Friday, January 19, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan. 19: School Directors voice opposition to SB2 school voucher plan

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, charter school leaders, 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.

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition
School Directors voice opposition to SB2 school voucher plan



SB2 ESA Vouchers could take $500 million from Pennsylvania public schools, which educate 90% of our kids, and give it to unaccountable private and religious schools. Voucher bill SB2 is anticipated to move out of the Senate Ed Committee as soon as next week.
Contact your state senator here:
Contact your state representatives here:




GIVE KIDS A SMILE 1-17-18 Update: WE'RE SO CLOSE. 80 people over the next 5 days would get us to our funding goal!  Help make free dental care for kids in need possible by making a donation today.



After a review of student software-login records for the 2015-16 school year, state officials determined that ECOT had overstated its enrollment by more than 9,000 students, and thus was overpaid by more than $60 million. To recoup those funds, the state has withheld roughly $2.5 million from each of its monthly payments to ECOT this school year.”
Ohio's Largest Cyber Charter Closes Mid-Year
Education Week By Benjamin Herold on January 19, 2018 9:44 AM
After a protracted fight with state officials over student attendance and funding, one of the largest full-time online charter schools in the country will shutter its doors mid-year, sending as many as 12,000 students scrambling to find new schools. The closure of Ohio's Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow is effective today, following a 3-0 vote by the board of the school's sponsor on Thursday evening. In a statement posted on Facebook Thursday, ECOT officials blasted the decision, saying the Ohio Department of Education should have come to an agreement that would have allowed the school to remain open through the end of the school year. "By rejecting an offer that would have allowed our current students to finish the year, Governor Kasich, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria, Diane Lease, and company showed they were more interested in settling a political score than in doing what's best for students," school spokesman and lobbyist Neil Clark in the statement. The closure comes because ECOT is running out of money, the result of efforts by the Ohio Department of Education to recover roughly $80 million in disputed funds.
Indiana Gazette By CHAUNCEY ROSS chauncey@indianagazette.net January 19, 2018
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CENTER TOWNSHIP — The Homer-Center school board has joined a growing list of schools and education institutions calling for the Legislature to defeat a proposed educational savings account (ESA) program that would provide school-choice vouchers to parents. The directors adopted a resolution at the urging of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, a group leading the call for the defeat of Senate Bill 2 in the General Assembly. Sponsored by Sen. John DiSanto of Perry and Dauphin counties, and co-sponsored by Sen. Don White and 19 other lawmakers, SB 2 would fund ESAs for parents to transfer their kids out of underperforming public school districts.

SB2: Otto-Eldred board discusses impact of Senate Bill 2 on their district
Bradford Era by BARB CLOSE Era Correspondent bmdclose@hotmail.com January 18, 2018
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DUKE CENTER — The Otto-Eldred School board unanimously voted to pass a resolution opposing Senate Bill 2 after discussions during the meeting held Tuesday evening. superintendent, Matthew Splain, discussed the potential impact of Senate Bill 2 with the board.  Splain explained if passed, Senate Bill 2 would siphon public school money toward private schools.  Families with students attending the lowest 15-percent performing schools in the state would be eligible to establish an Education Savings Account through the state Treasury to use toward private school costs along with other non-public educational resources. There would be no oversight or accountability for the use of these public funds.  Private schools would determine which students to accept, regardless of their educational background or disability. The calculation to determine the lowest 15-percent performing schools is quite limited. Currently, Otto-Eldred High School is on that list even though the building's current School Performance Profile score is 80.5, higher than any other building in the Intermediate Unit 9. It was also mentioned that Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway, currently supports this bill.  

SB2: Voucher plan bad for public schools
Altoona Mirror by OPINION DOLORES MCCRACKEN JAN 16, 2018
Dolores McCracken is a paraprofessional in the Council Rock School District.
Someone once said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” When I think about some legislators’ latest tuition voucher scheme, that sentiment comes immediately to mind. For the third or fourth time in the last quarter century, a few of Pennsylvania’s state senators have again made passing a tuition voucher bill a top priority. The goal of bills like this one has always been the same: take taxpayer money from public schools, and allow people to use it to cover tuition at private or religious schools. The state Senate plan, which renames these tuition vouchers “education savings accounts,” would siphon $500 million in state funding from the 71 school districts where students would be eligible to use them. And, it is the least accountable version yet of these flawed voucher plans.

Feds approve Pa. education plan that deemphasizes standardized testing
By Katie Meyer, WITF January 19, 2018
Now that US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has approved Pennsylvania’s 13-year education-improvement plan, state officials are working on rolling out some changes. The updated plan is designed to bring Pennsylvania into compliance with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the latest update of the federal education law that passed with bipartisan support in 2015.  Compared to its predecessor, No Child Left Behind, ESSA gives states much more flexibility in setting policy and spending federal public school dollars. One key change in Pennsylvania’s new plan is that it broadens how school success is measured. Created by Gov. Tom Wolf’s education department, a new system dubbed the Future Ready PA Index is being released in the fall, and will track things like career readiness, along with existing criteria like test scores. Critics, including the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate education committees and an independent panel of education policy experts, have complained the new measures are too vague. And they say the plan’s procedures for holding schools accountable to their improvement goals are too weak.

New US Dept of Ed Finding: Schools Cannot Require Parents or Students to Waive Their FERPA Rights Through Ed Tech Company’s Terms of Service
Future of Privacy Forum By Lindsey Barrett and Amelia Vance JANUARY 19, 2018
Policymakers, parents, and privacy advocates have long asked whether FERPA is up to the task of protecting student privacy in the 21st century. A just-released letter regarding the Agora Cyber Charter School might signal that a FERPA compliance crack-down – frequently mentioned as their next step after providing extensive guidance by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) employees at conferences throughout 2017 – has begun. The Agora letter provides crucial guidance to schools – both K-12 and Higher Ed – and ed tech companies about how USED interprets FERPA’s requirements regarding parental consent and ed tech products’ terms of service, and it may predict USED’s enforcement priorities going forward. FERPA compliance can be complicated; the statute was first passed in 1974 and has been occasionally updated to add additional protections and exceptions, some of which include ambiguous language. USED’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) – a program that has received  nearly universal praise from state and local officials over the past four years – has spent significant time and effort providing practical guidance, training, and resources for state and local education agencies to clarify FERPA’s requirements for the use of ed tech products.

School District of Lancaster moves wisely to address disparate number of school suspensions of black male middle schoolers [opinion]
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board January 19, 2018
THE ISSUE - School District of Lancaster administrators are seeking to address a disparity in suspensions given to black male middle school students, LNP correspondent Kimberly Marselas reported Wednesday. Black male students receive one-third of all out-of-school suspensions at the district’s five middle schools, even though they make up 17 percent of the student population. Data collected by the district and shared at a Jan. 9 school board work session shows black male students accounted for 33 percent of all sixth- through eighth-grade out-of-school suspensions over a 3½-year period ending in December. Hispanic students — constituting the district’s majority at 61 percent — accounted for 54 percent of suspensions during that same period. White students, at 13 percent of enrollment, received 11 percent of middle school suspensions.
The following infractions — described in School District of Lancaster staff members’ own words — led to out-of-school suspensions in the 2016-17 school year:
1. Skipping classes, defiance.
2. Instigating a verbal argument with another student in the cafeteria.
3. Admitting to bringing in a weapon to harm peers.
The third infraction, for sure, merited out-of-school suspension — and a call to the police.
But as for No. 1, why would you punish a kid for skipping class by enabling him to miss more classes? And as for No. 2, instigating a verbal argument? That is an adolescent art form.
These examples were provided to the School District of Lancaster school board Jan. 9. And they illustrate the murkiness of the criteria for out-of-school suspension in that district.

“Other members in the state General Assembly running for a different post and not seeking reelection to their current position include Sen. Scott Wagner (R-York) who is running for governor, Rep. Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-Yok) who is running for Sen. Wagner’s state Senate seat, Rep. Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh) who is running for US Congress, Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) who is running for US Congress, Sen. John Eichelberger (R-Blair) who is running for US Congress, and Rep. Judy Ward (R-Blair) who is running for Sen. Eichelberger’s state Senate seat. No Senator or House Democrat has announced their outright retirement as of press time.”
Recent wave of legislative retirements shakes up House GOP seniority
The PLS Reporter Author: Jason Gottesman/Thursday, January 18, 2018
It’s that time in the two-year legislative session when state lawmakers are making up their minds about whether they will seek another term in the General Assembly and a recent wave of recently-announced upcoming retirements is going to change the makeup of the House Republican caucus’s seniority list. Currently, the three most senior members in the House GOP are Representatives Bob Godshall (R-Montgomery), John Taylor (R-Philadelphia), and Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin), all of whom have announced they will not seek reelection. The change, as it stands now, will leave a trio of state House members elected in 1992—Rep. Matt Baker (R-Tioga), Rep. Tim Hennessey (R-Montgomery), and Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York)—as the most veteran House Republicans, assuming they each stand for and win reelection in November.

“The 18th is quintessentially Trump country. But there are at least six compelling forces playing out in this race that should frighten Republicans and reassure Democrats as the latter try to pick up a “safe” GOP seat heading into the momentous 2018 Midterms.”
PA18: Should the GOP Worry In Pennsylvania's March Special Election?
Politically Uncorrected Column by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L.Young January 3, 2018
The March 13 special election in the Pennsylvania 18th congressional district in the southwestern part of the state should be a ho-hum affair. It won’t be! It should be ho-hum because it is a strongly Republican leaning district, rated a plus 11 Advantage Republican by the respected Cook report, and rated at least “ likely Republican” by virtually every other election handicapper.  Conventional wisdom favors Republicans so strongly because of the history and demographic make-up of the district. The now disgraced previous incumbent, Tim Murphy regularly won the district by 60 percent or more - while Hillary Clinton pulled only a miserly 38 percent in the 2016 presidential race. What makes the district so favorable to Republicans is the composition of the electorate, which includes the southern portion of Allegheny County, as well as Washington, Westmoreland and Greene counties. The latter three were overwhelmingly carried by Trump in 2016. These counties are the homes of a substantial number of white, rural and small-town voters – many of them working class – the same voters that propelled Trump to his 44,000-vote statewide victory. They were a critical part of the president’s rust belt strategy, especially in the old manufacturing and mill town portions of the district.
https://www.fandm.edu/politics/politically-uncorrected-column/should-the-gop-worry-in-pennsylvania-s-march-special-election


SRC gives reprieves to Universal Vare, Memphis Street charters

The notebook by Darryl C. Murphy January 18, 2018 — 11:20pm
Memphis Street Academy Charter School at J.P. Jones and Universal Vare Promise Neighborhood Partnership Charter School both live another day after the School Reform Commission voted that the Charter School Office (CSO) should negotiate with both schools over conditions for renewal. Both are so-called Renaissance Schools, former low-performing District schools that were ceded to charter organizations on the promise of rapid turnaround. If the schools lose their charters, the District would have to take them back, since they still have neighborhood catchments. There were no dissenters in either vote, though Farah Jimenez recused herself during the Vare vote, citing a potential conflict of interest. Commissioner Bill Green was absent. Both schools were recommended for nonrenewal by the charter office, but mounted strong campaigns to stay open. Commissioner Christopher McGinley made it clear the votes were not renewals. “While there was great enthusiasm from the Memphis school community, we still have a lot of work ahead of us. This resolution directs the work of the charter school office.”

Three school districts consider moving start times later for teens
Post Gazette by MELISSA MCCART Post-Gazette JAN 18, 2018 3:42 PM
Three North Hills school districts are considering a later start time for high school students, prompted by studies showing that teenagers who get more sleep are healthier and perform better in school. North Allegheny, Hampton and Fox Chapel Area school districts are at different stages of the process. The North Allegheny School Board  is set to vote Jan. 24 on whether to move the start time for the Intermediate High School and Senior High School from 7:25 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. The starting bell sounds at the district’s three middle schools at 8:10 a.m., and would move to 8 a.m. with the proposed change. One of the biggest challenges to this move would be the cost and logistics of busing: whether the school district would have to add more buses to get students to school on time and whether middle and high school students would ride buses together, said Emily Schaffer, spokeswoman for the district. 

North Allegheny considers later start time for middle and high school students
Post-Gazette by SANDY TROZZO JAN 18, 2018 1:41 PM
The North Allegheny School Board will vote Jan. 24 on a proposal to start both high school and middle school at 8 a.m., beginning with the 2019-20 school year. The district had investigated ways to start high school later to help students with stress. Experts, including the American Medical Association, have recommend that high schools and middle schools start classes at 8:30 a.m. or later. However, the majority of the 5,530 parents, students and staff responding to a district survey did not want the starting times for elementary and secondary flipped. Combining the middle and high school bus runs was the only option that received support from the community. “We believe this is an appropriate compromise,” Superintendent Robert Scherrer said at the board’s work session Wednesday. Under the proposal, both the high school and middle school days would run from 8 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. The high school day now runs from 7:25 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., and the middle school day from 8:10 to 2:58 p.m. The start time for elementary schools would be pushed back five minutes, to 9:05 a.m., to accommodate bus schedules. School would also end five minutes later, at 3:35 p.m.

Pa. Supreme Court to hear Lower Merion tax appeal
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer  @Kathy_Boccella |  kboccella@phillynews.com
Updated: JANUARY 18, 2018 — 11:56 AM EST
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Lower Merion School District’s appeal of a lower court decision that said the district could not impose a 4.4 percent tax increase on residents for the 2016-17 school year. Last spring, a three-judge panel of Commonwealth Court dismissed an appeal in the district’s battle with three residents who sued over what they called excessive tax bills, which had increased 53.3 percent since 2006. They maintain that Lower Merion misrepresented how much money it had in reserve and claimed deficits that didn’t exist in order to impose a tax increase that exceeds what the state allows. “Obviously we’re extremely pleased,” Kenneth A. Roos, the district’s solicitor, said of the Supreme Court’s decision. In August 2016, Montgomery County Judge Joseph Smyth ordered the district to cut the tax increase for 2016-17 year to no more than 2.4 percent. In his ruling, he noted that the 8,400-student district – one of the wealthiest in the state – had falsely projected annual multimillion-dollar deficits since 2010, though it had accumulated a $42.5 million surplus. Lower Merion’s appeal was dismissed not on the merits but because the appeals court said the district failed to meet the 10-day deadline for filing post-trial motions after Smyth’s ruling.

“The bruhaha has unexpectedly put one of Pennsylvania’s most affluent and high-achieving suburban districts at the cutting edge of a national debate over the merits of suspensions. Critics question what good is accomplished by taking kids away from the classroom and cite statistics that non-white students and the disabled are disproportionately punished, although that isn’t the issue in Unionville which is 93 percent white.”
School district to rescind suspensions so kids can apply to college
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer  @Kathy_Boccella |  kboccella@phillynews.com
Updated: JANUARY 18, 2018 — 3:01 AM EST
When a Unionville High School administrator spotted a visibly intoxicated student at a football game last September, it triggered a school probe into underage drinking and e-cigarette use that led to 20 suspensions, roiling the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District – and that was just the beginning. Next came the backlash. Parents of many of the suspended high schoolers clashed with school leaders at heated board meetings and, in some cases, hired lawyers to contest the punishments – arguing the 10-day out-of-school suspensions for drinking were too severe, hampered their kids’ learning and, most importantly, would wreck their chances at getting into a good college. With the controversy dragging on for months, Unionville-Chadds Ford is now weighing a radical overhaul in its disciplinary policies that officials say would make it the first Pennsylvania district to allow for the rescission of student suspensions – a chance to wipe the record clean after a period of good behavior.

As homeschooling becomes more mainstream, is it right for my child? Here’s what I’ve learned.
Public Source by Saima Sitwat  January 18, 2018
The question surprised both of us. “Do you like being homeschooled?” a woman asked my 8-year-old daughter Alina at our gym in Wexford. She was out of school sick that day. I didn’t think homeschool was the most obvious reason to figure a child wouldn’t be in school. But, as Alina tried to decipher what “homeschooling” meant, I remembered that some of my friends have chosen to homeschool and recalled the kids I’ve been noticing during the daytime at grocery stores, how they practice spelling ingredients on the packages or calculating the bill at the register. While some of them could be enrolled in cyber schools, it made me wonder if homeschooling is becoming more mainstream — at least in my suburban world. In fact, homeschooling has been on the rise in Pennsylvania since the 2011-12 school year when there were about 20,900 homeschooled students in the state. In 2015-16, the state Department of Education recorded nearly 23,900 homeschoolers, which likely underestimates its prevalence because students homeschooled for religious reasons are exempt from the registration requirement. Still, homeschooled students represent only about 1.38 percent of K-12 students in Pennsylvania. Nationally, homeschoolers tend to be white (59 percent) and concentrated in the suburbs (39 percent), according to the National Center for Education Statistics [NCES]. The 2015-2016 state data showed 2,638 homeschooled students in the seven-county Pittsburgh metropolitan area, 40 percent of whom were living in Allegheny County.

Law would make schools notify parents when student gets tick removed
TRIBUNE-REVIEW by JAMIE MARTINES  | Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, 12:27 p.m.
The Senate Education Committee is considering legislation that would require schools to notify parents if their child was treated for a tick bite at school. Pennsylvania School Code currently does not include such guidelines. Pennsylvania is a leader in reported cases of the tick-borne illness Lyme Disease, which presents with symptoms including fever, chills, joint aches, swollen lymph nodes, headache and fatigue. Sometimes, a bull's-eye shaped rash appears in the area of the tick bite. The proposed bill-- Senate Bill 1016 --would require schools to send parents or guardians written notification that a tick was removed from a student at school. Though not all ticks carry Lyme Disease, monitoring for signs of Lyme Disease and treating the illness early is crucial.

Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks North Carolina Gerrymandering Ruling
New York Times By ADAM LIPTAK and ALAN BLINDER JAN. 18, 2018
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily blocked a trial court’s order requiring North Carolina lawmakers to produce a revised congressional voting map, making it likely that the midterm elections this year will be conducted using districts favorable to Republican candidates. The trial court had found that Republican legislators in the state had violated the Constitution by drawing congressional voting districts to hurt the electoral chances of Democratic candidates. The Supreme Court’s move was expected and not particularly telling. The court, which is considering two other major tests of partisan gerrymandering, has granted stays in similar settings. Its decisions in the pending cases, from Wisconsin and Maryland, are likely to effectively decide the North Carolina case, too.



Register now for PSBA Board Presidents Panel 
PSBA Website January 2018

School board leaders, this one's for you! Join your colleagues at an evening of networking and learning in 10 convenient locations around the state at the end of January. Share your experience and leadership through a panel discussion moderated by PSBA Member Services team. Participate in roundtable conversations focused on the most pressing challenges and current issues affecting PA school districts. Bring your specific challenges and scenarios for small group discussion. Register online.

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.

REGISTER TODAY! ELECTED. ENGAGED. EMPOWERED:
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.
WHAT'S NEW - ADVOCACY INSTITUTE '18?
·         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

PSBA Closer Look Series Public Briefings
The Closer Look Series Public Briefings will take a deeper dive into concepts contained in the proposed Pennsylvania State Budget and the State of Education Report. Sessions will harness the expertise of local business leaders, education advocates, government and local school leaders from across the state. Learn more about the fiscal health of schools, how workforce development and early education can be improved and what local schools are doing to improve the State of Education in Pennsylvania. All sessions are free and open to the public.

Connecting Student Success to Employment
Doubletree by Hilton Hotel – Pittsburgh Green Tree Feb. 27, 2018, 7-8:45 a.m.
More than eight out of 10 students taking one or more industry-specific assessments are achieving either at the competent or advanced level. How do we connect student success to jobs in the community? What does the connection between schools and the business community look like and how can it be improved? How do we increase public awareness of the growing demand for workers in the skilled trades and other employment trends in the commonwealth? Hear John Callahan, PSBA assistant executive director, and Matt Smith, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, give a free, public presentation on these topics followed by a Q&A period.


A Deeper Dive into the State of Education
Crowne Plaza Philadelphia – King of Prussia March 6, 2018, 7-8:45 a.m.
In the State of Education Report, 40% of schools stated that 16% to 30% of students joining schools at kindergarten or first grade are below the expected level of school readiness. Learn more about the impact of early education and what local schools are doing to improve the State of Education in Pennsylvania. A free, public presentation by local and legislative experts will be followed by a Q&A period.


Public Education Under Extreme Pressure
Hilton Harrisburg March 12, 2018, 7-8:45 a.m.
According to the State of Education Report, 84% of all school districts viewed budget pressures as the most difficult area to manage over the past year. With so many choices and pressures, school districts must make decisions to invest in priorities while managing their locally diverse budgets. How does the state budget impact these decisions? What investments does the business community need for the future growth of the economy and how do we improve the health, education and well-being of students who attend public schools in the commonwealth in this extreme environment? Hear local and legislative leaders in a free, public presentation on these topics followed by a Q&A period.

Registration for these public briefings: https://www.psba.org/2018/01/closer-look-series-public-briefings/

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 http://www.pasa-net.org/2018edcongress 

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.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan. 18: PA Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Redistricting Lawsuit

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, charter school leaders, 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.

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

Keystone State Education Coalition


SB2 ESA Vouchers could take $500 million from Pennsylvania public schools, which educate 90% of our kids, and give it to unaccountable private and religious schools. Voucher bill SB2 is anticipated to move out of the Senate Ed Committee as soon as next week.

Estimated per student amount of proposed ESA vouchers:
$5,770 per regular education student
$8,714 per Category 1 special education student
$21,756 per Category 2 special education student
$43,051 Category 3 special education student

Even though vouchers are funded with public money, when a parent switches their child from public to private school, they waive crucial special education rights granted to them under federal law.

Contact your state senator here:
Contact your state representatives here:




GIVE KIDS A SMILE 1-17-18 Update: WE'RE SO CLOSE. 80 people over the next 5 days would get us to our funding goal!  Help make free dental care for kids in need possible by making a donation today.



Pa. Supreme Court considers ordering new congressional map before 2018 elections
Inquirer by Liz Navratil, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: JANUARY 17, 2018 — 5:50 PM EST
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices on Wednesday interrogated lawyers defending the way the state’s congressional districts were drawn, a map opponents have challenged as illegally shaped to benefit Republicans, who hold a majority of its seats in the U.S. House. Based on the tenor of their questions, a majority of the court, which has five Democrats and two Republicans, appeared open to the argument that Pennsylvania’s congressional districts are illegally gerrymandered. A group of Democratic voters has asked the court to overturn the map and order a new one drawn before the 2018 elections, in one of several such lawsuits nationwide. The justices, while acknowledging that politics played a role in the boundary-drawing, must decide whether those political concerns crossed the line and deprived Democratic voters of their constitutional rights. “A test has, I think, eluded every court that has tried to grapple with this,” Justice Max Baer, who ran as a Democrat, said at one point during the 2½-hour hearing. Over and over, justices asked attorneys for the 18 Democratic voters who brought the suit and the leaders of the Republican-controlled legislature what the test should be.

Pa. Supreme Court takes on Pennsylvania's Congressional maps case
Penn Live By Charles Thompson cthompson@pennlive.com Updated Jan 17, 9:26 PM; Posted Jan 17, 3:46 PM
Members of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court didn't bother concealing their split views over the state's current map of U.S. House districts in the climax of a key redistricting case Wednesday. But loving or hating that map was really beside the point in Wednesday's two-and-a-half hours of argument at the State Capitol. The real key, both for the grassroots activists who are battling the status quo and the legislative leaders seeking to defend it, is whether the court can reach a consensus that the map's skewed lines violate state constitutional guarantees to free speech, and free and fair elections. Petitioners seeking new districts for this year's election cycle - initially including the state League of Women Voters and 18 Democratic voters - argued it's time for the court to set a standard that permits political considerations in redistricting, but only so long as they don't obliterate all other standards like contiguity and preserving communities of interest.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court hears congressional gerrymandering case
Morning Call by Steve Esack Contact Reporter January 17, 2018
For three straight election cycles, Republicans have won more than two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional seats. Now, in a closely watched gerrymandering lawsuit, it’s up to the Democrat-majority state Supreme Court to determine if those outcomes were the result of voters’ preferences or pre-determined by GOP map-making so partisan it violated the state constitution. The justices voiced concern about going farther than other courts to prohibit partisanship, and pressed lawyers about where the line might be drawn between fair partisanship and constitutional violations. “A test has eluded every court that's grappled with it,” said Justice Max Baer, one of five Democrats on the elected, seven-person court. The justices could dramatically redraw the state's political landscape months before the scheduled primary and make changes to the coming year's election calendar. They also could follow a lower court's recommendation last month and uphold the map, or they could delay implementation of any changes until 2020.

Justices ponder throwing out Pennsylvania congressional map
AP State Wire by Mark Scolforo January 17, 2018
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s highest court may soon decide how much partisan gerrymandering is too much, at least in terms of the state constitution. A challenge by Democratic voters to Pennsylvania’s Republican-crafted 2011 congressional district map landed before the state Supreme Court on Wednesday, with a ruling expected in the coming weeks. The map includes a suburban Philadelphia district that has been compared to one Disney cartoon character kicking another, a district that at times is as narrow as a single building. The result has been a durable 13-5 GOP advantage over three election cycles despite a large Democratic voter registration edge and Democrats holding the governorship and three row offices. The justices voiced concern about going farther than other courts to prohibit partisanship, and pressed lawyers about where the line might be drawn between fair partisanship and constitutional violations. “A test has eluded every court that’s grappled with it,” said Justice Max Baer, one of five Democrats on the elected, seven-person court. The justices could dramatically redraw the state’s political landscape months before the scheduled primary and make changes to the coming year’s election calendar. They also could follow a lower court’s recommendation last month and uphold the map, or they could delay implementation of any changes until 2020.

UPDATE: PA. SUPREME COURT HEARS ORAL ARGUMENT IN REDISTRICTING LAWSUIT
Public Interest Law Center Website January 17, 2018
On January 17, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held oral argument in Pennsylvania’s political redistricting lawsuit, League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania et al., v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. More than 150 people attended, filling the Supreme Court courtroom and an overflow room. The seven justices were very engaged in the argument, which lasted for almost three hours. The petitioners in the case – the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and 18 voters, one from each congressional district – are asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to rule the 2011 U.S. Congressional map unconstitutional and order it be redrawn. The Court showed interest in possible standards for determining when partisanship and intent to discriminate against voters go too far and violate the constitution. “Today we heard the legislative respondents admit that the mapmakers identified Democratic voters and deliberately sorted them in particular districts to mute their voice in the political process,” said David Gersch, Senior Counsel with Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP. Mr. Gersch argued first, on behalf of the petitioners. “This historically extreme partisan gerrymander violates Pennsylvania’s Constitution, and Commonwealth voters should not have to endure one more election under a discriminatory and unconstitutional map.”

“A report released Wednesday by Pre-K for PA said that only 36 percent of eligible children in Pennsylvania receive high quality, publicly funded pre-K. That means 112,900 children are not getting it, the report said.”
Former governors Rendell, Schweiker urge more funding for pre-kindergarten
Intelligencer By Chris English  Posted Jan 17, 2018 at 5:30 PM Updated Jan 17, 2018 at 7:26 PM
The two former Pennsylvania chief executives spoke during a press conference at the Bucks County Intermediate Unit in Doylestown Township. Former Pennsylvania governors Ed Rendell and Mark Schweiker lent their voices to the call for more state funding for quality pre-kindergarten during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Bucks County Intermediate Unit in Doylestown Township. During the event organized by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and Pre-K for PA, both Rendell and Schweiker said they placed high priorities on pre-K spending during their administrations but were often thwarted by their legislatures. The administration of Gov. Tom Wolf is making good progress, both former governors said. In 2017-18, state funding for pre-K is $226 million — a $30 million increase from last fiscal year and a $90 million hike over the last three years, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children President and CEO Joan Benso said. But more needs to be done, Rendell and Schweiker said. “The private sector has stepped up to make contributions to pre-K, but it’s not the private sector’s job,” Rendell said. “The education of our children is one of the core responsibilities of state government. There should not be one child in Pennsylvania not receiving a high quality pre-K education. Our children do better if we lay a foundation of pre-K education and full-day kindergarten.”

“Chairmen of the House and Senate education committees also expressed disappointment in the plan for that and other reasons. They communicated their dissatisfaction to the federal department, which is why when Senate Education Committee Chairman John Eichelberger, R-Blair County, heard it had been approved, said, "I'm not happy about it."
Feds approve Pa.'s education plan despite state lawmakers' disappointment with it
Penn Live By Jan Murphy jmurphy@pennlive.com Updated Jan 17, 3:57 PM; Posted Jan 17, 12:01 PM
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has put a stamp of approval on Pennsylvania's blueprint for improving education over the next 13 years and complying with the requirements of the No Child Left Behind successor law. Gov. Tom Wolf announced the approval of the state's plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act on Wednesday and hailed it as a "historic moment for public education in the commonwealth." The plan calls for cutting the length of the state exams given to third- through eighth-graders later and delaying the administration of those tests until later in the school year, increasing graduation rates, reducing chronic absenteeism, and emphasizing academic growth and assessing postsecondary readiness. It also includes changing the school report card to use a dashboard approach to display a school's performance on a variety of indicators.

Philly school board nominating panel getting down to work
The first meeting, on Friday morning, is open to the public.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa and Greg Windle January 17, 2018 — 7:00pm
The 13-member nominating panel charged with proposing candidates for the new Board of Education will start its work Friday morning, convening in City Hall for a session that is open to the public. Chosen by Mayor Kenney, the members of the group range from parents and educators to members of the Chamber of Commerce, the head of the local AFL-CIO, and several nonprofit directors. Some are affiliated with charter school advocacy groups, have been on charter boards, or have worked for charter organizations. About a third of the students in the city now attend charter schools, each of which has its own board but all of which are authorized by the District’s governing body. The City Charter specifies that the nominating panel must include representatives from various sectors, including labor, business, and higher education. The panel is charged with providing Kenney with 27 names by the end of February, from which he will choose nine people to serve on the school board. It will begin governing the District on July 1 after 16 years of state control through the School Reform Commission.

What's at stake as first day of new Philly school board begins | Editorial
by The Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: JANUARY 17, 2018 — 6:13 PM EST
When Mayor Kenney took the bold step to dissolve the School Reform Commission in favor of a locally appointed school board, he told City Council last Nov. 2 that he was accepting “accountability” going forward for the Philadelphia School District. The importance of that step can’t be underestimated. He also made clear that in having the city take responsibility for the district’s deficit, we’ll all be accountable, since we’re all going to pay for it. That process takes a big step Friday at the first meeting of a 13-member panel Kenney named Wednesday to recommend nominees for the Philadelphia Board of Education, which will return July 1 after a 16-year hiatus to take control from the SRC. There is much at stake here — the education of more than 200,000 children, a $1 billion deficit over the next five years, and a planned pitch from Kenney in March for more city taxes to pay for it all.

B-A School Board recommends not raising taxes
Altoona Mirror by WALT FRANK Staff Writer wfrank@altoonamirror.com JAN 18, 2018
BELLWOOD — Bellwood-Antis School District Superintendent Thomas McInroy has good news for district taxpayers. “It will be our recommendation not to raise taxes for the next year. We are doing well,” McInroy said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. In December, board members approved a resolution to certify that the district would not increase any school district tax for the 2018-19 school year at a rate that exceeds the index of 3.4 percent as calculated by the state Department of Education. Kimberly VanGorder, business manager and board secretary, said that meant the highest the board could increase taxes would be 0.31 mills. Board members Tuesday received their annual audit report Tuesday from Young, Oakes, Brown and Co. “We had a clean audit,” VanGorder said. This would mark the second consecutive year for board members to hold the line on taxes after increasing the real estate tax in 11 of the previous 12 years. “Now that our audit has no findings, we feel we can do it with the existing money that we have. When I came here, I made a promise to leave no stone unturned. The administration and staff have been very good at being responsible. We have streamlined how we do business and how we manage our resources,” said McInroy, who arrived at Bellwood-Antis in October 2014.

Teachers receive 3.2 percent average pay raise under Donegal's new collective bargaining agreement
Teachers in the Donegal School District will receive an average salary hike of 3.2 percent under a new collective bargaining agreement approved last week. The four-year contract was unanimously approved by the school board on Jan. 11 after four months of negotiations between school district officials and the Donegal Education Association. It takes effect July 1. “When you think of negotiations, sometimes you think of tenuous, difficult fighting, those types of things,” Donegal Superintendent Michael Lausch said. “It truly was not that. It was cordial, respectful and we appreciated the process.” Under the new contract, the annual pay scale for teachers in the 2018-19 school year ranges from $50,114 to $87,494, depending on years of experience and level of education. By 2021, that range would expand to $50,974 to $91,638, respectively. In addition to salary increases, teachers gained an additional professional development day, increasing staff contractual days to 190. Some changes were also made to health care under the new agreement. Employees gained a wellness plan and family vision coverage. However, deductibles, copays and spousal contributions will all increase.

Larry Wittig, ousted as state education honcho over sexual misconduct claims, still in charge in Tamaqua
Inquirer by Tricia L. Nadolny, Staff Writer  @TriciaNadolny |  tnadolny@phillynews.com Updated: JANUARY 17, 2018 — 1:26 PM EST
TAMAQUA, Pa. — Within 24 hours of being accused of past sexual misconduct, Larry Wittig resigned as president of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, was removed from the president’s leadership council at Drexel University, and was asked to give up his seat on the board of trustees at Philadelphia University-Thomas Jefferson University. But in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County, where Wittig has been president of the school board for 23 years, it is business as usual. At a Tuesday night board meeting presided over by Wittig, there was no discussion from board members or the public of the women who say Wittig pursued sexual relationships with them when they were teens and he was their coach. After adjourning the meeting, Wittig said no one has asked him to resign, and he has no plans to. “Absolutely not,” a visibly agitated Wittig said. “And that’s it. End of conversation.”


Surprise Democratic winner of Wisconsin special election is a school board member
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 17 at 5:36 PM 
News reports of Democrat Patty Schachtner’s surprise special election win against a Republican for a state Senate seat in Wisconsin’s rural 10th District have said this:
·         She won big in a county that elected Donald Trump as president by 17 points last year.
·         The victory is a huge “wakeup” call to Republicans, according to Gov. Scott Walker, a conservative Republican.
·         She is the St. Croix County medical examiner.
Here’s what they don’t say: She is a former member of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters’ Association, a gun-safety advocate, and a member of the Board of Education in the School District of Somerset who talked about public education while she was campaigning. In fact, the issue of public education is front and center to Schachtner, and local issues were what helped her win the election, commentators said. An interest in education issues could affect elections later this year in a state where public education advocates have accused the Walker administration of cutting K-12 funding (even though Walker says he is spending more than ever in the state), stripping teachers of collective bargaining rights and attempting to change the long-standing mission of the University of Wisconsin system.

Trump to Pennsylvania, but don’t call it a campaign trip
AP State Wire by Bill Barrow January 18, 2018
President Donald Trump is tiptoeing around the first congressional election of the new year as he heads to southwestern Pennsylvania on Thursday to hail the Republican tax cuts he signed last year. Trump will appear with the Republican nominee for a Pittsburgh-area House seat. But the White House said Trump won’t mention Rick Saccone in his remarks. And the event isn’t actually in the 18th Congressional District, which holds the special election March 13. Democrats, meanwhile, aren’t necessarily any more confident in the chances that lawyer and former Marine Conor Lamb can flip the district to their side. The handling of the race shows both sides’ reluctance to put too much emphasis on one contest amid the high stakes of this midterm election year. Saccone, a, 59-year-old state lawmaker, is trying to succeed Tim Murphy, who resigned after admitting to an extramarital affair. Lamb, 33, is looking for an upset in a union-heavy district Trump won by almost 20 points and where Murphy never got less than 58 percent of the vote in eight tries. It’s not surprising that Trump, looking for wins after the embarrassment of losing a Senate seat last month in conservative Alabama, might embrace a favored Republican in Trump-friendly territory.

Betsy DeVos: Nothing Presidents Barack Obama or George W. Bush did in education reform really worked
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss January 16, 2018 at 5:09 PM
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered her first speech of 2018 and flatly declared that school reform efforts under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had not worked — nor had any other reform effort by any education secretary. She also said the establishment of the Education Department by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 was essentially a “giant nod to union bosses.” DeVos gave a keynote address at the American Enterprise Institute’s conference titled “Bush-Obama School Reform: Lessons Learned,” and then answered questions from Rick Hess, resident scholar and director of Education Policy Studies at the conservative think tank. Here are some things she said — and didn’t say — in her speech and in her conversation with Hess, followed by the text of the speech:



Register now for PSBA Board Presidents Panel 
PSBA Website January 2018

School board leaders, this one's for you! Join your colleagues at an evening of networking and learning in 10 convenient locations around the state at the end of January. Share your experience and leadership through a panel discussion moderated by PSBA Member Services team. Participate in roundtable conversations focused on the most pressing challenges and current issues affecting PA school districts. Bring your specific challenges and scenarios for small group discussion. Register online.

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.

REGISTER TODAY! ELECTED. ENGAGED. EMPOWERED:
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.
WHAT'S NEW - ADVOCACY INSTITUTE '18?
·         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

PSBA Closer Look Series Public Briefings
The Closer Look Series Public Briefings will take a deeper dive into concepts contained in the proposed Pennsylvania State Budget and the State of Education Report. Sessions will harness the expertise of local business leaders, education advocates, government and local school leaders from across the state. Learn more about the fiscal health of schools, how workforce development and early education can be improved and what local schools are doing to improve the State of Education in Pennsylvania. All sessions are free and open to the public.

Connecting Student Success to Employment
Doubletree by Hilton Hotel – Pittsburgh Green Tree Feb. 27, 2018, 7-8:45 a.m.
More than eight out of 10 students taking one or more industry-specific assessments are achieving either at the competent or advanced level. How do we connect student success to jobs in the community? What does the connection between schools and the business community look like and how can it be improved? How do we increase public awareness of the growing demand for workers in the skilled trades and other employment trends in the commonwealth? Hear John Callahan, PSBA assistant executive director, and Matt Smith, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, give a free, public presentation on these topics followed by a Q&A period.


A Deeper Dive into the State of Education
Crowne Plaza Philadelphia – King of Prussia March 6, 2018, 7-8:45 a.m.
In the State of Education Report, 40% of schools stated that 16% to 30% of students joining schools at kindergarten or first grade are below the expected level of school readiness. Learn more about the impact of early education and what local schools are doing to improve the State of Education in Pennsylvania. A free, public presentation by local and legislative experts will be followed by a Q&A period.


Public Education Under Extreme Pressure
Hilton Harrisburg March 12, 2018, 7-8:45 a.m.
According to the State of Education Report, 84% of all school districts viewed budget pressures as the most difficult area to manage over the past year. With so many choices and pressures, school districts must make decisions to invest in priorities while managing their locally diverse budgets. How does the state budget impact these decisions? What investments does the business community need for the future growth of the economy and how do we improve the health, education and well-being of students who attend public schools in the commonwealth in this extreme environment? Hear local and legislative leaders in a free, public presentation on these topics followed by a Q&A period.

Registration for these public briefings: https://www.psba.org/2018/01/closer-look-series-public-briefings/

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 http://www.pasa-net.org/2018edcongress 

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.