UPDATE 8:50 a.m.: Commonwealth Court is open! Feel free to join us as we argue for fair funding for our schools. Due to inclement weather, we are holding Wednesday's press conference (following oral argument) at The Wanamaker Building, 10th floor. See you there! pic.twitter.com/NBk2IKZ5Ww
Pennsylvania’s landmark school funding lawsuit heads back to court in Philly March 7
Commonwealth Court to hear oral argument en banc in Philadelphia, Pa.
Education Law Center Press Release
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court will hear oral arguments next Wednesday in a landmark lawsuit challenging inequitable and inadequate school funding in Pennsylvania. Attorneys from the Education Law Center and the Public Interest Law Center will ask the Court to reject remaining preliminary objections and a motion to dismiss asserted by the legislature so that the case can proceed directly and promptly to trial. The argument in William Penn School District et al. v. PA Department of Education et al. will be heard on Wednesday morning, March 7, in Courtroom 1 of Commonwealth Court on the 9th floor of the Widener Building, 1339 Chestnut Street. The court will convene at 9:30 a.m. The William Penn argument is one of a number of arguments the Court will hear that day and is likely to begin around 10:30. Seating in the courtroom is limited.
Blogger note: More than 100 PA boards of locally elected school directors have already passed resolutions in opposition to SB2. How about yours?
SB2 Voucher Bill: North Schuylkill board opposes state Senate voucher bill
Republican Herald BY JOHN E. USALIS / PUBLISHED: MARCH 7, 2018
FOUNTAIN SPRING — The North Schuylkill school board adopted a resolution Feb. 21 opposing a proposed Education Savings Account voucher program being considered by the state Senate. The resolution, composed by Pennsylvania School Boards Association, is for districts to go on the record against Senate Bill 2. The PSBA website states: “Education Savings Accounts are vouchers that take state tax money out of public schools for use at private schools. ESA voucher proposals are pushed in other states as foot-in-the-door schemes for greater taxpayer support for private schools and vendors. Where traditional public education entities have strict requirements for meetings, transparency, governance, academic achievement, testing/reporting and financial accountability, such requirements don’t exist for entities receiving tax dollars from ESAs.” After the board’s unanimous adoption, board President Charles “Chaz” Hepler said North Schuylkill “is opposed to Senate Bill 2 to provide family vouchers to private and other schools.”
“Laura Ellsworth, a commercial litigation attorney from suburban Pittsburgh who once headed the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, said flatly that Pennsylvania’s school funding is not fair or adequate. While she warned against throwing money at problems to solve them, she suggested that making public schools compete for money with public school alternatives, as they’ve done for seven years, is holding back achievement. “Right now, we have a system where we are asking school districts to basically slit their wrists and bleed themselves to pay for these alternatives for other children,” Ellsworth said. “That makes no sense. We’re not incentivizing them to be creative and to deliver learning environments where our children learn. We need to fund alternative education in a more fair and rational way. We cannot starve public school districts either.”
Republicans’ debate exposes big differences in school policy
AP State Wire by Marc Levy March 6, 2018
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Debate questions Tuesday about public school funding in Pennsylvania exposed big differences in how the three candidates for the Republican nomination for governor to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf would approach or fund public schools.
To a great extent, it appeared that two candidates — Paul Mango and Scott Wagner — would be unwilling to devote more money to public schools, in stark contrast with the third candidate, Laura Ellsworth. Steering children toward alternatives, such as charters, played heavily into their responses, and they clashed in a similar fashion over eliminating school property taxes. The debate came as a lawsuit working its way through the courts contends that Pennsylvania state government has failed in its school-funding obligation to students, a case that could eventually have a dramatic effect on the shape of public education in the state. The questions — including one about whether Pennsylvania’s schools are funded fairly and adequately and how would they improve student success — came at a debate sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Here's who is running for state Senate, House seats
Penn Live By Teresa Bonner firstname.lastname@example.org Updated 6:44 AM; Posted Mar 6, 7:47 PM
Tuesday was the deadline for nominating petitions to be filed by any candidate seeking a seat in the state Senate or House. Here's a look at the candidates who were listed, as of 7 p.m., as having submitted their petitions to the Department of State. Incumbents are marked with an asterisk.
Anti-Trump wave in Pennsylvania? More Democrats than Republicans seek election to the state Legislature
Democrats account for 56 percent of the 489 candidates who filed petitions by Tuesday’s deadline to run in 228 elections for the House and Senate this spring, Pennsylvania Department of State records show.
Morning Call by Steve Esack Contact Reporter Call Harrisburg Bureau March 7, 2018
Republicans may want to thank themselves — and voters — for racking up historic majorities in the Pennsylvania Legislature over the last four election cycles. Because they appear to be in for a fight to hold on to a lot of those seats. Democrats account for 56 percent of the 489 candidates who filed petitions by Tuesday’s deadline to run in 228 elections for the House and Senate this spring, Pennsylvania Department of State records show. That compares to about 44 percent Republicans, and most of those GOP candidates are incumbents. The Democratic interest in elective politics appears to be much higher than it has been in at least a decade — and certainly since 2010 when they really started getting outspent, out-hustled and out-gerrymandered in legislative elections. The 274 Democrats seeking election seems to indicate that the party’s anti-President Donald Trump wave is surging as strongly as pundits predicted. Regardless of Trump’s low approval ratings among Democrats and some Republicans, the party of the president tends to suffer midway through the president’s first term.
Republican candidates vying to take on U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. are Joseph Vodvarka, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, and State Rep. Jim Christiana
Three Republicans file for right to challenge U.S. Sen. Robert Casey; he seeks third term
Penn Live By Charles Thompson email@example.com Updated Mar 6, 9:04 PM; Posted Mar 6, 7:16 PM
Three Republicans appear to have qualified for the spring primary ballot for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, vying for the right to take on incumbent Democrat Robert P. Casey Jr. in the fall. Casey, as expected, will run unopposed in the Democratic Party primary, as he seeks his third term in the Senate. As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, the Republicans that had been certified for primary ballot spots are:
Why the debate about school safety and increased security may exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline
Public Source by Jeffrey Benzing | March 6, 2018
The Feb. 14 killing of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Fla., has reignited a visceral, decades-old debate over how to keep students safe when a gunman enters a campus to take lives. The question of how to secure schools, though, overlaps with another hot-button issue: the school-to-prison pipeline. Does a reliance on police in schools mean students will more frequently be sent through the justice system? In recent years, advocates in Pittsburgh and other districts, including Broward County, have tried to limit the use of police to enforce school discipline. Arrests interrupt education, disproportionately affect students of color and those with disabilities, and can derail a student’s future, even for minor infractions. Yet critics — including many in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., shooting — claim reforms to reduce police presence and school arrests compromise student safety by going soft on potentially criminal behavior by their peers.
Nobody knows how many kids get caught with guns in school. Here’s why.
Post-Gazette by JEN FIFIELD Stateline.org MAR 6, 2018 8:15 AM
WASHINGTON — One day after a Florida teenager walked into his former high school and carried out one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, at least seven other teens across the country walked into school with a gun. The firearms were seized without harm in Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Missouri and Texas, according to local news reports. Such incidents fuel the widespread fear that students often bring guns to school. But there’s no way to tell if this is true. There are no good data. Because of lax reporting by schools and lax oversight by state and federal authorities — and despite federal law — it’s nearly impossible to say just how many students get caught taking firearms into public schools each year.
If teachers are armed, black and brown kids will be the victims | Solomon Jones
Inquirer by Solomon Jones @SolomonJones1 | firstname.lastname@example.org Updated: MARCH 6, 2018 — 5:52 PM EST
On Friday, when Florida’s Senate reacted to a mass shooting with legislation that would pave the way for armed teachers, I thought not of safety, but of danger — especially for children of color.
The Senate bill limits which teachers could volunteer to undergo law enforcement training and carry guns in schools. Teachers who only work in classrooms would be ineligible, but those who coach or perform other duties could participate. Teachers who have worked in the military or in law enforcement could also participate in the program. All this might create the appearance of protection for white students. But in a state where George Zimmerman escaped punishment for shooting and killing unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, guns in classrooms are a danger to black children. In a country where a police officer can claim that 12-year-old Tamir Rice playing with a toy gun made the officer fear for his life, teachers turned cops are a threat to black children. At a time when studies show that students of color are punished more harshly than their white counterparts, educators with weapons endanger black children. In short, America is already a deadly place for children of color. Arming teachers would increase that danger exponentially. Because in America’s schools, black children already face bias, almost from the moment they step into a classroom.
U.S. House to debate bill to reduce violence in schools
Reuters Staff MARCH 6, 2018 / 10:48 AM / UPDATED 16 HOURS AGO
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives will debate bipartisan legislation next week aimed at preventing violence at schools following the shooting deaths of 17 people at a Florida high school on Feb. 14, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Tuesday. McCarthy, the second most powerful Republican in the House, did not outline any other bills the chamber might consider that are urged by gun control groups, such as raising the minimum age for buying semi-automatic rifles or banning them altogether. The House has already passed a bill, which is pending in the Senate, to tighten government background checks on gun buyers. It included a controversial provision to greatly expand the ability of people to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the United States, which is not likely to pass the Senate. Representative Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking House Democrat, said the House floor should be opened to a wide-ranging debate on gun measures. Referring to the school safety bill, Hoyer said, “We ought to put additional protections, not just for students, but people in theaters, nightclubs, shopping malls and churches alike.” Hoyer, speaking to reporters, also called for votes on assault weapon restrictions, broader gun-sale background checks and banning “bump stocks” that can increase the firing capacity of a weapon.
Pittsburgh Public Schools picking up tab for SAT test
By ELIZABETH BEHRMAN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Lbehrman@post-gazette.com MAR 6, 2018 2:47 PM
For the first time this year, Pittsburgh Public Schools is covering the cost of the SAT test for all 11th-grade students, who will take the test during school on Wednesday. District leaders hope that by covering the cost of the test — which costs $52.50 for the regular version and varies for the subject tests — that more students will be able to boost their scores and prepare for college. “We want more students taking the test,” said district spokeswoman Ebony Pugh. The district will spend about $101,000 to administer the three-hour test for more than 1,600 high school juniors, who normally would have to take the SAT on a Saturday. That amount also covers the cost to administer the Preliminary SAT, or PSAT, to the district’s more than 1,600 eighth-grade students for the first time this week. PPS for years has paid for all 10th- and 11th-grade students to take the PSAT in October.
QUESTIONS FOR THE (PHILLY) SCHOOL BOARD
Mayor Kenney is set to choose his new school board from 27 candidates. Here are four things we need to know from them
Philadelphia Citizen BY JEREMY NOWAK MAR. 06, 2018
Philadelphia Mayor Kenney has until March 20th to appoint a local school board to replace the School Reform Commission. A new era is about to begin. The nomination process was thoughtfully organized: a 13-member nominating group, a number of informational meetings throughout the city, a review process with a timeline, and a public listing of the 27 final nominees. The 13-member nominating board went through 500 applications, whittled them down to 80 persons to interview and then voted the final 27. It is now up to the Mayor. The Mayor wanted nominees to possess: organizational acumen, a commitment to education, a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and community empowerment, ethical behavior and integrity. The characteristics Kenney put forward are necessary, but not sufficient, for the difficult governance tasks. They are threshold qualities and I assume interviews probed more deeply into the specific challenges of the District and how candidates met the requirements. Here are the four questions I would pose to the nominees:
The math that took down PA’s gerrymandered congressional district map
Scientists wielded computing power to prove the map was biased.
Billy Penn by KARTHIKA SWAMY COHEN MAR 06 2018 · 9:15 A.M.
Pennsylvania’s 46,000 square miles have never been so popular — and it’s all thanks to math. Last year, a group of citizens and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit claiming the commonwealth’s congressional district map, adopted in 2011, gave an unfair advantage to Republicans. The Pa. Supreme Court agreed, and in January, declared the map unconstitutional, tossing it out and instituting a new one. State and national GOP leaders have decried the Pa. court’s move as itself unconstitutional, and Republicans have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. Political scholars, PACs and other groups have flooded SCOTUS with arguments in support of one side or the other. The case is being watched by analysts across the country as a bellwether for 2018 elections. The basic story is political. But the reason the controversy has gone as far as it has goes beyond politics. It comes down to mathematics.
Washington State Defies FCC and Passes 'Net Neutrality' Law
Education Week Digital Education By Sarah Schwartz on March 6, 2018 3:53 PM
Washington became the first state to pass a law to protect net neutrality, after Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill March 5 intended to prevent internet service providers from blocking or slowing online content in the state. With this law, Washington joins a growing group of states that have put in place their own net neutrality rules, after the Republican-majority Federal Communications Commission repealed federal net neutrality protections in December. The Obama-era regulations prevented internet service providers from blocking or slowing apps, websites, and other online content, and from engaging in "paid prioritization"—essentially creating "fast" and "slow" lanes for internet content based on the ability to pay. The new law reinstates these protections in Washington, and requires internet service providers doing business in the state to follow these regulations. The bill saw bipartisan support in the state legislature, passing with votes of 93 to 5 in the House and 35 to 14 in the Senate.
Testing Resistance & Reform News: February 28 -March 6, 2018
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on March 6, 2018 - 2:44pm
With annual school exam season underway in several states, the opt-out movement is rapidly accelerating. Here's a new FairTest guide to why you can boycott standardized tests without fear of federal penalties: http://www.fairtest.org/why-you-can-boycott-testing-without-fear
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.