Friday, April 13, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 13: PA ranks 47th in the country in state share for public schools; Philly charters sue district

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PA ranks 47th in the country in state share for public schools; Philly charters sue district

Governor Wolf Opposes Gutting of Independent Redistricting Commission Bill
Governor Wolf Press Release April 11, 2018
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today released the following statement on the House State Government Committee Republican ​majority’s last-minute move to gut and replace House Bill 722, originally to create an independent redistricting commission, with a redistricting process that is more politically driven: “This is partisan politics at its worst and it shows a flippant disregard for thousands of citizens that have spoken in favor of independent redistricting and ending gerrymandering. After the last few months, it should be clear that the solution to our broken redistricting system is not putting more power in the hands of partisan politicians. This is wrong, and it is an affront to our democracy. I urge the full House to reject this partisan political power play and demand a vote on a truly independent redistricting commission.”

PA House Republicans gut and replace redistricting bill
City and State PA By: STEPHEN CARUSO APR 11, 2018 AT 4:48 PM
One hundred and ten cosponsors weren’t enough to get a nonpartisan redistricting bill onto the House floor intact. Less than a day after Rep. Steve Samuelson (D-Northampton) announced a discharge resolution to kick his redistricting bill out of the House State Government Committee, Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) and 14 other House Republicans voted to completely rewrite HB 722 via amendment. The committee’s 11 Democrats opposed the move. Samuelson’s bill would originally have amended the state Constitution to create a nonpartisan citizen’s commission, modeled on California’s successful reforms, to draw congressional and state district lines with an eye on keeping communities together. Instead of the majority and minority leaders in both chambers and an agreed-upon chairman, the new amendment would use a representative chosen by each caucus – not necessarily the majority or minority leader. Then, each chamber would vote as a whole to select a representative for six total members.
Metcalfe said the plan would provide more accountability for the average voter than a citizen’s commission.

Citizen board gutted from House bill on Pennsylvania electoral maps
Trib Live by WES VENTEICHER  | Wednesday, April 11, 2018, 6:30 p.m.
State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, led an effort Wednesday to gut a bill that would have created an independent commission of citizens to draw electoral maps instead of leaving the process to legislators. Metcalfe, chairman of the House State Government Committee, called a surprise morning meeting and introduced an amendment to the proposal that completely changed what the legislation would do. Instead of creating an 11-person commission of voters from the two main parties plus the lesser-known parties, as House Bill 722 had proposed, Metcalfe's amendment creates a six-member panel of legislators. Four of them would most likely come from the majority party. Five votes would be required to approve new maps. “It's very much constructed right now to keep one party in power,” said Carol Kuniholm, chairwoman of Fair Districts PA, a bipartisan group that supported the citizen commission proposal.

“Thankfully, the Senate is acting responsibly by holding legitimate hearings for its version of the bill (SB 22) to improve how future maps are drawn. Without this reform, we will be in the same mess we were in this year when redistricting happens again in 2021. House Speaker Mike Turzai and Mr. Metcalfe must be told to represent the people’s wishes and stop being barriers to reform.”
Letter to editor: Blocking redistricting reform
Daily Local Letter by Mark G. Pavlovich West Chester POSTED: 04/12/18, 6:45 PM EDT
Another opportunity to fix what ails Pennsylvania is being squashed by House State Government Committee Chair Daryl Metcalfe. This past Wednesday, after refusing to hold hearings for months, Mr. Metcalfe called a last-minute committee meeting to amend House Bill 722 which would create a much-needed citizen commission to handle redistricting. He and all the Republican members of the committee (including Stephen Barrar locally) voted to gut HB 722 to give party leaders even more control of the process and dropping the citizen commission. This brazen manipulation of the legislative process underscores why Pennsylvania is considered one of the worst run states in America. Are Republican House leaders tone deaf to reform and the preferences of the people in this matter? It would appear so given that 110 House members co-sponsored HB 722 and that polls show that Pennsylvanians approve the citizen commission approach by 2 to 1 margins. At the same time, elected officials of 212 municipalities and 19 counties across the Commonwealth – both Republican and Democrat and representing 6.2 million people – have endorsed the citizen commission model.

“The state ranks 47th in the country in state share for public schools. If the state’s school funding formula was fully funded, Crestwood would be receiving $2.9 million more each year. Others in the area would receive similar boosts. It’s time the state stepped up and did its part for our children and our state’s future.”
Your view: State falling short in funding education
Times Leader Letter by Susan Spicka, Executive director Education Voters of PA April 12th, 2018 1:36 pm
In your recent article about Crestwood School District’s financial struggles, Superintendent Joseph Gorham could not have been more accurate when he identified the solution: “We need more funding from state government.” Crestwood is one of many school districts in Luzerne County and across the state that faces difficult decisions each year such as raising property taxes, cutting back on programs for students or increasing class sizes. The common cause is a state legislature that refuses to pay its fair share for our children’s education while adding more mandates on public schools. The state ranks 47th in the country in state share for public schools. If the state’s school funding formula was fully funded, Crestwood would be receiving $2.9 million more each year. Others in the area would receive similar boosts. It’s time the state stepped up and did its part for our children and our state’s future.

“Here's what those short TV ads from Wagner and Mango don't mention: 
Property taxes provided $12.6 billion for public schools in the 2015-16 school year. And they are expected to provide even more money in future years.
If the school property tax goes away, that money has to come from somewhere else.”
What's worse than paying Pa.'s property taxes? For some: not having to pay them.
York Daily Record by Ed Mahon, emahon@ydr.comPublished 6:07 a.m. ET April 13, 2018
You own your home. But under Pennsylvania's property tax system, you need to pay the government thousands of dollars every year to keep it. Pollsters say the property tax is a really unpopular one. aybe that's why two of three Republicans running for governor are promising to get rid of those taxes. “My plan will junk the property tax,” Scott Wagner, the owner of a waste hauling company, said in one ad. In another ad, Republican Paul Mango promised: “I’m not just gonna cut your property taxes. I’m gonna get rid of them.” But shifting school funding to a new source creates winners and losers, and the uncertainty that comes with such a huge change is why eliminating and cutting property taxes is so hard. “Property tax reform is the holy grail of Pennsylvania politics," said Chris Borick, a pollster and political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. "It’s been searched for and coveted for generations."

Students to walkout to Capitol, calling for stricter gun laws, safer schools
Penn Live By Barbara Miller Updated Apr 12, 12:17 PM
Students at Capital Area School for the Arts Charter School and Harrisburg University of Science and Technology High School are planning a walkout to the state Capitol April 20 to lobby for stricter gun control laws and safer schools. Students will leave their schools at 10 a.m. April 20, and will hold a program on the Capitol steps at 10:30 a.m. with speakers and on-site voter registration. The public is invited to attend. The rally on is on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado. National School Walkout web site lists other districts staging protests. They include Cumberland Valley, Manheim Central, Central York, York Suburban, Eastern York, Dallastown and Spring Grove high schools.

Gianficaro: Answer to stopping mass shooter in schools is not sticks and stones
Intelligencer Commentary By Phil Gianficaro  Columnist  Posted at 5:00 AM
 “Sticks and stones may break my bones ... ,” begins the adage. Two Pennsylvania school districts believe that would hold true even against a mass shooter firing a semi-automatic weapon at students. The quote has been attributed to many, from 19th century Prussian military minds, to Napoleon Bonaparte, to Chinese general Sun Tzu before the time of Christ. The variants of the quote have changed somewhat throughout history. Its meaning has not: No plan survives the first shot. A madman lugs evil into a school. He stalks down a hallway and blasts through a locked classroom door. His eyes full of rage, his heart full of hate. Students — some perhaps young enough to be singing their ABCs, and others maybe daydreaming during chem lab about the Saturday night dance — barely have time to move before the shooter begins spraying bullets from an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle. But if a madman is considering a reign of terror in the Blue Mountain School District in Schuylkill County or the Millcreek Township School District, near Erie, he’d best think twice. Oh yes, maybe even three times. At Blue Mountain, Superintendent David Helsel’s plan is to arm students with buckets of rocks — river rocks, specifically — to throw at an assailant as he is firing a military-style weapon at them, one bullet after another, as fast as he can pull the trigger. Most AR-15 magazines hold 30 rounds, but it’s possible to purchase after-market magazines with as many as 100 rounds. But hey, they’ve got rocks — many of them in the heads of those at Blue Mountain who drummed up this brilliant “It worked for David versus Goliath” plan.

The kids tell the adults to take a seat; they’ve got this
WHYY Opinion By Michael Tallon April 12, 2018
As a 51-year-old man, I don’t cry much, but, wow, have I been a weepy mess watching these magic kids from Parkland, Florida. That’s the term that keeps coming back to me: These kids are magic. They somehow don’t seem real. They seem more like wizards who just popped into existence, as if the school shooter who tore through their high school just showed up expecting sheep and found warrior-paladins instead. But then it makes even less sense, because the students speaking out are not just from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They are from everywhere. And they keep demanding that the media recognize that they are from everywhere. These magic kids keep saying to the interviewers: Go talk to the other kids; go talk to the black kids; go talk to the poor kids; go talk to the Latino kids. Then, when the cameras finally turn to the black kids and the Latino kids and the poor kids, they talk about other kids. This isn’t a story about Parkland, Florida, and a really smart AP class with great prospects. It’s about a generational shift that caught me by surprise.

$100M construction project may raise taxes in Conestoga Valley by $104 over next 4 years
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer April 13, 2018
The price tag for a tentative plan approved by the Conestoga Valley school board in February to replace its current middle school and renovate four elementary schools may exceed $100 million. Residents, in turn, may see their tax bills increase by about $104 by 2022 — something school officials say is necessary to prepare for population growth within the district. “Population growth is expected to continue,” school board President Merle Esh said in an email Wednesday, “and our middle school and most elementary schools are nearing effective capacity.” Awaiting a design and construction is a new grades six through eight Gerald G. Huesken Middle School. The current middle school will be renovated and turned into a new Smoketown Elementary School. What the district will do with the current Smoketown building hasn’t been determined. The remaining elementary schools — Brownstown, Fritz and Leola — will also be renovated. The current estimated cost is $103 million, for which the district will likely pay by taking out four bonds —two $40 million and two $10 million — over the next three years. The district would stretch out payments for those bonds until 2044.

Allentown teachers union president: We don’t want to pay for budget shortfall
Margie Peterson Special to The Morning Call April 12, 2018
Concerned that the Allentown School District might try to close a $28 million budget deficit by freezing teachers salaries and leaving positions unfilled, the teachers union president said the staff should not suffer more from previous administrations’ mismanagement. Debbie Tretter, leader of the Allentown Education Association, told the school board Thursday that employees had already sacrificed greatly since 2011. “Are the employees in all bargaining units who have suffered through furloughs and salary freezes multiple times since 2011 going to be penalized yet again for the financial mismanagement caused by this district?” Tretter said during a comment period. She said later that since 2011, the district has seen three rounds of layoffs and furloughs and is down 380 positions. It’s not just teaching positions that have been lost, Tretter said. The maintenance and secretarial staff have also seen drastic cuts, she said.

“The lawsuit represents the latest salvo in the protracted tug of war between the District and charter leaders over the degree of autonomy charter schools have. Under Pennsylvania's charter law, which hasn't been substantially revised in nearly two decades, school Districts are the only entity empowered to authorize charters. Yet the funding mechanism is set up in such a way that charter schools must compete for funds from the districts in which they are located, and state education aid has not kept up with need -- especially in Philadelphia, which has half of the charter schools in the state.”
Escalating conflict with District, charters sue over policy
Policy 406 regulates the conditions under which charters can seek amendments
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa April 12, 2018 — 7:18pm
A school choice advocacy group is suing the School Reform Commission, seeking to block enforcement of its recently adopted policy 406, which outlines the terms under which charter schools can amend their agreements regarding curriculum, facilities, and enrollment. Excellent Schools PA, formerly the Philadelphia Schools Advocacy Partnership, says the policy violates the state's charter school law. The suit was filed in Common Pleas Court. The policy, the complaint says, was "hastily drafted" and "is an attempt to diminish the autonomy granted to charter schools under the law." The policy, originally drafted last fall, was finally approved by the SRC in March after several public hearings at which representatives of charter schools appeared and offered testimony. However, they had sought private negotiations and the formation of a task force to "jointly" work out the policy. The request for private meetings was denied by the chair of the SRC's policy committee, Christopher McGinley. While not commenting on the lawsuit, he said that the policy was "adopted in a public process and a with great level of participation on the part of charter school providers." Excellent Schools PA executive director Steven DeMaura said in a statement that the policy "has no other purpose except to restrict the operation and growth of charter schools in Philadelphia. And while the SRC will cease to exist on July 1st, unfortunately Policy 406 will remain on the books until it is changed, or overturned in court.”

Group backing Philly charter schools sues district, saying new rules severely restrict them
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham & Maddie Hanna - Staff Writers Updated: APRIL 12, 2018 6:34 PM
A nonprofit that supports charter schools filed suit Thursday against the Philadelphia School District, saying the school system’s new policy unfairly and illegally restricts charter-school operations. Excellent Schools PA says the policy, passed by the School Reform Commission on March 22, will require charters to seek approval from the district for virtually all changes to their curriculum and imposes illegal enrollment caps. In Pennsylvania, charters are privately managed but authorized and funded by local school boards with public money. A coalition of 60 charter schools had opposed the policy. The group says its suit is on behalf of all 87 of the city’s charters, which educate 70,000 students — a third of all those in public schools in Philadelphia. The charter policy has been a sore subject in recent months, drawing protesters who say it represented an overreach on the district’s part. The district is supposed to be a “neutral arbiter” toward charter schools, “not to micromanage their operations,” said Stephen DeMaura, executive director of Excellent Schools PA. Of the new policy, “we believe the main purpose is to restrict the operations and growth of charter schools, not improve the outcomes of children,” DeMaura said.

Excellent Schools PA Staff and Board of Directors
Excellent Schools PA was founded on the belief that every student, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status, has the right to a high-quality education, that equips them with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful adults.

Lincoln Charter School audit includes disclaimer by firm
York Dispatch by Junior Gonzalez, 717-505-5439/@EducationYD Published 9:58 a.m. ET April 12, 2018 | Updated 10:01 a.m. ET April 12, 2018
Lincoln Charter School’s recently approved overdue audits for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years each include findings — and one of them includes a disclaimer. Charter school officials initially refused to release the audits to The York Dispatch after their approval on Thursday, April 5, but the public documents were provided the next day by board treasurer and York City Business Administrator Michael Doweary. Disclaimer: While both audits have similar findings regarding missing employee files and financial interest statements, the 2014-15 financial report includes a disclaimer from auditing firm Citrin Cooperman: “Detailed accounting records have not been maintained and supporting audit evidence was not available for balances as of and for the year ended June 30, 2014,” the auditor’s report stated, which led to insufficient evidence for an audit opinion for the school year ending June 30, 2015.  The 2015-16 audit did not have a disclaimer. Approval of the outstanding audits, which under state law are supposed to be done annually, are both a cleared hurdle and a move to a murky area.

Data: Schools Have Gotten Safer Over Time
Education Week By Evie Blad April 10, 2018
U.S. schools have significantly increased security measures and preparation for events like school shootings in the last 20 years, the newest federal data show. Meanwhile, rates of student victimization at school have continued to decline, fewer students have brought weapons to school, and fewer students report fear of harm in school, according to a federal report released late last month. Fewer students report having access to an unlocked gun in the most recent data, and, contrary to popular perception, rates of violent deaths at school have not trended significantly upward in recent years. "Our nation's schools should be safe havens for teaching and learning free of crime and violence," says Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2017, an annual report released by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. "Any instance of crime or violence at school not only affects the individuals involved but also may disrupt the educational process and affect bystanders, the school itself, and the surrounding community." The newly released data take on particular relevance as local, state, and federal policymakers seek to improve school safety following the Feb. 14 shooting in a Parkland, Fla., high school where 17 students and educators were killed.

Teacher Walkouts Threaten Republican Grip on Conservative States
CHANDLER, Ariz. — An intensifying series of red-state battles over education funding and teacher pay threatens to loosen Republicans’ grip on some of the country’s most conservative states, as educators and parents rebel against a decade of fiscal austerity that has cut deeply into public education. As Arizona teachers pressed for higher salaries and more school funding, and Oklahoma teachers won some concessions from lawmakers amid a nine-day walkout, some in Kentucky continued their protests in favor of more money for education. Last month, West Virginia’s Republican-controlled government raised pay for teachers after a statewide strike. The clashes could elevate public education into a major issue in several midterm races this fall. Republicans are defending dozens of governorships and state legislative chambers across the country, including in several Southern and Western states where all-Republican governments have passed sweeping reductions in taxes and spending.

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.

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