Friday, February 2, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb 2: Phil sees shadow; forecasts yet another PA voucher bill

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Keystone State Education Coalition
Phil sees shadow; forecasts yet another PA voucher bill

Blogger note: In case you were wondering, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning at Gobbler’s Knob. 

This year he is forecasting yet another Pennsylvania school voucher bill, the “Keystone Scholarship Program for Exceptional Students”

While you were watching SB2, the “Education Savings Account” voucher plan currently in the Senate Ed Committee, Rep. Judy Ward (R-80, Blair County) is now running a cosponsorship memo for a special education voucher bill. No bill number yet; we’ll keep you posted.

Has your school board passed a resolution in opposition to vouchers yet?

House of Representatives Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session
Posted:           January 26, 2018 10:09 AM
From:              Representative Judy Ward
To:                   All House members
Subject:          Keystone Scholarship Program
In the near future, I will introduce legislation that establishes the Keystone Scholarship Program for Exceptional Students, which provides scholarships to students in Kindergarten through 12th grade to allow the parents of these children to purchase the best educational option available to education their child, these options consist of tuition and fees, textbooks, tutoring, curriculum, corresponding materials and exams, and training programs.
The goal of this legislation is to expand the options for parents of children with special needs including those who have been designated as Gifted. It allows the family to decide which educational environment most effectively accommodates the student’s needs. Among other criteria, an eligible student who can receive a Keystone Scholarship includes a child:
With an individualized education program;
With a 504 plan;
With a gifted individualized education plan;
With a diagnosed disability recognized under federal law;
With a diagnosis that qualifies for Early Intervention Services;
The PA Department of Education (PDE) will be responsible for administering the program, including approving applications submitted by parents, notifying parents of eligible students of the responsibilities of PDE and the parent, and providing a list of participating schools.
Please join me in co-sponsoring this important piece of legislation, so that we can provide more educational options for exceptional students throughout the Commonwealth.

“The schools that have 20% to 30% voucher kids and 70% to 80% fee-paying kids, they look more like the private schools that we sort of put on a pedestal—that have very ambitious programs,” says Patrick Wolf, a professor of education policy at the University of Arkansas who has studied private-school choice programs for about 19 years. “Ones that enroll a very high percent of voucher students tend to be low-resourced.”

Do School Vouchers Work? Milwaukee’s Experiment Suggests an Answer
A Wall Street Journal analysis of the school system’s 27-year-old program suggests the concept works best when private institutions limit the number of public students
Wall Street Journal By Tawnell D. Hobbs Jan. 28, 2018 1:06 p.m. ET
MILWAUKEE—Almost three decades ago, Milwaukee started offering the nation’s first-ever school vouchers. Starting small, the program allowed poor children to use taxpayer money to attend private schools. Today, about a quarter of Milwaukee children educated with public funds take advantage, making the program a testing ground for a big experiment in education. Did students in the program get a better education? That depends on how participating schools handled a critical issue: how many voucher students to let in. A Wall Street Journal analysis of the data suggests vouchers worked best when enrollment from voucher students was kept low. As the percentage of voucher students rises, the returns diminish until the point when there is little difference between the performance of public and private institutions. The vast majority of private schools participating in the program today have high percentages of publicly funded students.

The city’s nearly 29,000 voucher students, on average, have performed about the same as their peers in public schools on state exams, the analysis shows. The successful voucher students, who often performed better than their public-school peers, were mainly found at private schools that worked to balance numbers of voucher students and paying ones.

Here’s this blogger’s response to the above WSJ article:
Do American Public Schools Work?  PISA: U.S. schools with poverty levels of 25% or less rank first in reading and science and third in math among OECD countries
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 21, 2016
 “This very high prevalence of child poverty in the U.S. and the struggle to educate large numbers of disadvantaged students are two of the most important factors underlying the country’s discouraging showing on the PISA exam.

U.S. schools with poverty levels of 25% or less rank first in reading and science and third in math among OECD countries
By contrast, U.S. schools where >75% of students qualify for FRPL fare very poorly, ranking nearly last in all subjects. Their scores are so low that they drag the overall U.S. average below the median, just above Mexico and Chile.”

Senate's top GOP leader won't obey Pa. Supreme Court order in gerrymandering case
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided the state's congressional map illegally favors Republicans and must be redrawn. Here's the background on the case.
Morning Call by Steve Esack Contact Reporter February 1, 2018
Political and legal fights have intensified over Pennsylvania's gerrymandered congressional map after Senate Republicans vowed to ignore a court order issued by the Democrat-majority state Supreme Court. In a letter to the justices, a lawyer for Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said Wednesday he will not comply with a court directive to turn over voter records and mapmaking material. The letter states the court’s Jan. 22 ruling striking down the state’s 2011 congressional map was a judicial overstep. The ruling, the letter said, did not include judicial guidance on how lawmakers can rectify the map and the court has yet to provide it, indicating the justices plan to make their own map for the May 15 primary. If that’s the case, the lawyer warned, the justices won’t get help from Scarnati, who will not relinquish “statewide municipal and precinct map data.”

Of rules and law: Cut the confusion in state gerrymandering case
THE EDITORIAL BOARD Pittsburgh Post-Gazette FEB 2, 2018 12:00 AM
If a litigant disagrees with a court order, even one handed down by a state’s highest court, he or she has the right to appeal. But simply disobeying the order is the wrong tack to take, especially when the litigant in question makes his livelihood writing laws he expects others to obey. State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, has accused the state Supreme Court of overreaching with a Jan. 22 order that threw out a map of the state’s gerrymandered congressional districts. Now, he’s refusing to obey the court’s order to turn over data used in the redistricting process, fearing the court, comprising five Democrats and two Republicans, plans to usurp the Legislature’s power and draw new districts itself. Mr. Scarnati has legitimate concerns. Redistricting is a legislative responsibility, and the judiciary should respect the separation of powers and give new lawmakers sufficient time to draw constitutionally sound districts. However, Mr. Scarnati must respect the state court, too, and that includes obeying all of its orders unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes — as the Republicans have requested — and directs otherwise. 

Panel discusses how to redraw state's congressional districts so races are more competitive
Trib Live NATASHA LINDSTROM  | Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, 9:12 p.m.
When Gov. Tom Wolf won the Democratic primary in 2014, less than 20 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot. “That's not a democracy,” Wolf said Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh during a panel discussion on redrawing Pennsylvania's congressional districts. “Democracy is not a spectator sport,” continued Wolf, noting he earned his Ph.D. in political science and studied voting patterns demonstrating decades of declines, particularly in nonpresidential and midyear elections. “If our system is so screwed up that we keep people from wanting to do that, that's a problem. So that's something we've got to fix.” Districts that skew nearly all-Democrat or all-Republican threaten to dissuade people from voting because they feel like their votes won't count, Wolf and other panelists said during the event hosted by nonpartisan advocacy group FairDistricts PA at Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation in Pittsburgh.

January State Revenue Up $93.8 Million Above Estimate, Up $89.7 Million For FY
Crisci Associates Capitol Digest FEBRUARY 1, 2018
Pennsylvania collected $3.1 billion in General Fund revenue in January, which was $93.8 million, or 3.1 percent, more than anticipated, Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell reported Thursday. Fiscal year-to-date General Fund collections total $17.4 billion, which is $89.7 million, or 0.5 percent, above estimate.

State projects drilling impact fee increase of $46 million
Beaver County Times By Jared Stonesifer  Posted Feb 1, 2018 at 11:52 AM Updated Feb 1, 2018 at 3:47 PM
The state has released projections for last year’s impact fees collected from shale gas drilling, and the figure is expected to be $46 million higher than in 2016. The state has released projections for last year’s impact fees collected from shale gas drilling, and the figure is expected to be $46 million higher than in 2016. The fee is collected annually by the state Public Utility Commission and is designed to offset the impact on counties and municipalities from gas drilling. The fee has been collected since 2012. The money, which is disbursed in July to counties and municipalities across the state, can be used only for specific items, such as construction projects, road maintenance and upgrades, bridge repair, water and sewer repairs, and environmental programs including parks and recreation. The state Independent Fiscal Office on Wednesday released its projections for what the impact fee could be from last year. The projected total collection of $219.4 million is $46 million more than last year, when the number hit a record low.
The fiscal office attributed the increase to two factors: More than 800 new gas wells came into production and helped offset decreasing revenues from older wells that pay less in impact fees as they age. In addition, a higher fee is being applied to qualified gas wells because the New York Mercantile Exchange price for natural gas has averaged over $3 for the year.

PA-01: Bob Brady exits, candidacy flood gates open in First Congressional District
Inquirer by Claudia Vargas & Holly Otterbein - Staff Writers Updated: JANUARY 31, 2018 — 6:44 PM EST
When Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Brady announced Wednesday that he won’t stand for reelection this year, it instantly changed the race for Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District. The proof: A new candidate officially threw his hat in the ring hours after the incumbent took his out, and another politician said she is considering doing the same thing. Campaign advisers for Kevin R. Johnson, a pastor and head of a workforce development group, told the Inquirer and Daily News that he is running in the Democratic primary for Brady’s seat. He is one of five Democrats currently campaigning in the district. The list is likely to grow. Political consultant Mark Nevins said the election is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any Democrat in the city who wants to run for Congress.” Like many incumbents from districts in which one party is dominant, Brady has served in the House for decades.

PA-07: Pat Meehan's sexual harassment settlement: nearly $40,000
Inquirer by Jonathan Tamari & Chris Brennan - Staff Writers Updated: FEBRUARY 1, 2018 — 2:34 PM EST
WASHINGTON — The aide who accused Rep. Pat Meehan of sexual harassment last year received nearly $40,000 in a taxpayer-funded settlement to resolve the claim, according to three sources familiar with the case. The payout, which had not been previously disclosed, came from the Delaware County Republican’s congressional office account, which is typically used for staff, office expenses, and other official costs. Using it allowed him to pay the settlement without the approval of fellow lawmakers who oversee the House’s designated fund for workplace harassment and discrimination claims. Instead, Meehan said in an interview Jan. 23, he got the go-ahead to use his office fund from the House Ethics Committee. He was a member of the committee at the time of the approval. “I got that approval and it gave [House lawyers] the authority to enter into negotiations,” he told the Inquirer and Daily News then. He would not disclose the amount, citing a confidentiality agreement with his accuser, but stressed that using his congressional fund was legal and allowed under House rules.

PA-18: Pence heading to SW Pa. to raise cash in U.S. House race
Penn Live By Marc Levy The Associated Press Updated Feb 1, 8:20 PM; Posted Feb 1, 8:18 PM
HARRISBURG -- Vice President Mike Pence is coming to help raise money Friday in a congressional election in southwestern Pennsylvania widely viewed as a test of whether Republicans can stave off Democratic gains this year. Pence was scheduled to appear at a rally and fundraiser for Rick Saccone, a 59-year-old Republican state representative and retired Air Force intelligence officer. He's running in the March 13 special election to replace Republican Tim Murphy, who resigned last year in a scandal. Saccone is facing Democrat Conor Lamb, a 33-year-old former federal prosecutor and ex-Marine who reported entering 2018 with more than twice the cash in his campaign account as Saccone, $412,000 to $200,000. It is the first congressional race of the year and in a district won easily by Republican President Donald Trump in 2016. Now, millions of super PAC dollars are pouring from outside groups to help Saccone, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Pa. paid at least $3.2M to settle sex harassment claims against state workers
Sexual harassment payouts top $2.5 million in the Pennsylvania state Capitol in Harrisburg, records show.
Inquirer by Liz Navratil & Angela Couloumbis, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: JANUARY 31, 2018 — 7:48 PM EST
HARRISBURG — State officials have paid at least $3.2 million in taxpayer funds in the last eight years to resolve more than two dozen sexual harassment complaints against government and public employees, according to an analysis by the Inquirer and Daily News and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Much of the money went to pay settlements and legal fees for complaints filed in courts around the state involving legislators and workers in the executive branch, row offices, the courts, and universities in the State System of Higher Education. The allegations ranged from inappropriate jokes to exposure to pornography and sexual assault. In some cases, employees claimed they were retaliated against for reporting the behavior. That amount reflects the most complete picture to date of state taxpayer-funded payouts, which are often made quietly and which have become a source of controversy in the Capitol as the #MeToo movement has ensnared a growing number of public figures. The newspapers compiled the data using court records and documents obtained under the state’s Right-to-Know Act. A number of similar requests are still being processed by some independent state agencies, which could drive up the total cost. In all, the analysis shows, at least 37 cases involving sexual harassment claims have been resolved since 2010 — some did not include a financial settlement. Six cases are pending, and the status of one case could not be determined.

Bus company takes 'full responsibility' for hiring criminally convicted drivers for School District of Lancaster
Lancaster Online ALEX GELI | Staff Writer February 2, 2018
Days after Pennsylvania’s auditor general chastised School District of Lancaster for using five school bus drivers with criminal records, some say the blame should also fall on the bus company’s shoulders for hiring them in the first place. The company’s president on Thursday agreed. “Ultimately it’s our responsibility, in my eyes,” Shultz Transportation president Mike Kramer said. “We take full responsibility and we have made the necessary adjustments to avoid any future issues with any of our customers.” A recent state audit revealed that Willow Street-based Shultz Transportation assigned SDL a total of 21 bus drivers who, according to state law, should not have been allowed behind the wheel of a school bus. Five of them were ineligible due to prior criminal convictions. While both Shultz and SDL have made changes to avoid the same mistake, some are left wondering how the error went unnoticed. "We take full responsibility and we have made the necessary adjustments to avoid any future issues with any of our customers."
“That should never happen,” said Dave Schlotter, director of safety and operations for Brightbill Transportation, the county’s leading school bus contractor. “I don’t see how somebody could slip through the cracks.”

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

Purpose Career Fair for Black Male Educators in Philly Sat, February 10, 2018 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM EST
by The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice
There is a serious shortage of Black male educators in our schools, and all our children are worse off for it. Maybe you’re the answer. Whether you’re an experienced Black male educator looking for a new challenge, a college student weighing career paths, or working in another field you just don’t find fulfilling, come to the PURPOSE CAREER FAIR to meet and interview with over 30 school networks looking to hire in Philadelphia public schools and beyond.

Advertising in schools?
A number of school districts across the country have turned to advertising as a way to fill budget gaps. Some districts have offered corporate naming rights to buildings and others have allowed ads on buses and lockers. A reporter for the Harrisburg Patriot-News is investigating the prevalence of ads in Pa. schools and needs your help. Please contact him if you’re aware of any of the following in your area:
·  Ads placed on sports uniforms, school buses, lockers, or other areas of school grounds.
·  Corporate sponsorship of sports fields, buildings, parking lots, or other school property.
·  Ads on school websites or newsletters.
·  Any other examples of advertising or sponsorship in the school environment or curriculum.
You can reach reporter Daniel Simmons-Ritchie at or on 717-255-8162

Welcome to the new look of!
We’re excited to launch a new website with a cleaner look and improved navigation to help you find the resources you want with even more ease. And just like the current website, this new one is completely mobile-friendly so it works just as easily on your tablet or smartphone as it does on your desktop computer. Take wherever you go! As part of this roll out, we also will be launching a new member portal – myPSBA. The new portal will be a one-stop shop for event registrations and will offer many of the same features of your favorite social media platforms, with online discussion groups where members can communicate on topics related to their position in the district. Members also can access PSBA's new Online Learning program, included in All-Access membership, for training anywhere at anytime. In the coming weeks members will be receiving an email with personal login information to myPSBA. We look forward to sharing these exciting new developments with you! Until then, registration forms are found on each event page and do not require logging in. Available online publications, and many of our popular reports and resources, now are easily found under Advocacy & News.

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.

1 comment:

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