Monday, November 6, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 6: Wolf lets HB178 School Code bill become law

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. 6, 2017:

VOTE. On Tuesday PA voters will elect more than 2000 school board directors in all districts except Philly. Polls open 7 am til 8 pm.

If you do nothing else on Tuesday, remember to vote | Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board Updated Nov 3; Posted Nov 3
At a forum at Widener University Law School earlier this week, David Thornburgh, the son of the former governor, and head of the Philadelphia voter advocacy group, The Committee of Seventy, made a simple, yet eternally profound observation. This Nov. 7, Election Day, he remarked, will likely be a "low-information and low-turnout" state of affairs. One wants Thornburgh to be proven wrong, but hard-won experience will probably prove him right. And that's too bad. Across the ballot on Tuesday, Pennsylvanians will make decisions that, even more so than races for the General Assembly, Congress, the Governor's Mansion, and the White House, will hit them directly where they live.

HB178: Gov. Tom Wolf allows school bill to become law that alters decades-old teacher furlough law
Penn Live By Jan Murphy Updated Nov 3; Posted Nov 3
Gov. Tom Wolf is allowing a multi-faceted education bill to become law that contains a controversial teacher furlough reform, a ban on "lunch shaming," and provides $10 million more for tax credits for companies that donate to private school scholarship funds. olf announced his decision on Friday afternoon that he will neither sign nor veto this bill and instead will let the 10-day clock run out on Monday, which automatically allows it to become law. "Governor Wolf believes components of this bill are important: delaying the Keystone Exams, expanding opioid education in schools, curbing 'lunch shaming', and providing additional funding to help distressed school districts," said his spokesman J.J. Abbott. "Though there are components of the bill that he has concerns about, particularly Republican plans around teacher evaluation and termination, he will allow it to become law but withhold his signature. 

HB178: Gov. Wolf will let education budget bill lapse into law
Inquirer by Liz Navratil, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: NOVEMBER 3, 2017 — 4:20 PM EDT
HARRISBURG — Gov. Wolf on Friday announced that he would allow an education-funding bill to become law although it contains a provision, stripping seniority protection from teachers in layoffs, that has angered an important part of his coalition. The bill, known as the education code, authorizes spending for public school districts, but is packed with policy changes for public schools. “Gov. Wolf believes components of this bill are important: delaying the Keystone Exams, expanding opioid education in schools, curbing ‘lunch shaming,’ and providing additional funding to help distressed school districts,” his spokesman, J.J. Abbott, said in a statement. “Though there are components of the bill that he has concerns about, particularly Republican plans around teacher evaluation and termination, he will allow it to become law but withhold his signature.”
The bill will become law Monday, ending a four-month budget impasse. Teacher unions expressed dismay over the layoff language, which relies on evaluations they believe are arbitrary.

HB178: Wolf lets bill become law that weakens teacher protections amid other school policy shifts
WHYY By Kevin McCorry November 6, 2017
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf will allow a bill to become law that weakens teacher seniority protections and gives school districts more flexibility in their rationale for making layoffs.
School districts now will be able to cite “economic reasons” as a rationale for furloughing teachers. Previously, districts could only slash staff by closing schools, cutting whole academic programs, or pointing to enrollment declines. State Rep. Steven Bloom, R- Cumberland, said that’s bad public policy. “So they may eliminate the art program, the music program, the languages program, or they may close a school building — because that’s the only flexibility the current law gives them,” said Bloom. The new law, which takes effect Sunday, will also weaken teacher seniority protections. Previously, any layoffs had to be done in inverse order of seniority — last in, first out. Under the new law, schools must instead prioritize the state’s teacher effectiveness rating system, which is based on a mix of classroom observations and student performance on state standardized tests.

‘Free’ tuition: A look at the cost of public education
Educators push for funding reform
The Sentinel by JULIANNE CAHILL Education/religion editor NOV 4, 2017
Editor’s note: This is the first article in a series exploring the relationship between traditional public schools and charter schools in Pennsylvania.
LEWISTOWN — There is no such thing as free education.
According to the most recent data available, it cost an estimated $4,051 to educate a regular education student in the Mifflin County School District during the 2014-2015 school year, including government subsidies based on average daily membership. In the same year, it cost $7,414.97 to educate a student who lived within the district and opted to enroll at a charter or cyber charter school. Both payments came out of taxpayers’ pockets. Pennsylvania public schools, including charter and cyber charter options, are funded through a combination of federal, state and local tax dollars. Traditional school districts receive funds from those channels directly, while charter schools are funded through tuition payments made by those districts. MCSD Superintendent James Estep said charter and cyber charter schools are an important element of school choice, but said the law is in need of substantial reform. Charter tuition is determined through a formula based on what it costs to educate a student within the public district where they reside. This cost is calculated by dividing the district’s total expenditures by its average daily membership. Students do not pay tuition to attend charter schools; tuition for Mifflin County residents who enroll in charter schools is paid by MCSD. At first glance, the formula seems it would be equitable. However, school leaders say the system does not reflect the actual cost necessary to educate students.

Voting 'yes' on Pa. tax question? Don't expect relief | Editorial
By Express-Times opinion staff Updated Nov 5, 6:08 AM; Posted Nov 5, 6:00 AM
Here's a prediction: On Tuesday, Pennsylvania voters will overwhelmingly approve a referendum that would, theoretically, give local taxing districts the power to eliminate property taxes on homes. Who wouldn't support that? Here's another prediction: Once that change is written into the state Constitution, the legislative juggernaut to ease property taxes on homeowners will remain stuck in neutral. This ballot question isn't a remedy. It's a framework for legislative action to allow school districts, municipalities and counties to offer homestead tax exemptions of up to 100 percent of the median value of homes within their borders. That could wipe out property taxes for some people, but whether local taxing bodies take that route is entirely up to them. The rub is that no municipal council or school board would wipe out its primary source of revenue without another vehicle (sales, income or other taxes) to fill the void. By now local officials are accustomed to do-it-yourself tax revisions from Harrisburg, promising a sledgehammer that turns out to be a pair of tweezers.

Former charter parents countersue Agora Cyber founder
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Staff Writer  @marwooda | Updated: NOVEMBER 3, 2017 — 5:36 PM EDT
When a defamation suit against several former Agora Cyber Charter School parents ended in 2016 after 7½ years, two of the parents vowed to sue Dorothy June Brown, the founder of the school, who had targeted them. Ira and Angelique Smith, who said legal expenses from the case caused them to fall behind on mortgage payments and lose their home in Parkesburg, Chester County, have made good on that promise. The Smiths have sued Brown for wrongful prosecution. Also named in the complaint filed in Montgomery County Court are charter schools and businesses Brown worked with or created. The couple are seeking more than $50,000 in damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees for  years of emotional and financial hardship they allege Brown caused because they questioned the operation of the taxpayer-funded cyber school, which enrolls students from across the state. The slander and defamation suit Brown lodged in 2009 alleged that parents had made statements implying that she was “corrupt, incompetent, and possibly criminal.” In their counter suit, the Smiths allege Brown filed the defamation suit and continued it without believing in the truth of its claims with the intent of harassing and maliciously damaging the couple and other Agora parents. Among other things, the parents had expressed concerns that a  management firm Brown had created — Cynwyd Group LLC– was being paid by Agora for services that were being performed by K12 Inc., a for-profit firm in Virginia that was contracted to provide management and technology services. The defamation case was put on hold after federal authorities charged Brown with defrauding Agora and other charter schools she had founded of $6.5 million in 2012.

On schools, Kenney decided Philly can’t wait any longer
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent Dale Mezzacappa November 5, 2017
On one of his weekly school visits, made faithfully since taking office, Mayor Jim Kenney was standing in a classroom — he thinks it was a fourth or fifth grade — when he was distracted by water dripping down from a leaky roof. “How long has it been that way?” he asked the teacher. “Three years.” Kenney called a roofer he knew. The leak was fixed within days — gratis. “The bureaucracy would say that’s not the way we do it,” Kenney said. “But I’m not gonna allow a kid to sit in a leaky classroom for three years because paper work’s not moved from one place to another.” Nearly every Philadelphia mayor before Kenney has been a peripheral player in the city’s education drama, able to offer only small fixes and, sometimes, a bully pulpit. When it came to healing the whole system, their powers were limited. Starting next year, however, Kenney will have unprecedented say in the direction of Philadelphia’s schools. This week he took upon himself full responsibility for improving the overburdened and underfunded system, making a dramatic call for an end to the state-dominated body that has run it for 15 years and for the return of a local Board of Education, with all nine members appointed by him.

Mayor Kenney's plan to save Philly schools: Surprising and gutsy | Editorial
by The Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: NOVEMBER 3, 2017 — 4:20 PM EDT
At the end of the day, Philadelphia schools belong to Philadelphians. That’s why we applaud Mayor Kenney for his courageous move to take back the schools from state control. And make no mistake: It is courageous. For the last 16 years, mayors have been able to operate free from accountability for the performance of the city’s school system. State control allowed the city’s leaders to point elsewhere every time the School District faced yet another crisis. And it gave the rest of us a convenient and distant enemy to blame for our schools, and the problems that result from underfunding them. Not that the state didn’t deserve enmity:  The takeover in 2001 gave a temporary reprieve to a fiscal crisis, but the state went on to make decisions that undermined education, in direct budget cuts and questionable policies. And though no one could accuse SRC members of not being dedicated, they had no power to get more money. In the end, the SCR’s existence made it easy for everyone else to hide in the shadows. So now Kenney has stepped into the light and said he is responsible. (Remarkably, he actually used those words: “I am responsible.”) That includes financial responsibility, with a commitment to cover a current $103 million deficit –  $1 billion over five years. Here’s what gives us confidence that this is the right move:

Philly takes back control of its schools: Why now?
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham & Maddie Hanna - Staff Writers Updated: NOVEMBER 4, 2017
Six weeks ago, State Rep. John Taylor got a call from Mayor Kenney: What did the Philadelphia Republican think, the mayor asked, about ending state control of the city schools sooner rather than later? For the School Reform Commission to be dissolved this year and a new, locally appointed board to be in place for the 2018-19 school term, the SRC would have to self-destruct by the end of this year. Kenney was floating the idea of local control with a guy who’s always been a bridge — a Philadelphian, but a Republican. It was one of a number of calls the mayor had made to various officials floating the idea of local control. “‘If it’s going to be any time soon, it has to be right now,'” Taylor recalled Kenney saying. Taylor said he agreed. On Thursday, Kenney delivered the news to a cheering audience gathered in City Council chambers that he was asking the SRC to dissolve itself and preparing to cover much of the billion-dollar deficit that will soon loom for the Philadelphia School District. A nine-member school board will take the SRC’s place in July.

“The lawsuit alleges state maps have unfairly given Pennsylvania Republicans an electoral advantage, and it seeks to reshape the state’s congressional districts before the 2018 midterm elections. Republicans won 13 of 18 congressional seats in the 2014 and 2016 elections despite earning a little over 50 percent of the vote.”
Supreme Court rejects bid to halt redistricting lawsuit
WHYY By Associated Press November 4, 2017
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to put on ice a federal lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s congressional districts approved after the 2010 census. Justice Samuel Alito on Friday rejected the requested stay of the lawsuit by five Pennsylvania voters against the governor and elections officials, a court official said Saturday. Republican leaders in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly had said in the request filed last week that a trial in the case could occur in about a month, as the justices are considering a Wisconsin gerrymandering case with what they call “substantively identical claims.”  House Speaker Mike Turzai and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, who were granted a request to intervene in the federal case, asked the court to impose a halt until a similar Commonwealth Court lawsuit over the districts is resolved — and that case is mostly on hold pending a decision in the Wisconsin lawsuit. Lawyers for Turzai and Scarnati argued the Wisconsin decision could render the Pennsylvania lawsuit moot, or narrow its issues.

A year after Trump’s election, York, Pa., is forever changed
Boston Globe By Matt Viser, Globe Staff November 04, 2017
One in a series of occasional articles examining how President Trump’s ascendance and early moves have altered expectations and reality. This story is the first of three gauging those effects in one Pennsylvania county.
YORK, Pa.—Are you OK? Where are you? Barbara Estep kept texting her daughter, Nylaya Way, who was not responding. Donald Trump had stunned the nation by winning the presidency the night before, and now frightening things were happening at Nylaya’s vocational high school, York County School of Technology. Racial tensions had been building in the school’s corridors,  afeteria, and parking lot throughout the historically divisive campaign. Then, hours after Trump claimed victory in the election, they boiled over as a group of white students held aloft Trump campaign signs and chanted in a hallway, “White power!’’ A brief video clip of the incident shot across the social media feeds of York Tech students and their parents. “I just thought it was going to be this big race riot,” Barbara Estep said. “The country-fed boys, they’re hunters. I’m sorry, that’s what I thought. These city kids, they have guns. I thought it was going to be a big shootout.”
Finally, a text came from Nylaya: I’m OK. Stop worrying. But even as the threat of violence seemed to ease, Estep decided to keep her daughter out of school the next day. Many other parents made the same call. “When I called the school and I said, ‘I’m not going to send her,’ ” Estep recalls, “the person in the attendance office said, ‘I don’t blame you.’ ” Trump’s election a year ago profoundly altered the United States in ways that continue to reverberate, but perhaps most visibly and disturbingly in how we talk to one another, especially about the hardest things, like the nation’s racial divide. The volume is up; the edge is sharp. Old grievances feel new, and civility is being sorely tested.

“Mike Petrilli, the president of the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, said the change will benefit wealthy families who already have money to pay for private school and who have enough money to set aside to make the savings account work. "It sure doesn't do much to fulfill the president's campaign promises around school choice," Petrilli said. "It's telling that they couldn't find the money to support a program for low-income students, but they did find a way to give a major new benefit to affluent parents who send their children to private schools."
He added: "The benefits can now flow to the wealthy. It seems like a subsidy for people that don't need it."
Republican tax bill furthers DeVos' push for school choice
Inquirer by MARIA DANILOVA, The Associated Press Updated: NOVEMBER 3, 2017 — 4:39 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) - Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' school-choice agenda is getting a bit of a boost from the Republican tax bill, which would allow parents to use education savings accounts to pay tuition at private elementary and secondary schools. Yet some conservative groups favoring school choice say the tax bill doesn't help low-income families. Expanding school choice - access to charter, private and other options besides neighborhood schools - has been a top priority of the Trump administration and DeVos, who has spent decades working on that front in her home state of Michigan. But nine months into her tenure, DeVos has yet to come forward with a major school choice initiative, which her supporters have been hoping for and her critics have feared. The tax proposal, unveiled Thursday, stops significantly short of the $20 billion school-choice project that President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail.

The GOP Has a New Vehicle for School Choice, But Are the Wealthy at the Wheel?
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on November 6, 2017 7:17 AM
The House GOP's plan to overhaul the tax code includes a provision that would allow 529 college savings plans to be used for K-12 expenses, including private school tuition. It's a victory for advocates of school choice that we previewed last August—but who uses those accounts now, and how much could they help expand choice? Just a quick overview: 529 plans are state-backed savings plans that can cover college tuition and other costs related to higher education. Unlike some other tax-advantaged plans, various family members can open accounts on behalf of a child. Contributions to 529 plans are tax deductible. There isn't a single hard cap on how much people can contribute to 529s, although they're supposed to only pay for qualified education expenses. More basic information here via Business Insider. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos also praised the provision of the bill as "a strong and proven tool to help make education more affordable for middle-class families." (Remember that the school choice expansion plans she pushed for in the proposed Trump budget have fallen flat in Congress.) But ironically enough, the American Federation for Children, the school choice advocacy group that DeVos used to lead, said while it supported the move, it wouldn't truly help "low-income families who aren't able to put away those savings." EdChoice, formerly known as the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, expressed pros and cons for the idea similar to DeVos' old organization.

Editorial: The Best Charter Schools Deserve More Leeway on Hiring
New York Times By THE EDITORIAL BOARD NOV. 3, 2017
New York City is one of the rare places in the country where charter schools generally have made good on the promise to outperform conventional public schools in exchange for flexibility from the state that lets them lengthen the school day, alter the curriculum, do away with tenure and change how teachers are compensated. The State University of New York, which oversees most of the state’s charters, removed yet another regulatory obstacle last month when it gave high-performing charter schools the right to design their own teacher-training programs and certify their own teachers. The new certification rules represent a reasonable attempt to let these schools avoid the weak state teacher education system that has long been criticized for churning out graduates who are unprepared to manage the classroom. The national scope of this problem was documented a decade ago in a devastating report by Arthur Levine, a former president of Teachers College, Columbia University, who criticized universities for using teacher-training programs with low or no standards as cash cows. He called on colleges to strengthen the more promising programs and to shut down the worst.

NY Times Offers Dumb Endorsement
The New York Times took a swipe at the teaching profession today by endorsing one of the Empire State's dumbest ideas.
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Saturday, November 4, 2017
Last month SUNY gave its pet charter schools the freedom to hire whatever warm bodies they could get their hands on, based on the theory that-- well, I'm not sure. That hiring real teachers is hard, and expensive? That getting trained educational professionals to take bad direction from well-connected amateurs (lookin' at you, Eva Moskowitz)? That the leaders of charters are just so awesome that their awesomeness will elevate the warm bodies they hire? That teaching isn't a real job and any schlubb off the street can do it? Pick your favorite theory.  In any case, the NYT thinks the warm body idea is awesome sauce. The NYT fact-checking machinery is legendary. When my old friend got married years ago in NYC and his announcement was going to take up four whole lines of NYT space, the Grey Lady called my friend's mom back in our small town to confirm that she did in fact run the business that the announcement said she ran. So I believe that America's newspaper of record knows how to check it some facts. And yet this editorial was written when the fact checkers were out to lunch.

Kevin Chavous: Knight in Shining School Choice Armor to For-Profit K12 Inc.?
Deutsch29 Blog by Jennifer Berkshire November 3, 2017
On October 26, 2017, BusinessWire announced that Chavous– who was already a board member for the for-profit, online education company, K12, Inc.– would now become the company’s “president of academics, policy, and schools.” K12, Inc., sells online education of questionable quality, and it secretly lobbies to do so. Even so, K12 profits aren’t what they used to be. In December 2016, K12 shareholders filed a resolution requesting transparency regarding K12’s secretive lobbying activities, particularly singling out K12 money paid to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). K12 shareholders noted that ALEC promoted model legislation favoring education for-profits like K12 even as K12’s “performance has not fallen in line with our stated mission.”

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!

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. 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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