Wednesday, January 10, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan. 10, 2018: Senate Bill 2 would siphon more tax money from public schools

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.

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Keystone State Education Coalition

”Instead of driving money away from our public schools, lawmakers should be investing in them. PA ranks 47th in state share of education funding – meaning local taxpayers are doing all of the heavy lifting to fund their schools. According to the Public Interest Law Center, Franklin County school districts are already underfunded by more than $30 million. It’s time the leadership in Harrisburg does its part and starts supporting local school districts – and easing the property tax load – rather than wasting everyone’s time trying to dress up an old, failed concept.”
Senate Bill 2 would siphon more tax money from public schools
Chambersburg Public Opinion Commentary by Susan Spicka 11:44 a.m. ET Jan. 9, 2018
Susan Spicka is the executive director of Education Voters of PA and a school board member in Shippensburg.
Who wants to pay higher school property taxes in order to fund students’ private school tuition? It’s time to get on the phone and tell Senator Richard Alloway to oppose Senate Bill 2, legislation that would bring a new generation of school vouchers known as education savings accounts (ESAs)  to Pennsylvania. Just before the holidays, Sen. Alloway was appointed to the Senate Education Committee. He replaced a lawmaker whose opposition to Senate Bill 2 kept it from passing out of the committee. Corporate lobbyists and anti-public education lawmakers in Harrisburg appear to be hoping that Alloway will provide the single vote needed to pass Senate Bill 2 out of committee. Senate Bill 2 would create a new and costly program that would remove state funding from public schools and put these taxpayer dollars into separate accounts (education savings accounts or ESAs) for families to spend on private school tuition. Families could also use this money to buy consumer goods like books and school supplies. There is little transparency or accountability for the money that will be funneled into these accounts, creating significant opportunities for the waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Blogger note: Governor Wolf appears to be the only candidate who opposes vouchers.
2018 Pa. governor's race: It's early but this much we know about the candidates
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Posted November 09, 2017 at 12:10 PM | Updated November 09, 2017 at 12:18 PM
With the 2017 elections now behind us, attention quickly turns to next year’s gubernatorial race that will feature a field of at least three GOP candidates in the hunt to send Democratic incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf packing after a single four-year term. In the coming days and weeks, you will need only turn on your TV to be reminded that even though we don't elect a governor until next November, the campaigns are kicking into high gear. Candidates are buying up television time to get their name and message out in hope that it resonates with voters…..
Do they favor school choice?
Wolf: No. He opposes vouchers and any program that diverts state funding away from Pennsylvania’s public schools. He believes tuition vouchers cost the commonwealth and school districts hundreds of millions of dollars, which would ultimately be passed onto taxpayers in local taxes.
Wagner: Yes. He said, "I support a system that lets kids escape from failing public schools. We have to offer parents of kids the opportunity to improve their kids' lives and there is no doubt that a voucher is a life-line for kids trapped in failing public schools simply due to the zip code they live in."
Mango: Yes. He said he wants to expand the list of brick-and-mortar charter school authorizers (entities empowered to grant a charter which allows one of these independent public schools to open) to more than just school districts. He also supports the latest iteration of vouchers called educational savings accounts. He said he will not tolerate "locking a child into a school system that is failing and not changing even though it's failing."
Ellsworth: Yes. She supports it.

In the first decision of its kind, North Carolina’s congressional map was ruled unconstitutionally gerrymandered
Post-Gazette by ALAN BLINDER The New York Times JAN 9, 2018 7:16 PM
A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional map Tuesday, declaring it unconstitutionally gerrymandered and demanding that the Republican-controlled General Assembly redraw district lines before this year’s midterm elections. The ruling was the first time that a federal court had blocked a congressional map because the judges believed it to be a partisan gerrymander, and it deepened the political chaos that has enveloped North Carolina in recent years. “We agree with plaintiffs that a wealth of evidence proves the General Assembly’s intent to ‘subordinate’ the interests of non-Republican voters and ‘entrench’ Republican domination of the state’s congressional delegation,” Judge James Wynn wrote in a 191-page opinion that another judge joined in full. Later in the ruling, Wynn, an appointee of then-President Barack Obama, added that the judges believed that Republicans in the Legislature had been “motivated by invidious partisan intent.” Although the judges said that the state could not conduct its 2018 congressional elections with the existing map, they said they would allow the General Assembly to try again. The judges gave lawmakers until Jan. 24 to propose a “remedial plan,” but cautioned that the court would begin preparations to issue a map of its own if it found the new district lines deficient.

Senate Republicans: $1 Million In Taxpayer Money Spent Fighting Gerrymandering Case, Calls For League Of Women Voters To Drop Case
PA Capitol Digest by Crisci Associates January 9, 2018
As the legal costs to taxpayers surpasses the $1 million mark, Senate Republican Leaders Tuesday called on the League of Women Voters to withdraw its redistricting case, which would allow the Senate’s ongoing examination of reforms to move forward. In Pennsylvania, a lawsuit was filed by Washington, D.C.-based attorneys on behalf of the League of Women voters and 18 Pennsylvania petitioners, all of whom are registered as Democrats.  The petitioners object to the bipartisan redistricting plan passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor in 2011. The lawsuit was filed almost 6 years after the plan became law and after three Congressional elections had been held. “Taxpayers are paying a hefty price for the League of Women Voters’ Washington, D.C., attorneys to argue gerrymandering, when courts have ruled that a partisan advantage is not against well-established federal and state law,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson). “With a Commonwealth Court Judge decision saying that the state’s Congressional districts are Constitutional, we hope the League and 18 petitioners would spare taxpayers further costs by dropping the case.”

Wait. What? Pa. House to really shrink?
Philly Daily News by John Baer, STAFF COLUMNIST Updated: JANUARY 9, 2018 — 3:30 PM EST
OK, look, this is what they’re saying. Like you, I’m skeptical, but let’s play it out. The sponsor of a bill to reduce the size of the legislature, Rep. Jerry Knowles (R., Schuylkill), says he has assurances from House bosses – Speaker (and wannabe governor) Mike Turzai and Majority Leader Dave Reed – that the bill will get a vote soon. House leadership spokesman Steve Miskin says, “yes,” that’s true. The oft-intractable chairman of the House committee holding the bill, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R., Butler), tells me he plans to move it soon. And while “soon” in the legislative world can mean anytime next millennium, Metcalfe says “soon” is next month or March or “definitely before May.” That would give the Senate enough time to pass it and put it to voters as a ballot question in November. And Drew Crompton, chief of staff to Senate President Joe Scarnati, says, “If the House passes it, the Senate will as well.” Wait. Seriously? After years of trying? Cost savings and maybe efficiency in the nation’s largest, most expensive, usually useless “full-time” legislature? Could this actually happen?

Give voters the advantage in drawing Pa.'s House districts | Editorial
by The Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: JANUARY 8, 2018 — 3:01 AM EST
Pennsylvania's congressional districts are often cited as some of the most gerrymandered in the country.
It’s widely known that Pennsylvania has some of the most unfairly mapped congressional districts in the country. Republicans drew them seven years ago to guarantee their grip on most of the state’s 18 House seats. Commonwealth Court Judge P. Kevin Brobson had no trouble last month establishing as a matter of fact that the maps were partisan. The question now before the state Supreme Court is: How partisan is too partisan?There’s an easy answer to the question. Before the current map was drawn and adopted in 2011, Pennsylvania had 19 House seats; 12 were held by Democrats and seven were held by Republicans. (Due to a loss of population, the state lost one seat, giving it 18.) After the current House map was adopted in 2011, Republicans took 13 of the state’s 18 seats though they won 49 percent of the vote. That’s because Republicans controlled the map-making process. They packed Democrats into tight areas like the Philadelphia region and corralled enough Republican voters into other districts to make them safe for Republican candidates. The Seventh District, held by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R., Pa.), is among the most gerrymandered because it runs through five counties to deliver a majority of Republican voters. Montgomery County, which has become increasingly Democratic, is split among five House seats to dilute their power.

PA15: Longtime prosecutor to seek Democrats' nod in U.S. House race
Penn Live By The Associated Press Updated Jan 8; Posted Jan 8
HARRISBURG -- A long-time county prosecutor and four-time candidate for state attorney general says he'll pursue the eastern Pennsylvania congressional seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent. Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said Monday that he'll seek the Democratic Party's nomination in the May 15 primary election. Dent won't seek another term after holding the 15th District seat since 2005. The Democratic and Republican fields are jam-packed, and March 6 is the deadline to file paperwork to get on the primary ballot. Morganelli becomes the highest-profile Democrat to seek the seat.

“In the 2016-17 school year, 17,515 students in grades K through 8 attended a neighborhood school other than their own. That’s nearly 20 percent of all district children in those schools, up from around 15 percent in the 2011-12 school year. On their own, those 17,515 students would form the fourth-largest school district in Pennsylvania. Add that to the 49,694 K-8 students in Philadelphia charter schools, and you wind up with more than 67,000 Philly kids leaving their neighborhood school before they reach high school.”
The Philly school choice system no one is talking about
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent January 9, 2018
Mercedes White is not a morning person. Her day begins amid a symphony of alarms, each set about 15 minutes apart in order to keep her on schedule. White’s mom delivers daily phone calls to make sure she and her two children — 2-year-old Imir and 9-year-old Iman — make it out the door on time. On good days, they leave their row home in West Philadelphia’s Cobbs Creek neighborhood before 8 a.m., hustling over to Imir’s day care on 52nd Street. Then, the caravan continues another 15 minutes east to drop off Iman. Waliyyuddin Abdullah’s morning journey starts inside a North Philadelphia row home flanked by vacant lots. While the television and the family parakeet trade chirps in the background, Abdullah herds first-grader Florrie toward a crimson SUV parked outside. On the 15-minute ride southwest, dad and daughter run through flashcards scribbled with words Florrie is learning to read. Each time she completes 200 new cards, Abdullah buys her a present. Not the American Girl doll she wants, but “something reasonable.” Eventually Abdullah and White converge at Samuel Powel, a K-4 school just north of Drexel University, where the blacktop bubbles with happy kids and doting parents. The first time Abdullah visited Powel, it was this early-morning tableau that won him over.
He saw the attentive parents in the courtyard. He noticed how, when the bell rang for lineup, every child dashed for their class’ assigned place in the courtyard. “Neighborhood schools are good, but I wanted my children to be around students who are more focused on learning than they are on playing,” Abdullah said.

If more Philly kids eat free breakfast, will achievement rise? This school says yes.
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: JANUARY 9, 2018 — 12:58 PM EST
In Michael Halko’s fifth-grade class at Francis Scott Key Elementary, the first 30 minutes of every day are sacred – it’s time for morning meeting, and, most important, yogurt, burritos, and muffins. Students grab bags stuffed with free breakfast items on their way in. They chat with Halko and their classmates and settle into the day. Halko loses some instructional time, but the trade-off is well worth it, he said. “If kids are hungry, they’re not hearing me,” said Halko, a 28-year veteran Philadelphia School District teacher. Food makes a difference. “They’re more alert; they’re more upbeat. They pay attention. More kids eating breakfast in school is a total positive.”  Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and other dignitaries toured Key, at Eighth and Wolf Streets, in South Philadelphia, Tuesday to tout increased participation in the school breakfast program districtwide – an effort, they say, that has paid dividends, with increased student attendance and achievement.

District says expanded breakfast program has led to a spike in attendance
"Grab and go" meals and alternatives to eating in the cafeteria boost participation.
The notebook by Darryl C. Murphy January 9, 2018 — 12:22pm
With the expansion of the School District’s breakfast program, fewer students are missing out on the most important meal of the day and schools are seeing double-digit jumps in attendance. On Tuesday morning, Superintendent William Hite, City Councilwoman Helen Gym, and City Councilman Mark Squilla joined Francis Scott Key Elementary faculty and students to honor the improvement with a brief ceremony at the school. “We still have more to do to make sure even more students have access to breakfast, but we’re making great progress,” Hite said. Although every school in the District serves breakfast, 71 percent now offer an alternative form of the meal, depending on students’ needs. This includes “grab and go” carts located in the hallway, sometimes near the entrance, where students can pick up food on their way to class, as well as serving breakfast in class or multipurpose rooms. This year, the District reports, 44 percent of students attending school are participating in the breakfast programs, compared to 41 percent last school year. The District says the expansion of its breakfast program has led to a spike in attendance, as 17 percent more students have met the attendance goal of arriving on time for school 95 percent of the time.

Plum school officials may cut 24 jobs, close Regency school, end full-day kindergarten
Trib Live MICHAEL DIVITTORIO | Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, 10:39 p.m.
Plum School District officials could cut at least 24 positions, reduce kindergarten to part-time, close an elementary school and change the district's education model to offset a $5 million deficit and avoid a tax hike next year – and some parents are not happy. More than 40 people packed the small board room adjacent to the high school cafeteria Tuesday night. Some stood out in the hallway. Three school board finance committee members moved a budget plan forward for consideration at a meeting to take place later this month. Melanie Fleming has four children in the district, three of them at Holiday Park Elementary. She said class sizes would increase and educational options would decrease as a result of the cuts. “You're hurting our kids,” Fleming said. “None of you are thinking directly about our kids, and that's what you have been elected to do. ... I moved to this district because it was an up-and-coming school district. It is no longer that. The more cuts you make, the less it is an up-and-coming school district.” Business Manager John Zahorchak said keeping all programs without raising taxes and closing Regency Elementary School would leave the 2018-19 budget with $68 million in expenses and $63 million in revenue.

Starting school later benefits students
Some studies have shown that students would do better in school if classes started later.
Morning Call Letter by Eric Welp Jannuary 8, 2018
Eric Welp Lower Macungie Township, The writer is a seventh-grade student at Eyer Middle School.
I believe schools should have later start times to improve health and learning performance.
Most schools start early, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found: "93 percent of high schools and 83 percent of middle schools in the U.S. started before 8:30 a.m." This is not healthy, according to the National Sleep Foundation: "Skipping sleep can be harmful — even deadly." Teens going to school might forget things or even fall asleep in class when school starts very early. Also, according to the news journal The Conversation, "Research findings show that teens' inability to get out of bed before 8 a.m. is a matter of human biology, not a matter of attitude. ... Due to the biology of human development, the sleep mechanism in teens does not allow the brain to naturally awaken before about 8 a.m." Later school start times will fix this. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, "Studies show that implementation of later school start times for adolescents is associated with longer total sleep time, reduced daytime sleepiness, increased engagement in classroom activities, and reduced first-hour tardiness and absences." Delaying schools times will be better for us all. Besides, would you like your child to be sleep deprived?

After GOP tax bill, states may get away with creative income tax maneuvers | Opinion
Penn Live Guest Editorial By Daniel Hemel Updated Jan 9, 10:01 AM; Posted Jan 9, 10:00 AM
Daniel Hemel is an assistant professor of law at the University of Chicago. He wrote this piece for The Conversation, where it first appeared.
Fearing that the new tax law will make it harder for them to raise enough revenue for public schools and other vital services, high-tax states such as California, New Jersey and New York are wasting no time in fighting back. Other states are likely to follow suit as the benefits of these actions become clear, setting the stage for a bitter legal dispute over federal and state taxation. As a tax law professor who researches the interactions between federal and state tax systems, I believe these initiatives are likely to succeed in softening the impact of the new tax law on residents of high-tax states.

College Board 8th Annual AP® District Honor Roll
The following honor roll consists of the 447 school districts in the U.S. and Canada that simultaneously achieved increases in access to Advanced Placement® courses for a broader number of students and also maintained or improved the rate at which their AP® students earned scores of 3 or higher on an AP Exam.

Keep guidelines in place that work to ensure fair discipline for black, brown students
USA Today by Allison R. Brown and Marlyn Tillman, Opinion contributors  Published 4:36 p.m. ET Jan. 6, 2018
Rollback has potential to re-enforce school-to-prison pipeline
It took 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the federal government to produce guidance that clarifies how the law should protect students of color from the racial discrimination they too often face when it comes to school discipline. Now, the guidelines may be on the brink of elimination. Education department officials met with parents and teachers who are pushing to discard the rules, arguing that they make schools less safe and hamper the ability for teachers to discipline students. And last month, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights participated in a hearing to discern whether laws designed to protect students of color with disabilities from discriminatory discipline are working. Based on some recent DOE decisions, civil rights activists fear that the Trump administration is gearing up to kill the guidelines, worsening the damage to black and brown children caused by unfair discipline.  The decision would fall in line with other administration actions that have slowly chipped away at the rights and securities of students. 

New Sens. Doug Jones and Tina Smith Join Senate Education Committee
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on January 9, 2018 2:20 PM
Sen. Doug Jones, the Alabama Democrat who scored a big political upset in winning his seat last month, will join the Senate education committee, along with fellow congressional rookie Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn.  Jones and Smith will take the place of Al Franken, the former Democratic senator from Minnesota who resigned last month after facing allegations of sexual misconduct, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who is no longer on the committee's roster of Democrats. Smith was selected by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, to take Franken's place. 
Earlier this week, we named Jones and Smith as two potential candidates to fill the committee opening left by Franken. Jones doesn't really have a background on education, and his campaign didn't get back to us when we reached out for comment on K-12 issues during his Senate run. On his campaign website, Jones said the nation "must invest sufficient resources to ensure that our educational system provides the skills, knowledge and tools necessary for our children to succeed."

Charter School Discussion in Philly Jan 11, 2018 8:00 - 9:30 a.m.
PCCY Email December 26, 2017
Serious flaws in Pennsylvania’s charter school law put the quality of charter schools on the back burner.  Join PCCY for a discussion of how other states’ laws are doing a better job and explore what makes sense in Pennsylvania. January 11, 2018 from 8:00 - 9:30 a.m., at the United Way Building 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, 19103
Featured speakers include:
·         Representative James Roebuck (D), PA General Assembly, Democratic Chairman - Education Committee
·         Representative Jordan Harris (D), PA General Assembly
·         Veronica Brooks-Uy, Policy Director, National Association of Charter School Authorizers
·         Sharif El-Mekki, Principal, Mastery Charter Schools
·         Jeff Sparagana, Ed.D, Former Superintendent Pottstown School District
·         Doug Carney, Former Springfield School Board Member (24 years), SVP Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
·         Donna Cooper, Executive Director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth
·         Tomea Sippio-Smith, Education Policy Director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY)

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.

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 remaining locations and dates (note: all sessions are held 8 a.m.-4 p.m., unless specified otherwise.):
·         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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