Monday, February 12, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 12: Ongoing Turmoil on Proposed Congressional Map

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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Ongoing Turmoil on Proposed Congressional Map

The PA Senate’s next scheduled session day is March 19th; the PA House’s next scheduled session day is March 12th.  Appropriations Committee hearings will take up most of the intervening time.

The PA Senate Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing for the Department of Education is Tuesday, March 6, 2018 10:00 AM; Hearing Room 1 North Office Bldg.

The PA House Appropriations Committee Budget Hearing for the Department of Education is Monday, March 5, 2018 10:00; Room 140 Main Capitol

This is what inadequate funding at a public school looks and feels like — as told by an entire faculty
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss February 9 Email the author
There are people who will tell you — and offer research as support — that there really isn’t any link between the amount of money spent on public education and student achievement. They won’t mention that there is research that shows otherwise, such as a 2016 study showing that states that did provide more money to low-performing schools got better results — but never mind. And they won’t mention successful lawsuits in recent years in several states that have argued that lawmakers are not providing enough money to meet state mandates and provide a quality education for all students. And, apparently, people who don’t believe in a link between funding and student achievement won’t listen to teachers on the ground who can tell them otherwise. In this post, that’s just what teachers at a public school in New York City do. They detail what it looks and feels like to be an educator at a school that is underfunded. What don’t students get? Which compromises do teachers have to make? This was written and signed by the faculty of Q167, the showcase Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School in Queens.

Did you catch our weekend postings?
WSJ: As Online Schools Expand, So Do Questions About Their Performance; PA GOP leaders submit proposed congressional map; Wagner gets GOP nod; Turzai withdraws
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 10, 2018

Pa. Republicans have proposed a new congressional map. Democrats say it's still gerrymandered.
Inquirer by Liz Navratil, Jonathan Tamari & Jonathan Lai, HARRISBURG BUREAUS Updated: FEBRUARY 11, 2018 — 11:09 AM EST
HARRISBURG — A proposed new map of Pennsylvania congressional districts may have sanded off some of the rougher edges of the current version, but it still amounts to a pro-Republican gerrymander, a chorus of Democrats complained Saturday as they urged Gov. Wolf to reject it. The governor, whose administration is combing through the proposal with the advice of a prominent mathematics professor, is expected to announce his position on the new map early this week. Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), the leaders of the GOP-controlled legislature, submitted the map Friday night in an effort to meet the deadline in a state Supreme Court order to redraw the current boundaries. “The map that Republicans put forward last night does practically nothing to fix the partisan gerrymandering that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found violated the state’s constitution,” Eric Holder, former U.S. attorney general and chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement. It was the latest turn in a political drama that has gripped the state capital for the last several weeks, one with major potential implications for national politics.

Pennsylvania Republicans have drawn a new congressional map that is just as gerrymandered as the old one
Morning Call by Christopher Ingraham Of The Washington Post February 11, 2018
Last month the Pennsylvania Supreme Court instructed the state’s Republican-led legislature to draw a new congressional map after finding the existing one was an illegal partisan gerrymander that violated voters’ right to participate in “free and equal elections.” On Friday, Republican leaders in the legislature submitted their new map for the governor's approval. As directed by the Supreme Court, the new map is much more compact than the old one. Gone are the infamous convolutions that characterized the old map, earning nicknames such as “Goofy kicking Donald Duck.” The new districts generally respect county and municipal boundaries and don’t “wander seemingly arbitrarily across Pennsylvania,” as the state’s Supreme Court wrote. Unfortunately for Pennsylvania voters, the new districts show just as much partisan bias as the old ones. You can demonstrate this using the precinct-level results of the 2016 presidential election: See which precincts are assigned to which districts under the new map, use those assignments to calculate the total presidential vote in each of the new districts, and compare those figures with the vote totals under the old districts. That will give you a good sense of how the partisan makeup of the new districts compares to the old ones. Brian Amos, a redistricting expert at the University of Florida, has done exactly that. Amos combined the new district maps with precinct-level returns compiled by cartographers Nathaniel Kelso and Michal Migurski. The similarities are striking: In 2016, Donald Trump received more votes than Hillary Clinton in 12 out of Pennsylvania’s 18 districts. Under the Republicans’ new map, Trump would similarly outperform Clinton in exactly 12 districts.

Open or contorted US House districts may see biggest changes
AP State Wire by Marc Levy February 11, 2018
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s high court last month became the first state court to throw out a congressional map because of partisan gerrymandering, a decision that has ignited a scramble to redraw district boundaries as dozens of candidates watch and wait. Now, the boundaries for Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts for May’s primary election are up in the air. Districts in which there is a retiring incumbent and particularly contorted boundaries could see the biggest changes. Meanwhile, boundaries drawn by Republicans after the 2010 census to favor Republicans are expected to become less GOP-friendly, giving Democrats nationally a boost in their quest to take control of the U.S. House. Members of Congress, dozens of first-time candidates and millions of registered voters may find themselves living in a new district, a month before the deadline to file paperwork to run in congressional primaries. The Democratic-majority state Supreme Court has promised to produce a new map of districts no later than Feb. 19, and substantial changes are likely in store. Here is a look at possibilities:

Dems see partisanship in GOP Pa. district map
Delco Times By Mark Scolforo and Marc Levy, The Associated Press POSTED: 02/11/18, 5:40 AM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
HARRISBURG, Pa. >> Pennsylvania Democrats on Saturday described a revised congressional district map being proposed by Republican leaders as too partisan, citing as evidence the results of the 2016 presidential campaign. A spokesman for state House Democrats said their analysis of the GOP proposal indicates Republican President Donald Trump would have collected more votes in 13 of 18 districts, one more than he actually did win. The Legislature’s two top-ranking Republicans unveiled their proposed map late Friday, three weeks after the five Democrats on the state Supreme Court declared the existing map unconstitutional because it put partisan aims above other map-drawing criteria.

New congressional map would kick Conor Lamb out of 18th District
LIZ NAVRATIL AND CHRIS POTTER Pittsburgh Post-Gazette FEB 11, 2018 9:48 AM
HARRISBURG — Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb would no longer live in the highly contested 18th District under a new map presented Friday by top Republicans in the state House and Senate. The map is far from final. It doesn’t yet have approval from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf or the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has a Democratic majority. Even if it were to be enacted, the new map would not be in place for the March special election to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, whose term was set to expire this year. But, cutting Mr. Lamb out of the district while his rival, state Rep. Rick Saccone, a Republican, would remain inside it, has already raised eyebrows in Democratic political circles. Both major parties are already thinking ahead to the November general election, which will determine who takes over in the 18th District at the start of next year, when new maps could be in place.

Editorial: Slaying the gerrymandering monster - & getting it right
Delco Times Editorial POSTED: 02/10/18, 9:05 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Tick, tick, tick …
That sound you hear was the clock ticking down toward the deadline for the Pennsylvania Legislature to redraw the state Congressional maps. It was the last few dying embers of the smoldering carcass of the redistricting process our elected representatives pulled off back in 2011. On Friday Republican leaders in the state Legislature beat the clock, delivering new Congressional maps to Gov. Tom Wolf, who now must review them and decide whether he will sign off and submit them to the court. Wolf indicated no ruling would come until early in the week. He has until Thursday to make up his mind. A first quick glance at the new GOP drawings shows a much more compact, contiguous 7th District, the poster boy for redistricting reform. Gone is the grotesque, two distinct chunks of ground roundly lampooned as “Goofy kicking Donald Duck.” Also gone is that wide swath that veered out into Lancaster County. The district appears much more contiguous now, covering the bulk of Chester County, along with contiguous slivers of Chester and Montgomery counties. This furious redrawing was sparked by a ruling that turned the Pennsylvania political world upside down, when the state Supreme Court tossed out the maps, ruling them unconstitutional because they were blatantly gerrymandered to favor Republicans. Not only that, but the court slapped a stringent deadline on the Legislature to redraw the maps, ordering a new version by Friday. How serious was the court? Justices hinted that if the Legislature failed to rectify what they called a blatant exercise in politics, they would do it themselves.

“Fair Districts PA, a statewide group seeking to change the way those districts are drawn, is urging local governments to pass resolutions endorsing the creation of a “citizen’s commission” to draw the lines. It would take a constitutional amendment, and that’s what a boilerplate resolution now making the rounds calls on the township and borough governments to support.”
Court rulings won’t end gerrymandering fight
Delco Times By Evan Brandt, on Twitter
POSTED: 02/11/18, 11:14 PM EST | UPDATED: 11 SECS AGO
The Pennsylvania court system may have ruled the current map of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts unconstitutional — resulting in new maps being drawn for the upcoming elections — but the decision and its effect will be moot in two or three years. The maps the courts have undone were begun after the U.S. Census was conducted in 2010, and a new Census will begin in 2020, starting the process all over again. There is nothing to stop whichever political party is in the majority then from drawing maps which some future court may declare equally unfair and designed to benefit one party or the other. That’s why the nonpartisan activist group Fair Districts PA is advocating to take the drawing of those maps out of the hands of the people who benefit by their composition.

How the exact same House election can produce a 65-seat Democratic majority or a 92-seat Republican one
Washington Post By Christopher Ingraham February 9 Email the author
Today is the deadline for Pennsylvania Republicans to submit a new congressional district map for gubernatorial approval, following a ruling from the state Supreme Court that the current districts are an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander that deprives the state's residents of participating in free and equal elections. The practice of gerrymandering has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. In most states, the redistricting process is controlled by whichever party is in control at the statehouse at the time of redistricting. This creates a tremendous incentive for members of that party to draw district boundaries that benefit themselves and disadvantage their opponents. In states with a large number of districts, such as Pennsylvania, the leeway afforded to lawmakers is huge. After the 2010 Census, for instance, Pennsylvania Republicans drew a map that created 13 safe Republican seats and five Democratic ones: three in Philadelphia, one in Pittsburgh and one encompassing the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region in the northeast part of the state.

Editorial: Wolf budget proposal holds potential for compromises
The parties in Harrisburg should seek the middle ground on items such as the minimum wage.
Reading Eagle Editorial Sunday February 11, 2018
Thanks to a less aggressive wish list from the governor, more money coming into the state Treasury and an election-year incentive to avoid the staredowns of the past three years, Pennsylvania just might get an on-time state budget this year. Gov. Tom Wolf still wants three things the Republican-controlled Legislature is all but certain to continue resisting: a severance tax on natural gas drilling, a $25-per-person annual fee on municipalities that rely completely on policing by state police and a boost in the state minimum wage to $12 an hour. Taking those items one by one: As we've said before, a severance tax is appropriate, if only to make Pennsylvania more like every other state with large natural gas deposits in getting something for its resources.

“As expected, the governor once again asked for a severance tax on natural gas. If you listened closely, you'd have heard the expected revenue would bring an estimated $248 million to the state's coffers. That's $23 million more than it will take to fund his education spending. Wolf well-positioned the gas tax as equivalent to educating the state's children.”
Lawmakers are out of excuses: Pass the severance tax | Kirstin Snow
Penn Live By Kirstin Snow Opinion Contributor February 10, 2018 Updated 8:04 AM
If brevity is the soul of wit, then Gov. Tom Wolf is Hamlet's Lord Polonius incarnate. Last Tuesday in his fourth annual budget address, Governor Wolf outlined his vision for the Commonwealth's spending for fiscal year 2018-19. The speech lasted an historic 19 minutes, but it covered quite a bit of ground. In my effort to continue, in plain language, to explain political processes and issues, I've outlined the main points of the speech in case you blinked and missed it.  After donning an Eagles cap and congratulating all of Pennsylvania on the win of their underdog team, the governor proposed a General Fund spending plan of $32.9 billion, an increase of 3.1 percent over the current fiscal year. 

Guest Column: Gov. Wolf ‘gets it’ on education
Delco Times By Dolores McCracken, Times Guest Columnist POSTED: 02/09/18, 10:16 PM EST | UPDATED: 2 DAYS AGO
Dolores McCracken is a paraprofessional in the Council Rock School District. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 181,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.
It’s a wonderful feeling to work with a leader who “gets it” – who really understands.
And Gov. Tom Wolf, in developing Pennsylvania’s state plan for the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), has demonstrated that when it comes to education, he not only “gets it” – he works hard to get it right. Educators toiled for years under the No Child Left Behind Act, which was largely developed without consulting teachers. And for more than a decade, educators, support professionals, and parents have been speaking out about the negative impact of high-stakes testing, and Gov. Wolf and his education secretary Pedro Rivera were paying attention. When NCLB was replaced by the new federal ESSA law, calling for the states to develop new plans, Gov. Tom Wolf asked for Pennsylvania’s educators and parents to give him advice on what actually improves teaching and learning. He listened. He understood. And he made changes. The plan takes important steps in the right direction for our students. Pennsylvania’s ESSA plan, approved by the U.S. Department of Education on Jan. 17, 2018, will be fully implemented in the 2018-19 school year. The plan focuses on a more balanced approach to school accountability, reducing time spent on high-stakes standardized testing, and increasing supports for Pennsylvania educators and students.

William Tennent latest Bucks County high school to move to block schedule
Intelligencer By Chris English Posted at 5:00 AM February 12, 2018
The class schedule change was approved by the Centennial school board in November after it was researched for more than a year.
A move to longer and more classes per year should make for better learning at William Tennent High School in Warminster, teachers, administrators and students at the Centennial School District high school said. Instead of six, 57-minute classes every day, Tennent is moving to four, 90-minute classes on alternating days. That means students will be able to take eight classes a year instead of six and get more in depth on subjects being covered in each individual class session, Tennent Principal Dennis Best said. “The whole idea behind it is to give students greater flexibility and choice, and the ability to take more classes of greater interest and vigor,” he said. “With the longer classes, teachers can plan more engaging activities that allow kids to collaborate more. The shorter class periods lend themselves less to collaboration.” Centennial School District, which includes William Tennent High School, will join the Central Bucks, Palisades and Pennsbury school districts as Bucks County districts that have adopted block scheduling at their high schools. Interest in block scheduling has been growing in recent years.

Why one Philly elementary school is paying kids not to fight
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: FEBRUARY 11, 2018 — 7:26 AM EST
Mikel Lindsay is acutely aware what the world thinks of him — a 14-year-old attending a public school in a particularly tough corner of Philadelphia. “People look at me and say, ‘You should be fighting,'” said Lindsay, an eighth grader at Mitchell Elementary at 55th Street and Kingsessing Avenue. But that’s not him, Lindsay said. And this year, he’s proving it. He’s part of an eighth-grade class whose principal is attempting an unusual and, some would say, audacious experiment: If Mikel and his 32 classmates make it to graduation with no physical altercations, each gets a $100 bill. As of Friday, the Mitchell eighth-graders’ streak of peaceful days hit 70, no small feat for students surrounded by people responding to problems with fists and worst. Even in the nation’s poorest big city, the school’s hard-luck Southwest Philadelphia neighborhood, Kingsessing, sticks out: 81 percent of Mitchell’s students live below the poverty line. Some are homeless, many are hungry, and some are essentially raising themselves. Kingsessing is also among the city’s most violent corners, police data shows.

Save the Date: PA School Funding Lawsuit Wed. March 7, 2018 9:30 A.M.
Commonwealth Court Hearing on Legislative leaders motions to Dismiss the Wm Penn SD challenge to state funding.
Before the Court en banc sitting in Court Room No. 1 Ninth Floor, Widener Building, 1339 Chestnut Street, One South Penn Square, Philadelphia, PA 19107
All members of Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court will hear oral argument on motions to dismiss filed by legislative leaders in the school funding lawsuit William Penn School District, et al. v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Education, et al.  The Legislators are arguing that the Petition challenging the inadequacy and inequity of Pennsylvania’s funding of schools is moot because the new school formula has supplanted the funding scheme existing when students and school districts filed their Petition in 2015.  In addition, Legislators also contend that the Petition failed to allege that insufficient state funding caused any harm such as poor PSSA results or lack of sufficient instructional resources.   In September, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the Commonwealth Court to hold a trial on whether state officials are violating the state’s constitution by failing to adequately and equitably fund public education.  The Legislators objections have delayed efforts to bring this case to trial.   

Snooze or Lose: Promoting Sleep Health in Adolescents
Dr. Wendy Troxel Mon., March 12 at 7 p.m. in the Radnor High School auditorium 
The Radnor Township School District Adolescent Sleep & School Start Time Study Committee will welcome licensed clinical psychologist and certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist Dr. Wendy Troxel for a presentation to the Radnor community on Mon., March 12 at 7 p.m. in the Radnor High School auditorium (130 King of Prussia Road, Radnor). Dr. Troxel is a Senior Behavioral Scientist at the RAND Corporation and Adjunct Faculty in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh. A licensed clinical psychologist and certified behavioral sleep medicine specialist, Dr. Troxel been widely cited by the media, including The Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesThe Financial TimesABC World News TonightCBS Sunday Morning, NPR and BBC. Dr. Troxel was also one of the featured sleep experts in the National Geographic documentary “Sleepless in America.” Her TED talk on the impact of school start times on adolescent sleep has received more than 1.4 million views.

Help draft a plan to implement a statewide vision for the future of public education in PA!
PSBA Member Roundtables/Receptions – February and March Dates
Join your PSBA Member Roundtable and Reception to hear the public education advocacy and political updates affecting your school district. Take this opportunity to network, learn and develop your leadership skills. Enjoy light hors d'oeuvres and networking with fellow school directors in your area, then provide your input on the future vision for public education in PA. Roundtable Discussion: Help draft a plan to implement a statewide vision for the future of public education in PA! PSBA would like to capture your thoughts on what education should look like in the coming decades. We will compile your expertise with the perspectives of others from across the state to develop the Commonwealth Education Blueprint. The Blueprint will then serve as our guiding resource and will set milestones for creating the best public education experience for future generations of students. Don’t miss your opportunity to weigh in!
·         6:00 -6:15 pm – Association update
·         6:15 -7:00 pm – Governor’s budget address recap
·         7:00 -7:45 pm – Networking Reception
·         7:45 -8:30 pm – Member Round Table Discussion

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:

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 

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD! Join the PA Principals Association, the PA Association of School Administrators and the PA Association of Rural and Small Schools for PA Education Leaders Advocacy Day at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, at the Capitol in Harrisburg, PA.  
A rally in support of public education and important education issues will be held on the Main Rotunda Steps from 1 p.m. - 2 p.m.
Visits with legislators will be conducted earlier in the day. More information will be sent via email, shared in our publications and posted on our website closer to the event.
To register, send an email to Dr. Joseph Clapper at before Friday, June 8, 2018.
Click here to view the PA Education Leaders Advocacy Day 2018 Save The Date Flyer (INCLUDES EVENT SCHEDULE AND IMPORTANT ISSUES.) 

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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