Tuesday, November 7, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Nov. 7, 2017: Get out and vote today

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. 7, 2017:
Get out and vote today

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.

Arguments set in suit challenging GOP’s Pennsylvania legislative maps
Delco Times By The Associated Press POSTED: 11/07/17, 5:21 AM EST
PHILADELPHIA >> Arguments are set in a federal lawsuit that alleges congressional districts in Pennsylvania unfairly give Republicans an electoral advantage. Court records show that the case brought by five Pennsylvania voters against the governor and elections officials heads to federal court in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to halt the lawsuit after Republican legislative leaders argued that the case could occur as the justices are considering a Wisconsin gerrymandering case with “substantively identical claims.” Republicans won 13 of 18 congressional seats in the 2014 and 2016 elections despite earning a little over 50 percent of the vote. They say their maps are lawful. Pennsylvania is considered to be one of the most gerrymandered states. The lawsuit seeks to redraw the lines before the 2018 midterm election.

U.S. Supreme Court allows lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s congressional map to proceed
By Lindsay Lazarski, WHYY November 7, 2017
A federal lawsuit challenging Pennsylvania’s congressional districts will move forward after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito denied, on Friday, a push by the leaders of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to put the case on hold. The lawsuit, brought by five Pennsylvania voters, claims the state violated the U.S. Constitution by illegally gerrymandering the state’s congressional districts after the 2010 census — when Republicans controlled the state House, Senate and governor’s office. Since that map was put into place, Republicans have held 13 of 18 congressional seats in Pennsylvania, even though registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by 800,000 voters. Plaintiffs hope for a court order to abandon the current map before the 2018 congressional elections and have it replaced with a fair and nonpartisan map.
Their case hinges on the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which they interpret as saying that a state legislature cannot come between voters and their national government.

Property tax changes proposed on Tuesday’s ballot
Bucks County Courier Times By James Boyle  Posted Nov 6, 2017 at 7:06 AM
A ballot question asks voters Tuesday to grant state and local lawmakers the authority to change property tax assessments. While choosing candidates for county and local offices, Pennsylvania voters on Tuesday will also decide whether to amend the state Constitution to allow the general Assembly to change how school districts collect taxes. Since 1997, school taxing authorities have had the ability to exempt up to 50 percent of a homestead’s assessed value from property taxes. If approved, the new amendment eventually could grant local school boards authority to expand that exemption to 100 percent of the assessed value. However, as pointed out by Jenkintown accountant Jay Brower in a blog posted Thursday on the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the ballot question is just another of several steps before this amendment would make a difference on property taxes. As he explains, a “yes” vote would grant the general assembly the power to draft legislation that would allow the local school boards to decide if they want to use those homestead exemptions. That legislation would need to endure the standard bill-making process through the House and Senate and reach the governor’s desk. Then it will be up to individual school districts to take advantage. Districts control whether they provide the exemptions and at what percentage. They do not have to recognize the exemptions, and offer any tax relief.

Superintendents weigh in on school code legislation that passed without governor's signature
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer November 7, 2017
After four months of squabbling over which pieces fit where, the Pennsylvania Legislature has passed the final piece of its budget puzzle. Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday allowed the multifaceted, 75-page amended school code to become law without his signature. The package contains a wide array of education mandates, including teacher furlough reform, a measure delaying the Keystone Exam graduation requirement another year, and a ban on “lunch shaming.” Administrators here say they’re pleased with much of the bill’s intentions. Some, however, see particular language in the bill as an assault on public schools.

School Code Bill Is 'A Disappointment' Says Pittsburgh Teachers Union
A sweeping school code bill will become a state law without Gov. Tom Wolf's signature. 
In addition to providing funding for public schools, the GOP-penned legislation suspends the traditional seniority rules that dictate furloughing teachers, opting instead to eliminate teachers based on who scores the worst on the state's teacher effectiveness rating. "We are really, really disappointed in this," said Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. "School code bills are supposed to allocate funding to the schools. [They] shouldn't be used to make major policy changes." The rating system, which went into effect in 2013,  determines whether a teacher is satisfactory, in part, by their class's standardized test scores. The measure also lets school districts lay off teachers by citing financial distress. Previously, teachers could only be fired if their department was slashed, schools were closed or enrollment declined. The bill is pretty involved. Read more about its full implications here and here.

Erie schools less likely to join statewide lawsuit
GoErie By Ed Palattella  Posted at 2:01 AM
District’s additional state funding has caused it to revisit stance.
Its victory at the statehouse has made the Erie School District balk at whether to seek a win in a courtroom. The district’s guaranteed $14 million state funding boost has led officials to review whether the district should become a party to a lawsuit over funding for school districts statewide. In March, with the Erie School District’s budget situation growing more precarious, the School Board unanimously approved a resolution that signaled the district’s plans to participate in the case, then before the state Supreme Court. The resolution required that, if the Supreme Court ordered the case back to state Commonwealth Court, the district’s legal staff “shall, as soon as then may be practicable, take such actions as may be necessary to join” the suit. The Supreme Court remanded the case to Commonwealth Court on Sept. 28. The Erie School District has yet to take action. District Solicitor Tim Wachter said the district is evaluating its stance in light of the General Assembly passing the fiscal code bill, on Oct. 24, that guarantees the district will receive $14 million in additional recurring state funding beginning this fiscal year, which started July 1. The district sought the funding to stay solvent. In the funding lawsuit, school districts and other petitioners are trying to force the state to increase funding for poorer school districts — an outcome the 11,500-student Erie School District accomplished with the $14 million in recurring funding.

Bethlehem Area School District looks to add sign language to high school curriculum
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call November 6, 2017
When Liberty High School senior Jack Weikert became fluent in American Sign Language and was able to communicate with deaf students at his school, he realized the importance of the language. Weikert often spent his lunch time sitting with deaf and non-deaf students at Liberty and served as a translator of sorts so all the teenagers could communicate with each other. “I saw how it changed the daily lives of the deaf students at the high school,” he said. “They never had anyone to talk to.” Weikert spent most of his high school career urging teachers and administrators to add the language to the curriculum. He even started a petition to try and get sign language classes. At long last, Weikert’s wish is coming true. The Bethlehem Area School District is looking to add American Sign Language to its world languages curriculum at the high school level next year. Superintendent Joseph Roy said Weikert brought the need for American Sign Language to the district about three years ago. School Director Eugene McKeon applauded the district for recommending American Sign Language. “I wish my daughter had this available,” McKeon said. In the Lehigh Valley, the Parkland School District has been offering sign language classes for more than 20 years at its high school. There are 10 sections of sign language, with almost 300 students enrolled, spokesperson Nicole McGalla said.

Puerto Rican students welcomed in Allentown schools
"At first it was a little tough."
WFMZ by Cali Desimone  Posted: Nov 06, 2017 10:40 PM EST Updated: Nov 06, 2017 10:45 PM EST
ALLENTOWN, Pa. - The Allentown School District has taken in 159 students from Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and four children from the Serrano family are included in that number. Grandmother Rosa Serrano says her daughter sent her four children to live with her on October 10 after many schools in Puerto Rico closed. "They had no electricity, no running water, and because they wanted to continue with their education, their mother sent them here to live with me," explained Rosa. The grandchildren, who lived in San Juan, are in 1st, 5th, 8th, and 9th grades. Their transition to living in Pennsylvania hasn't been easy. They are separated from their mother and they don't know much English. "They are very happy children. At first it was a little tough, but now they are getting acquainted with the schools. They like school and they don't want to go back to Puerto Rico," said Rosa. "We absolutely have open doors and we are looking to support every child that resides within the city of Allentown," added Allentown School District Superintendent Thomas Parker. Parker says the district is in the process of expanding its “Newcomer Academy” to include students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

In North Philadelphia, a school reshaped by Hurricane Maria
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent November 7, 2017
Carlos Soriano was entering his ninth-grade year at a vocational school in northwestern Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria barreled through the island. The storm wrecked his hometown of Moca, denuding the lush garden that once wove through his school’s campus. He still thinks about the wreckage of that garden, and the looters who ransacked his town in the aftermath of Maria. “I feel safer, but still, like, if there’s a little bit of noise, I still wake up,” he said. “And I wake up like three times a night, usually.” About a month later — with his school still closed — the aspiring architect left his mother in Puerto Rico and moved in with his dad in North Philadelphia. He enrolled at Olney Charter High School, a school of about 2,000 in the heart of Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican community. Carlos is one of seven Puerto Rican students displaced by the storm who’ve landed at Olney High. That’s in addition to the 63 students who’ve enrolled at traditional public schools in Philadelphia. Those aren’t massive numbers in a district of 134,000, where student movement is commonplace. “It hasn’t been an overwhelming influx,” said district spokesman Lee Whack. But Olney High’s story since Maria isn’t just about Carlos and other newcomers. The school and its community have been irreparably reshaped by the storm.

Wearing Coates: Carver students living in Trump’s America
Student writers met with the acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates before a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania last week. Here are their reflections.
The notebook by Gabrielle Browne, James Hillyard, C’Essence Palmer and Tiffany Roberts November 6, 2017 — 6:30pm
Editor's Note:  Students at George Washington Carver High School for Engineering & Science wrote this commentary as part of their work in the Philly School Media Network, a collaboration between the Philadelphia Writing Project and the Philadelphia Public School Notebook. 
On Halloween Eve, Donald Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, told the world that Robert E. Lee was an “honorable man” and that the Civil War was a result of the lack of an ability to compromise. One of the people who took him to task on Twitter was Ta-Nehisi Coates, staff writer for The Atlantic magazine, where his well-known articles “The Case for Reparations” and “The First White President” appeared. Coates is also the author of a book of letters to his son, Between the World and Meand a new book reflecting on the Obama years in a time and place where Donald Trump is president, called We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy. On Nov. 1, Coates spoke at the University of Pennsylvania, and some of us — George Washington Carver High School for Engineering & Science students — were in the audience. We had the opportunity to meet and talk with him before the lecture.

WE caucus confronts white supremacy at fourth annual conference
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa November 5, 2017 — 6:30pm
Some 200 teachers and other members of the Caucus of Working Educators chose to spend a pleasant fall Saturday in a 200- year-old building confronting an issue that most people tend to run away from: white privilege and white supremacy. The fourth annual WE conference was held at the Old First Reformed United Church of Christ at 4th and Arch streets, which dates back to the 18th century.  “We think it’s a fundamental problem in our country that causes a lot of other problems,” said Amy Roat, one of the caucus founders and a member of the steering committee. “We all live in the system of white supremacy, whoever you are, and it is unseen by most white people and it isn’t talked about and we’re not connecting white supremacy to our life experience in the classroom or in the community. So we need to explicitly do that in order to learn and grow.”
Attendees focused on how the teacher unions can orient themselves toward social justice instead of just “bread and butter” union issues such as wages and benefits. One of their main speakers was Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.

One Way to Fix Broken School Instruments: Call a Composer
David Lang, a Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning composer, created “Symphony for a Broken Orchestra” to help raise money to repair musical instruments for the Philadelphia school system.
New York Times By TED LOOS NOVEMBER 6, 2017
Parents are used to hearing that school budgets are putting the squeeze on activities like music and sports. But rarely has a solution to such a problem been as elaborate and artistic as the “Symphony for a Broken Orchestra.” The Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning composer David Lang was commissioned by Temple Contemporary, the art gallery at Temple University, to create the symphony to help solve a problem: The Philadelphia school system has more than 1,000 broken instruments and little money to fix them. Around 400 musicians, a third of them students in the public schools, will perform the piece on Dec. 3 at the 23rd Street Armory in Philadelphia on some of those broken instruments. Now based in New York, Mr. Lang grew up in Los Angeles. “I thought, ‘I am a musician because there were instruments in my school,’” he said. “I had a visceral response to this project. Every one of these broken instruments is a kid who won’t have a life-changing experience. I am getting upset right now just thinking about it.” After the show, for which tickets are free, the instruments will be repaired, using money from donations inspired by the performance, online gifts to “adopt” instruments and financial support from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and the Barra Foundation. Repair kits will also be given to the schools, and a “legacy fund” endowment established. About $100,000 has been raised of the $1 million goal. The initiative is an example of focused local philanthropy, something that strongly motivates donors, said Buff Kavelman, a New York–based philanthropy consultant.

Want to Protect Money for Teachers in Trump's Washington? Good Luck.
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on November 6, 2017 7:49 AM
Advocates for teachers have had several cringe-worthy moments in 2017.
That's not necessarily a surprise. The two national teachers' unions, for example, backed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton early and vigorously in 2016, and pushed back hard against then-candidate Donald Trump. But nearly 10 months into a Trump administration and a Republican-dominated Congress, the potential changes to policies impacting teachers are starting to become clear and more numerous.
·         The House spending proposal for education for the next budget year eliminates about $2 billion in Title II funding that goes towards teacher training and a reduction in class sizes. That could leave 9,000 education jobs out to dry. The Senate spending bill keeps Title II money intact, but when the House and Senate eventually reach a compromise on federal education funding, Title II money is a primate candidate to get reduced if not eliminated altogether. Especially since Trump wants the entire program scrapped just like the House does.
·         The Republican's proposed rewrite of the tax code does away with the $250 tax deduction teachers can take for personal money they spend on classroom supplies. In the grand scheme of the legislation, that's not a huge provision. But it's provoked the ire of teachers who think the bill already could hurt them in other ways. Speaking of which ... 
·         The GOP-only tax legislation could also shrink non-federal resources for education, since it tosses out some deductions many taxpayers take for state and local taxes. That in turn could pressure some states to cut their tax rates and therefore their revenue base for public school spending.

Raging Tax Debate Sucks In Teachers' Deductions, School Choice
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on November 7, 2017 7:21 AM
Congressional debate over the Republican-backed proposal to change the tax code is under way in Congress, and education issues are getting a share of the spotlight. The tax overhaul proposed by House Republicans last week, officially titled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, would end the $250 deduction that teachers can claim on their income taxes for money they spend on classroom supplies. The bill, released last Thursday, would also end the deduction individuals can take on interest they pay on their student-loan debt, and expand the allowable uses of 529 college savings plans so that parents and others could use the money for K-12 expenses, including for private school tuition. More generally, the reductions in income tax rates could put some more money in the pockets of people at certain income levels, including teachers. Obviously, much would depend on teachers' total household income, how many children they have, and other factors. The size of the tax cuts would also decline over several years, because of congressional rules for the legislation. During a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday, Democrats and Republicans argued fiercely about the pros and cons of the bill, which Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have said they want to pass by the end of 2017.

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.

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 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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