Thursday, April 12, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 12: GOP guts bill proposing independent redistricting commission

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GOP guts bill proposing independent redistricting commission

SB1095: Keystone Exams aren't the only barometer of students' academic success, and this state Senate Bill wisely recognizes that
Lancaster Online by THE LNP EDITORIAL BOARD April 12, 2018
THE ISSUE - A bipartisan bill proposed last week in the state Senate would give high school students alternative pathways to graduation other than demonstrating proficiency on Keystone Exams, LNP staff writer Alex Geli reported Tuesday. “Students would still take the Keystone Exams under the proposal,” Geli noted, “but they’d arguably be under significantly less pressure to perform well on them.” Senate Bill 1095 was proposed by Republican state Sen. Thomas McGarrigle, who represents parts of Chester and Delaware counties. Fellow Republican state Sen. Ryan Aument, of Landisville, is one of the bill’s 11 co-sponsors. Nine of the co-sponsors are Republicans; two are Democrats. They had us at “bipartisan.” Our lawmakers in the state Capitol don’t work often enough together, but we’re glad some of them have found common cause in Senate Bill 1095, because it’s a good one. The problem with standardized tests like Keystone Exams is that they are, well, standardized. They’re one-size-fits-all products — and we do mean products — for school populations that are as varied as their students. And some kids, including intellectually gifted kids, don’t fare well on these exams. The pressure of all those tiny circles waiting to be filled in with No. 2 pencils may induce anxiety in some students. Others may learn well, but their brains take some time producing what they’ve learned. Standardized tests require students’ brains to retrieve learned information quickly so it can be applied quickly (even if a child is granted additional testing time, his score may not accurately reflect what he’s learned). Recognizing that, this bill would permit students to graduate under one of the following conditions:

Education Advocates Call for Boost in Special-Ed Funding
Public News Service April 12, 2018
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Two dozen disability-rights groups, child- and education-advocacy organizations have signed on to a letter asking lawmakers to increase funding for special education. The more than 270,000 students in special education in Pennsylvania are legally entitled to additional supports and services. They may need access to certified school psychologists, therapists, nurses and specially trained teachers. But from 2008 to 2014, state aid for special ed was frozen while costs continued to climb. According to Reynelle Staley, policy attorney with the Education Law Center, state funding has increased in recent budgets, but there's still a long way to go. "The state has an obligation to catch up and to meet the expenses of students across the state,” says Staley, “and to reduce the burden that local districts are carrying as a result of the state's failure to adequately fund special education." The groups want the Legislature to approve Governor Tom Wolf's proposal for $20 million in additional special-education funding. Staley adds that special education also is tied to overall funding through the state's need-based funding formula. The advocates are urging legislators to approve both the increase in special-ed funds, and the proposed $100 million of additional basic education funds. "Neither is nearly close to enough to meet the adequacy gap that exists in our state,” says Staley, “but we think they're an important first step to addressing students' needs." She says ten years ago there was an estimated $380 million funding gap for special education, and the cost of delivering services has been rising faster than state funding.

GOP guts bill proposing independent redistricting commission
By Emily Previti, WITF April 11, 2018
The Pennsylvania legislature would get more control over how state legislative boundary lines are drawn under an amended bill that passed out of the House Government Committee along party lines Wednesday. The original bill removed lawmakers from the process in favor of an independent citizens’ commission. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, says lawmakers are the most accountable of anyone who might be tasked with legislative reapportionment. “The best way to make sure we have citizens actually being the ones redrawing, citizens who are held accountable to their fellow citizens who elect them to office, and are not just going to go away after the work is done, and be held accountable in the future for their decisions, is to totally gut and replace this bill,” said Metcalfe, committee chairman. Metcalfe’s amendment completely changed House Bill 722 from its original intent.

GOP lawmakers booed for gutting a bill creating 'independent' commission to draw Pennsylvania's congressional map
Morning Call by Steve Esack Contact Reporter Call Harrisburg Bureau April 11, 2018
Before a packed, jeering audience, a Republican-led state House panel on Wednesday gutted a bill that would have created an independent commission to draw Pennsylvania’s congressional and legislative maps. The change, spearheaded by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, would keep mapmaking power with lawmakers appointed from within the Legislature. It would strip the state Supreme Court and governor of their respective authority over the maps’ approvals — powers that led the Supreme Court to toss the congressional map this year and draw up its own. But before those changes could be implemented, the amended House Bill 722 would have to undergo a lengthy constitutional amendment process that can take up to four years to complete. The large audience, which spilled into the hallway of a Capitol building, was none too happy with Metcalfe’s decision to change the bill without a public hearing and little notice.

Pennsylvania House GOP launches attack to upend nonpartisan redistricting
Opinion by Bill White Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call April 11, 2018
Pennsylvania House GOP launches sneak attack on government accountability
The story I'm about to tell you speaks volumes about the contempt in which many of our elected state representatives hold all of us. If you don't like it, maybe you'll finally do something about it. I've been writing forever about the desperate need to change the way election districts are drawn up in Pennsylvania, getting nowhere. This year, though, two important things have happened. First, thanks to a terrific grassroots educational effort led by the good government group Fair Districts PA, people all over Pennsylvania have been throwing their support behind Senate Bill 22 and House Bill 722, both of which would establish a nonpartisan citizens commission to draw up fair congressional and legislative maps. HB 722 has gained tremendous bipartisan support in the House, with well over half the House members signing on. Second, the state Supreme Court, presented with overwhelming evidence that our congressional election map was among the most outrageously gerrymandered in the country, stepped in to redraw the map in time for this year's election, ensuring many more competitive races. Throw in the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to throw out terrible partisan gerrymanders — by both parties — in Wisconsin and Maryland, and you have the makings for a national revolution that could spread everywhere where gerrymandering has insulated politicians from accountability for their votes and behavior.

House GOP backs plan to remove 'unaccountable judges' from districting process
Penn Live By Mark Scolforo The Associated Press Updated Apr 11, 6:04 PM; Posted Apr 11, 5:20 PM
HARRISBURG -- Republicans on a Pennsylvania House committee voted on Wednesday to give more power over redistricting to the majority party in the Legislature, breathing life into efforts to substantially change how General Assembly and congressional districts are drawn. The House State Government Committee split along party lines on a proposal to amend the state constitution to create a six-member commission to produce new boundaries for legislative and congressional districts every decade. The vote follows the state Supreme Court-ordered redrawing of the state's 18 congressional districts, raising calls from some Republicans to impeach the Democratic justices who backed the decision.

Gun reform advocates deliver message to Pa. lawmakers: 'We demand a vote'
Penn Live By Jan Murphy Updated Apr 11, 1:24 PM
A loud and raucous crowd demanding gun law reforms gathered in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday just outside a nearby meeting room where that very topic was being discussed at a House Judiciary Committee hearing. A chant of "vote, vote, vote" arose frequently from the sea of people filling the marble staircase and holding colorful handmade signs with messages such as, "One child's life is worth more than all of the guns in the world" and "Killing innocent people, acts of pure evil. Not passing gun laws, acts of pure cowardice." Fritz Walker, a representative of CeaseFirePA, said he was grateful judiciary committee Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin County, was showing leadership and courage by having his committee take on the controversial issue of gun law reforms and gun violence.

Pittsburgh-area students, citizens travel to Harrisburg, advocate for gun control laws
Post-Gazette by JAMIE MARTINES  | Wednesday, April 11, 2018, 11:25 p.m.
A bus trip to Harrisburg on Wednesday was more than just a day off from school, Woodland Hills High School senior Kiondre Tibbs said. “We've lost too many people to gun violence,” Tibbs said, standing at the foot of the grand staircase in the Capitol Rotunda. “We all understood that it's bigger than us,” he said. Tibbs was one of about 45 Pittsburgh-area residents to attend a rally and to meet with lawmakers in Harrisburg to advocate for gun control laws. The visit took place against the backdrop of a nationwide debate over gun violence and school safety, and coincided with Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee meetings taking place throughout the week. The group from Pittsburgh, which was organized by the gun control group CeaseFirePA, pushed for bills that would tackle issues such as banning assault weapons and bump stocks, limiting high-capacity magazines and requiring individuals convicted of domestic violence crimes to give up their firearms.

Pittsburgh Public Schools to pay new teachers more, scrap performance-based pay
Post-Gazette by NATASHA LINDSTROM  | Wednesday, April 11, 2018, 9:51 p.m.
Pittsburgh Public Schools is scrapping a performance-based pay system, giving all its teachers at least a 2 percent raise and paying its least experienced teachers as much as 15 percent more per year. The tentative changes are included in three-year contracts unanimously approved Wednesday by the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said Nina Esposito-Visgitis, the union's president. The union represents about 3,000 teachers and support staff. “We really focused on the new teachers. We were falling behind other districts in terms of our starting salary,” Esposito-Visgitis said. “A lot of money was put at the bottom of the salary schedule because we want to attract the best and the brightest in Pittsburgh.” Superintendent Anthony Hamlet issued a statement Wednesday night thanking “parents, stakeholders and the larger city for their patience” through stalled negotiations that nearly culminated in districtwide school closures.

Pa. legislators trying to kill soda tax in Philly and elsewhere | Editorial
by The Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: APRIL 11, 2018 — 5:03 PM EDT
Philadelphia has been clear that it no longer wants to wait for the state General Assembly to adequately fund education. Given the choices of lead, follow, or get out of the way, Mayor Kenney opted to lead — by imposing a “soda tax” to fund education needs. But the General Assembly can’t get out of the way. State Rep. Mark Mustio, an Allegheny County Republican, on Monday introduced legislation to kill the tax, a 1.5-cent-per-ounce levy on most sugary and diet beverages sold in the city. The tax raised nearly $79 million in the first 12 months of collection to fund pre-K education, community schools, parks, recreation centers, and libraries. Mustio calls those goals “laudable,” but said he doesn’t “want government to go in and think of creative ways to grab money.” Speaking of creative, Mustio’s legislation goes further with “preemption,” banning any municipal taxes statewide on food, beverages, the containers they come in, and the ways they are delivered. Mustio repeats complaints from the soda industry about the tax’s impact on poor families, grocery stores, and jobs in the soda industry. But Kenney’s administration issued a report Wednesday offering “empirical proof that the sectors most directly affected by the tax are seeing steady employment, if not growth.”

No tax increase in preliminary Greensburg Salem School District budget
Trib Live by JACOB TIERNEY  | Wednesday, April 11, 2018, 11:00 p.m.
There's something very unusual about the first draft of Greensburg Salem School District's 2018-19 budget. It doesn't call for a tax increase. The district has raised taxes in 16 of the last 17 years. The last time taxes didn't go up was 2009. But at this very early stage in the budget-crafting process, projected expenses are low enough and the district has enough money in reserves that a tax increase might not be necessary, even though the budget has a deficit, said business manager Jim Meyer. “I'm not so sure this year is the right year to (raise taxes),” he said at Wednesday's school board discussion meeting.. However, that could change. The school board is considering several costly projects that are not included on the preliminary budget. But the budget is starting in a good place, which is a rarity, said Superintendent Eileen Amato.

Kennett school officials considering 2.27 percent tax hike; will cost average homeowner $123 more per year
Daily Local By Matt Freeman, For Digital First Media POSTED: 04/11/18, 11:42 AM EDT
Kennett Square >> Kennett Consolidated School District taxpayers could see a tax increase of up to 2.27 percent under a new budget adopted by the district. The KCSD school board voted to adopt the new 2018–2019 budget at their meeting Monday night, after introducing it preliminarily at their February monthly meeting. The 2.27 percent tax increase included in the $86.3 millionin budget would mean an extra outlay of $123 for the average $330,000 residential property, according to board Treasurer Michael H. Finnegan. But last night and in February, Finnegan pointed out that the tax bite may not be as much as the current numbers indicated. Payments from the state may vary from their current estimates, and retirements may affect the district’s expenses as well. In February, Finnegan said the final tax rate could be lower than 2 percent. At last night’s meeting, Finnegan repeated that hope for a lower actual tax bill than the budget specified. “We’ve always managed to get it down before,” he said. The major factors causing expenses to rise were salaries and benefits, Finnegan said in February, particularly rising retirement-fund contributions required by the state after a long period of underfunding before the 2008 recession.

“This is something that affects us and our patients directly,” said Bechara Choucair, the system’s chief community health officer and a doctor. “We should be thinking about this problem and studying interventions for it in the same way we study heart disease or diabetes or any other leading cause of death.”
With $2 million, Kaiser Permanente wants to help revive underfunded gun-violence research
Washington Post By William Wan April 9 Email the author
Kaiser Permanente announced Monday that it will begin studying gun violence — a long-ignored issue because of the political pressures surrounding firearms in this country — by investing $2 million in research that will involve doctors and other professionals across its hospitals and centers nationwide. Officials at the giant health system said they hope the move will encourage other systems to wade into this field of research, which has had lack of funding and data in the more than two decades since the federal government virtually abandoned such studies.  “The problem now is we really don’t have evidence to know what’s effective and what works” to prevent gun-related injury, said David Grossman, a doctor and senior researcher who will help lead the new task force. Kaiser Permanente decided to jump-start its effort because of the huge effect of gun violence on its patients. The health system has more than 12 million member patients across the country, and between 2016 and 2017, its doctors treated more than 11,000 gunshot wounds.

NAEP: New test scores suggest little academic progress for Philly, region
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent Cris Barrish April 11, 2018
Recent results from the standardized test known as the “nation’s report card” contained mostly uninspiring news about the progress of America’s school children, and the story in the Delaware Valley was much the same. Reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress or NAEP largely fell or remained flat in Delaware and Pennsylvania. New Jersey, however, saw some notable increases. Average scores in Philadelphia — one of 20 cities receiving its own, breakaway results — fell almost across the board, contradicting other testing data that seemed to indicate progress. The region’s largest city did, however, see an uptick in the percentage of students scoring at a proficient level, further muddling the narrative about Philadelphia’s trajectory. In the modern medley of standardized assessments, NAEP is among the longest running and most closely scrutinized — especially at the national level. The test is taken every two years by a sample of fourth- and eighth-graders, unlike state tests, which are taken by every student in a wider range of grades.

“Ryan championed tax legislation that was signed by President Donald Trump last year, and included in that law was a change that allowed money in 529 college savings plans to be spent on K-12, including private school tuition. Ryan has backed school choice since he came to Congress in 1999. During a speech in 2012, when he was the GOP's nominee for vice president, Ryan told an audience that "choice should be available to every parent in our country, wherever they live." 
Speaker Ryan Will Leave ESSA Passage, New Tax Break for Choice as K-12 Legacy
By Andrew Ujifusa on April 11, 2018 10:18 AM
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election to his seat in Congress this fall, will leave behind at least two notable education achievements: He ensured passage of a new federal education law in 2015, and gave a boost to parents seeking resources for school choice through a tax-reform bill approved in 2017. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, was first elected in 1998 and took over as speaker in October 2015, replacing Ohio Republican Rep. John Boehner. He backed key tenets of conservative education policy, including a lighter federal footprint on schools as well as choice.  Less than two months after assuming the speaker's job, he oversaw House passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the first overhaul of the main federal K-12 law since the No Child Left Behind Act was signed in 2002. Ryan was a fan of ESSA because it was drafted through regular congressional procedure and had bipartisan support. The legislation also provided states and districts more policy flexibility in several key areas such as teacher evaluation and school improvement.

After Threatened Walkout, Teachers Win Contract at Online Charter School
Education Week By Arianna Prothero on April 11, 2018 12:00 PM | No comments
Inspired by walkouts in West Virginia and Oklahoma, teachers in California's largest online charter school were prepared to strike if their new union could not reach an agreement with their school's management. But California Virtual Academies, which includes nine schools and contracts with K12 Inc., the biggest for-profit charter school operator in the country, and the fledgling union of California Virtual Educators Unitedhave settled on their first contract, union representatives announced Wednesday. Among the teacher demands the school has agreed to: some limits on the number of students they oversee, more flexibility in interacting with students and parents, and a whopping 17.8 percent increase in pay. Those first two items are important because online charter schools often struggle with student engagement in a totally virtual setting with high teacher-to-student ratios. On that last item, the president of California Virtual Educators United, which is affiliated with the California Teachers Association, said the pay increase will bring teachers at California Virtual Academies, or CAVA, in line with what educators make at other charter schools.

“K12 is controversial in the education world. A San Jose Mercury News investigation published in April 2016 revealed that K12’s California online charter schools had “a dismal record of academic achievement” but had received more than $310 million in state funding during the past dozen years. Company and schools officials say that their students are often nontraditional students and that it isn’t fair to equate their performance with traditional schools. K12 is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, a group that advances model legislation about numerous issues, including more than 140 bills to promote private for-profit education models since 2013.”
Strike avoided: Teachers at California online charter schools reach landmark union agreement with K12 Inc.
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss April 11 at 12:05 PM Email the author
Hundreds of teachers at California’s largest virtual charter school just won a landmark union contract from the Virginia-based education giant K12 Inc., securing a hefty pay raise and due process rights. The pact, announced Wednesday, was reached after years of organizing and negotiations — and a threat of a teachers strike this month. Teachers at the nine independent for-profit California Virtual Academies, known as CAVA, began the effort to unionize and win a contract more than four years ago. Now, they will receive pay raises of nearly 18 percent as well as a schedule for salary raises, caseload caps and binding arbitration. This is the first time K12, the largest operator of for-profit charter schools in the country, has signed a union contract with its teachers, and the agreement marks one of the first such arrangements in the country. At its high point, CAVA enrollment was about 15,000, with students in most of California’s counties, although the number of students dropped after California’s attorney general announced in 2016 that his office had reached a $168.5 million settlement with K12 and CAVA over alleged violations of California’s false claims, false advertising and unfair competition laws.

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.

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