Court case could force state to close gap in spending between school districts
Meadville Tribune By John Finnerty CNHI News Service March 5, 2018
HARRISBURG — A looming state court challenge to the way Pennsylvania funds its schools could have dramatic implications, particularly for small and poorer schools that struggle to compete when judged against school districts that can lean move heavily on local property taxes. The same law firm that represented the League of Women Voters in the redistricting lawsuit is representing the school districts in a lawsuit challenging that the way the state funds schools is unfair to rural and poor schools. The state Supreme Court ruled last year that the case should go to trial. Oral arguments in a last-ditch effort by the Legislature to get the case thrown out are scheduled for Wednesday. The case has been bouncing around the state’s appeals courts since it was filed in 2014. Gov. Tom Wolf in January asked the court to get the case moving to trial so that there can be a resolution. The case comes as Pennsylvania wallows at the bottom nationally in terms of how much burden the state shoulders toward the cost of K-12 public education. A study released last week by the Education Trust found that only three other states — New Hampshire, Nebraska and South Dakota — provide a smaller share of the cost of educating students. In Pennsylvania, the state government only contributes 39 percent of the cost of public schools. That leaves local school districts no place to turn but to lean on local taxes, primarily property taxes, said Ed Albert, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools. His organization is one of the plaintiffs being represented by the Public Interest Law Center in the school funding lawsuit.
How to fail students and blame them at the same time–March 2, 2018
PCCY Website March 2, 2018
The fair funding lawsuit takes another step forward on March 7, 2018 when the Commonwealth Court will hear objections filed by PA House and Senate Majority Leaders Turzai and Scarnati. To say that their well-healed objections remain as offensive and ludicrous as they were the first time around would be an understatement. PA legislators are expected to argue that Pennsylvania’s students have no fundamental right to an education under the State’s constitution, that the case for education funding is moot because the state adopted a funding formula, and that if districts are underfunded, kids aren’t harmed and districts share a part of the blame because they can choose how to allocate resources. Particularly appalling? When voters (and legislators, for that matter) know full well the State’s track record for underfunding schools and are well past the point of arguing that funding matters, State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) offers a rather tone-deaf response: He blames the kids.
“While charters must provide some information publicly, it is sparse and affords limited ability to compare charter spending with public school outlays. Want to know the teacher salary structure or the amount the managers or owners of the charter schools make? Good luck. That contrasts with public schools, which provide specific details.”
How Pa.'s 'terribly flawed' charter school law drags down Philly's schools
by Joel Naroff, For the Inquirer email@example.com Updated: MARCH 3, 2018 — 5:13 AM
The Philadelphia School Board is transitioning back to local control and the nomination of school board members marks a major turning point. So does Mayor Kenney’s audacious plan, released last week, to raise taxes to fund the schools. But the simple fact is that the school district will continue to suffer from the outdated, terribly flawed charter school law. Until that law is drastically revised, it will be difficult for the School Board to control its costs. The 20-year-old Pennsylvania charter school law has outlived its purpose and the mistakes made in crafting the law are being worsened by the dramatic rise in charter school enrollment. Funds are distributed not according to need but on the basis of formulas that bear little resemblance to actual costs. Getting a handle on the way charter schools spend their money is almost impossible. There is little detailed data published and charter school fiscal transparency is nonexistent.
How to make Pa.'s very old school buildings safe from active shooters | Opinion
by Scott J. Compton & Michael Kelly, For the Inquirer Updated: MARCH 2, 2018 — 11:51 AM
Scott J. Compton, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP is the president of the unifying body of the Pennsylvania Chapters of the American Institute of Architects.
Michael Kelly, AIA, LEED AP is vice chair of the AIA Pennsylvania Education/School Construction Subcommittee.
The recent school shooting in Florida continues an unsettling trend of assaults on students in their neighborhood schools. While the debate will continue at the national level on proposals for arming teachers and “hardening” our schools, in Pennsylvania there are tangible, less polarizing steps we can take right now to make our buildings safer. One of the largest concerns regarding school safety in Pennsylvania is the age of our schools. More than 65 percent of schools in Pennsylvania were built before 1970, according to a 2014 study commissioned by the state Department of Education. That’s before the energy crisis, before computer technology, and certainly before active-shooter drills became part of our students’ lives. Many of these buildings have been renovated over time to upgrade their services, educational opportunities, and safeguards. But far too many have not. While establishing an emergency management plan is the first step in a school’s safety program, the configuration of the building and its security infrastructure is also crucial.
Pa. congressional map lawsuit updates: Gov. Wolf moves to dismiss suit, adds former U.S. solicitor
Inquirer by Jonathan Lai, Staff Writer @Elaijuh | firstname.lastname@example.org Updated: MARCH 2, 2018 — 6:28 PM EST
Gov. Wolf’s administration moved Friday to have dismissed a Republican challenge to the new Pennsylvania congressional map, saying federal courts have no authority over the state Supreme Court on the issue. “This court should recognize this lawsuit for what it is: a transparent attempt to relitigate a state-law issue that has already been settled,” lawyers for the executive branch wrote in their filing for the federal district court in Harrisburg. It was an expected move by the Wolf administration, which has sought to protect the new map and keep it in place for the 2018 elections, beginning with the May 15 primaries. The group of Democratic voters who brought the initial gerrymandering lawsuit that overturned the map also asked the judges Friday to dismiss the case. In their motion, the voters similarly argue that the lawsuit overlaps with other challenges, calling it “antithetical to how the American judicial system is supposed to work” and “merely an attempt to get a fourth bite at the apple.”
Legislator to introduce bill to replace school property tax system
Citizens Voice BY BORYS KRAWCZENIUK / PUBLISHED: MARCH 5, 2018
Eliminating school property taxes in Pennsylvania will require raising more than $14.4 billion from other taxes, but huge numbers have never discouraged the idea’s supporters. If anything, they think they’re closer than ever to accomplishing what seemed impossible and ridiculous to most state legislators a decade ago. They see a state Senate on the verge of passing a bill to eliminate school property taxes for the first time in state history and increasing pressure on the House and Gov. Tom Wolf to act. State Sen. David Argall, R-29, Schuylkill, fell a vote short of winning passage of his Property Tax Independence Act three Novembers ago, but aims to try again soon. Argall still needs one vote, and Republican leaders have promised him a chance to argue the point soon in a dedicated caucus meeting.
Lack of Black men pitched for school board raises concern
Philly Trib by Michael D’Onofrio Tribune Staff Writer Mar 2, 2018
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When the names of the 27 finalists being considered for the new Board of Education were revealed, Bilal Qayyum was not surprised to see only two Black men make the cut. “Black males have always been, and still are in the city of Philadelphia and across the country — we’re always second and third. And I think that’s the reflection of what we saw coming out of the Nominating [Panel],” he said. Qayyum, who heads the Father’s Day Rally Committee that promotes fathers and men in the Black and Latino community, has been drawing attention to what he’s considers the under-representation of Black men in the running for nine spots on the Board of Education. Qayyum said the Nominating Panel was sending out a “negative message” with its final list and called for the new nine-member board to reflect the student population of the district, which is approximately 53 percent Black or African-American. “It don’t think it sends the right message to the students of the city of Philadelphia, or to the citizens, or to the Black community that we only had two qualified Black males to be considered for the school board,” he said.
Pa. House panel looks at arming teachers
Allied News By JOHN FINNERTY CNHI State Reporter Mar 4, 2018
HARRISBURG – The state House education committee plans to explore the issue of school safety at a March 15 hearing that will include whether the General Assembly should give schools the power to arm teachers and other staff. The issue of arming teachers got a new push this week after President Donald Trump endorsed the idea as a means of boosting security in schools after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that claimed 17 lives. The Pennsylania state Senate passed an arming teachers measure by a 28-22 vote last June. The author of that bill, state Sen. Donald White, has championed the idea as a means of helping schools be prepared for school shooters, since many rural schools don’t have access to local police protection. White’s plan wouldn’t require schools to roll out a plan for arming teachers, but it would allow local school boards to develop programs to allow staff to carry firearms. It faces stiff resistance from gun control groups and the teachers union. The state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera joined representatives of CeaseFire PA, the state’s largest gun-control advocacy organization, to express his opposition to the legislation last fall. Friday, J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf said the governor thinks it’s a bad idea too.
“NRA members, and gun owners in general, are people. They are our neighbors, teachers, coaches and Uber drivers. They have children who go to school, and they have the same right as everyone else to organize around their shared interests, just like a union, Planned Parenthood, or immigration advocates. Pennsylvania has the highest per-capita NRA membership in the country. Draw a 300-mile radius around Pittsburgh and you’ll find 1.5 million NRA members, and in our district, you’ll find tens of thousands of law-abiding NRA members.”
Lloyd Smucker: We need common sense, not hyperbole, to guide guns debate [opinion]
Lancaster Online by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker | Opinion March 5, 2018
Our public square is wrought with divisiveness and hyperbole. Many of the issues before the 115th Congress have bipartisan areas of agreement, like health care, immigration and infrastructure improvements. Unfortunately, radical political actors on both sides and an all-too-complicit media polarize these issues, derailing efforts to provide progress for the American people. It’s happening again right now, while parents are still mourning. Like everyone, I believe the safety of our children is paramount, especially in schools. The National Rifle Association has received immense criticism following the devastating school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and much has been said about the NRA’s spending during my 2016 campaign. As a result of that independent expenditure by an independent organization, I’ve been called an accomplice to murder and accused of supporting school shootings. Let me state this clearly for the detractors: Any support I receive from the NRA is a result of my voting record and support for the Second Amendment — not the other way around. Let’s look at the facts. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA contributed just over $1 million to candidates in the 2016 campaign cycle (ranked 489th in organizations contributing to campaigns). Planned Parenthood, for example, spent four times that amount. The NRA is regularly outspent by liberal interest groups in campaigns. Its strength doesn’t come from campaign contributions — its strength comes from its members’ grass-roots support and ideological belief that firearms are essential to their own sense of freedom.
Why don't we study gun violence? Because it's against the law | Editorial
by The Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: MARCH 5, 2018 — 5:44 AM EST
President Trump sounds interested — for now — in solving at least some of this country’s gun problems in the wake of the mass shooting that left 17 students and educators dead in a Florida high school. But the president has also seemed confused and misinformed about why previous efforts at gun regulation have failed, or even what “due process” means when taking firearms from those who are a danger to themselves or others. Fortunately, he has a top-notch research agency that can study the problem in detail to establish evidence and information in support of solutions. All the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention needs is governmental permission to resume research on guns, and protection from political influence. It has been more than two decades since Congress passed the “Dickey amendment” in what was supposed to be an effort to keep the CDC neutral in the debate about gun control. But for the National Rifle Association, even a statement such as “having a gun in the house increases the chance of homicide” was too politically charged.
Wolf, lawmakers need to step up for students with disabilities | Opinion
Penn Live Guest Editorial By Deborah Gordon Klehr and Maureen Cronin Updated Mar 3; Posted Mar 3
Pennsylvania's 270,000 children with disabilities deserve better. Their future depends on critical decisions being made in Harrisburg right now. This winter and spring, they should be a focus of conversation as our state elected officials move to craft and adopt a new budget for 2018-19 - one that hopefully will build momentum for expanded investments supporting these children. Children with disabilities are among the most educationally at risk. They are more likely to repeat a grade and less likely to graduate than their non-disabled peers. We have long recognized that children with disabilities require and are legally entitled to additional supports and services in order to learn. These include specially designed instruction and additional aids and services to provide a "free appropriate public education," enabling these students to achieve their full potential.
A change in the (GOP primary) weather
Philly Daily News by John Baer, STAFF COLUMNIST email@example.com Updated: MARCH 5, 2018 — 5:00 AM EST
You can pretty much tell the state of a race by how contenders handle debates.
That said, now that the GOP primary for governor is down to three, after (he-never-was-going-to-run) House Speaker Mike Turzai dropped out, there’s a noticeable shift in the winds. While Republicans almost always agree on basics — abortion, guns, less government, school choice, etc. — we’re now seeing efforts at separation. At least in tone, presentation, and for what passes in politics as nuance. Firebrand populist state Sen. Scott Wagner, the party-endorsed front-runner with the work ethic of a jackhammer, is pushing to further separate himself from fellow contenders as a Donald Trump outsider, an angry agent of change. “I’ve never seen a candidate work so hard for so long,” GOP state chairman Val DiGiorgio tells me. Pittsburgh’s Paul Mango, former health-care consultant for global mega-corp McKinsey & Co., aggressively paints his West Point self as further right than Wagner, especially on social issues, an appeal to many GOP voters.
And uber-lawyer Laura Ellsworth, also of Pittsburgh and international law firm Jones Day, seeks to offer non-pandering, sensible views. So, naturally, you figure she’s got no chance. Unless as an alternative to testosterone wars waged between the two others.
MADONNA and YOUNG: Casey vs. Barletta: The probabilities for 2018 Senate race
Daily Local POSTED: 03/03/18, 4:11 PM EST | UPDATED: 1 DAY AGO
G. Terry Madonna is professor of public affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, and Michael Young is a former professor of politics and public affairs at Penn State University and managing partner of Michael Young Strategic Research.
If politics is a science, it is a science of probabilities, not certainties. “President” Hillary Clinton could probably elaborate on that as could the late “President” Tom Dewey.
This is not to say there are no certainties in politics. One is the calendar. Pennsylvania on November 6th will hold a U.S. Senate election (along with 33 other states) - one that almost certainly will help determine which national party controls Congress during the last two years of President Trump’s current term. Another near certainty is that the opposing major party nominees will be Democrat incumbent Bob Casey and retiring Republican Congressman Lou Barletta. Casey’s a two-term incumbent who has no serious opposition within the Democratic Party while Barletta overwhelming won the endorsement of his Republican Party.
Has Donald Trump written off a key Pa. congressional race? It's starting to look that way | Monday Morning Coffee
Penn Live By John L. Micek firstname.lastname@example.org Updated 8:02 AM; Posted 7:59 AM
Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Rick who? If there's one thing that we know about President Donald Trump, it's that he loves winners and can't abide losers. And with the Democrats making a race of it in a key congressional race in southwestern Pennsylvania, there are signs that Trump may be avoiding what could shape up to be an embarrassing political defeat. After all, it was only a couple of weeks ago that Trump was on Twitter talking up the need for voters to tap GOP state Rep. Rick Saccone, a firebrand conservative, in a March 13 special election in southwestern Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District. But with Election Day just a week away, and with Democrat Conor Lamb showing a decisive financial advantage, the White House may be reconsidering its full-throated endorsement of Saccone. As The Huffington Post reports, a March 10 rally with Saccone in a district that Trump carried by 19 points in 2016, is only "tentative." And last week, the political handicappers moved the race from "lean Republican" to "toss up," confirming that the contest is the canary in the coal mine for the GOP in 2018.
Anxious students question Sen. Casey at Cheltenham town hall on guns
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent March 2, 2018
An anxious energy greeted U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Friday as he addressed hundreds of teenagers at a town hall on gun violence. Students at Cheltenham High School just north of Philadelphia asked Casey sharp, sometimes confrontational, questions about Congress’ inaction on gun control. The first student to question Casey called out his past opposition to gun regulation. After the 2012 shooting of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Casey said, he changed his position. “I had to say to myself, ‘Is there nothing, is there nothing, the most powerful nation in the history of the human race can do to reduce the likelihood we’ll have another school shooting?’” Casey said before a packed auditorium. Pennsylvania’s senior senator now supports expanded background checks, a ban on “military-style assault weapons,” and funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun violence, among other measures.
Riverside School Board votes Tuesday on whether to let security guard carry concealed firearm
Beaver County Times By Dani Fitzgerald email@example.com Posted Mar 4, 2018 at 5:00 PM
NORTH SEWICKLEY TWP. — A recently formed school safety committee in the district is recommending its security guard be armed — and the vote will be Tuesday. The committee was formed after the Florida school mass shooting nearly three weeks ago and a next day local threat at Riverside High School that resulted in a 15-year-old boy facing criminal charges. Community members attended the last school board meeting demanding further efforts to protect children and staff in the North Sewickley Township complex. Riverside School Board President Shawn Plassmeyer said Friday the committee, which consists of local community leaders, including local law enforcement, police chiefs, detective units, fire chiefs and others, has a top priority of keeping the schools safe. “We want to be proactive,” said Plassmeyer. “We want to make sure we are doing everything that needs to be done (to prevent a shooting).” The committee’s first initiative is for the school board to grant the district’s security guard, John Ludwig, a concealed firearm.
Ludwig, a retired state police trooper, already has a connection with the school and is an expert from his work in law enforcement, Plassmeyer said.
State lawmaker wants to provide money to schools for metal detectors
ABC27 By Dawn White Published: March 2, 2018, 7:43 pm Updated: March 3, 2018, 3:42 am
YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — State Representative Seth Grove says he will be co-sponsoring a bill giving state funding to school districts who want to have metal detectors. “Within our budget now, we’re actually looking at a surplus based on the amount of revenue coming in,” Grove said. That’s why Grove believes the state paying to put metal detectors in schools wouldn’t cost taxpayers additional money. The primary sponsor of the bill is Rep. Jason Ortitay of Allegheny and Washington Counties. Grove is working with him to figure out how many school districts are interested and how much it would cost. Lawmakers believe the bill would save school district’s money because the state can buy in bulk. “I think it’ll be a huge cost saver so each school district doesn’t have to purchase their own,” Grove said. “A bulk order will save money. Ultimately the goal is to save lives, prevent anything, and make sure students and parents and teachers and everyone that goes into that school are not fearful.” The bill is expected to be introduced in the State House in about two weeks.
In wake of school massacre, how does Pa. stack up with gun laws?
Pamela Lehman and Manuel Gamiz Jr. Contact Reporters Of The Morning Call March 5, 2018
In the two weeks since the shooting that claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., a wave of gun-control measures were proposed and taken under consideration in various state legislatures. Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced at least 11 bills, including one that would ban the AR-15 rifle allegedly used in the Florida shooting. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy already had promised more “sensible” gun-control measures and lawmakers are considering a handful of measures to tighten the state's already-strict gun laws. In Delaware, Gov. John Carney has called for a ban on assault weapon sales and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan urged lawmakers to pass a bill designed to take guns from people identified as dangerous and proposed spending $125 million to enhance security at schools.
SCHOOL FUNDING LAWSUIT ORAL ARGUMENT WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7, 2018, 9:30AM, PHILLY
Join us on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 for oral argument on remaining preliminary objections and a motion to dismiss for mootness in our School Funding Lawsuit. This case was filed on behalf of six school districts, seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference against legislative leaders, state education officials, and the Governor. We are asking for a court order that will force the legislature to comply with the state constitution and ensure all students receive access to a high-quality public education. RSVP BY MARCH 5
Commonwealth Court Ninth Floor, Widener Building, 1339 Chestnut Street One South Penn Square, Philadelphia, PA 19107 Courtroom opens at 8:30 a.m.
Our argument is slated to be presented last on the list for the day. Estimated start time for our argument is 10:30 a.m., but it could be earlier or later. We will hold a press conference immediately after oral argument by the Octavius Catto statue on the south side of City Hall. Estimated start time between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
RSVP here or contact Tomea Sippio-Smith, Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), 215-563-5848, ext. 36 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
RSVPing does not guarantee you a seat in the courtroom.
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.
Learn the latest news, initiatives and upcoming events from your association.
Bring knowledge back to your district of how the commonwealth budget will fiscally impact it. Discuss the top legislative issues affecting public education. Learn how you can advocate for your school district taxpayers, students and public education success.
Enjoy productive conversation with your school leader colleagues. Boost your network, share your experiences and build a stronger voice for public education.
This focus group is your opportunity to share your input in drafting a blueprint for the future of public education. The Commonwealth Education Blueprint is a multiyear effort founded and managed by PSBA to develop and implement a statewide vision for the future of public education. Through this comprehensive project, education stakeholders from across the state and from many areas of expertise are coming together to proactively determine what education should look like in years to come. Having a clear and comprehensive statewide vision will ensure that we provide an increasingly excellent public education experience for children. This is your opportunity to get involved, share your feedback, and help draft the plan for the future of education!
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 http://www.pasa-net.org/2018edcongress
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.