Friday, May 11, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 11, 2018 Madonna Poll: Pennsylvanians Oppose Vouchers; Prefer Investing in Public Schools

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Madonna Poll: Pennsylvanians Oppose Vouchers; Prefer Investing in Public Schools

Pennsylvanians oppose taxpayer funds for private schools, support resources for struggling public schools
PSBA Website May 10, 2018
The results of a new public opinion poll show most Pennsylvanians are opposed to giving parents taxpayer-funded vouchers to send their children to private schools and prefer investing state funds to strengthen resources to help public schools. The poll, conducted for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association by Terry Madonna Opinion Research, presents the findings of a survey of 667 Pennsylvania voters conducted April 5-23, 2018. The poll shows that more than half (57.1%) of Pennsylvanians said they were opposed to giving public tax money to parents to pay tuition at a private or parochial school while only 31.8% supported the concept. In addition, survey respondents (48.7%) said providing schools additional funding and resources was a better way to help students in struggling schools while only 28.5% support giving those students vouchers to attend a different school. Further, few see vouchers as a priority. Those respondents who said they are “strongly opposed” to vouchers outnumbered those “strongly supporting” vouchers by more than 2 to 1 (28.1% “strongly opposed” to only 12.9% “strongly supporting”). Voters’ opposition to voucher programs crosses party lines and extends across various demographic and regional groupings in the survey, including gender, age and race.

State aid to schools, counties looms in state budget debate
Altoona Mirror by ROBERT SWIFT Capitolwire MAY 10, 2018
HARRISBURG — The question of whether the state should provide millions of dollars to help schools improve security and counties upgrade voting systems is looming ahead of the state budget debate next month. When Gov. Tom Wolf delivered his budget address for Fiscal Year 2018-19 on Feb. 7, neither subject was on the immediate political horizon. The Feb. 14 Parkland School shooting in Florida, and nationwide demonstrations that followed, put the school security issue back on the front burner. Wolf put election security on the map last month, calling for Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to replace their electronic voting systems with machines that have a verifiable paper trail by the end of 2019. Adhering to that schedule would have the new machines available for use during the 2020 presidential election. Pennsylvania’s improving fiscal picture could make discussions about providing state aid to local governments easier than in previous years, when significant revenue shortfalls shaped the budget debate. State tax revenue is meeting projections so far thanks to strong wage growth.

Two of the three GOP candidates for Pa. governor want to eliminate property taxes. Could it happen?
Inquirer by Laura McCrystal, Staff Writer  @LMcCrystal | Updated: MAY 10, 2018 — 5:17 PM EDT
Two of the Republicans running for Pennsylvania governor would like to eliminate school property taxes, while a third says it’s a bad idea. The winner of Tuesday’s primary will run against Gov. Wolf, a Democrat who has said he is open to ending the reliance on property taxes as a source of revenue and supported the idea in his 2014 campaign. But in office, Wolf has opposed bills to eliminate school property taxes, citing concerns with the details and proposed revenue replacements. Paul Mango, an Allegheny County health-care consultant, and Scott Wagner, a business owner and state senator from York County, have made property-tax elimination part of their gubernatorial platforms. But the third GOP candidate, Pittsburgh attorney Laura Ellsworth, warns that their support for replacing it with increased sales and income taxes is a risky way to fund education.

Quaker Valley moves to full-day kindergarten in '19-20
Trib Live STEPHANIE HACKE | Thursday, May 10, 2018, 10:30 a.m.
Quaker Valley School District has found a rare opportunity to spend less, while adding more programming, as the district moves to full-day kindergarten starting with the 2019-20 school year. School board members on April 23 approved the change to the kindergarten schedule. Under the revision, kindergarten students — starting in 2019-20 — will attend a full-day of classes and be dismissed at 3:35 p.m. along with the rest of the elementary students. Currently, kindergarten students are dismissed at 2:15 p.m. District leaders began to explore the move to full-day kindergarten, as they looked for ways shift resources, Assistant Superintendent Andrew Surloff said. Eliminating the 2:15 p.m. bus run will save the district $125,000. Surloff pointed to the lack of state funding of schools in Pennsylvania and the struggle districts face every year to balance their budget. The savings will be used in other areas.

Final Boyertown budget draft raises taxes 5.4 percent
By Evan Brandt, The Mercury POSTED: 05/10/18, 3:36 PM EDT | UPDATED: 9 HRS AGO
COLEBROOKDALE >> With a 6-3 vote, the Boyertown Area School Board adopted a preliminary final budget Tuesday that would raise property taxes by 5.4 percent. The millage would increase by 1.35 mills under the proposed $119 million budget, leading to a tax rate in both the Montgomery and Berks county portions of the district of 25.37 mills. For a home assessed at $100,000, that represents an increase of $136, which school board member Jill Dennin called “as pretty good deal” for a home with three children on which the district will spend thousands of dollars each year. She and board member Brandon Foose both noted that the Boyertown district has see-sawed between low tax hikes followed by higher ones to make up the revenue shortfalls from the lower tax rate.

Downingtown Area School District approves $2.2 million preliminary budget
Daily Local By Digital First Media POSTED: 05/10/18, 1:16 PM EDT | UPDATED: 12 HRS AGO
EAST CALN >> The Downingtown Area School District Board of School Directors approved the preliminary 2018-19 budget of $2.2 million without a tax increase. It will be the sixth consecutive year that a Downingtown budget has been approved with no property tax increase. The final budget is set for adoption at the June 13 school board meeting. The unanimous vote approving the $220,629,805 preliminary budget shows a 1.8 percent increase in expenses over last year’s budget, which district officials noted reflects the district’s efforts to control costs despite a growing enrollment and larger increases in areas such as health care and special education costs. Downingtown Superintendent of Schools Emilie M. Lonardi was pleased with the board’s support for the budget. “Although we are not increasing taxes, we are still able to provide our students with a top-notch education,” Lonardi said. “Downingtown will continue to be educationally innovative, provide individualized professional development opportunities for our teachers, update security and complete our one-to-one device initiative, K-12. Kudos to our board and our finance team for making this all possible.”

North Hills schools on path to hire armed police officers
Post-Gazette by SANDY TROZZO MAY 11, 2018 12:04 AM
The North Hills school board took the first step Thursday in having an armed school police force.
The board passed a resolution authorizing the force, and administrators and board members now will draft policies and procedures to govern it. The police officers would be nonunion employees of the district. Board members Tom Kelly, Sandra Kozera, Allison Mathis, Lou Nudi, Annette Giovengo Nolish, Dee Spade and board president Ed Wielgus voted in favor of the resolution. Arlene Bender and Kathy Reid opposed it. “I don’t want to see anybody hurt. But I cannot, under any circumstance, bring my mind to say more guns in more places held by more people is safer,” Mrs. Bender said.

Editorial: Schools must strategize on e-cigarettes
Delco Times by Altoona Mirror, Associated Press POSTED: 05/10/18, 10:11 PM EDT
Area school districts should set aside time this summer to deal with the issue of electronic cigarettes. For those districts that already have implemented policies and actions, the summertime task should consist of evaluating what’s been done so far and the success of those efforts, plus ascertaining what further steps might be helpful for the future. For school systems that haven’t had to give serious attention to the issue, school boards and administrators should look toward what other districts have witnessed and how they’ve responded and determine how those districts’ responses might be helpful to theirs someday. It’s clear that electronic cigarettes aren’t going to be a brief fad. Beyond attracting adults who laudably are trying to give up smoking, they’ve become a temptation to young people — some well under the age of 18 — who shouldn’t have access to them. For many young people, the e-cigarettes have become a status symbol, without regard to what negative health impacts might be lurking as a result of their use.

Lower Merion's new public garden already threatened by middle school plan
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer  @Kathy_Boccella | Updated: MAY 10, 2018 — 7:28 PM EDT
This Mother’s Day was supposed to be a moment of joy for Lower Merion conservationists as they throw open the gates of a 42-acre verdant jewel within the crowded township, Stoneleigh garden at the Villanova estate once belonging to the chemical-industry billionaire John Haas. But even before the first visitor strolls past the historic plantings and the iconic family of wooden rabbits that watch over County Line Road at the edge of the garden, supporters are worried their new gem will be taken away. The Lower Merion School District informed the garden’s owners last month that it is considering a proposal to seize the garden and perhaps build a new middle school there. “It wouldn’t be our first choice,” said Kenneth Roos, the solicitor for the Main Line school district, which had already raised hackles this year by floating the idea of seizing 6.9 acres of Stoneleigh through eminent domain to serve as athletic fields if the middle school were built on a nearby property. But Lower Merion officials have now told Natural Lands, the nonprofit that owns Stoneleigh, they are coming back next week to inspect the entire 42 acres. “It is my understanding you could put a whole school there,” said Roos, who called the Villanova location “more suitable” than three other sites that present major obstacles, such as unwilling sellers. The conservationists who spent nearly two years preparing Stoneleigh to become one of the Philadelphia region’s top garden attractions, adding 10,000 plants and 350 trees, are girding to fight its seizure by the school district.

“If educators feel valued and respected by their bosses, they are less likely to take unnecessary time off because they are constantly reminded of the important role they play in the school. Instilling a collaborative working environment in a school, where teamwork is highly prized, can also reduce teacher absenteeism.”
Absent teachers hurt students - and taxpayers | Opinion
Inquirer by Stephen DeMaura, For the Philadelphia Citizen Updated: MAY 10, 2018 12:51 PM
Stephen DeMaura is executive director of Excellent Schools PA.
A new report on teacher absenteeism in the School District of Philadelphia is enough to make you sick. Every day, more than 500 teachers are marked absent from school. The cost is staggering. Over the course of a year, the district spends more than $59.8 million on teachers who are not working. That’s right, nearly $60 million for teachers who are absent. But it doesn’t end there. When a teacher fails to report for work, the district is forced to hire a substitute to cover the class. At one of its last meetings, the School Reform Commission in February approved a contract for substitute teacher services valued at $54.3 million. So, all told, the cost of absentee teachers in Philadelphia district schools is a staggering $114.3 million per year.

What you don’t know about the schools at the top of U.S. News’ 2018 high school rankings
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss May 10 at 1:35 PM Email the author
Another year, another set of rankings from U.S. News & World Report — the 2018 America’s Best High Schools. Sigh. What does U.S. News think “best” means? According to the magazine’s methodology for the list, the answer mostly involves standardized test scores and graduation rates. Never mind that the former are limited in what they tell us about a school, and the latter are, and have repeatedly been, easily fudged in one way or another. For 2018, U.S. News gave charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — seven of the top 10 spots, including the top three, which are part of Arizona’s BASIS charter network. Here’s the list:

Tickets: PCCY Celebration of the 2018 Public Citizen of the Year
Elizabeth Murphy and Romona Riscoe Benson of PECO
Wednesday, May 16, 2018, The Franklin Institute, 6:00-8:30pm

On Wednesday, May 16, 2018, Elizabeth Murphy and Romona Riscoe Benson from PECO, will be honored by Public Citizens for Children and Youth as the2018 Public Citizens of the Year.  Join us at the celebration to thank these two amazing women and PECO for their longstanding and visionary commitment to improving the quailty of life for children in our region. 
Tickets are $150 per person.   Event will be held at the Frankin Institute, 222 N. 20th Street, Philadelphia, Pa 19103 from 6:00pm to 8:30pm.

Questions: contact Steven Fynes at 215-563-5848 x11 or
Corporate Sponsorships: click here
Thank you for your support!

Our Public Schools Our Democracy: Our Fight for the Future
NPE / NPE Action 5th Annual National Conference
October 20th - 21st, 2018 Indianapolis, Indiana
We are delighted to let you know that you can purchase your discounted Early Bird ticket to register for our annual conference starting today. Purchase your ticket here.
Early Bird tickets will be on sale until May 30 or until all are sold out, so don't wait.  These tickets are a great price--$135. Not only do they offer conference admission, they also include breakfast and lunch on Saturday, and brunch on Sunday. Please don't forget to register for your hotel room. We have secured discounted rates on a limited basis. You can find that link here. Finally, if you require additional financial support to attend, we do offer some scholarships based on need. Go here and fill in an application. We will get back to you as soon as we can. Please join us in Indianapolis as we fight for the public schools that our children and communities deserve. Don't forget to get your Early Bird ticket here. We can't wait to see you.

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:

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.

Save the Dates PASA/PSBA School Leadership Conference – Hershey, Oct. 17-19, 2018 
Mark your calendar! The Delegate Assembly will take place Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, at 2:30 p.m.
Housing now open!

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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