Wednesday, July 11, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 11: Homeowners may hate them, however property taxes aren't going anywhere … but up

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Homeowners may hate them, however property taxes aren't going anywhere … but up

In court challenge, schools argue state hasn't fixed funding inequities
Meadville Tribune By John Finnerty CNHI News Service
HARRISBURG — Representatives of a group of school districts are asking Commonwealth Court to reject the argument that a 2016 law solved any problems with inequitable funding of the state’s schools. Ed Albert, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Small and Rural Schools, said Monday that the 2016 law didn’t solve the problems experienced in many school districts. His group is one of the organizations involved in the lawsuit. In court filings earlier this year, attorneys for Senate President Pro Tem Joseph Scarnati said that the 2016 measure spelling out a school funding formula addressed any shortcomings in the way the state funds schools. The lawsuit, filed in 2014 by six families and six school districts, attacked the state’s school funding as it existed before the 2016 school funding formula, Scarnati said in court documents. “This case, as pleaded, is therefore moot,” Scarnati argued in court documents. School administrators can’t help but notice the disparities when they gather for regional meetings and listen to other district superintendents talk about their districts’ needs, Albert said.

Homeowners may hate them, however property taxes aren't going anywhere … but up
Inquirer by Meghan Bobrowsky, Staff Writer Updated: JULY 11, 2018 — 5:00 AM EDT
Michael Lee, a retiree living on a fixed income in a two-story house that Delaware County estimates is worth $125,000, pays over $3,100 in annual property taxes — three-quarters of that to the Springfield School District. “It’s getting tougher each month to pay that,” said Lee, 65, who formerly worked for the U.S. Postal Service. And it just got a little tougher. The district has upped his bill by $75 after approving a 2.4 percent property-tax increase two weeks ago. Pennsylvania’s modest $100 million school-funding increase in the 2018-19 budget was hardly sufficient to stave off another round of school-tax increases that are now greeting taxpayers from Chester County horse country to the river towns along the Delaware and the Route 422 corridor. The Coatesville Area School District raised taxes by the most of all the school districts surveyed, 5.27 percent. While hefty, the tax hike is a 3.17 percent decrease from a proposed final budget that generated blowback from the community. School officials in the counties blame a perennial matrix of issues, including pensions, contractual and special-education costs, and assorted state and federal mandates for the fact that more than 50 school districts have levied higher tax rates by an average of $100 effective July 1 — and an average of $100 annually for the last 10 years.

Red or blue? These 6 Pa. counties will offer a test for Casey, Barletta in Senate race
Ed Mahon and Candy Woodall, York Daily Record Published 4:57 p.m. ET July 10, 2018
In Pennsylvania, six pivot counties offer a test for the U.S. Senate candidates. They went for a Democrat in 2012 and a Republican in  2016. There's Erie in the northwest; Luzerne in the northeast; Fayette and Beaver in the southwest; Northampton, outside Allentown; and Berks, more than 60 miles outside of Philadelphia.  Democrat Bob Casey Jr. won those six counties in 2012 when he was re-elected to the Senate. But Republican Donald Trump won those counties in the 2016 presidential race, along with Republican Pat Toomey, an incumbent U.S. senator and former head of the conservative Club for Growth. Toomey won despite keeping his distance from Trump during the 2016 campaign — he didn't acknowledge he was voting for Trump until about an hour before the polls closed.

The case for more Asian-American public school teachers | Perspective
Commentary by Ethan S. Ake-Little, For the Inquirer Updated: JULY 11, 2018  5:00 AM EDT
In early June, New York City’s Mayor de Blasio announced his intent to eliminate the Specialized High School Admission Test as the sole criterion for admission to the city’s elite public schools – a move expected to negatively impact Asian-Americans, who received more than 50 percent of the nearly 5,000 available seats at the district’s eight magnet schools for AY2018-19. Around the same time, Students for Fair Admission (SFFA), the group challenging Harvard University’s admission process in court, released an analysis citing that Asian-Americans were rated lower than any other race on personal traits such as “positive personality,” “likeability” and “kindness,” which significantly diminished their chances of admission. Asian-Americans are an anomaly demographically. Unlike European-Americans or African-Americans, they are not a largely homogeneous racial or ethnic group and, unlike Hispanics, are not bonded by a common language or religion. In fact, the term Asian-American is a “catch-all” term for people from countries as diverse as Pakistan and Japan and together account for nearly 60 percent of the world’s population. What Asian-Americans do have in common is a set of values and philosophy forged by a shared history and the immigrant experience. Therefore, it is not possible to understand the Asian-American psyche without having a nuanced understanding of these common ties.

We're smoking mad that Harrisburg won't let Philly govern | Editorial
by The Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: JULY 11, 2018 — 5:00 AM EDT
Have Philadelphia and state government ever not been at odds? On the one hand, the state, embodied by both its lawmakers and residents, tends to think of Philadelphia as the place that all the tax money collected in Pennsylvania goes to take care of a crumbling education system and lots of poor people. Meanwhile, the metro area’s contribution to the state’s General Fund far exceeds its share of the population.  That’s why it’s so irritating when the long arm of Harrisburg tries to reach into the city’s ability to govern itself.  There’s the state takeover of the school board and the Parking Authority in 2001. Then there are the state’s attempts to preempt Philadelphia from enacting a wage equity bill that passed City Councilregulation of  certain gun sales, a living wage, and now this:  The state has preempted the city’s right to enact new regulations on tobacco sales. To reduce the prevalence of smoking, the city in 2014 imposed a $2 tax per pack, which was increased to $4.60 per pack in 2016. The revenue from the tax last year alone was close to $50 million for the School District.  The city also restricts sales of tobacco products around schools. Big Tobacco is not happy with these efforts. Recently, City Council introduced legislation to ban fruit- and candy-flavored cigars and cigarillos – products that appeal to children. The bill has 12 co-sponsors – enough to pass. And that’s when Harrisburg shot them down, by inserting language in the budget that prohibits the city from making such a move on tobacco. We might never know who introduced the provision.  What we do know is that Altria – the parent company of Phillip Morris, and the maker of Black & Mild, the popular cigar and cigarillos brand — spent $3,337,498 on lobbying Harrisburg in the past five years.

Allentown School District targets incoming kindergarten students with summer program
Allentown Pre-K students spend summer in school
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call July 10, 2018
Allentown kindergarten teacher Lisa McDermott stood in a circle among 10 little children and held paper plates with names written on them in blue marker. “If this is your name, raise your hand,” McDermott said Tuesday morning to the boys and girls. She held up a plate with the name “Daniel,” and after a slight hesitation, a little boy in Nike sneakers and blue shorts threw his hand in the air with alacrity. “Good job,” McDermott said. “Watch me read.” She pronounced “Daniel” while pointing to the name. The 10 students in McDermott’s class at Jackson Elementary School are part of a kindergarten readiness program the district is offering this summer. At Jackson, administrators targeted incoming 4- and 5-year-olds who didn’t have any previous schooling. About 20 percent of the incoming kindergarten students at Jackson are taking the enrichment classes to help them learn their numbers, ABCs and how to spell their names. Throughout the district this summer, 190 incoming kindergartners — or about 14 percent of all district kindergarten students — are participating in the program to prepare them for school in September.

The SRC years in review – full list of charts and data
The notebook by Hannah MelvilleAlyssa Biederman and Sam Haut July 10 — 4:36 pm, 2018

A look at Superintendent Hite’s record on meeting his anchor goals
As the new school board takes control of the District, the data and other indicators show a mixed record.
The notebook by Greg Windle July 10 — 4:35 pm, 2018
In the summer of 2012, Superintendent William Hite took charge of the Philadelphia School District. It was a year after Mayor Michael Nutter asked Superintendent Arlene Ackerman to resign after complaints about a lack of accountability over school violence and unethical contracting practices. When Hite took over, he created Action Plans that set goals for the District. Action Plan 2.0,released in 2014, outlined a series of ambitious “anchor goals,” and in most areas, the District has made at least some progress: More high school students are graduating, more 8-year-olds are reading at grade level, and the District has balanced its budget. But this was at the tail end of the term of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett (2011-14), who cut roughly $1 billion in state funding for public schools, with hundreds of millions coming out of the District’s operating budget. So where did the District get the money it used to fund these goals and balance the budget? Some came from the city, and when Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, was elected, he restored part of the state funding lost during the Corbett years. But it wasn’t until this year that Wolf even proposed enough additional education funding to restore the amount lost under Corbett.

Clinton, Sanders to headline teachers convention in Pittsburgh
ELIZABETH BEHRMAN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette JUL 10, 2018  11:20 AM
Thousands of educators from across the country will be joined by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren this weekend as they converge on Pittsburgh for the biennial convention of the American Federation of Teachers.  They will gather Downtown about two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court dealt public sector unions a major blow and after months of teacher strikes and calls for change across the country. "We are at this solemn and scary inflection point in our country where there are really troubling trends and amazing activism at the same time," AFT President Randi Weingarten said Tuesday. "It is really surreal." The AFT represents more than 1.7 million teachers, paraprofessionals and other school personnel in more than 3,000 affiliates across the country. The AFT has 61 affiliates in Pennsylvania, including in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Wilkinsburg School District lowers taxes as it expands offerings
ELIZABETH BEHRMAN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette JUL 10, 2018 6:00 PM
While other school districts are raising taxes or tapping into reserves to help pay the bills next year, Wilkinsburg is doing what many residents have dreamed about for years.  The school board this month passed a $30 million budget that reduces the millage rate by 3.13 mills, which, according to district leaders, means it no longer has the highest property tax rate in Allegheny County.  “I feel more hopeful than I ever have about the whole Wilkinsburg Borough, not just the school district,” said school board member Ed Donovan.  Property owners in Wilkinsburg will now pay school taxes of 29.5 mills. While the state has yet to compile the list of each district’s millage rates for 2018-19 -— final budgets were due June 30 — it appears based on last year’s rates that Wilkinsburg no longer takes the top spot for highest school taxes in Allegheny County. The rate of 29.5 mills is slightly less than the rate that taxpayers in the Brentwood School District paid last year.  The Wilkinsburg board approved the tax decrease last month in an 8-1 vote, with member Marcia Jones dissenting.

Does A Justice Kavanaugh Mean That Blaine Amendments Are History?
Forbes by Mike McShane Contributor Jul 10, 2018, 08:56am
Last night, President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. I’ll leave it to the legal scholars to assess the broad implications of a potential Justice Kavanaugh, but I do want to look at a narrow issue that may come before the court during his tenure: Blaine Amendments. Blaine Amendments are provisions in 38 state constitutions that bar public aid to religious organizations. They get their name from James G. Blaine, a congressman and later senator and presidential nominee from Maine who unsuccessfully attempted to amend the U.S. constitution in 1875 to include “anti-aid” language onto the end of the first amendment. Where he failed at the federal level, he and his ideological fellow travelers were successful at the state level. As a result, Blaine Amendments frequently act as state-level barriers against school choice.

13 Years Post-Katrina, New Orleans' Elected School Board Is Back in Control
Education Week Charters & Choice Blog By Arianna Prothero on July 10, 2018 12:38 PM 
Public education in New Orleans has passed a quiet but important milestone: After more than a decade, all of the city's public schools that had been taken over by the state of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina are once again reunited under the local school board. Starting this month, the Orleans Parish School Board will oversee a wholly unique system of autonomous charter schools, a transformation that was kicked off 13 years ago when flooding from Hurricane Katrina decimated the city. As the floodwaters receded, the state of Louisiana's Recovery School District, the state-run district tasked with turning around failing schools in the state, took over most of New Orleans' schools, many of which had been chronically failing for years. The RSD either shuttered them or handed them over to charter operators to run. Today, almost all of New Orleans students attend charter schools. This has become the new normal in New Orleans. Today, nearly two-thirds of New Orleans residents believe charter schools have improved public education in the city, according to the most recent poll by the Cowen Institute.

PA Superintendent of the Year nominations requested by July 27th
PASA and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) are seeking nominations for 2019 Pennsylvania Superintendent of the Year. Candidates will be judged on the following criteria: leadership for learning, communication, professionalism and community involvement. The nomination deadline is Friday, July 27. For more information, visit the AASA website,

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

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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