Wednesday, April 11, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 11: SB2: The Problem With Education Savings Accounts

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SB2: The Problem With Education Savings Accounts

PA Budget & Policy Center Podcast
Education Voters of Pennsylvania Executive Director Susan Spicka explains education savings accounts (ESAs) and PA SB2, a bill that would drain millions of dollars from public schools and funnel that money to private and religious schools across the state.

#SB2: To date, about 180 PA school boards have adopted resolutions opposing ESA vouchers and Senate Bill 2
PSBA Website: School entities that have adopted resolutions opposing ESA vouchers Updated: April 5, 2018

Rep. Steve Samuelson announces intent to call up a discharge resolution on #HB722
Tweet from Rep. Krueger-Braneky‏ @RepLeanne April 10, 2018
Rep. Steve Samuelson just announced his intent to call up a discharge resolution on #HB722 - the independent redistricting commission bill - as soon as Monday. Rep. Daryl Metcalfe has been blocking this bill in his Committee for months. Will the Speaker let us have a real debate?

Reprise: PA Ed Policy Roundup March 30: Despite 112 Cosponsors, Turzai, Metcalfe Stymie Redistricting Reform Legislation HB722
 Rep. Samuelson’s HB722, has 112 cosponsors, (more than the 104 needed to pass the bill).

“Committee Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin County, anticipated that the debate on this controversial topic could be lively but said it was a discussion that needs to be held in the wake of the rash of mass shootings in recent months. He anticipates his committee will consider some gun-related bills being discussed at the hearings later this month or next”
Pa. House continues its exploration of gun law changes
Penn Live By Jan Murphy Updated 2:45 PM; Posted 2:45 PM
Requiring background checks for all gun purchases and requiring anyone with a final protection-from-abuse order imposed on them to surrender their firearms were labeled by one representative as a good place for Pennsylvania to start if it wants to change its gun laws to improve public safety. Rep. Jamie Santora, R-Delaware County, told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that is not all that he believes needs to be done. He'd like to see steps taken to protect schools from gun violence and to help those with mental illness too. But for him, the bottom line is something needs to be done. "We can take steps to get to comprehensive solutions but we do not have to wait until we figure it all out to do something," he said. "If we do, we will do nothing and most important that cannot happen." The committee is holding a series of hearings that continue on Wednesday and into next week to give House members an opportunity to make a pitch for gun law changes they favor and answer questions from their colleagues who may hold different views.

Submit Feedback to the Pennsylvania School Safety Task Force
Governor Wolf’s Website April 2018
In the wake of recent tragic events, Governor Tom Wolf called for the organization the School Safety Task Force to address the following questions:
·         How should Pennsylvania improve school safety by addressing the healthcare needs of students who need help?
·         How should Pennsylvania further strengthen protections in school buildings?
To address these guiding questions, the School Safety Task Force will host six regional meetings across the state in April and May. Meetings will be held in south central, north central, northeast, northwest, southwest, and southeast Pennsylvania. In addition to these efforts, the Governor’s Office invites you to provide your feedback on the questions listed above. If you wish to express your thoughts on these topics, please complete this form to share your comments with the School Safety Task Force. Your thoughts and the information gathered by the School Safety Task Force will help guide future policy to ensure our schools are safe spaces conducive to learning and preparing students for their future.

Shorter Standardized Tests Begin This Week for Many Pennsylvania Students
Governor Wolf Press release April 09, 2018
Harrisburg, PA – As many students begin taking the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSAs) this week, changes implemented by the Wolf Administration for this school year are reducing the test by as much as two days, giving students and teachers more time in the classroom for learning. “We want to put the focus back on learning in the classroom, not teaching to a test,” said Governor Tom Wolf. “Standardized testing can provide a useful data point for a student’s performance, but our focus should be on teaching students for future success, not just the test in front of them. “Students, parents, teachers and others have told us that too much time in the classroom is used for test taking. These changes respond to those concerns, reducing testing time, while maintaining the rigor of the assessment.” As previously announced, this school year the Department of Education removed two sections of the PSSA – one in math, one in English language arts – and reduced the number of science questions. Testing time is shrinking by an average of 20 percent for students in grades 3 through 8, and an even greater reduction – nearly 25 percent – for Pennsylvania’s youngest students.

What kids learn out of school is also critically important | Opinion
Inquirer Opinion by Michael DiBerardinis & William Hite, For the Inquirer Updated: APRIL 10, 2018 — 2:26 PM EDT
Michael DiBerardinis is managing director of the City of Philadelphia. William Hite is superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia
If you had to guess: Children spend how much of their time outside of school? 30 percent? 60 percent? More? Remarkably, our young people of school age spend 80 percent of their waking hours outside of school. After 3 p.m., evenings, weekends, holidays, summers — these hours add up. Decades of research has shown that our young people and our communities benefit from rich learning opportunities and activities during these hours, which we refer to as out-of-school time (OST). Research also shows what we know to be intuitively true.  The right activities after school and during the summer contribute to improving academic performance, decreasing the dropout rate, preventing childhood obesity, lowering juvenile crime, and preparing students for post-secondary education and entering the workforce. Out-of-school-time activities are a critical aspect of a child’s learning experience, and Philadelphians understand this.  That’s why respondents in the recent Mayor’s Office of Education community survey ranked OST programs among the most important ways to improve learning and education. The mayor is committed to investing in our children’s education. As we return the School District to local control and ask for Philadelphians to contribute more to solidify and build on the district’s achievements and expand progress, we must be strategic and innovative in our investments – within and outside the traditional school day.

There's no substitute for a good substitute teacher. Here's why you should become one | Opinion
Penn Live Guest Editorial By Mick Iskric, Jr. April 10, 2018 Updated 9:05 AM; Posted 9:00 AM
Mick Iskric, Jr. is the assistant superintendent for the Steelton-Highspire School District who works with A+ Teachers in finding and developing substitute teachers for the district. Anyone interested in becoming a substitute for the district can contact the district or A+ Teachers at
At Steelton-Highspire School District, our substitute teachers are worth remembering because they genuinely make a difference in the lives of children. They don't even need a teaching certificate or a degree in education. They just need a bachelor's degree and a desire to do work that's fulfilling. For example, there's the substitute teacher whose students convinced him to become an assistant wrestling coach. I stopped by practice one day, and two wrestlers showed up with a little girl who gave that coach a big hug. As it turned out, the girl was the boys' sister. They cared for her in the afternoon, and the coach welcomed her to practice, giving her a place of her own to play so that those boys could benefit from the structure and teamwork of wrestling. This substitute teacher once worked in private industry, but he felt a different calling. In Pennsylvania, qualified candidates holding bachelor's degrees can obtain emergency permits to become guest teachers in many districts, like ours. They fill a great need for quality people committed to excellence in education.

“The district is capped at no more than a 2.9 percent increase under the Act 1 index. Northampton was approved for exceptions to the index for special education, allowing it to exceed the cap by $943,250, said Kovalchik. The district was not approved for exceptions for retirement benefits, he said, which are projected to cost the district an additional $1.3 million next year. Also necessitating the proposed increase are rising costs tied to special education ($457,000), charter/cyber school ($150,000), and health care expenses ($620,168).”
Northampton Area board looks for ways to trim tax increase
Kevin Duffy Special to The Morning Call April 10, 2018
The Northampton Area School Board will attempt to reduce a proposed tax increase by the time it votes on the proposed 2018-19 budget next month. Administrators will seek direction from the school board on how much of an increase, if any, is warranted at the board’s 6:30 p.m. meeting April 23 at the administration building on Laubach Avenue, The board will vote on the proposed budget May 7. Part of that consideration will be what programs, if any, need to be cut from the budget. Final adoption is scheduled for June 11. The board in January approved a preliminary budget that, if adopted, would raise taxes by 2.06 mills to 54.83 mills, a 3.9 percent increase.

Abington School District foundation created to manage billionaire Stephen Schwarzman's $25M gift; raises more questions about deal
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella & William Bender - Staff Writers Updated: APRIL 9, 2018 — 8:13 PM
Nearly a year before the Abington School District announced a blockbuster $25 million donation from Wall Street billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, school officials quietly took steps to set up a nonprofit foundation to manage the money, records show. The five board members of that group, the Foundation for Abington School District, include only one of the nine school board members voters elected to run the Montgomery County district. Though neither illegal nor unprecedented, the secret agreement and the establishment of a foundation to carry it out have raised larger questions about the influence that deep-pocketed donors could have on public education behind closed doors. Parents hope some answers come Tuesday night, when the school board will hold its first meeting since unveiling with little notice a now-abandoned plan to rename the high school after Schwarzman in exchange for the $25 million. Records show that the money was to be funneled through the Foundation for Abington School District, which was incorporated in March 2017 by a law partner of the district solicitor, Kenneth Roos, according to the state’s Bureau for Corporations and Charitable Organizations.

Apologies and anger at Abington school board meeting
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer  @Kathy_Boccella | Updated: APRIL 10, 2018 — 10:35 PM EDT
Abington School District leaders pledged transparency and apologized profusely at a packed school board meeting Tuesday night for their handling of a $25 million gift from Wall Street billionaire Stephen Schwarzman and the now-abandoned plan to rename the high school after him — but the sometimes angry crowd was left hanging for at least one more day to hear some key details. Superintendent Amy Sichel and board members revealed details of a new deal with Schwarzman for his donation but said the old agreement — which included the renaming and was approved by the board on March 27 with little community input — would not be posted online until Wednesday morning. The posting also will include extensive details about a foundation created in 2017 to receive Schwarzman’s donation. “We’ll vote on the agreement after we’ve received your comment — that should have happened two weeks ago,” School Board President Raymond McGarry told a standing-room-only crowd of about 300 people at the Abington Junior High School Little Theater. “For that we are profoundly sorry. Transparency in government is critical. …When government leaders are not transparent, the public loses faith in them.”

Erie-area schools benefit from share of $29 million nationwide gift
GoErie By Ed Palattella  Posted at 2:01 AM April 11, 2018
Ripple, a cryptocurrency company, made the donation to fund teacher projects on In the Erie School District, the money paid for $11,000 in requests.
Stacey Murphy usually goes to sleep long before the late-night TV shows come on the air.
So does Denise Montie. But the two teachers at the Erie School District’s JoAnna Connell Elementary School made sure they stayed up on March 27. Like thousands of other public school teachers nationwide, they got word that they had to watch “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” at 11:35 p.m. on CBS. Murphy and Montie were glad they did. Murphy, who teaches first grade, and Montie, who teaches second grade, heard Colbert announce a $29 million gift. Ripple, a San Francisco-based cryptocurrency and international payment company, donated the $29 million to fund all the requests that teachers, such as Murphy and Montie, had pending as of March 26 on, a crowdfunding website where public school teachers ask for donations for classroom supplies. “Absolutely wonderful,” Colbert said on TV. Colbert is on the DonorsChoose board. In 2015 he funded all the DonorsChoose requests in his home state of South Carolina, for a total of about $800,000. Ripple’s record $29 million gift for DonorsChoose funded 35,647 requests from 28,210 teachers at 16,561 public schools. At the Erie School District, the gift funded 17 projects from 14 teachers, for a total of $11,000.

NAEP: How did Pennsylvania students fare on the National Report Card?
Morning Call by staff and wire reports April 10, 2018
The results of the latest Nation's Report Card show about 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s fourth- and eight-graders are proficient in math and reading, according to results released Tuesday by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. In math, 44 percent of the state's fourth-graders and 38 percent of eighth-graders ranked at or above proficient. In reading, both grades were at 40 percent. In science, fourth-graders were at 38 percent and eighth-graders at 33 percent. Nationally, fourth-graders made no improvements in math or reading, while eighth-graders' scores were flat in math and only slightly improved in reading, Overall, only roughly a third of American eighth-graders are proficient in reading and math along with about 40 percent of fourth-graders. The figures are in line with recent trends. Students made big gains in the 1990s and early 2000s, but there have been no major improvements since then. The results show that racial disparities persist. African-American students were out-performed by their white peers at both grade levels.

NAEP: Pennsylvania students outperform peers in national reading, math exams
Trib Live by JAMIE MARTINES  | Tuesday, April 10, 2018, 1:45 p.m.
The Nation's Report Card is in, and it shows that Pennsylvania students outperformed the national average for proficiency in math and reading on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress. The NAEP exams in math and reading are given to fourth and eighth graders every two years. The test is administered by the U.S. Department of Education. It does not impact students' classroom grades or ability to graduate; rather, it is intended to provide a snapshot of how students across the nation perform in various subject areas. Similar to national averages, there wasn't much change in Pennsylvania scores from 2015. Compared to 2015, the 2017 national average scores were flat in math and reading except for an increase in 8th-grade reading. Scores increased for higher performers in grade 8 and scores for lower performers decreased in grade 4. Results show that more Pennsylvania students scored proficient across grades and subject areas compared to their peers in other states.

Nation's Report Card: Achievement Flattens as Gaps Widen Between High and Low Performers
Education Week By Sarah D. Sparks on April 10, 2018 12:01 AM
Across the board, struggling American students are falling behind, while top performers are rising higher on the test dubbed the "Nation's Report Card." A nationally representative group of nearly 585,000 4th- and 8th-graders took the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2017, the first time the tests were administered digitally. The results, released Tuesday, show no change at all for 4th grade in either subject or for 8th graders in math since the tests were last given in 2015. Eighth graders on average made only a 1-point gain in reading, to 267 on the NAEP's 500-point scale.   That meager gain in reading was driven entirely by the top 25 percent of students. During the last decade, 8th grade reading was the only test in which the average score for both high and low performers rose. By contrast, in math, the percentage of students performing below basic (30 percent) and those performing at the advanced level (10 percent) both increased significantly since 2007. The same pattern emerged in 4th grade math and reading.

NAEP: Betsy DeVos laments lack of progress seen in US students
Lancaster Online By MARIA DANILOVA Associated Press April 10, 2018
WASHINGTON (AP) — The results of the latest Nation's Report Card are in and the news isn't good. Fourth-graders made no improvements in math or reading, while eighth-graders' scores were flat in math and only slightly improved in reading, according to results released Tuesday on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Overall, only roughly a third of American eighth-graders are proficient in reading and math along with about 40 percent of fourth-graders. The figures are in line with recent trends. Students made big gains in the 1990s and early 2000s, but there have been no major improvements since then. The results show that racial disparities persist. African-American students were out-performed by their white peers at both grade levels. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos says the country needs to do better for its students, citing the stagnating reading and math scores. "More alarmingly, the gap between the highest and lowest performing students is widening," DeVos added. She singled out Florida's results for praise. Fourth-graders there improved in math, and eighth-graders had gains in both math and reading. DeVos said Florida has a strong publicly funded charter and private school program — a strong priority for the Trump administration. "Florida's results show what is possible when we focus on individual students," DeVos said.

Oklahoma Republicans refuse to bow to teachers' demands
Morning Call by Sean Murphy Associated Press April 10, 2018
A top Republican lawmaker said Tuesday that the Oklahoma Legislature has no plans to bow to striking teachers' demand to eliminate a capital gains tax break as a way to end a walkout now in its second week. Rep. John Pfeiffer, a House majority floor leader, also said lawmakers are unlikely to consider any other major revenue bills this session. Gov. Mary Fallin also defied striking teachers on Tuesday, signing a bill to repeal a tax on hotel stays that teachers had called on her to veto. Fallin encouraged lawmakers to turn their attention to other issues. The actions of the governor and Legislature appeared to indicate that the confrontation has reached a stalemate. The state's largest teachers union has called for the walkout to continue until the Legislature comes up with more money for schools. Several districts have announced plans to close Wednesday for an eighth consecutive day.

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:

Electing PSBA Officers:  Applications Due by June 1st
Do you have strong communication and leadership skills and a vision for PSBA? Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to submit an Application for Nomination no later than June 1, 11:59 p.m., to PSBA's Leadership Development Committee (LDC). The nomination process
All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall send applications to the attention of the chair of the Leadership Development Committee, during the months of April and May an Application for Nomination to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. “The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked by June 1 to be considered and timely filed.” (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 5.E.).
Open positions are:
In addition to the application form, PSBA Governing Board Policy 302 asks that all candidates furnish with their application a recent, print quality photograph and letters of application. The application form specifies no less than three letters of recommendation and no more than four, and are specifically requested as follows:

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.


  1. We provide you with help on your coursework assignments, we give you the opportunity to relax, recoup, and gather up your energy. In the meantime, we finish your challenging daily assignments so that you can attend to your other obligations. While we are doing this, you can work on other homework assignments, study for upcoming exams, spend time with your family, or work that extra shift you need to pay your bills. If you want to, you can even spend that time resting, relaxing, and catching up on your social life.

  2. We provide you with help on your coursework assignments, we give you the opportunity to relax, recoup, and gather up your energy. In the meantime, we finish your challenging daily assignments so that you can attend to your other obligations. While we are doing this, you can work on other homework assignments, study for upcoming exams, spend time with your family, or work that extra shift you need to pay your bills. If you want to, you can even spend that time resting, relaxing, and catching up on your social life.


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