Friday, July 6, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 6: Schools prepare students for citizenship, not just work

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Schools prepare students for citizenship, not just work

A Pennsylvania Paradox
Politically Uncorrected by G. Terry Madonna & Michael L.Young July 5, 2018
America has endured 154 mass shootings so far this year - from Parkland Florida to Annapolis Maryland. Despite this national carnage nothing so far has moved the Pennsylvania state legislature to pass even the most innocuous gun control legislation. Why? Clearly the answer is not lack of opportunity. Scores and scores of gun control measures are routinely introduced into the legislature to no avail. Good old-fashioned interest group politics explains some of the legislature’s paralysis. Pennsylvania is rich with both sportsman and sportsman lobbies. The NRA alone is arguably the most powerful lobby in the state, making gun measures still the third rail of state politics. This year, however, several gun control measures seemed ripe for passage. These were not the perennially divisive bills such as those that would limit the sale of automatic or semi-automatic weapons or seek to restrict hand gun ownership. Instead, they were the product of a broadly bi-partisan consensus that raised only modest controversy.

“The argument that charters that fail to meet the District’s accountability standards are no worse than some District schools and therefore deserve to be renewed is incredibly cynical. In effect, these critics are saying that it is wrong to expect more autonomous charters serving poor kids to outperform District schools. Their advocacy for lowering the bar implies that low-income children of color are incapable of high performance academically. That is a belief that parents, teachers, principals, employers, elected officials, faith communities, and especially the Board of Education — stakeholders from the corporate boardroom to the corner bodega — should reject loudly and repeatedly.”
Commentary: It is not unfair to hold charters to higher standards
The notebook Commentary by Debra Weiner July 5 — 2:30 pm, 2018
When Albert Shanker, the legendary president of the American Federation of Teachers, advocated for the creation of charter schools in the late 1980s, he envisioned enhanced opportunities for teaching and learning, freed from the bureaucratic constraints of traditional district schools in exchange for increased accountability. Fast-forward to 1997 and the passage of the Pennsylvania charter law, which required that charters produce better academic performance than district schools in exchange for their greater autonomy. Such high-minded goals, espoused both by education progressives like Shanker and education conservatives like the Republican majority in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, fall by the wayside in the critiques of the Philadelphia School District’s Charter Schools Office by a charter school founder and the head of a charter advocacy organization. Both contend that the District unfairly holds charters to a higher standard than its own schools. If one follows their argument, a charter could and should be renewed when it never exceeds District averages.

“Certainly we need to prepare citizens to enter the work force successfully, but in Pennsylvania, schools run by tax dollars must first produce citizens who can maintain an enduring democracy.”
Schools prepare students for citizenship, not just work | Letter
Express-Times Letters to the Editor J. Gordon Maule Palmer Township Updated Jul 5, 9:18 AM; Posted Jul 5, 9:15 AM
Several weeks ago the news media essentially ignored the announcement that President Trump wants to merge the Departments of Education and Labor. Trump said public education trains workers for American industry. That's how President G.W. Bush justified "No Child Left Behind" --  American companies need workers who could read and do math. All other subjects such as history, science, and the arts became less important. Bulletin 19 from the Pennsylvania Department of Education defines the goals for our public schools. Their first objective is not to train workers. That was the purpose of public education in Soviet Russia. Certainly we need to prepare citizens to enter the work force successfully, but in Pennsylvania, schools run by tax dollars must first produce citizens who can maintain an enduring democracy. Bulletin 19 requires all public school students -- our future citizens -- study social studies and English every year in school. President Trump thinks training workers is more important than teaching citizens about our history and values. Vouchers for private schools and charter schools have diminished our common national citizenship training. But to abandon a national Department of Education will seriously harm our republic.

“However, the total subsidies from the commonwealth have not kept pace with costs. As an example, special education expenditures in 2014-15 were $9.7 million and subsidies totaled about $1.6 million. The 2018-19 projected special education cost are $12.2 million and subsidies are $1.7 million. The PSERS (Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System) costs continue to be the most challenging budget issue. Mooney said the annual percentage increase is beginning to ease. Nevertheless, PSERS alone represents a $537,000 increase this year, with half being reimbursed by the state. The total PSERS cost to the district is $10.5 million of mandated expenses.”
Springfield (Delco) OKs 2.4 percent tax hike
Delco Times By Susan Serbin, Times Correspondent POSTED: 07/05/18, 8:03 PM EDT
SPRINGFIELD >> Taxes are going up in the Springfield School District.
The Springfield School Board unanimously approved the final budget of $84.7 million – including a 2.4 percent increase in taxes – with almost no changes from the proposed document passed in May. The only alteration, noted by Executive Director Don Mooney, was approximately $50,000 in additional revenue resulting from Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget approved in late June. The district brought its budget in at the 2.4 percent Act 1 index. The millage rate for the average home assessed at $146,820 is 32.9796 mills, or $4,842. That means another $113 for the average home owner. The projected Homestead Exclusion for eligible homeowners will remain almost steady as a $186 tax credit. The small state revenue hike illustrates the challenges of mandated spending. While the commonwealth added millions of dollars to the total budget, the funding formula for how dollars are allotted to each district resulted in only modest increases for Springfield. Dollars will be added to basic education and special education.

North Allegheny passes $166M budget that hikes taxes
Post-Gazette by SANDY TROZZO JUL 5, 2018 12:16 PM
The North Allegheny School Board has adopted a 2018-19 budget that raises taxes. The $165.96 million budget increases taxes to 18.4557 mills, an increase of .4546 mills. “This is an appropriate thing to do at this time,” said board President Scott Russell. Board member Kevin Mahler said the district has been able to manage without raising taxes in four of the past five years, despite having to play “catch up” on technology, retirement obligations and property issues. “We have addressed some of those issues, especially technology, with a very minimal impact on taxpayers,” he said. However, the district is now facing rising enrollment and aging facilities. A big move next year will be to add onto Franklin Elementary and renovate McKnight Elementary.

Gateway school board approves budget with half-mill tax increase
Post-Gazette by DEANA CARPENTER JUL 5, 2018 3:42 PM
The Gateway school board on June 27 approved the district’s $75.3 million 2018-19 budget that includes a 0.544-mill tax increase. The budget passed by a 6-3 vote. Board members Scott Williams, Mary Beth Cirucci, Brian Goppman, Jack Bova, John Ritter and Rick McIntyre voted in favor of the budget. Jesse Kalkstein, George Lapcevich and Valerie Warning voted no. The increase brings the millage rate in the district to 19.8675 mills, or about $1,987 per $100,000 of assessed property value. Gateway is using $1.8 million of its fund balance to balance the budget. The district also received $1.459 million from state gambling tax funds, which will be dispersed among the 8,101 approved homesteads and farmsteads in the district. Therefore, each approved homestead or farmstead receives about $180 in tax reduction. “I have a moral problem with this,” said Mr. Ritter, who added the matter has slipped by him in the past years.

Steel Valley school board passes $37 million final budget for 2018-2019 school year with tax increase
Post-Gazette ANNE CLOONAN JUL 5, 2018 3:48 PM
The Steel Val­ley school board passed a $37 mil­lion final budget for the 2018-2019 school year on June 28 that raises school real estate taxes by 0.728 mills. Gen­eral fund expenses in the budget are projected to be $37,046,525, and revenues are expected to be $36,806,080. The district’s general fund fund balance will cover the difference of $240,445.  In May, district business manager John Zenone said under the new budget, school real estate taxes for a home with an assessed value of $100,000 would increase by $72.84 a year. He said at the time that the tax hike was needed because of rising salary, charter school tuition and pension costs. “We continue to face a difficult budget environment,” Superintendent Ed Wehrer said. “The primary cause of our budget difficulty is the charter school system and how we are required to pay for it.”

State budget has implications for Erie
GoErie By Matthew Rink Posted at 2:00 AM
The $32.7 billion spending plan for the 2018-2019 fiscal year boosts funding for education and school safety. June’s passage of a $32.7 billion state spending plan provides more money for education, including school safety, as well as workforce development programs. Erie-area lawmakers say the budget also offers something the state hasn’t had in recent years: Bipartisan peace, for now, in Harrisburg, and some stability and predictability for local governments and school districts, which in the past have faced uncertainty over the drawn-out fiscal fights. “I think it adds a level of stability that hasn’t been there in the 12 years that I’ve been in office,” state Rep. Patrick Harkins, of Erie, D-1st Dist., said. “This is the smoothest budget that I’ve ever encountered.” Not only did lawmakers pass the budget before the June 30 deadline for the first time in four years, they beat that deadline by a full week. It’s also the first spending bill Gov. Tom Wolf has signed since taking office in 2015.

McKeesport Area board OKs 2.11-mill tax increase
Post-Gazette by DEANA CARPENTER JUL 5, 2018 3:24 PM
Taxes are going up by 2.11 mills in the McKeesport Area School District, bringing millage to 19.48 mills for the 2018-19 school year. The school board approved the $67,068,392 budget on June 27 by an 8-1 vote. Board member Dave Donato voted no. District residents with a home valued at $60,000, the average home price in the district, will pay an extra $125 per year in school taxes. The district is using about $3.2 million of its $4.46 million fund balance to balance the budget. “I take no comfort in stepping back from the rest of the board and not supporting the budget,” Mr. Donato said. He said the reason for his dissent was because of three major points. He disagrees with the number of administrators employed by the district, as well as the district having its own vocational education programming and a busing contract that he believes should be renegotiated with better terms.

“The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) generally prohibits schools from relinquishing student records with personally identifiable information to outside entities without written consent from a parent or guardian of any student under the age of 18 or the student if they are 18 or older.”
Bensalem public safety director seeks access to student records
Intelligencer By Chris English and  Thomas Friestad  Posted Jul 5, 2018 at 4:39 PM
Fred Harran and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s legislative team have been investigating possible changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which in most cases prohibits schools from sharing student records without prior consent, as a measure to combat the recent influx in school shootings. The public safety director of Bucks’ largest municipality believes local police could be better equipped to stop school shootings if federal law granted them easier access to student information. Fred Harran said he would like to further open the lines of communication between Bensalem school officials and police about troubled students, and potentially gain access to those students’ health and disciplinary records. “Often, as you hear around the nation, media reports after the event, ‘We should’ve known. He was on the radar,’” Harran said at a recent council meeting. Bensalem Township School District Superintendent Samuel Lee said school officials share Harran’s concerns about student safety, but also want to make sure they follow the law regarding privacy of student information. “We only share what we’re allowed to share and only when we’re allowed to share it,” Lee said. “We communicate with Director Harran often about safety and security, and don’t talk about student information unless there is a specific reason. There can be some tension between education and law enforcement. I speak with Director Harran a lot, and we see things sometimes from different perspectives.”

Racial Stereotypes Influence Teacher Perceptions of Parental Involvement in Children’s Education
Journal of Blacks in Higher Education Filed in Research & Studies on July 2, 2018
A new study by researchers at New York University and the University of Pennsylvania finds that school teachers believe that mothers and fathers of immigrant or minority students are less involved in their children’s education. The authors believe that such perspectives hamper the academic trajectory of those students, leading to lower grades and fewer recommendations for academic honors. “We know from prior work that parents from different racial/ethnic and immigrant backgrounds have different levels of involvement,” said Hua-Ya Sebastain Cherng, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor of international education at New York University. “But in this study, we show that regardless of parents’ level of involvement, teachers perceive that certain parents are more involved than others, and in ways that suggest the power of racial stereotypes.” The authors explain that two students whose academic potential look nearly identical on paper actually diverged in reality if their teacher viewed their parents’ involvement differently. Students whose parents were considered less involved had lower grades and less of a chance of being recommended for academic honors like Advanced Placement courses.

“Threatening to leave kids back can boost test scores as it gets some of the lowest performing students to leave the school.  Even for students who don’t leave the school, getting left back will boost test scores since the students will get higher test scores after getting an extra year to prepare for the tests.”
Success Academy left back (at least) 1/6 of their first cohort
Gary Rubenstein’s Blog Posted on July 5, 2018by garyrubinstein
Out of 73 students who began Success Academy in 2006, the first group of graduates crossed the stage a few weeks ago.  The fact that there were only 16 graduates was something that even the pro-Success New York Daily News felt inclined to write an editorial entitled ‘Student success*: In praise of a charter school’s graduates, with one caveat’ which at least draws attention to this issue, though they do try to minimize it.  Success Academy recently responded to these concerns on their own blog in a post called ‘Doing the Math on Success Academy’s First Graduating Class’  While defending themselves they, ironically, revealed some information that is even more controversial.

Big-name charter school backers donate to key governor races
Inquirer by SALLY HO, The Associated Press Updated: JULY 5, 2018 — 6:24 PM EDT
Prominent charter school supporters are dishing out campaign money, as key gubernatorial races in several states have now begun in earnest. June primary contests set up a number of state battles for governor in the midterm elections this November, with both Democratic and Republican candidates that could change how public resources flow into charter and private schools in the coming years. Last week, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs donated $29,200 each - the maximum amount - to Democrat Gavin Newsom's campaign for California governor. It's a sign that the potent charter forces in Golden State politics are pivoting toward the state's lieutenant governor, who is widely considered a shoo-in to beat Republican businessman John Cox. Many of the billionaire philanthropists who want to reshape America's struggling school systems believe that charters - which are privately run but publicly funded schools - help breed better and different ways to educate students who struggle in traditional public schools, especially poor and minority children. Some also support allowing tax dollars to fund vouchers for families that pick private schools, which don't have public oversight. Studies are mixed when considering how those programs result in academic gains.

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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