vet future applications, and parse expansion proposals. That means there’s plenty at stake for the school choice community. Those stakes, however, haven’t translated into strong opinions.

Kenney to give major speech on future of Philly schools
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent October 31, 2017
Mayor Jim Kenney will address the future of Philadelphia’s public schools — the latest sign that the system’s governance structure could be in for a major shakeup — during a major speech Thursday. The news was confirmed by Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt. She said the mayor will discuss the school district’s finances and its governance structure, but she would not comment further on its content. Momentum has been growing to replace the School Reform Commission, a five-member body that has overseen the school district since a 2001 state takeover. The SRC is made up of three gubernatorial appointees and two mayoral appointees. SRC opponents want it replaced with a local school board. The SRC appears increasingly likely to vote itself out of existence in the next few months. Such a move would give Kenney more authority over the Philadelphia schools than any mayor in recent history.

They can vote, but do 18-year-olds have any idea how government works?
Trib Live JAMIE MARTINES | Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, 11:48 a.m.
Local teachers say it's possible for an 18-year-old in Pennsylvania to head to the polls next week without a sense of how their government works. “There is literally nothing that they know when I get them,” said Jeff Biros, who teaches American Government and Civics for 11th- and 12th-graders at Gateway High School in Monroeville. Biros, a former state legislative analyst who has been teaching social studies in the Gateway district for 13 years, said one of his goals is to help students understand that the Constitution is more than words on paper. “In the end, if you don't understand it, then that's all it becomes,” Biros said. “There's no life behind it. And if you don't know your rights, you'll surrender them.” A bill in the state Senate aims to help teachers like Biros prepare their students to understand and participate in government. “I often say, the unfortunate thing today is, if you ask someone to identify three members of the U.S. Supreme Court, it's probably easier for them to identify the judges on American Idol,” said Sen. John Rafferty (R-Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties), the bill's primary sponsor.

COMMUNITIES NEED DISTRICTS AND CHARTERS TO COLLABORATE MORE AND COMPETE LESS
Phillys7thWard blog BY SHARIF EL-MEKKI OCTOBER 27, 2017
Human nature often finds us pointing the finger at others, while absolving ourselves of blame. While we often tell students, “When you point a finger at others, three fingers are pointed back at you,” adults, at times, fail to heed their own advice. Nowhere is this more evident than in the incessant battling between public charters and traditional school districts. While middle-class White people often lament the loss of students in traditional schools, these are the same hypocrites who fled during the White flight or participated in oppressive gentrification and left traditional neighborhood public schools long ago. In Philly, when you want to see a sizable number of White students, you often have to go to the Northeast (a section of the city that once actually tried to secede from Philadelphia) or you have to go to a magnet school (or a gentrified one) that is inaccessible to most Black children. Often, these charter critics belie the fact that the foundations of many of America’s institutions were never made with the well-being of Black and Brown people in mind. When they blindly defend the status quo, they are often simply and emotionally siding with institutions that were designed to keep Black and Brown folks subjugated. If you haven’t read Nate Bowling’s take on the (mostly White middle class) diatribes against families who choose charters, you should. Charter school operators are not blameless in the incessant friction. Too often, they shirk responsibility and leadership and aren’t willing to collaborate with district, city, and state leadership to address entrenched issues that districts are struggling with.

 “There’s one more group responsible for online charter schools in Indiana — lawmakers. Virtual schools got a slow start in Indiana but took off once voters put a majority of Republican legislators in the General Assembly. Once there, they passed laws to allow full-time online schools and slowly increased their funding.
A number of powerful Indiana Republicans who supported those laws have received campaign contributions from K12, one of the largest online school providers in the country. That includes education committee chairs Rep. Bob Behning and Sen. Dennis Kruse, former Senate Appropriations chair Luke Kenley, House Ways & Means chair Tim Brown, and House Speaker Brian Bosma.”
As students signed up, online Indiana school hired barely any teachers — but founder’s company charged it millions
Chalkbeat BY SHAINA CAVAZOS  -  October 31, 2017
One of Indiana’s largest high schools ended this past school year with almost 5,000 students, but no desks and no classrooms. The school also had very few graduates — 61 out of more than 900 seniors graduated last year. What Indiana Virtual School did have: Tens of millions in state dollars due to come its way over the next two years, and a founder whose for-profit company charged millions of dollars in management fees and rent to the school. Thomas Stoughton founded the school in 2011, taking advantage of a new law allowing Indiana charter schools to serve students exclusively over the internet, rather than in brick-and-mortar buildings. In recent years, students have signed up in droves, responding to social media advertising campaigns. The school they end up attending differs widely from other online charter schools emerging across the country, with far fewer teachers per student — 1 for every 222 students last school year, according to state data — and fewer students taking and passing state exams. As enrollment at Indiana Virtual School ballooned, so did the school’s state funding, which is distributed on a per-student basis. Some of that money has gone to AlphaCom Inc., a for-profit company also founded and led until 2016 by Stoughton. Since 2011, AlphaCom has held multiple contracts with Indiana Virtual School totaling about $6 million to provide management services and office space. A company run by Stoughton’s son also held a contract with the school.


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.
https://www.eplc.org/pennsylvania-arts-education-network/

Save the Date: Pitt Johnstown to host Funding Lawsuit Panel at Murtha Center on campus November 15th at 7:00 pm

November School Leader Advocacy Training
PASA, PASBO, PSBA, the Pennsylvania Principals Association, the PARSS and PAIU are offering five, full-day School Leader Advocacy Training sessions at the following locations:
Monday, November 6 – Capital Area I.U. 15 (Summerdale)
Tuesday, November 7 – Luzerne I.U. 18 (Kingston)
Wednesday, November 15 – Berks County I.U. 14 (Reading)
Thursday, November 16 – Midwestern I.U. 4 (Grove City)
Friday, November 17 – Westmoreland I.U. 7 (Greensburg)
Take advantage of this great opportunity – at NO cost to you!
REGISTER TODAY at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SchoolLeaderTraining

Cyber Charter School Application; Public Hearing November 20
Pennsylvania Bulletin Saturday, October 14, 2017 NOTICES - DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The Department of Education (Department) has scheduled one date for a public hearing regarding a cyber charter school application that was received on or before October 2, 2017. The hearing will be held on November 20, 2017, in Heritage Room A on the lobby level of 333 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17126 at 9 a.m. The hearing pertains to the applicant seeking to operate a cyber charter school beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. The purpose of the hearing is to gather information from the applicant about the proposed cyber charter school as well as receive comments from interested individuals regarding the application. The name of the applicant, copies of the application and a listing of the date and time scheduled for the hearing on the application can be viewed on the Department's web site at www.education.pa.gov. Individuals who wish to provide comments on the application during the hearing must provide a copy of their written comments to the Department and the applicant on or before November 6, 2017. Comments provided by this deadline and presented at the hearing will become part of the certified record. For questions regarding this hearing, contact the Division of Charter Schools, (717) 787-9744, charterschools@pa.gov.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Education Cyber Charter School Application for Commonwealth Education Connections Cyber Charter School 2017
Charter School Application Submitted: September 27, 2017


Support the Notebook and see Springsteen on Broadway
The notebook October 2, 2017 — 10:57am
Donate $50 or more until Nov. 10, enter to win – and have your donation doubled!
"This music is forever for me. It's the stage thing, that rush moment that you live for. It never lasts, but that's what you live for." – Bruce Springsteen
You can be a part of a unique Bruce Springsteen show in his career – and support local, nonprofit education journalism!  Donate $50 or more to the Notebook through Nov. 10, and your donation will be doubled, up to $1,000, through the Knight News Match. Plus, you will be automatically entered to win a pair of prime tickets to see Springsteen on Broadway!  One winner will receive two tickets to the 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24, show at the Walter Kerr Theatre. These are amazing orchestra section seats to this incredible sold-out solo performance. Don't miss out on your chance to see the Boss in his Broadway debut. Donate to the Notebook today online or by mail at 699 Ranstead St., 3rd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19106.
http://thenotebook.org/articles/2017/10/02/springsteen-on-broadway

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.
http://myemail.constantcontact.com/PASCD-Conference-Registration-is-Now-Open.html?soid=1101415141682&aid=5F-ceLtbZDs

Register for New School Director Training in December and January
PSBA Website October 2017
You’ve started a challenging and exciting new role as a school director. Let us help you narrow the learning curve! PSBA’s New School Director Training provides school directors with foundational knowledge about their role, responsibilities and ethical obligations. At this live workshop, participants will learn about key laws, policies, and processes that guide school board governance and leadership, and develop skills for becoming strong advocates in their community. Get the tools you need from experts during this visually engaging and interactive event.
Choose from any of these 10 locations and dates (note: all sessions are held 8 a.m.-4 p.m., unless specified otherwise.):
·         Dec. 8, Bedford CTC
·         Dec. 8, Montoursville Area High School
·         Dec. 9, Upper St. Clair High School
·         Dec. 9, West Side CTC
·         Dec. 15, Crawford County CTC
·         Dec. 15, Upper Merion MS (8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m)
·         Dec. 16, PSBA Mechanicsburg
·         Dec. 16, Seneca Highlands IU 9
·         Jan. 13, A W Beattie Career Center
·         Jan. 13, Parkland HS
Fees: Complimentary to All-Access members or $170 per person for standard membership. All registrations will be billed to the listed district, IU or CTC. To request billing to an individual, please contact Michelle Kunkel at michelle.kunkel@psba.org. Registration also includes a box lunch on site and printed resources.

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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