Saturday, December 16, 2017

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec. 16: 5 reasons why Congress should protect public schools, reject tax plan

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Keystone State Education Coalition
5 reasons why Congress should protect public schools, reject tax plan

“Members of a House-Senate conference committee signed the final version of the legislation Friday, sending it to the two chambers for final passage next week. They have been working to blend the different versions passed by the two houses.”
GOP senators fall in line on tax overhaul bill
Post Gazette by STEPHEN OHLEMACHER AND MARCY GORDON Associated Press 9:15 PM DEC 15, 2017
WASHINGTON — After weeks of quarrels, qualms and then eleventh-hour horse-trading, Republicans revealed their huge national tax rewrite late Friday — along with announcements of support that all but guarantee approval next week in time to give President Donald Trump a Christmas legislative triumph.  The legislation would slash tax rates for big business and lower levies on the richest Americans in a massive $1.5 trillion bill that the GOP plans to muscle through Congress before its year-end break. Benefits for most other taxpayers would be smaller. “This is happening. Tax reform under Republican control of Washington is happening,” House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin told rank-and-file members in a conference call. “Most critics out there didn’t think it could happen. ... And now we’re on the doorstep of something truly historic.”

Tax Bill Could Hand DeVos First Major School Choice Victory
The GOP tax plan would allow people to use their college savings accounts to pay for expenses at private and religious K-12 schools.
US News By Lauren Camera, Education Reporter |Dec. 15, 2017, at 9:21 a.m.
The GOP tax plan could hand the Trump administration and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos their first major school choice victory. As it stands, the brokered deal between House and Senate Republicans, which is slated for a final vote sometime next week, includes language that would allow individuals to use 529 savings accounts – currently reserved for college-related expenses – to also cover expenses at K-12 private schools, including religious schools. "Happy with the addition of the 529 piece in the bill," DeVos told the Associated Press on Thursday after a higher education summithosted by the Education Department. "But beyond that, I know that this is like sausage making, so I am looking forward to the results and to a successful outcome." Indeed, final passage of the tax package is not given, as a handful of Senate Republicans have voiced concerns over various aspects of the bill. But should Republican leadership wrangle the numbers needed, it would hand DeVos her first legislative win.

5 reasons why Congress should protect public schools, reject tax plan
Too many of the provisions in the Republican tax-cut plan would hurt public education. 
Delco Times Opinion By Lawrence Feinberg, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 12/15/17, 9:45 AM EST
I am writing on behalf of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council to urge readers and all public education stakeholders to contact their members of Congress and ask them to vote No on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act when it returns to the House of Representatives. The Legislative Council is comprised of locally elected volunteer school directors representing each of the 15 school districts in Delaware County. More than 50 million (90 percent) of U.S. schoolchildren attend public schools. The tax reform bill being considered in the U.S. Congress poses a very real threat to our public school students, parents and taxpayers.
Here are five reasons for our members of Congress to vote NO:

Find your Members of Congress Here and Contact Them
Use GovTrack to find out who represents you in Congress and what bills they have sponsored.

“Five groups that represent public school superintendents, school business officials and rural schools authored a letter opposing the tax overhaul, saying it “includes provisions that undermine the strength of our nation’s public school systems and compromises the ability of these systems to adequately and effectively provide educational opportunities and services to the students they serve.”
Here’s what the GOP’s proposal to overhaul the tax code means for schools, students and parents
Washington Post By Moriah Balingit and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel December 15 at 9:45 PM 
Republicans backed away from some of the most controversial education proposals in their finalized tax bill Friday, leaving in place a school supply deduction for teachers and breaks for student borrowers while also declining to tax tuition benefits, a prospect that infuriated graduate students. “On balance, the final bill is far better news – especially for students and families — than it could have been,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, which represents colleges and universities. But public school advocates assailed the plan, which left intact provisions that could hurt public school funding while providing tax breaks for parents who send their children to private schools. ….Here’s a round up of some of the ways the tax bill could affect parents, educators and students.

"We lost a policy fight. Our schools and students lose more," said Noelle Ellerson Ng, the associate executive director of AASA, the School Superintendents Association, which along with other state and local groups sought to keep the current deductibility of state and local taxes. “
Final Tax Bill Keeps Teacher Deduction at $250, Cuts State and Local Deductions
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa on December 15, 2017 5:57 PM
UPDATED After extensive negotiations, a congressional conference committee has agreed to a final tax reform bill that could impact state and local funding and teachers' pocketbooks, as well as school choice. The legislation still needs to be passed by both the House and Senate and be signed into law by President Donald Trump, who wants a tax bill to sign before Christmas. Here are a few key details we know about it:
State and Local Tax Deductions
The final legislation allow taxpayers to deduct up to $10,000 in either a combination of property and income taxes, or property and sales taxes. (See page 81 of the bill's joint explanatory statement at the link above.) Both the bills previously passed by the House and Senate would have allowed people to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes, but not income or sales taxes. Reducing the amount of state and local taxes people can deduct could exert significant pressure on some states and communities to reduce their own taxes, and therefore reduce revenue available for funding for schools. We discussed this on a recent episode of Education Writers Association radio

Washington Did A Lot This Week And America's Schools Will Feel It
NPR by CORY TURNER December 16, 20176:04 AM ET
Hello and welcome to another roundup of the top education stories. It's been a long week and a lot has happened. Here's our recap.
The FCC votes to repeal net neutrality regulations
The Republican majority on the Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to repeal Obama-era rules that restrict the power of Internet service providers to favor specific websites and apps. This dramatic reversal in favor of providers has propelled the once-wonky issue of net neutrality into the mainstream, turning it into an increasingly political matter. The 2015 rules were put in place to prevent Internet providers from controlling what people can access and how quickly they can access it by, for example, blocking websites or apps and meddling with loading speeds.

Tax Bill Would Increase Abuse of Charitable Giving Deduction, with Private K-12 Schools as the Biggest Winners
Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy REPORT December 14, 2017
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In its rush to pass a major rewrite of the tax code before year’s end, Congress appears likely to enact a “tax reform” that creates, or expands, a significant number of tax loopholes.[1] One such loophole would reward some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals with a strategy for padding their own bank accounts by “donating” to support private K-12 schools. While a similar loophole exists under current law, its size and scope would be dramatically expanded by the legislation working its way through Congress.[2] This report details how, as an indirect result of capping the deduction for state income taxes paid, the bill expected to emerge from the House-Senate Conference Committee would enlarge a loophole being abused by taxpayers who steer money into private K-12 school voucher funds. This loophole is available in 10 states: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Editorial: It's imperative that Congress reauthorize CHIP now
Lancaster Online Editorial by THE LNP EDITORIAL BOARD December 16, 2017
THE ISSUE: Two-and-a-half months after its funding expired, the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers 8.9 million kids nationwide, has still not been reauthorized by Congress. Unless this changes, 16 states — including Pennsylvania — will run out of CHIP money by the end of January, and three-quarters of all states will exhaust their program funds by the end of March.
Pardon us if we’re beginning to sound like a broken record, but there’s no excuse for Congress’ ongoing failure to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has always enjoyed strong bipartisan support. It’s beyond disappointing to us that CHIP has become a casualty of the national capital’s hyperpartisan atmosphere. We’ve criticized this congressional inaction in previous editorials since CHIP funding expired Sept. 30, hoping the men and women who represent us in Washington would do the right thing before the situation became dire. But by late January, this legislative stalemate — should it continue — could start to have some very real consequences for families in Lancaster County and around the country if the program ends.
CHIP funding covers about 10,000 children in Lancaster County and approximately 178,000 children statewide.

“Federal funding accounts for 90 percent of the $450 million CHIP budget. Congress failed to reauthorize CHIP before the Sept. 30 deadline and has not yet addressed funding for the more than 9 million children nationally who benefit from it.”
Governor Wolf Signs Bill to Protect Children’s Health Care, Urges Federal Action
Governor Wolf’s Website December 15, 2017
Philadelphia, PA – With state legislators, cabinet officials, health care providers, families, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) administration and clinicians joining him, Governor Tom Wolf today held a bill signing of legislation to protect children’s health care through state funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, commonly known as CHIP. “I am proud to sign this legislation that represents Pennsylvania’s bi-partisan commitment to securing health insurance for our most vulnerable – our children and pregnant women,” said Governor Wolf. “However, this is just one step in ensuring children are cared for. Congress needs to do its part and reauthorize CHIP at the federal level. Without federal funding, more than 180,000 children in Pennsylvania could be without health care in early 2018.”

Wolf signs state CHIP bill, but still no federal action
Inquirer by Rita Giordano, Staff Writer  @ritagiordano | Updated: DECEMBER 15, 2017 — 4:08 PM EST
Gov. Wolf signed a bill Friday reauthorizing Pennsylvania’s participation in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The bigger worry, however, remains with Congress, which has yet to renew this largely federally funded program that provides health care for nearly 9 million low-income and special needs children, as well as more than 370,000 pregnant women nationwide.  Pennsylvania’s CHIP program is projected to run out of money by the end of January if federal lawmakers fail to act soon. “Congress needs to do its part and reauthorize CHIP at the federal level,” said Wolf. “Without federal funding, more than 180,000 children in Pennsylvania could be without health care in early 2018.” CHIP, a 25-year-old program which has enjoyed a long history of bipartisan support, has been stalled on the state and federal levels this year. Many health advocates say politics is to blame.

The Pa. congressmen who pushed for net neutrality to be repealed (and the lobbying money they received)
Penn Live By Candy Woodall Updated Dec 15, 8:26 AM; Posted Dec 15, 7:16 AM
Three U.S. congressmen from Pennsylvania were among the 107 Republican House members who called for net neutrality to be repealed.  They sent a letter Wednesday to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai that said, "The record is exhaustive, every viewpoint is well represented, and the time has come for the Commission to act."  These are their names, the areas of the state they represent and how much special interest money they've received from the telecom industry, which benefits from the repeal:

Scranton School District may lay off 89 teachers
SCRANTON — The Scranton School District may lay off 89 teachers — mostly those who teach art, music, physical education, library, industrial arts, and family and consumer sciences. District officials announced the cuts, meant to help close a nearly $19 million budget gap for next year, during a committee meeting Thursday night. Some teachers wept and others yelled out in frustration as administrators discussed the plan. The school board must pass the budget by the end of year, but directors learned Thursday the state would give the district an additional three months to balance the $164.5 million spending plan because of the district’s financial watch status. The 89 layoffs, which also include 10 special education teachers, would be effective July 1. The job cuts would only save about $1 million in 2018, but that number would grow in subsequent years, after the district stops paying unemployment benefits and sees a full year of savings. Regular elementary classroom teachers would assume responsibility for teaching subjects like art, music and gym. Some intermediate and high school teachers in those subjects would keep their jobs, but fewer electives would be offered. “We’re going back in education not 10 years, but 50,” said Rosemary Boland, president of the Scranton Federation of Teachers. “You better bloody well know this is about the kids in this district, and you’ve just hurt them.”
The board must still approve the changes and will hold a budget hearing Monday at a time and place to be determined. Administrators are also expected to explain the changes in greater detail. Public comment, except for final remarks by Boland, was not permitted Thursday.

Gatekeepers: Philadelphia Education Fund Adopts New Paid Access Policy
Wrench n the Gears Blog December 16, 2017
Farah Jimenez is a member of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission and current director of the Philadelphia Education Fund (PEF), a nonprofit that hosts monthly conversations on topics related to public education in Philadelphia. These days, if you want to attend one of their Education First Compact meetings, you’re going to have to jump through a lot of hoops. That wasn’t previously the case. Advance registration for meetings is now required, a policy put in place after Ms. Jimenez was hired in April 2016. When registering via the website, attendees are strongly encouraged to financially support the organization as either a series subscriber or by purchasing individual tickets. Corporate and foundation subscribers pay $750, while individuals pay $100; though there is the option to donate more.

Cyber Charters Continue to Struggle: A State-by-State Look at Reports of Trouble
Education Week By Arianna Prothero on December 14, 2017 9:14 PM
From California to Ohio to Nevada, cyber charter schools often struggle mightily to graduate students and they frequently clash with state regulators over their academic performance and financial management. Nevertheless, the niche sector of K-12 schooling continues to expand across states even in the face of such poor results. As part of an Education Week investigation published a year ago, we plotted dozens of local media reports and state audits on an interactive map. Now, we've updated the map through 2017, which you can find here:
Cyber Charters Have a Champion in DeVos
Although cyber charter schools have long struggled with poor academic performance and financial mismanagement, they now have a high-profile ally in the Trump administration: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.  The education secretary has a long track record on favoring a range of school choice, incuding online schools operated by for-profit companies. She was also an early invester in K12 Inc., the country's largest virtual school operator.

DeVos Delays Rule on Racial Disparities in Special Education
New York Times By ERICA L. GREEN DEC. 15, 2017
WASHINGTON — The Department of Education is proposing to delay for two years an Obama-era rule that requires states to aggressively address racial biases that may be channeling disproportionate numbers of minority children into special education. The department is soliciting public comment on its plan to postpone enforcement of the so-called “significant disproportionality rule,” due to take effect July 1, 2018. The rule, which was issued in the last weeks of the Obama administration, required states to look at districts that had disproportionately high numbers of minority students identified for special education services, segregated in restrictive classroom settings or disciplined at higher rates than their peers. If it is not scrapped, the rule would take affect in 2020. The Education Department estimated in one analysis that nearly half of the school districts in the country would be identified as having significant disproportions of minorities in their special education populations if they were to adopt a standard the department considered reasonable. It also estimated that it would cost districts between $50 million and $91 million to implement the rule.

Trump administration forbids CDC officials from using 7 words and phrases
Morning Call by Lena H. Sun and Juliet Eilperin Washington Post December 15, 2017
Trump administration officials are forbidding officials at the nation's top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases - including "fetus" and "transgender" - in any official documents being prepared for next year's budget. Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are: "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based" and "science-based." In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of "science-based" or "evidence-based," the suggested phrase is "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes," the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.

The '7 Dirty Words' Turn 40, but They're Still Dirty
The Atlantic by TIMOTHY BELLA  MAY 24, 2012
Bottom of Form
Four decades after George Carlin's legendary monologue, the law still can't decide how to handle publicly broadcast swearing.
On May 27, 1972, George Carlin took to the stage for a show at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to record his Class Clown album, which was scheduled to come out that fall. Carlin—a comedic champion of the counterculture with long hair, a thick beard, earrings, and a propensity for recreational drugs—was writing material that was going to upset some people. He didn't think much of what kind of influence a seven-minute routine on those seven words would have on the culture at large. He was aware, however, that what he was going to say that night could put his career in jeopardy. A decade earlier, Lenny Bruce had been blacklisted from performing in U.S. clubs because of his profanity-laced routines. 

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 11 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, Haverford Middle School
·         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.

NSBA 2018 Advocacy Institute February 4 - 6, 2018 Marriott Marquis, Washington D.C.
Register Now
Come a day early and attend the Equity Symposium!
Join hundreds of public education advocates on Capitol Hill and help shape the decisions made in Washington D.C. that directly impact our students. At the 2018 Advocacy Institute, you’ll gain insight into the most critical issues affecting public education, sharpen your advocacy skills, and prepare for effective meetings with your representatives. Whether you are an expert advocator or a novice, attend and experience inspirational keynote speakers and education sessions featuring policymakers, legal experts and policy influencers. All designed to help you advocate for your students and communities.

Local School Board Members to Advocate on Capitol Hill in 2018     
NSBA's Advocacy Institute 2018 entitled, "Elected. Engaged. Empowered: Representing the Voice in Public Education," will be held on February 4-6, 2018 at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C. This conference will convene Members of Congress, national thought-leaders, state association executives and well-known political pundits to provide local school board members with an update on key policy and legal issues impacting public education, and tactics and strategies to enhance their ability to influence the policy-making process and national education debate during their year-round advocacy efforts.
·         Confirmed National Speaker: Cokie Roberts, Political Commentator for NPR and ABC News
·         NSBA will convene first ever National School Board Town Hall on School Choice
·         Includes General Sessions featuring national policy experts, Members of Congress, "DC Insiders" and local school board members
·         Offers conference attendees "Beginner" and "Advanced" Advocacy breakout sessions
·         NSBA will host a Hill Day Wrap-Up Reception
Click here to register for the Advocacy Institute.  The hotel block will close on Monday, January 15

Registration is now open for the 2018 PASA Education Congress! State College, PA, March 19-20, 2018
Don't miss this marquee event for Pennsylvania school leaders at the Nittany Lion Inn, State College, PA, March 19-20, 2018.
Learn more by visiting 

SAVE THE DATE for the 2018 PA Educational Leadership Summit - July 29-31 - State College, PA sponsored by the PA Principals Association, PASA, PAMLE and PASCD.  
This year's Summit will be held from July 29-31, 2018 at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel, State College, PA.

Any comments contained herein are my comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.

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