Thursday, March 29, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 29: F&M poll: Support For Gun Control At All-Time High; 86% of registered PA voters favor expanded background checks for gun purchases

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F&M poll: Support For Gun Control At All-Time High; 86% of registered PA voters favor expanded background checks for gun purchases

2018 PSBA Advocacy Day April 16, 2018 Harrisburg
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the annual Advocacy Day on Monday, April 16, 2018, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. PSBA is partnering with Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units to have a stronger voice for public education. Hear how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. This event is free for members; registration is required.
Register online here:

Pennsylvania feels the Parkland effect: Big majorities support gun law fixes in new poll
Penn Live By John L. Micek Updated 6:05 AM; Posted 6:00 AM
Last month's deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and the extraordinary push for gun-control that followed it by the nation's school students is apparently having an effect in Pennsylvania. Huge majorities of respondents to a new Franklin & Marshall College poll say they'd support tighter background checks; a ban on assault weapons and raising the minimum purchasing age from 18 to 21. "I don't think there's any doubt that," this is a reflection of "what we've seen nationally," veteran political analyst G. Terry Madonna, director of the Keystone Poll, said Wednesday. The poll of 423 registered voters found that:
·         Nearly 9 in 10 respondents (86 percent) favor "enhancing" the existing gun background check system.
·         More than 6 in 10 (61 percent) support a ban on assault-style weapons
·         Nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) support raising the minimum purchasing age.
The Franklin & Marshall canvass was conducted from March 19 through Monday, meaning pollsters were in the field when hundreds of thousands of people, including Parkland survivors, rallied across the country for stricter gun-control laws.

F&M Poll: Support For Gun Control At All-Time High
CBS3 By Tony Romeo March 29, 2018 at 4:30 am
HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) — The latest Franklin and Marshall College Poll shows more Pennsylvania voters support gun control than at any time in the poll’s history. Franklin and Marshall College Poll Director Terry Madonna says 72 percent of registered Pennsylvania voters believe there should be more general regulation of guns. “And we’ve asked that question for more than a decade,” Madonna said. “That’s the largest percentage who said that since we began asking that question.” Eighty-six percent favor enhanced background checks, 61 percent favor banning assault-style weapons, and almost as many,  59-percent, favor raising the minimum age for gun purchases to 21. And while his approval numbers may have ticked up nationally in recent weeks, in the F&M Poll, the block of Pennsylvania voters who believe President Trump is doing a good or excellent job remains mired at just 30 percent.

March 2018 Franklin & Marshall College Poll SUMMARY OF FINDINGS Prepared by: Center for Opinion Research Floyd Institute for Public Policy Franklin & Marshall College

“In other findings, the poll showed broad support for increased restrictions on firearms following the Parkland, Fla., school shootings and the anti-gun-violence youth protests – 86 percent of registered voters favored expanded background checks for gun purchases, 61 percent backed a ban on assault-style weapons, and 59 percent said the minimum age to purchase a gun should be raised to 21.”
New Pa. F&M poll finds positive signs for Gov. Wolf, Democratic U.S. House candidates
Inquirer by Thomas Fitzgerald, Political Writer  @tomfitzgerald | Updated: MARCH 28, 2018 — 10:07 PM EDT
Nearly half of Pennsylvania registered voters, 46 percent, believe the state is “headed in the right direction,” according to a new Franklin and Marshall College poll released Thursday — the first time since 2009 that more respondents chose that option than said the state was on the wrong track. “That’s primarily driven by improvements in the economy. Compared to even a few years ago, a lot more people are working,” said Terry Madonna, poll director and public-affairs professor at the Lancaster college. The recession of 2008-09 was deeper and the recovery was slower in Pennsylvania than in some other parts of the nation. Forty percent of respondents in the new poll agreed with the proposition that the state was on the wrong track. The survey, conducted for the Inquirer and Daily News and other news outlets across the state, found a high level of interest in this year’s midterm elections, with 48 percent of voters saying they were very interested and paying close attention to the campaigns. In addition, 60 percent of Democrats, compared to 41 percent of Republicans, placed themselves in the “very interested” category — often used by pollsters as a measure of relative partisan enthusiasm.

F&M poll shows no clear favorite in GOP gubernatorial contest has emerged yet to take on Gov. Wolf
Penn Live By Jan Murphy Updated 4:00 AM; Posted 4:00 AM
With about seven weeks to go until the May 15 gubernatorial primary, none of the three Republican candidates have yet to show they are making any significant inroads to pose a serious threat to Gov. Tom Wolf's bid for a second term of office. The latest Franklin & Marshall College poll suggests that perhaps endorsed GOP candidate Scott Wagner may do a little better against Wolf than his Republican primary opponents Paul Mango and Laura Ellsworth but a lot of voters remain undecided. Poll director G. Terry Madonna said one of the problems Wagner and Mango are having is they are "tearing the hide off of each other" in their ads. Others that all three Republicans must combat is an energized Democratic base of likely voters and the lack of any big negative against Wolf to make him appear as undeserving of another term.

Elected officials could learn from the Lancaster County teens who took part in LNP Opinion discussion on school safety
Lancaster Online by The LNP Editorial Board  March 29, 2018
THE ISSUE:  dozen students from high schools around Lancaster County gathered in the LNP studio Tuesday afternoon to discuss school safety, shootings, gun regulation and the #NeverAgain movement. LNP Opinion Editor Suzanne Cassidy and Deputy Opinion Editor Rich Manieri moderated the 70-minute conversation. The students came from Hempfield, Lancaster Mennonite, Manheim Central, Manheim Township, McCaskey, Penn Manor and Solanco high schools, and held a mix of views on gun regulation. The kids are not just all right. The kids are magnificent. That was the primary takeaway from Tuesday’s LNP Opinion discussion with 12 area high school students. The subject before them — school safety and gun regulation — was a complicated one. They faced squarely the issues of mental health, school security, arming school employees, race, gun access and what one student termed “the societal glorification of violence.” They spoke thoughtfully, earnestly, eloquently, passionately — and with civility. When they disagreed with one another, they did so politely. They were firm without being cutting. They listened to one another. If our elected officials in Harrisburg and Washington could conduct themselves in a similar manner, our nation would be better for it. We’d urge our politicians to watch and learn from the video, which can be viewed on LancasterOnline.

Gun violence summit grapples with where to go from here
Politicians struggled to answer the logical, heartfelt questions of children – why aren't there better laws?
The notebook by Jane M. Von Bergen March 28, 2018 — 10:27am
Sixth-grader Samantha Sandhaus' question was so innocent – simple and logical – that, for one brief moment, it silenced two seasoned, and loquacious, politicians. Why, the 12-year-old wondered, if the city of Philadelphia can't legally make laws to curb access to guns, then "why doesn't the federal government do it?" Aaah, why indeed? Where to even begin? That was the look that crossed the faces of State Rep. Jordan Harris,  (D, Phila.), and Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. The two had been tapped to deliver a primer on gun laws Tuesday at #PHLYouthTalks: Gun Violence from Parkland to Philly, a gathering at South Philadelphia High School. The session, which was sponsored by the Philadelphia Youth Commission and the Mayor's Millennial Advisory Committee and took place three days after the anti-gun violence march in Center City, drew about 80 people; about half of them were students.  They listened to the politicians, including Mayor Kenney, before dividing into smaller sessions on trauma, creating safe spaces, and anti-violence programs – all in response to the Valentine's Day shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Study: Armed security officers are on the rise in US schools
WASHINGTON (AP) — Armed security officers are becoming more prevalent at America’s schools, according to a federal study released Thursday amid a heated debate over whether teachers and other school officials should carry guns. Armed officers were present at least once a week in 43 percent of all public schools during the 2015-16 school year, compared with 31 percent of schools a decade before, according to data from a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. Last month’s mass shooting at a Florida high school put renewed focus on the role of armed school security guards, after a video showed that a sheriff’s deputy at the school approached but did not enter the building where the attack was taking place. The study came out a day after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos kicked off a federal school safety panel. DeVos has said that schools should have the option to arm teachers. She’s being criticized by teachers’ unions for not including educators, students and experts in the panel, which consists only of her and three other Cabinet secretaries. The percentage of schools with a security guard, a school resource officer or other sworn law enforcement officer on campus at least once a week has gone up from 42 percent in 2005-06 to 57 percent a decade later. While security at schools of all grade levels increased, the shift is clearer among elementary schools, where the share with security staff has gone from 26 percent to 45 percent in the same time period.

Greensburg Salem brings on architect to study school safety improvements
Trib Live by JACOB TIERNEY  | Wednesday, March 28, 2018, 7:09 p.m.
Greensburg Salem School District has wanted to improve security at the entrances to its five schools for a long time, but last month's school shooting in Florida and a recent break-in at Greensburg Salem Middle School sent the project to the top of the to-do list, officials said.
An architect with New Kensington firm Canzian/Johnston & Associates visited the districts' schools Tuesday to see how much it would cost to install mousetrap entrances. These entrances have become the gold standard for schools, said Don Macek, a project manager with Canzian/Johnston. “Lots of the school districts we work with, some have put it in, some have been phasing it in over time,” he said. With a “mousetrap” setup, anyone coming into the school through the main entrance must first be let in through a set of locked doors, which lead into a secure vestibule which adjoins the reception area.

Stroudsburg High Rifle Team flush with cash after NRA grant rejection spurs competing fundraisers
The board voted 6-2 at Monday's meeting to not accept the grant.
Jacqueline Palochko and Daniel Patrick Sheehan Contact Reporters Of The Morning Call March 28, 2018
A decision Monday by the Stroudsburg Area School Board not to accept National Rifle Association money for the high school rifle team has spurred two fundraising efforts as well as accusations that the issue has been politicized. A GoFundMe campaign by state Rep. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe, brought in $8,700 by midafternoon Wednesday. A separate effort by some local business leaders raised $6,750. Each fundraiser surpassed the amount of the NRA grant, which was $4,730 and offered to the team for the first time this year. The Stroudsburg High rifle team has been using equipment from the 1970s. It intends to use the money for new rifles and vests for its 21 members.

Pa. school district looks at student discipline and race
Morning Call by ED PALATTELLA, Erie Times-News Associated Press March 28, 2018
ERIE, Pa. (AP) — Through the development of its strategic plan, the Erie School District is trying to address an achievement gap, in which black students typically are less proficient in math and language arts than their white counterparts. The district is also trying to address its discipline gap. In 2016-17, black students in the Erie School District were disciplined about 2.3 times more often than their white counterparts — 889 black students compared with 394 white students. Also in 2016-17, according to district figures, black students comprised 57.2 percent of the district's disciplinary referrals — suspensions, expulsions and other sanctions — though black students make up 25.3 percent of the district's 11,500 students. White students were subject to 25.4 percent of the referrals while making up 52.5 percent of the student population. “This has always been an underlying issue in the district,” Erie schools Superintendent Brian Polito said. “This is something we need to call out in our plan.” In some ways, the district already has. One of the goals in the draft of the strategic plan, and a goal expected to be in the final plan, due in May, is to ensure all district students receive “proportional treatment.”

$63M Pottstown school budget draft has $2.4M deficit
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 03/27/18, 6:28 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
POTTSTOWN >> The preliminary Pottstown School District budget for the 2018-2019 school year is looking a little short. During the March 15 school board meeting, board member Kurt Heidel reported that the budget — which now stands at $63,226,970 — also carries a $2.4 million deficit between anticipated revenues and expenditures. For the last three years, the school board has held the line and not raised property taxes. But Heidel said even if the board does decide to raise taxes this year, the maximum hike allowed by the state — the “state index” — is 3.5 percent. Even with that additional revenue, the budget revenues would still be about $1 million short of projected expenses. “There is still work to do,” said Heidel. The board is hoping to get some help with some of that work. Since the beginning of the year, the board and administration have been tossing around the idea of a budget advisory committee, modeled on the one established by Pottstown Borough Council and which, to date, has produced no budget savings.

Know your rights as parents when it comes to standardized testing | Letter
By Express-Times Letters to the Editor by Becka Bossons, Williams Township, PTA president of Wilson Area Intermediate School
It is the time of year again when schools across Pennsylvania are preparing for the PSSAs. For those who are unfamiliar with this test, it is a high stakes standardized test that Pennsylvania kids in grades 3-8 take each year. There are several reasons that these tests are harmful to our students and schools. The pressure that is put on the students, teachers and school districts is really astronomically. There are plenty of resources online and documentaries available for anyone who wishes to understand more about these tests.   I am writing today to let parents know that they are legally allowed to review the PSSAs at any time to decide whether there is anything on the test that goes against their religious beliefs. This right is granted to parents via Public School Code of 1949 (24 P. S. SS SS  1-121, 26-2603-B and 26-2604-B). No school is allowed to make this process more difficult or impose its own rules. Most districts in the Lehigh Valley are now very familiar with the law and are very accommodating to this process. There is at least one new charter school that does not seem to understand what the law states. I want every parent to know that if they have any issues, they can contact the Pennsylvania Department of Education to help them navigate the process. No parent should be made to feel that they are wrong for wanting to understand each and every test their child takes.

Thackston Charter approves latest audit, cites improvement
York Dispatch by Lindsay C. VanAsdalan, 717-505-5450/@lcvanasdalan Published 8:55 a.m. ET March 28, 2018 | Updated 2:42 p.m. ET March 28, 2018
In the midst of a lawsuit concerning its last three audits, the Helen Thackston Charter School board approved its audit for the previous school year in a meeting Tuesday night. The vote was unanimous between board members Danyiell Newman, Frank Hawkins, Marcia Glover and Nacole Gaines to approve the audit for the 2016-17 school year. Board solicitor Brian Leinhauser did not attend the Tuesday, March 27, meeting, but was present via a conference call. "It does show some improvement," Newman, the board president, said of the latest audit, acknowledging she was pleased with the results compared to previous years. Thackston business manager Thomas Taylor reviewed findings from the audit for board members over the phone.

A vanity gift? Complaints bubble after Abington agrees to rename high school for billionaire donor Schwarzman
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer  @Kathy_Boccella | Updated: MARCH 28, 2018 — 4:15 PM EDT
When Wall Street billionaire Stephen Schwarzman announced he was donating $25 million to Abington Senior High School, he said in a release that investing in public education “yields one of the best returns imaginable – a new generation of creative, capable and collaborate future leaders…”For the Blackstone CEO there was another, far more personal, return – his name on his alma mater, which the school board voted unanimously on Tuesday night to rename Abington Schwarzman High School. Shortly after the board vote, the news exploded on a Facebook forum where residents vented over the move, calling it “insane,”  “egotistical,” and “stupid.” “The stadium is already named after him. That’s enough. Too much ego,” wrote one commenter. “Maybe they’ll give the school directors little team schwarzman shirts at the next meeting,” another wrote. According to the action item on the school board agenda, “the Grantor (the Stephen A. Schwarzman Foundation) agrees to make a total contribution to the Foundation and District of $25,000,000 in return for, among other things, naming and recognition rights for the Abington Senior High School, to be renamed the Abington Schwarzman High School.”

“If the net result of eleven years of Success Academy is to get 9 low-income students into college, that’s a lot of hype and a lot of money to be spent for that, not to mention all the loss of resources to the 1,099,991 other students in New York City schools who had to suffer a loss of resources as Success used their influence and marches and wealthy donors money to stage publicity stunts in Albany and to get the Governor to go to battle with the Mayor about having the city pay charter school rents.”
Who Survives Success?
Gary Rubenstein’s Blog Posted on March 27, 2018 by garyrubinstein
Success Academy opened in 2006 with 156 students — 83 kindergarteners and 73 first graders.  Now, eleven years later, they have their first graduating seniors, though just 17 of them.  In my last post I wondered what can be learned about the Success model by examining who exactly those 17 students are. A big question, and one that might never be answered, is how many of those 17 students were actually among the original 73 first graders.  Since Success allows transfers up until 4th grade it is possible that some of those 17 students transferred in which would make their attrition rate even worse than the 77% that it is at a minimum. New York State has a pretty good data site which I used to look at the most recent data from the 2016-2017 school year.  I then compared the data about the 10th and 11th grade from 2016-2017 to the data of their kindergarten and 1st grade from 2006-2007. According to the state data (which can be found here), out of the 156 students (83 Kindergarten and 73 1st grade) in 2006-2007, 113 — which is 72% — of them qualified for either free or reduced lunch.  Though there was not data of the breakdown by gender, I think it is a fair assumption that the boys and girls were likely equally split, more or less.

Here's How Changes to the U.S. Census Could Impact Education Funding
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on March 28, 2018 3:45 PM
The Trump administration has decided to add a question to the 2020 U.S. Census about whether respondents are U.S. citizens, and it's causing quite a stir. But how exactly is census information used in education? And how could a question about citizenship impact schools? Let's tackle that first question. The decennial census results impact the two biggest pots of federal money for K-12 schools: Title I aid for disadvantaged students, which receives $15.8 billion in fiscal 2018, and special education grants to states, which receive $12.3 billion.  For example, the decennial census data is used—along with other data collected by the Census Bureau—to produce "single-year estimates of income and poverty for all U.S. states and counties as well as estimates of school-age children in poverty" for the nation's school districts in the Small Area Income Poverty and Estimates Program (SAIPE). This program, in turn, impacts Title I.  "The Title I and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) formulas factor in Census data that is informed by the decennial census," said Sheara Krvaric, an attorney at the Federal Education Group, a legal and consulting firm in Washington.  The decennial data collected by the Census Bureau are far from the only factor in determing these allocations, because that information is only collected once a decade. So there are other sources of information as well as projections that are used for funding decisions made by the U.S. Department of Education.  But it's not just at the federal level where this type of data is used.

As DeVos School Safety Panel Meets, Educators Blast Exclusion of School Voices
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on March 28, 2018 8:04 PM
The White House school safety commission chaired by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos held its first, closed-door meeting Wednesday, amid a chorus of concern about its makeup and process among educators and advocates.  The commission will make policy recommendations in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 people dead. In addition to DeVos, its membership consists includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, but no educators or experts. Wednesday's meeting was not open to the public, or press. But the department has told advocates it plans to reach out to the education community, and hold forums around the country in the future. No word yet on where and when these meetings will take place.  The commission discussed staffing, coordination with state and local authorities, and plans for getting input from people impacted by school safety issues, according to a summary of the meeting released by the department.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: March 21 - 27, 2018
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on March 27, 2018 - 1:38pm 
Entering the peak weeks of school testing season, pressure from students, educators and community leaders for genuine assessment reform is accelerating as more people recognize how much classroom learning time is undermined by standardized exam overkill.

2018 PSBA Advocacy Day April 16, 2018 Harrisburg
Join PSBA and your fellow school directors for the annual Advocacy Day on Monday, April 16, 2018, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. PSBA is partnering with Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units to have a stronger voice for public education. Hear how advocacy makes a difference in the legislative process and the importance of public education advocacy. Government Affairs will take a deeper dive into the legislative priorities and will provide tips on how to be an effective public education advocate. There will be dedicated time for you and your fellow advocates to hit the halls to meet with your legislators on public education. This is your chance to share the importance of policy supporting public education and make your voice heard on the Hill. This event is free for members; registration is required.
Register online here:

NPE: Join us in a Day of Action April 20th to Stop Gun Violence in our Schools
Network for Public Education February 16, 2018 by Darcie Cimarusti
After the slaughter of students and staff in Parkland, Florida, the time for action has never been more urgent. The politicians sit on their hands as our children and their teachers are murdered in their schools. We will be silent no more! The failure to enact rational laws that bar access to guns designed for mass shootings is inexcusable. It is past time to speak out and act. Pledge your support to stop gun violence here. We call for mass action on April 20, the anniversary of the horrific shootings at Columbine High School. We urge teachers, families, students, administrators and every member of the community to engage in acts of protest in and around their schools. Create actions that work best in your community.  Organize sit-ins, teach-ins, walkouts, marches–whatever you decide will show your school and community’s determination to keep our students safe. One elementary teacher suggested that teachers and parents link arms around the school to show their determination to protect children.

PASA Women's Caucus Annual Conference "Leaders Lifting Leaders"
May 6 - 8, 2018 Hotel Hershey

Featured Speakers...
*Dr. Helen Sobehart - Women Leading Education Across Continents: Lifting Leaders from Here to There
*Dr. Tracey Severns - Courageous Leadership
*Dr. Emilie Lonardi - Lead and Lift: A Call for Females to Aspire to the Superintendency
*Deputy Secretary Matt Stem - Update from the PDE


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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