Friday, November 10, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 10: State Supreme Court fast tracks gerrymander case

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 10, 2017: State Supreme Court fast tracks gerrymander case

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

“There are major problems with this proposal. First, in practice, the bill will likely simply subsidize private K-12 education for many families that were already planning, and can already afford, to send their children to private schools. Second, if the provision does induce a significant number of additional families to leave public schools, that will certainly undermine support for public schools generally, and potentially exacerbate even further the racial and class-based segregation that many public schools face. Third, given that there is little evidence that these vouchers do any good for education quality, it is flat-out fiscally irresponsible to spend potentially billions of federal dollars on a new education subsidy that is likely to have negative, not positive, effects on overall student achievement.”
Tax Incentives to Secede from Public Education
For years, conservatives have been promoting publicly financed private school vouchers for low-income students. There doesn’t seem to be much to recommend them: not only do the vouchers divert public funds away from public schools, but the evidence is very mixed about whether such programs improve the academic achievement of the vouchers’ recipients. Despite these concerns, Republicans in Congress are now proposing to spend billions of federal funds over time to subsidize private-school education for the children of higher-earning families. The provision, included in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, expands Section 529 (which currently provides tax incentives that encourage parents of all income levels to save for college) to allow such tax-deferred savings to be used for private K-12 education. Unlike existing programs, which allow families to put aside $2,000 a year for K-12 education, the new plan will allow for $10,000 per year to be set aside and grown tax-free. Furthermore, the income limits of the existing K-12 savings plans ($220,000 for joint filers) would be lifted entirely.

15 Ways the Tax Bill Harms Children and Families
First Focus Campaign for Children Bill Commentary by Bruce LesleyRachel Merker NOVEMBER 7, 2017
The House Ways and Means Committee has released its long awaited bill to dramatically overhaul the existing tax code. The bill’s writers claim that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1) will provide meaningful tax relief to millions of families. However, initial analysis of the bill suggests that for families with children—especially those who are low-income—this is not the case. In fact, First Focus Campaign for Children has identified fifteen provisions that harm kids and families.
Fifteen pieces of the Tax Bill that Hurt Children:
Bottom of Form

Lawsuit challenging how Republicans drew Pennsylvania's congressional districts 6 years ago will proceed, court decides
Lancaster Online by MARK SCOLFORO | Associated Press November 9, 2017
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A state-level challenge to how congressional districts were drawn by Republicans six years ago will proceed on a compressed schedule, a closely divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. The Supreme Court's 4-3 decision overturned a lower court judge's ruling last month that had put the dispute on hold. The order said the case "involves issues of immediate public importance" and gave Commonwealth Court only until Dec. 31 to issue findings of fact and legal conclusions. "We are thrilled that Pennsylvania voters will have their day in court," said Mimi McKenzie, legal director of the Public Interest Law Center and part of a team that represents the plaintiffs, a group that includes people who live in each of the 18 districts and the state's League of Women Voters. "I think the average citizen doesn't have to do more than look at the distorted shapes of these districts to understand that something is very much amiss," McKenzie said. Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and House Speaker Mike Turzai, the top-ranking Republicans in the Legislature, sought the delay, arguing a pending U.S. Supreme Court case should be resolved first.

“But the league asked the state high court to fast-track the case. In agreeing to do so Thursday, the court employed a power it rarely used. "They reserve it for cases that are of great public importance," Ms. McKenzie said. "This is exactly the kind of case that's meant for the Supreme Court to exercise extraordinary jurisdiction."
Post-Gazette by MADDIE HANNA Philadelphia Inquirer 8:14 PM NOV 9, 2017
In a case that could force the redrawing of congressional maps before the 2018 elections, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Commonwealth Court to decide a gerrymandering lawsuit by the end of the year. "We will have our day in court, and we will get a decision and a resolution of this matter in time for the 2018 election," said Mimi McKenzie, legal director of the Philadelphia-based Public Interest Law Center, which represents the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania in the case. If the districts are, in fact, redrawn before next year’s mid-term elections, the result could have national implications. New districts could give Democrats a boost in competitive, Republican-held districts as they push to take control of the U.S. House. “It’s something that has broad national implications,” said Michael Li, senior redistrict counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. The high court's 4-3 vote overturned a decision by Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pelligrini, who last month ordered a stay in the league’s suit pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a similar case out of Wisconsin.

Public Interest Law Center Website November 9, 2017
Today the Pennsylvania Supreme Court took control of the lawsuit alleging Pennsylvania’s Congressional districts were gerrymandered for partisan purposes by granting the Application for Extraordinary Relief filed by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and individual voters. The state’s highest court lifted the stay, ordered the Commonwealth Court to conduct all necessary pre-trial and trial proceedings, and issue its findings of fact and conclusions of law no later than December 31, 2017. Attorneys for the petitioners hailed the ruling reversing the Commonwealth Court’s decision, which would have delayed trial until late next year. This decision enables the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the matter and make a determination in time for the 2018 election. “Pennsylvania voters deserve to have their day in court,” said Mimi McKenzie, Legal Director of the Public Interest Law Center. “We will leverage this expedited process to ensure the map is struck down and a new map that complies with the constitution is created in time for the 2018 election.”

Pennsylvania Supreme Court orders Congressional district gerrymandering case to court
Penn Live By Charles Thompson Updated 1:35 AM; Posted Nov 9, 7:34 PM
A state court challenge to Pennsylvania's contorted Congressional map just became a lot harder to ignore. In a split 4-3 decision Thursday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overruled a lower court's stay on the case, and put it at or near the top of the Commonwealth Court's docket with a decision deadline of Dec. 31. Plaintiffs in the case celebrated the chance to get their partisan gerrymandering challenge heard and decided in time to potentially redraw the maps for the 2018 elections for Pennsylvania's 18 Congressional seats. Legislative leaders said they would defend the existing maps, which they noted have been in play here since 2012. And all sides found themselves a little stunned by the high court's decision to force the issue.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Big Gerrymandering Case Ahead Of 2018 Election
The state’s electoral map has been described as one of the most egregious cases of gerrymandering in the U.S.
Huffington Post By Sam Levine11/09/2017 06:15 pm ET
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear an expedited argument in a case challenging the state’s congressional map, setting the stage for a potential decision on the constitutionality of the map ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. The League of Women Voters and nearly 20 Pennsylvania voters filed the lawsuit against the state in Commonwealth Court in June. They claim the state’s Republican-drawn congressional map violates the state constitution’s protections on freedom of expression and equal protection, because it deliberately dilutes the influence of Democratic voters in the political process. The Brennan Center for Justice has described the map as one of the most egregious examples of a political party drawing a map for its own benefit ― a process often called gerrymandering. In 2012, Republicans were able to win 13 of the state’s 18 congressional seats, and were able to retain a similar share of seats in 2014 and 2016 even though the party’s share of the statewide vote only went up by a few points.
The plaintiffs in the state want the court to block officials from using the plan in future elections and require the legislature to draw a new plan.

Pennsylvania school attendance requirements among lowest in country
Trib Live by JAMIE MARTINES  | Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, 9:00 a.m.
Pennsylvania is among seven states that require the fewest years of school attendance, according to an updated 50-state comparison by the Education Commission of the States.
New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts all require students to attend at least 10 years of school, while West Virginia requires 11 years and Ohio requires students to attend for at least 12 years. Several states, including Connecticut, Maryland and the District of Columbia, require as many as 13 years in the classroom. Students in Pennsylvania are guaranteed a free education in the state's public schools between the ages of 6 and 21; however, attendance is required only for students between the ages of 8 and 17. All states offer free education for more years than they require attendance, according to the report. Local school boards have the power to establish and maintain kindergarten requirements for children age 4 to 6. Kindergarten is not required by the state. There are 13 states, plus the District of Columbia, that require districts to offer full-day kindergarten, according to the report.

Philly school graduation rates up; mayor promises more progress
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: NOVEMBER 9, 2017 — 1:19 PM EST
The audience was fired up, and so was Mayor Kenney: For three straight years, the Philadelphia School District’s graduation rate has risen.  For the class of 2017, 67 percent of all students earned diplomas in four years. That’s up 1 percentage point over last year, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. on Thursday told the audience at Lincoln High School, which saw a 12-point increase in its graduation rate. Kenney, who recently announced plans to seize control of city schools after 16 years of state control, said even marginal progress was remarkable. “This accomplishment is even more significant when you look at all the cuts our graduates had to endure during their academic careers,” the mayor said after Lincoln’s color guard, drum line and cheerleading squad welcomed an audience of students and dignitaries. “We’re sorry about that.” During the Class of 2017’s high school career, the district  endured dozens of school closings, layoffs of 4,000 staff, hundreds of millions in program cuts. Kenney, who last week directed the SRC to take a dissolution vote next Thursday that would become effective in June, said local control would advance the progress. He expects the school system to function as a department of the city.

Philly graduation rate rises slightly, and District celebrates
The notebook by Staff Report November 9, 2017 — 5:35pm
Four-year high school graduation rates have ticked up in Philadelphia for the third straight year, and scores on a key standardized test, the PSSA/Keystones, have improved as well. Among students who entered 9th grade in the District in 2013-14, 67 percent graduated in four years, a 1-percentage-point increase from the year before. The School District of Philadelphia held a pep rally Thursday at Lincoln High School to celebrate, and Mayor Kenney promised more progress when the city takes over control of the District – planned for 2018-19 – and pledged to close an anticipated $900 million funding gap over the next five years. School officials said the test results reflect the District’s strategic focus on college and career readiness and the hard work being put in by students, families, teachers, and principals.

Students at Young Scholars Charter get ready for 'Experience Week'
The notebook by Evan Durant November 9, 2017 — 2:50pm
Starting Monday, students at Young Scholars Charter School will be able to spend time at local businesses, organizations, and government agencies to learn about careers in what is being called “Experience Week.” The week will have theme days, such as vocations, the arts, and humanities. The school has partnered with 22 local workplaces where students can learn about day-to-day operations. The partners include Philadelphia City Planning Commission, Keller-Williams Real Estate, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Vetri Family Restaurants, the Stephen Klein Wellness Center, Castle Valley Mill, CBS Radio, and the Walnut Street Theatre. The goal is to give students a better idea of the variety of careers and options available. Young Scholars is a middle school serving 6th to 8th graders. “We are already pretty good at closing the achievement gap,” said John Amenda, the school's executive director, referring to a persistent test-score gap between white and Asian students and black and Hispanic students. “We just need to get better at closing the exposure gap.”

Students learn to combat hate at Philly conference
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent November 9, 2017
As his speech began, Akbar Hossain paused to take a selfie from behind the rostrum at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. With a crowd that big behind him, he explained, who could resist a picture? In the audience behind him sat nearly 500 students from 65 area high schools, all gathered in Philadelphia Thursday for the 11th annual Youth Conference hosted by the Anti-Defamation League. The conference aims to combat hate through a day of workshops and tough conversations. And if the crowd looked big to Hossain, the keynote speaker, it also looked big to organizers. Participation was up 30 percent from the year prior. “A lot of schools are experiencing hate incidents, bias incidents that they didn’t have before or weren’t as aware of before,” said Lisa Friedland, one of the event organizers. “So I think the attraction to having a workshop where kids can come together to challenge these things is a lot more prominent this year.”

Quaker Valley H.S. Experimenting With Later Start Times, Says Students Need More Rest
CBS Pittsburgh November 8, 2017 9:08 PM By Paul Martino
LEETSDALE (KDKA) — Starting classes later for teenage students is becoming a national trend.
Experts say many kids just aren’t ready to learn at 7 a.m., so that has many school districts in the Pittsburgh area rethinking what time they will ring their first bell. Quaker Valley began a bit of an experiment this year, starting first period at 8 a.m. instead of 7:45 a.m. So far, it’s been a big success. Now other schools, like Pine-Richland are thinking about starting their day later, too. “They just had kind of the zombie look, and they looked tired. So I think the shift by 15 minutes has definitely made a difference,” said Quaker Valley High School Principal Deborah Riccobelli.
The students agree.

Senate Tax Bill Ends Deductions for State and Local Taxes, Classroom Supplies
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on November 9, 2017 9:40 PM
The Senate on Thursday released its version of tax reform, and in one important respect it could have a bigger impact on spending for public schools than the House bill released last week. The Senate's GOP-only version would eliminate all the current deductions people can take on the federal tax returns for state and local income, sales, and property taxes. That could lead to a bigger federal tax burden for many individuals. So why is that a big deal for education? Education advocacy groups in Washington have been alarmed by the House legislation's provisions to strip away several state and local tax deductions, although the legislation would allow taxpayers to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes. They've argued that without those deductions, many people's federal tax returns would rise dramatically (and unfairly), and that would subsequently put a lot more pressure on state and local governments to cut their own tax revenue to compensate, which would reduce the pot for public schools. Since the Senate bill would get rid of all state and local tax deductions, the downstream effects on state and local K-12 spending would only increase, according to those advocates. 

'Starve the Beast,' Hurt Our Schools
Our schools will bear the brunt of the enormous disinvestment in the middle class being sold as tax reform.
US News By Lisette Partelow, Contributor | Nov. 8, 2017, at 1:00 p.m.
Having failed to enact their other legislative priorities this year, congressional leaders have now decided to place a big bet on getting "tax reform" to the president's desk as quickly as possible. Since the rushed introduction of their bill last week, much has been written about how individuals will fare come filing time, but changes to the tax code will also have huge implications for students, teachers and schools. Sadly, the tax bill currently under consideration in the House is designed primarily to redistribute money away from middle-class families toward rich people like Trump and his wealthy donors. It contains enormous permanent giveaways to the very wealthy and large corporations, while about a third of middle-class families will eventually see their taxes increase.

Comments About Muslims, Women in Science Sink Trump Education Nominee
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on November 9, 2017 5:01 PM
UPDATED - The Trump administration is yanking the nomination of Tim Kelly, a Michigan state representative who President Donald Trump tapped to lead the office of career, technical, and adult education at the U.S. Department of Education, after it became clear he was the author of a personal blog that made offensive statements about Muslims, Head Start parents, and federal efforts to recruit women into the sciences, a source said. "It became clear that Mr. Kelly had made a series of statements that were not reflective of the secretary's values," said an administration official. Sources characterized this as a decision that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos made when she was presented with the blog posts. The blog should have been caught in the White House vetting process, one source said. And Kelly should have disclosed it with his application, but failed to do so, this source added.  Kelly did not respond to an email and a phone call from Education Week, and his state legislative office declined to make him available for comment. However, in comments to the Detroit News after news broke that the Trump administration had pulled his nomination, Kelly said his blogs posts "have been blown out of proportion and were generally reflected 'mainstream' conservative thought," the newspaper reported.

School funds get high: Henderson scores pot cash
HENDERSON, Nev. (KSNV News3LV) — by Kelsey Thomas
Nevada took a gamble on recreational marijuana and it’s going to pay off big time for schools in Henderson. The Henderson City Council voted Tuesday night to put money from pot shop sales towards funding 39 public schools in Henderson. “I think it’s great,” said Armen Yemenidjin, founder and CEO of Essence Cannabis Dispensary in Henderson. Yemenidjin has been giving Henderson a taste of Nevada’s green rush and now, some of the money he makes will be going to nearby schools. "Nevada, for everything we have to offer, and for who we are as a state, I think the one area we lack in, is education,” he explained. There are no set numbers for how much money the schools will receive. It depends on how much marijuana the pot shops in Henderson sell. The money will come from license fees at businesses, which are based on 3-percent of gross revenues from all Henderson recreational marijuana sales. Around 30-percent of those fees would go to public schools in Henderson. The city projects fiscal year 2018 will bring in revenues up to $1 million. That means about $300,000 will go to Henderson schools.

Watch EPLC'S "FOCUS ON EDUCATION" on PCN on Sunday 11/12 at 3:00 pm. Panel discusses homeless students followed by update on new School Code changes.

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:
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!

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 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,

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.

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.

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. 6, TBD Southeastern PA (event pending 50+ registrations)
·         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 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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