Friday, January 12, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan. 12: Report calls for overhaul of Pa. charter law

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, 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

Senate Bill 2 specifically allows private & religious schools that accept ESA voucher dollars to discriminate against children on the basis of gender, religion, and disability status. Students with disabilities, if they are permitted to enroll in a private school, must give up their rights under Federal law to an appropriate education.

PCCY makes recommendations for changing charter law
Charters as a whole aren't outperforming traditional schools, the report concludes.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa January 11, 2018 — 6:46pm
A new PCCY report released Jan. 11 urges lawmakers to make meaningful changes to Pennsylvania's charter law.  Public Citizens for Children and Youth released a report Thursday that, once again, outlines how the current state law on charters ranks it among the worst in the country and offers a checklist for improving it. The report finds that charters overall aren’t adding much value to educational attainment of students, particularly those who are “historically underserved,” especially considering how the $1.5 billion in funds that charters absorb leave districts with “stranded costs” that often reduce services in traditional schools. “Charter school students are not outperforming their traditional school peers; results are mixed at best and extremely subpar at worst,” the report declares. “Passing stronger legislation to link growth and charter renewal to student performance will encourage schools to strive for better student outcomes.” In the 28 districts in Pennsylvania where at least 10 percent of the students attend charters, more students in traditional schools met state reading and math standards than did students in charters, the report found. Those districts include Philadelphia, where about one-third of students are in charters, although the report doesn’t break out the Philadelphia numbers. Half the charter schools in the state are in Philadelphia.

WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent January 11, 2018
Pennsylvania’s 20-year-old charter law has no shortage of critics, from just about every political corner. Add to that list of critics Public Citizens for Children and Youth, an education advocacy group that has often butted heads with the charter sector. On Thursday, PCCY released a set of recommendations for amending the law. The proposal — and an accompanying panel discussion Thursday morning — laid out some of the considerable common ground shared among charter backers and opponents. The PCCY proposal called for a tiered charter renewal process that would expand excellent schools and close poorly performing charters quicker. It also recommended more consistency in the charter approval and review process so schools would know what to expect. “Most charters are just doing as well as their district, and they just need a predictable environment for renewal,” said PCCY executive director Donna Cooper. Charter backers, including state Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, agree with much of that framework.

Charter School Performance, Costs Still Need Big Improvements in Pennsylvania, Report Finds
More than 130,000 Pennsylvania students now attend charter schools. Some 60,000 of those students live in Philadelphia.
NBC10 By Brian X. McCrone Published at 12:42 PM EST on Jan 11, 2018 | Updated at 4:54 PM EST on Jan 11, 2018
Philadelphia charter schools will once again be among the biggest issues facing a re-organized city school district once the School Reform Commission is replaced by a mayor-appointed school board. More than two decades since charter schools were authorized in Pennsylvania, their effect on public education across the state remains inconsequential to improving student performance, and costly to local districts, a new report found. "A greater share of traditional public school students met grade level expectations" than their charter school counterparts on 2016 state tests, the Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) said in the report released Thursday. The non-profit also described charter school costs for local school districts that "keep rising" in the form of "stranded costs," which is the money it takes to continue to support traditional schools that have less children. More than 130,000 Pennsylvania students now attend charter schools. Some 60,000 of those students live in Philadelphia. "If 28 children are in a classroom and two leave to attend a charter school, the district does not close a classroom," the report said. "It spends the same amount on space for the remaining students, the teacher’s salary, benefits and pension costs, etc." It is the newest collection of data in a long-running debate between school choice advocates who have successfully pushed for expansion of charters in districts across the state and supporters of traditional public education.

PCCY Report: Expanding High Quality Charter School Options
Strong Charter School Legislation Matters
The report was prepared by Tomea Sippio-Smith and Donna Cooper with assistance from Sarah Parkinson, Jason Leach and PCCY’s Education Team January 2018
Since 2012, 23 states have amended their laws to improve the quality of charter schools.  Pennsylvania is not one of those states. The legislature has not revised the charter school law to include best practices for access, autonomy or accountability since it was passed in 1997.  This report by PCCY details why strong charter school legislation matters.

Blogger note: Senator Eichelberger is Majority Chairman of the Senate Education Committee
PA9: Top Pennsylvania House Republican eyes run for Congress
AP State Wire Published: Yesterday
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's House Majority Leader Dave Reed says he's considering running for Congress to succeed U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, who announced last week that he won't seek another term in the southwestern Pennsylvania seat. Reed, an Indiana County Republican, said Wednesday he'll decide soon whether to run. Meanwhile, Republican state Sen. John Eichelberger of Blair County is declaring his candidacy for the office. Reed's been in office since 2003 and has been majority leader for three years. Eichelberger has been in office since 2007. Also running for the Republican nomination are Art Halvorson and Travis Schooley, both of whom Shuster beat in 2016. The 9th District is heavily Republican and includes all or parts of 12 counties, and includes Altoona, Chambersburg and Uniontown. Shuster's held the seat since 2001.

Is Partisan Gerrymandering Legal? Why the Courts Are Divided.
New York Times By MICHAEL WINES JAN. 11, 2018
Contradictory decisions from lower courts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania this week are likely to figure in the Supreme Court’s handling of the partisan gerrymandering issue, experts say.
WASHINGTON — On Tuesday, three federal judges in North Carolina threw out the state’s congressional map because it was “motivated by invidious partisan intent.” On Wednesday, another panel of judges in Pennsylvania upheld that state’s map, with one arguing that such a political issue was none of the courts’ business. The two competing federal rulings in partisan gerrymander cases this week underscore the courts’ angst over even getting involved in political decisions, much less overturning them. Both rulings are certain to draw the Supreme Court’s interest as it mulls a resolution to the gerrymandering question. The Court, with two other redistricting cases before it, is expected this spring to end a decades-long debate over when and if judges should make decisions that could reshape the country’s political landscape. “You’re seeing how much turmoil there is now in the lower federal courts, and how many federal judges believe the time has come for the courts to impose substantial limits” on partisan gerrymanders, said Richard H. Pildes, a scholar of the law of democracy at the New York University School of Law.

Their view: GOP shows plenty of chutzpah on gerrymandering
Times Leader Editorial January 11th, 2018 6:57 pm
Pennsylvania’s Republican legislative leaders have unleashed their most miraculous beast yet, unveiling the staggeringly self-serving “Hippo-critic,” a phantasm of fat-cat flatulence, a chimera of shameless chicanery, a jaw-dropping giant that dwarfs the Jabberwock and Gerrymander combined. It is genuinely hard to hyperbolize just how much chutzpah state senators poured into a letter urging the League of Women Voters and 18 plaintiffs to drop a lawsuit challenging the 2011 redistricting maps. Where to begin? Well, President Pro-Tem Joe Scarnati’s drivel about the cost is a good start. “Taxpayers are paying a hefty price for … attorneys to argue gerrymandering,” Scarnati scowled. No, Joe, taxpayers are paying a heavy price because you and your GOP friends pushed the tolerated yet vile practice of gerrymandering to new lows, contorting legislative districts into shapes that would make a deformed gargoyle recoil. All you had to do to save that money was draw districts responsibly, without shredding cities, counties and municipalities to assure more GOP representatives. It’s been said here before: Republicans and Democrats are supposed to gain majority control in legislatures by persuading voters to pick them, not by picking their voters.

Mullery slams GOP for asking League of Women Voters to drop redistricting case
Times Leader By Bill O’Boyle - | January 11th, 2018 11:57 am - updated: 7:25 pm.
WILKES-BARRE — Pennsylvania Senate Republican leaders this week called on the League of Women Voters to withdraw its redistricting case that challenges the state’s congressional map. State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, was highly critical of asking to stop the case. He said it “reeks of desperation.” “The wool they (Republican leaders) pulled over the eyes of Pennsylvanians is about to be lifted,” Mullery said. “Their hand-crafted map of legislative districts, often referred to as one of the most gerrymandered in American history, is virtually impossible to rationally defend.” Mullery said the GOP map “successfully predetermined” the outcome of elections for nearly a decade, which he said is a violation of the U.S. Constitution. “And if there is one thing other than drawing politically-motivated maps that Republican leaders do well, it is count, and they see this case headed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court with its 5-2 Democratic majority for oral arguments on Jan. 17,” Mullery said. Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, also weighed in on the topic. “Regardless of what decision the Pennsylvania Supreme Court makes, it’s clear that Democrats and Republicans need to come together and pass redistricting reform,” Yudichak noted.

Governor Wolf Applauds State Board of Education for Endorsement of Computer Science Standards
Governor Wolf’s Website January 11, 2018
Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf announced that the State Board of Education has acted on the administration’s request to make computer science education available to all students in the commonwealth by endorsing Computer Science Teacher Association (CSTA) K-12 Standards. “I applaud the State Board of Education for taking action on our recommendations to establish standards for computer science education in Pennsylvania schools so that our students have the skills necessary for emerging high-demand jobs that will support middle class families and attract new businesses to commonwealth,” said Governor Wolf. “Over the next decade, seven in ten new jobs in Pennsylvania will require workers to use computers and new technologies in a constantly changing economy and this move will help our students prepare for the workforce of the future.” The resolution provides for the implementation of standards on computer science education in the commonwealth, and will position Pennsylvania as one of fewer than a dozen states to endorse such standards.

Pa. government will give control over the Phila. school district back to the city
Daily Pennsylvanian By Katie Steele January 11, 2018
Sixteen years after taking control of the Philadelphia school district, the state government has officially decided to return power to the local government by the end of this June. Gov. Tom Wolf announced the move last month after gaining approval from Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera. According to the Philly Voice, in 2001 Pennsylvania’s secretary of education placed the district under control of the five-member School Reform Commission, of which three members were selected by the governor and two by the city's mayor, after declaring it financially distressed. This composition elicited criticism from Philadelphia teachers and public education activists, who felt that the takeover was undemocratic and would place too much power in the hands of outsiders. When the panel allowed 38 Philadelphia schools to be privatized in 2002 — a move seen by some as a failed experiment — greater backlash arose against state control.

La Salle University offers college classes to its public high school neighbors
by the Notebook January 11, 2018 — 10:20am
Students at Central High School and Girls' High will be able to take some classes at La Salle University for free under a new partnership between the college and the School District. The School District has announced a new partnership with La Salle University that will allow qualified students at close-by Girls’ High and Central High Schools to enroll in college courses for the spring semester for free. The courses are offered through La Salle’s Community Scholars program. Students can choose one class from a list that includes Introduction to Art, Interpersonal Communication, Introduction to Criminal Justice, Introduction to Macroeconomics, and Introduction to Literature. The District will cover the cost of tuition and books. In a written statement released Wednesday, Superintendent William Hite said the program “will better prepare more of our students for college and careers, helping them seamlessly transition into their chosen fields after high school graduation.” Colleen Hanycz, president of La Salle University, said, “Strong communities need educated citizens, and this partnership is one way that La Salle is working to help build these citizens. “La Salle is proud to stand hand in hand with our neighbors, and to share in this responsibility of giving local students opportunities to enrich their high school educations.”

Kiski Area School District tries different approach regarding truancy
Trib Live by EMILY BALSER  | Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, 11:54 p.m.
Kiski Area School District has been taking a different approach to dealing with student attendance and believes it's working. Instead of going straight to district court with truancy issues, school officials have been working to make contact with the family and hold meetings to work out a way to ensure the students make it to class. The changes were a part of a pilot program with Westmoreland County. The district has been so happy with the new approach that it's updating its attendance policy to reflect the changes. The school board is expected to vote on the measure at its meeting Monday. “It's designed to be less punitive and more getting people at the table to talk about their child's attendance,” Assistant Superintendent Jason Lohr said.

Uwchlan woman announces candidacy for 155th House District seat
Danielle Friel Otten has announced her candidacy as a Democrat for the state House of Representatives in the 155th District, currently held by Republican state Rep. Becky Corbin.
By Fran Maye, Daily Local News POSTED: 01/10/18, 2:29 PM EST 
Uwchlan Township >> A Uwchlan Township woman who said not enough is being done to boost education, health care and protect the environment has announced her candidacy for Pennsylvania’s 155th Legislative District seat currently held by Republican state Rep. Becky Corbin. “Harrisburg needs to start getting things done,” said Danielle Friel Otten, a lifelong Democrat who filed campaign paperwork this week. “The state government is not fully funding education and we need to make more progress on health care needs. We need someone to roll up their sleeves and become part of the solution for the challenges we face.”

America's Schools Are 'Profoundly Unequal,' Says U.S. Civil Rights Commission
NPR by CORY TURNER January 11, 20182:30 PM ET
"The federal government must take bold action to address inequitable funding in our nation's public schools." So begins a list of recommendations released Thursday by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent, bipartisan agency created by Congress in 1957 to investigate civil rights complaints. Thursday's report comes after a lengthy investigation into how America's schools are funded and why so many that serve poor and minority students aren't getting the resources they say they need. The 150-page report, titled "Public Education Funding Inequity: In An Era Of Increasing Concentration Of Poverty and Resegregation," reads like a footnoted walking tour through the many ways America's education system fails vulnerable students — beginning with neighborhood schools that remain deeply segregated and continuing into classrooms where too many students lack access to skilled teachers, rigorous courses and equitable school funding. "This report excavates the enduring truism that American public schooling is, and has been, profoundly unequal in the opportunity delivered to students, the dollars spent to educate students, and the determinations of which students are educated together," writes the commission's chair, Catherine Lhamon.

The Secret to Student Engagement
What schools can do help students engage more in learning
Education Week Commentary By Chip & Dan Heath January 10, 2018
Editor’s Note: This Commentary is part of a special report exploring game-changing trends and innovations that have the potential to shake up the schoolhouse.
Read the full report:
 10 Big Ideas in Education.

What makes certain brief experiences in our lives so memorable and meaningful? Let's call them "peak moments": A wedding day. A successful public presentation. An award received for work well done. We spent several years studying peak moments, and in our book The Power of Moments, we reveal what we learned: Peak moments share similar elements—such as elevation and connection—and armed with this knowledge, all of us can create richer experiences for the people we care about. But there's one critical period in life that is missing these powerful moments: the time students spend in the classroom. Think about it: What do you remember from your experience as a student? Senior musical. Swim meets. Science fairs. Football games. Debate tournaments. Choir concerts. Notice the pattern? They're all peak moments, representing the culmination of students' work. They're social, often performed in front of an audience, and involve an element of competition or pressure. There's a sense of pomp and circumstance about them—notice how often we actually wear distinctive clothes to them.

Senate Democrats Force Vote in Bid to Restore Net Neutrality
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on January 11, 2018 11:59 AM
Democrats are lining up behind an effort in the Senate to restore what's known as "net neutrality" to the internet, even if the odds are heavily against it. Last month, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to toss aside the two-year-old policy, which was intended to prevent internet service providers from blocking or slowing down content. The move, led by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, is supported by those who say it will allow providers to create more and better content without jeopardizing fair access to various sites. But the vote has created uncertainty for school districts, who could be forced to choose between "fast" and "slow" lanes of the internet as they look to provide various online services to students. The move could also create problemsfor ed-tech start-ups that can't pony up more money in exchange for faster internet service like more established companies. School districts are still figuring out how to proceed in the new internet landscape, as our colleague Sean Cavanagh reported for the Digital Education blog earlier this month. 

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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