Monday, June 11, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 11: Two years after a scathing report by three national charter school advocacy groups, there has been no action on Pennsylvania’s chronically underperforming cyber charters

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, charter school leaders, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
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Two years after a scathing report by three national charter school advocacy groups, there has been no action on Pennsylvania’s chronically underperforming cyber charters

“Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014 and 2015 was over $1.2 billion; $393.5 million, $398.8 million and $436.1 million respectively.”
None of PA’s cyber charters has ever achieved a passing school performance profile score of 70
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup May 23, 2018

“The well-documented, disturbingly low performance by too many full-time virtual charter public schools should serve as a call to action to state leaders and authorizers across the country. It is time for state leaders to make the tough policy changes necessary to ensure that this model works more effectively than it currently does for the students it serves. It is also time for authorizers to close chronically low-performing virtual charter schools. Our organizations plan to work actively with state leaders and authorizers as they embark on these efforts.”
Report by the National Association of Public Charter Schools, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and 50CAN, June 2016
Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California are the “big three” when it comes to enrollment in full-time virtual charter schools. According to National Alliance research, enrollment in full-time virtual charter schools is highly concentrated in three states – Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California – which collectively enroll over half of full-time virtual charter school students nationwide…. Compared to traditional public school students, full-time virtual charter school students have much weaker academic growth overall. Full-time virtual charter school students experience 180 fewer days of learning in math and 72 fewer days of learning in reading in comparison to traditional public school students. Put another way, these data show that in a given year full-time virtual charter school students overall make no gains in math and less than half the gains in reading realized by their peers in traditional public schools.

“Multiple factors contribute to pressure on local school budgets. Even though the state has increased funding during the Wolf era, it remains less than 40 percent of all school funding, leaving too much of the burden at the local level. And in addition to funding huge pension obligations, hundreds of districts lose more state money each year to charter school tuition. In this legislative election year, lawmakers will be determined to pass a budget by the July 1 due date, without a state tax increase. But by their refusal to rein in pension costs, those legislators simply are mandating tax increases at the local level, where property taxes already are too high in most of the state.”
Editorial: No pension reform, no tax relief
If legislators approve the $100 million increase in education funding that Gov. Tom Wolf has asked for in his budget proposal, schools will receive about $570 million more in the coming school year than in the school year before Wolf took office, 2014-2015. Yet school districts will continue to tread water because the Legislature and the administration have failed to tackle pension reform. Because of that failure, each of 500 school districts in the state will have to make a pension contribution equal to 34 percent of its payroll. That is an unsustainable obligation that guarantees more local property tax increases or program cuts, or in many districts, both. According to a survey by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, at least 40 percent of districts — 200 of 500 — will impose property tax increase before the start of the school year. Many districts reported plans to end all-day kindergarten, and 80 percent said they plan to shift staff across grades and buildings, which in some cases will result in some teachers handling classes for which they are not fully qualified.

Editorial: Why they’re making nice on the budget in Harrisburg
Delco Times POSTED: 06/09/18, 9:28 PM EDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO
Something unheard of is happening in Harrisburg. No, they’re not seriously considering reducing the size of our bloated, overpriced, underworked Legislature. If it’s the second week of June, it must be budget time. The state constitution mandates that our fearless state leaders have a new fiscal plan in place by the end of the month. But there is a distinct lack of the usual rancor that has characterized budget battles in recent years. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican leaders in the Legislature have been floating compliments at each other, noting that progress is consistently being made, and that they expect to have a budget in place before the deadline. Compare that to the first three years of Wolf’s term as governor, when he locked horns with GOP leaders in the Legislature and budget standoffs dragged on for weeks. Wolf rode to the governor’s mansion on a mantra of increased spending for education. Which is fine except for one thing. That usually is accompanied by higher taxes to pay for it.

Most area school districts plan tax increases
Beaver County Times By Daveen Rae Kurutz Posted at 4:00 AM June 11, 2018
Fourteen area school districts are considering property tax increases this June, as mandated pension contributions continue to increase. The proposed tax increases range from 1.75 percent in the Western Beaver School District to 4 percent in Freedom Area. Other districts considering tax increases are Aliquippa, Ambridge Area, Beaver Area, Blackhawk, Central Valley, Cornell, Hopewell Area, Moon Area, New Brighton Area, Quaker Valley, Rochester Area and South Side Area. Five districts — Big Beaver Falls Area, Ellwood City Area, Midland, Riverside and West Allegheny — have decided against raising tax rates for the upcoming school year. School boards were required to approve a preliminary budget, indicating if they intend to raise taxes, by the end of May. A final budget must be adopted by June 30.  “Every year is different,” said Dave Anney, superintendent at the Riverside School District, which is not considering a tax rate increase. “This year, we’re just in a position where we don’t have to raise taxes.” That’s not the case in many districts across the state, according to a report issued by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, or PASBO. Of the 500 districts in the state, 265 responded to a survey about the 2018-19 budget process.

Tariffs on imported newsprint are a potentially crushing blow to local newspapers and their communities
Lancaster Online by THE LNP EDITORIAL BOARD June 10, 2018
THE ISSUE - The Trump administration recently imposed two tariffs of up to 32 percent on uncoated groundwood paper imported from Canada, or newsprint — the paper on which LNP and other American newspapers are printed. A coalition of U.S. printers, publishers, newspaper associations, paper suppliers and distributors calling itself STOPP — Stop Tariffs on Printers & Publishers — has formed to oppose the tariffs. The tariffs are the result of lobbying by a single paper supplier, the North Pacific Paper Company, known as NORPAC, in Washington state. It is owned by One Rock Capital, a private equity firm in New York. The tariffs are opposed by other U.S. paper manufacturers and the industry’s trade association, the American Forest & Paper Association. The U.S. International Trade Commission will hold a hearing on the tariffs July 17 before they are made permanent; a final determination is to be made in early August. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, imports of uncoated groundwood paper from Canada in 2016 were valued at an estimated $1.27 billion.
Tariffs on Canadian paper pose an existential threat to community newspapers, including LNP.
And of course this worries those of us who are employed by LNP. But it also should worry you.
Without local newspapers, elected officials would be free to spend your tax money behind closed doors, use their positions for self-enrichment and run roughshod over your interests and those of your fellow citizens without worry of exposure. The voice of citizens is amplified by local newspapers; your concerns are our concerns. We’re not being lofty when we say we are serious about our Fourth Estate role as watchdogs. Whether the issue is a school board’s machinations in the dark, or a state lawmaker’s alleged history of sexual harassment and assault, newspaper journalists are committed to bringing to light the actions of those charged with doing the public’s business.

'Your futures don't matter.' That's the message Philly kids get when schools aren't well-funded | Opinion
Opinion by Alfredo Praticò, For the Inquirer Updated: JUNE 11, 2018 — 5:00 AM EDT
Alfredo Praticò is a junior at Julia R. Masterman High School and vice chair of the Philadelphia Youth Commission.
As a member of the Philadelphia Youth Commission and the School District’s City-Wide Student Government, my responsibility is to speak up about the issues that affect my fellow students and young adults. But I know that when I speak up in support of public education, I am really speaking up on behalf of the entire city, because education affects everyone. After all, what could be more essential to this city’s future than the education of its youth, the next generation of leaders? Education is an investment that safeguards against poverty and injustice, because a quality education teaches you how to think — not what to think. A quality education provides the tools we need to solve the problems facing our community. But a quality education requires adequate resources — for teachers, supplies, and facilities. You can’t support education without supporting education funding.

NAACP panel discusses black student achievement, discipline in Main Line school districts
Study shows disproportionate suspensions, low numbers in gifted programs, calculus
Main Line Suburban Life By Linda Stein @lsteinreporter on Twitter Jun 6, 2018 Updated Jun 6, 2018
RADNOR >> While the Main Line school districts are some of the highest achieving in the country, the president of the Main Line NAACP believes they could do better when it comes to educating African American students. On May 31, the NAACP held a town hall panel discussion at Radnor High School with representatives from the Radnor Township, Haverford, Tredyffrin/Eastown and Lower Merion school districts. More than 100 people packed the RHS library to hear the discussion and ask questions of the school officials. Main Line NAACP President Diana Robertson said that this month marks 64 years since the famous Brown v. Board of Education case, where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public schools must be desegregated. “Why is this dialogue important?” asked Robertson. “W.E.B. Du Bois, a Harvard educated activist, established the NAACP in 1909. He stated, ‘The primary issue of the 20th Century was the problem of the color line.’ Well, guess what? My folks can all agree that the primary issue of the 21st Century is that of race.” She cited a recent study that found disproportionate numbers of black students were subject to out-of-school suspension while fewer were in a higher level math classes and the gifted programs. According to the study:

“While a majority of the nation’s public school students are students of color, fewer than 20 percent of our nation’s teachers are teachers of color — and only two percent are African-American men. Diversifying the educator workforce is a national imperative because research shows that teachers of color play a special role in student success.”
Philly’s 7th Ward Blog BY JOHN KING JUNE 7, 2018
Each year in May, America observes Teacher Appreciation Month — a time when we pause to reflect upon and honor the life-changing impact that educators have on our children, and the important contributions that educators make to our communities and our country. It is necessary to lift up and thank teachers. It is also crucial to recognize that thanks isn’t enough. We must support teachers with strong preparation, appropriate compensation, quality professional development and leadership opportunities so they may fulfill their calling: to ensure that every child receives an excellent education. Until we, as a nation, collectively acknowledge and address the unique challenges that teachers of color face every day, we cannot claim to be truly valuing them.

Institute for Educational Governance and Leadership Appoints Inaugural Director
Lebanon Valley College Website June 7, 2018
The Institute for Educational Governance and Leadership (IEGL) has appointed Donna-Marie Cole-Malott as its first director. She begins June 11. Cole-Malott will build the program, which is housed at Lebanon Valley College, to become a statewide resource for accurate, timely, and credible information about public education, its governance, and its importance in Pennsylvania. “PSBA looks forward to collaborating with Director Cole-Malott to create impactful work on governance and leadership,” said Nathan Mains, PSBA chief executive officer. IEGL is a joint effort of the College, CM Regent Insurance Company, CM CARES (Church Mutual Insurance Company Foundation), Pennsylvania Public Education Foundation, and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. Cole-Malott brings extensive experience to this unique partnership as an educator, academic author, presenter, and keynote speaker. She is completing her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park.

For Pa. students, a new duty: civics test
Inquirer by Lasherica Thornton, HARRISBURG BUREAU Updated: JUNE 8, 2018 — 10:22 AM EDT
HARRISBURG — They wouldn’t have to pass it, but students would be required to take a civics test before high school graduation under a bill that could soon become law in Pennsylvania. Ignited by a report that only 26 percent of adults can identify the three branches of the U.S. government, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center 2016 survey, Rep. Karen Boback (R., Luzerne) said she wrote the bill to help ensure that youths become knowledgeable. “The need for increased civics education is warranted given the astounding lack of proficiency in U.S. civics and government,” Boback said in a statement Thursday, citing national studies reporting only 24 percent of U.S. high school students are proficient in civics. The new test, which Democratic Gov. Wolf said he would sign, would be separate from the state’s academic standards for civics and government, which lay out what students in specific grades should know about the mechanics of government and the rights of citizenship. School districts can meet that requirement in a variety of ways, said John M. Callahan, chief advocacy officer at the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Could you pass a civics test? Try this one
Penn Live By Teresa Bonner | | Posted June 08, 2018 at 05:50 AM
The Pennsylvania House and Senate each passed a bill requiring high school students to take a civics knowledge test, similar to the tests given immigrants who want to become citizens. Here's a sample citizenship exam. Could you pass? If you were an immigrant taking a civics test to become a citizen,  you'd be asked up to 10 questions, and would have to correctly answer six.  Here are 21 sample questions provided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Scroll down to see the answers to each question.

Another State to Require Testing in Civics
Education Week By Brenda Iasevoli on June 8, 2018 4:21 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania plans to sign a bill requiring 7th through 12th graders to take a civics test.  Schools can use questions from the U.S. Citizenship test to check students' knowledge of the structure of our government, the principles of democracy, understanding of our founding documents, and the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizens. You can take a practice test here. State lawmakers point to an "alarming decline in civic knowledge among American adults" as the reason for the bill, which in its original form made passing the test a requirement for high school graduation. A 2016 survey conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center revealed that only 26 percent of Americans were able to identify the three branches of the U.S. government. Later reports have also sounded the alarm about U.S. students' poor civics knowledge.  "As an educator and a mother, I find the lack of proficiency in U.S. civics and government astounding," state Representative Karen Boback, who introduced the bill, says in a statement. "Now more than ever, Pennsylvania's students need all the necessary tools to be active and informed citizens."

Franklin Towne appealing conditions placed on new charter approval
If the case proceeds, it could set a precedent that would limit the ability to regulate charters.
The notebook by Greg Windle June 10 — 8:14 pm, 2018
In a case that could have wide implications for Pennsylvania school districts’ ability to control charter expansion and regulation, Franklin Towne Charter is appealing the School Reform Commission’s requirement that it meet conditions before being granted a charter for a new middle school. The SRC approved the new charter on April 26 after originally denying it on Feb. 22. The conditions were significant — reducing the enrollment total by a third, requiring the school to give preference to students from nearby zip codes with high non-white populations, and changing policies to conform with various state laws. Franklin Towne’s existing two schools, which enroll 2,100 students in grades K-12, are 70 and 83 percent white, although they are located in a diverse section of the city. The SRC also imposed conditions on Franklin Towne’s operational structure, which the District’s Charter Schools Office, in evaluating the application, found rife with conflict of interest among its schools, its boards, its management organization, and its landlord.
Franklin Towne is making the argument that the conditions so completely alter its original proposal that the SRC’s vote amounts to a denial or non-action on its application, according to a source. If the state Charter Appeals Board and the courts back up this position, the new Board of Education would lose an important lever in trying to manage charter growth and quality while maintaining the District’s financial viability.

These Philly school kids made it through the year without fighting. Their reward was more than just money
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Staff Writer  @newskag | Updated: JUNE 8, 2018 — 2:27 PM EDT
Inside the old church sanctuary, the scene Friday was joyous — all hugs, high-fives, and a deep sense of accomplishment over something many people believed 36 young people from Southwest Philadelphia could not do. Every eighth grade is special to Stephanie Andrewlevich, principal of Mitchell Elementary School, but the Class of 2018 meant something particularly profound to her, she told them. “Do you know you are an inspiration?” Andrewlevich asked the boys and girls dressed in blue caps and gowns for their first real graduation. “Do you know through your peace you have actually fought? Fought the negative stereotypes that society places on you? Go online. Google ‘inner-city teenagers’ and see what comes up: violence, fighting, crime, high school dropout rates. But not you. Not your families. Not our school family.”

Blogger note: Although not identified as such in this letter to the editor, Mr. Dolan is Director of Policy and Outreach for Catholic Education Partners. His Facebook page self-describes him as “Lead advocacy for non-profit organization dedicated to amplifying Catholic voice in school choice policy.”
School choice is the future of public education | PennLive Letters
Penn Live Letters to the Editor GREG DOLAN, Fox Chapel, Allegheny County Updated Jun 10, 10:32 AM; Posted Jun 10, 7:45 AM
In Mr. Feinberg's vitriolic screed against school choice for Pennsylvania families ("Why have Republicans in the Legislature declared war on public education?", June 5), he exposes his utter lack of awareness about the fiscal benefits of the EITC program. According to a recent analysis in the Journal of School Choice, the EITC has saved the state $1.3 billion over the last decade. This is because the average scholarship is about $1,500, way less than the per-pupil amount the state spends on public school students, resulting in a net savings per scholarship of $6,539 in 2014. Considering that Mr. Feinberg's own board recently approved the state maximum tax increase, perhaps he should pursue cost-saving measures such as EITC scholarships instead of attacking families seeking a choice in education.

State College Area School District energy efficiency to benefit both the students and community
Centre Daily Times Video by Abby Drey Jun 10, 2018 Runtime 1:52
SCASD director of physical plant Ed Poprik talks about the new energy efficiency measure put in place around the district. This will not only reduce spending for the district, he says, but will be a benefit to both students and the community.

Kentucky State ed board approves Bible literacy standards for public schools
Supriya Sridhar, Louisville Courier Journal Published 7:01 p.m. ET June 6, 2018 | Updated 8:05 a.m. ET June 7, 2018
The Kentucky Board of Education unanimously approved standards Wednesday for the state's controversial Bible literacy classes. The classes were criticized this year by the American Civil Liberties Union as an unconstitutional promotion of Christianity and Sunday school-style "religious life lessons," and the organization sent a letter to the state requesting that it develop clear guidance for teachers. The classes were born out of a bill passed last year by the legislature creating state regulations for public high schools to offer elective literature courses on the Bible and Hebrew Scriptures. The bill reads that students will be given the opportunity to “explore the Bible’s relevance to contemporary society and culture.”

Apply Now for EPLC's 2018-2019 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program!
Applications are available now for the 2018-2019 Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).  The Education Policy Fellowship Program is sponsored in Pennsylvania by The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC). 
With more than 500 graduates in its first eighteen years, this Program is a premier professional development opportunity for educators, state and local policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.  State Board of Accountancy (SBA) credits are available to certified public accountants.
Past participants include state policymakers, district superintendents and principals, school business officers, school board members, education deans/chairs, statewide association leaders, parent leaders, education advocates, and other education and community leaders. Fellows are typically sponsored by their employer or another organization. The Fellowship Program begins with a two-day retreat on September 13-14, 2018 and continues to graduation in June 2019.
Applications are being accepted now.
Click here to read more about the Education Policy Fellowship Program.
The application may be copied from the EPLC web site, but must be submitted by mail or scanned and e-mailed, with the necessary signatures of applicant and sponsor.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of the Fellowship Program and its requirements, please contact EPLC Executive Director Ron Cowell at 717-260-9900 or

Nominations for PSBA’s Allwein Advocacy Award due by July 16
PSBA Website May 14, 2018
The Timothy M. Allwein Advocacy Award was established in 2011 by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and may be presented annually to the individual school director or entire school board to recognize outstanding leadership in legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of public education and students that are consistent with the positions in PSBA’s Legislative Platform. In addition to being a highly respected lobbyist, Timothy Allwein served to help our members be effective advocates in their own right. Many have said that Tim inspired them to become active in our Legislative Action Program and to develop personal working relationships with their legislators. The 2018 Allwein Award nomination process will begin on Monday, May 14, 2018. The application due date is July 16, 2018 in the honor of Tim’s birth date of July 16.
Download the Application

Join with EdVotersPA and PCCY for Capitol Caravan Days and fight for our public schools! When: 9:00-3:00 on June 12 or June 20 (your choice!)
Where: The Harrisburg Capitol
Why: To show state lawmakers that their constituents expect them to support public school students in the '18-19 budget

Education Voters of PA joining together with Pennsylvania Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) for a lobby day in Harrisburg. Join a team and meet with your state legislators and legislative leaders to talk about how the state can support K-12 students in the state budget.
Register Here:

IN PHILLY, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13, 2018, 8:30-10:00 A.M.
Join Law Center attorneys Michael Churchill, Jennifer Clarke, and Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg for a free briefing on the state of education funding in Pennsylvania. They’ll cover the basics of education funding, our fair school funding lawsuit, the property tax elimination bill, the 2018-2019 state budget, and more! RSVP online here. The briefing will be held on Wednesday, June 13th at 8:30 a.m. at 1709 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
Download a flyer for this event.

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.) 

POWER 100% SCHOOL FUNDING Day of Action Wednesday, June 20th at 1 PM at the PA Capitol
On Wednesday, June 20th at 1 PM, students, parents, community activists, and faith leaders from different traditions will gather on the steps of the State Capitol Main Rotunda for POWER’s 100% SCHOOL FUNDING Day of Action to demand support for legislation to put 100% of the Commonwealth's Basic Education Budget through PA's Fair Funding Formula. We ask you to join us as we stand in solidarity with one another and continue demanding fair and fully funded education for Pennsylvania’s public school students. In addition to a large rally, we will march to Governor Tom Wolfe's office to pray for his support for 100% through the Formula. Join us as we hold meetings that day with our legislators asking each one to speak out in favor of POWER's 100% plan.

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.

2nd Annual National Black Male Educators Convening, Oct. 12-14, Philly
Teacher diversity works. Increasing the number of Black male educators in our nation’s teacher corps will improve education for all our students, especially for African-American boys.Today Black men represent only two percent of teachers nationwide. This is a national problem that demands a national response. Come participate in the 2nd National Black Male Educators Convening to advance policy solutions, learn from one another, and fight for social justice. All are welcome. Register to attend. Nominate a speaker. Propose a workshop. Sponsor the event.

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!

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.

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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