Thursday, August 9, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup August 9: New PA School Funding Lawsuit Filings

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New PA School Funding Lawsuit Filings is now live
Follow PA Schools Work on twitter: @PASchoolsWork
PA Schools Work continues the statewide movement to secure a brighter future for Pennsylvania by ensuring that every student has an opportunity to succeed. Our work builds on the achievements of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, which successfully pushed for bipartisan enactment of a fair funding formula in 2016. In 2018, many of the Campaign’s partners formed PA Schools Work, because when Pennsylvania’s schools work, they create thriving communities and launch successful students–but only when adequately and equitably funded. PA Schools Work unites organizations representing Pennsylvanians from across the state: teachers, school administrators, school board members, and parents; urban, suburban and rural schools; community organizations; and advocates for children.

“Only new money added each year to the basic education fund is disbursed through the fair funding formula. Approximately $550 million has been allocated throughout the state through the fair funding formula since 2015-16, which is less than 10 percent of the total basic education fund. Scarnati says the six petitioning school districts have received increases in their state funding due to the funding formula by 9 to 17 percent, which is not “illusory or miniscule” as the petitioners claim. However, in their initial response to the mootness claim filed in July the petitioners argued that schools have lost $155 million in classroom expenses due to mandated expenditures like those for pensions that are far outpacing the increases to education funding and Ready to Learn block grants.”
State leaders respond to ‘moot’ claim in education funding lawsuit
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin, on Twitter POSTED: 08/08/18, 8:09 PM EDT
Republican President Pro-Tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate Joe Scarnati, of Jefferson County, and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf submitted opposing briefs last week on the legal status of the school funding lawsuit filed against them and four other executive agencies and legislative officials. The two state leaders made their points in briefs submitted on Aug. 3 to the Commonwealth Court in arguing that the fair funding formula currently in use with the signing of Act 35 of 2016 remedies the previous funding regime used in 2014 that initially triggered the education funding lawsuit filed by lead petitioner William Penn School District. Scarnati filed an application in the nature of a motion to dismiss for mootness following a September 2017 decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordering the case to proceed in Commonwealth Court. Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson in May deferred ruling on mootness by ordering responses on the application from the parties. Petitioners filed an opposition to the application in July and the respondents are now responding to the opposition.

Public Interest Law Center Website August 2018
In a new brief in the landmark case challenging Pennsylvania’s system of school funding, Governor Wolf, a respondent in the case, rejected his fellow respondent Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati’s claim that the adoption of a school funding formula through the passage of Act 35 in 2016 renders the case moot. In his brief filed in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court on August 3 in William Penn et al. v. PA Dept. of Ed. et al., Governor Wolf confirmed that the fair funding formula has not solved the problem. “While Act 35 established a new, permanent school funding formula and had significant impact on the education funding scheme, unfortunately, as Petitioners’ brief highlights, much work remains to be done before Petitioners’ claims are no longer relevant or capable of adjudication. Indeed, Act 35’s fair funding formula is only as good as the amount of money behind it. Despite facing considerable head-winds in the General Assembly, the Governor has secured substantial additional funding for needy school districts. More funding is needed to ensure that our system of education is made equal to the promise of our children. In order to fairly and equitably fund all Pennsylvania public schools, especially those struggling and disadvantaged districts, the General Assembly must work with the Governor to increase overall education funding.” The brief was filed as a response to the petitioners’ July 6 Commonwealth Court filing, which also rebutted Senator Scarnati’s claim that the lawsuit is moot. In their filing, the petitioners, represented by the Public Interest Law Center and the Education Law Center, found that the spending gap between wealthy and poor school districts has widened since the lawsuit was filed, and that state funds available for classroom spending have declined.

PA Gov: Wolf Blasts Wagner in 2 New Ads
PoliticsPA Written by John Cole, Managing Editor August 8, 2018
It feels like the November campaign is in session. Both Guv candidates have new ads in a school setting while targeting their opponent on education funding. The issue is center stage in the race between Tom Wolf and Scott Wagner. Both candidates have accused the other of wanting to severely cut funds for public education. Both campaigns vehemently deny these claims. Wolf has supported increased state funding for public education; Wagner has argued for various spending cuts. Wolf supports a revision to the current funding formula which Democrats have long argued disadvantages low-income districts; Wagner has characterized the approach as a threat to redistribute existing funding from rural districts to urban ones.

York City schools prepare for influx of closed Thackston charter students
Lindsay C. VanAsdalan, York Dispatch Published 2:59 p.m. ET Aug. 8, 2018
As York City School District prepares to welcome hundreds of new students transferring from the recently closed Helen Thackston Charter School, the focus is on keeping class sizes down. The district had a potential for about 500 incoming students from the charter, which closed at the end of the 2017-18 school year following a legal battle over its incomplete audit reports. District spokeswoman Erin James estimated about 260 new students are expected for the high school and 75 for the eight K-8 schools.  But that number is subject to change, said board Vice President Michael Miller, based on factors such as families moving in and out of the city. "We don't want to jump the gun and start moving people around or coming to the board and asking for additional positions until we know what we actually have," said Superintendent Eric Holmes at the board's planning meeting on Monday, Aug. 6. The board approved 27 newly hired teachers and a social worker for the high school as well as other new staff hires at a special meeting before the planning meeting.  Board President Margie Orr said a certain amount of turnover is normal, but since the majority of Thackston students will be going to William Penn Senior High School, the district did have to hire more teachers and staff there. A total of eight new teachers will be starting at the high school this fall.

Deadline near to apply for non-voting student seat on the Philly school board
Activists hope the student chosen will be able to effectively represent the city’s diverse student population. The deadline will be Monday.
The notebook by Alyssa Biederman August 8 — 2:55 pm, 2018
The Philadelphia Public School District is still accepting applications for a non-voting student member of the new Board of Education. Applicants must be in 11th or 12th grade for the 2018-19 school year in either a District or charter school, have a GPA above 2.5, and be actively involved in their school. “We’re looking for students who are involved in their school communities and who won’t be shy about voicing their opinions to the Board,” Megan Lello, a District spokesperson, wrote in an email. Mello was not able to provide the number of applications the District has received, but noted that they are still looking for more. Student leaders in Youth United for Change said they hope a student member would be vetted and trained to understand the needs of students outside of their school or experience. “We were hoping there would be some kind of training before someone is supposed to represent the entire student body,” said Aubre Taylor, a Central student and YUC member. “You need to be aware of how different schools operate and what happens in different neighborhoods.”

Pa.'s highest-paid school superintendents take home more than $300K. Here are the top 10.
Rick Lee, York Daily Record Published 8:24 a.m. ET Aug. 8, 2018 | Updated 10:07 a.m. ET Aug. 8, 2018
Pennsylvania's top-paid public school administrator makes almost $320,000 a year to oversee a district with less than 8,000 students.  No. 2 on the list is the head of the Philadelphia City School District, which numbers about 200,000 students. That administrator makes just under $312,000 a year. Another five administrators carry base salaries ranging from $250,000 to almost $299,000. All seven of those school districts are in the southeast corner of the state, in Philadelphia or the city's suburbs.  Seven of the districts with the 10 highest paid administrators also are ranked among the top 40 best school districts in Pennsylvania.

Elizabeth Forward school board hires armed security guards
POST-GAZETTE AUG 8, 2018 11:18 PM
The Elizabeth Forward school board voted Wednesday to hire four armed security guards and place one in each of the district's school buildings. "Each school building in the district will now have a professional, trained and highly qualified officer to provide an additional layer of security for students, faculty, and staff," the district said in a news release after the board meeting. The officers are three retired Pennsylvania State Police troopers and a retired Pittsburgh officer, the district said. "Each security officer has more than 20 years of police experience, is ACT 235 certified and will be easily identified in a school-issued police uniform,'' the district said. “As superintendent, it’s my No. 1 goal to keep our students and staff safe in an environment that is equally safe,” said superintendent Todd Keruskin. “These highly qualified and trained officers will add another layer of security to our school buildings, while becoming highly visible and active members of our school community.” The district also plans to retain Officer Chris McBride, the district school resource officer from the Elizabeth Township Police Department.

Sex-ed class revelations jolt Delco school board
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Staff Writer  @Kathy_Boccella | Updated: AUGUST 9, 2018 — 5:00 AM EDT
A 17-year-old jolted the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District last month when she told the school board that a nearby faith-based crisis pregnancy center had been invited to her health class, saying that it offered medically inaccurate information, exaggerated the dangers of sex, and offered a Bible to a girl who stayed after class. The allegations by Strath Haven High School senior Abby McElroy against the Drexel Hill-based Amnion Pregnancy Center shot through the 3,500-student Delaware County district, causing more than 500 people to sign a petition against the center’s future participation and Superintendent Lisa Palmer to issue a public statement that “we will thoroughly investigate.” School board members “were horrified – none of them had any idea that this was going on,” said McElroy, who showed up at their July meeting with a poster board copied from Amnion’s presentation, titled “The Steep Slope of Arousal.” The poster showed two stick figures holding hands at the edge of cliff – part of Amnion’s RealEd “relationship education” program that contends that even hand-holding, hugging, and kissing can cause teens to fall into the abyss and crash on the rocks of sexual activity.

U.S. students continue to lag in foreign language study
TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, 10:03 a.m.
With the start of a new school year just around the corner, a new post on the Pew Research Center’s Fact Tank shows how exceptional K-12 education in the U.S. ranks in the world of bilingualism. It’s not good. While discussions of STEM education have dominated the public conversation here, students throughout Europe have been been studying a second language. According to the Fact Tank, the most recent numbers show a median of 92 percent of students throughout Europe learns at least one second language in school. The most common foreign language is English. In countries such as Bulgaria, Estonia and Hungary, more than 4 out of 5 students learn a foreign language. In France, foreign language is a universal requirement. The exact opposite holds true in the U.S. where the 2017 National K-12 Foreign Language Enrollment Survey found about 20 percent of U.S. students studied a foreign language. At least Pennsylvania didn’t fall to the bottom of that list. The survey found 19.94 percent of the state’s 2 million K-12 students study a foreign language.

“And Roosevelt joins just five other districts that raised their hands to join the pilot in the 2018-19 school year. They are: California's Wilsona School District, Oregon's Salem-Keizer School District 24J, Pennsylvania's Upper Adams School District, Indianapolis, and Puerto Rico's island-wide school district.  So far, none of the school districts that applied for the flexibility in the 2018-19 school year are planning to use the pilot to create a school choice program, with the possible exception of Puerto Rico. (We've asked Roosevelt how it plans to use the pilot and will update this story if we hear back.)”
Just One District Seeks ESSA's Weighted Student Funding Pilot for 2019-20
By Alyson Klein on August 8, 2018 1:14 PM
It doesn't look like new flexibility offered by the Every Student Succeeds Act is turning out to be the bonanza for school choice that some supporters were hoping.  U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and other school choice fans were excited about the potential of a new pilot program in ESSA that allows districts to combine federal, state, and local dollars into a single funding stream tied to individual students. English-language learners, children in poverty, and students in special education—who cost more to educate—would carry with them more money than other students. The program could be used to help districts set up public school choice programs, although that's not a must. Still, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute published an analysis last year by Matthew Joseph, of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, exploring how the pilot could be used as a vehicle for choice. And Jason Botel, who is the acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education, gave the pilot a high-profile shout-out early in his tenure. So far, though, there haven't been many takers. The law allows up to 50 districts to participate in the first few years of the pilot, with the possibility of more joining in down the road if things are running smoothly. But only one district—Arizona's Roosevelt School District #66—has applied to use the flexibility in the 2019-20 school year by a July 15 deadilne.

The Saga of Ohio's Embattled E-School Is Coming to an End
Education Week By Benjamin Herold August 8, 2018
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled against the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow on Wednesday, upholding lower court rulings allowing the state department of education to seek repayment of tens of millions of dollars from Ohio’s largest full-time online charter school after it was unable to verify its claims of student enrollment. The 4-2 decision in favor of the state education department likely signals the final end of ECOT, which once claimed 15,000 students, but closed in the middle of last school year. It also lends fresh legitimacy to Ohio’s move to use software-login records as a way to track student enrollment and attendance in full-time online schools, an ongoing challenge for the sector. “We determine that [the state’s charter-school funding law] is unambiguous and authorizes ODE to require an e-school to provide data of the duration of a student’s participation to substantiate that school’s funding,” Justice Patrick Fischer wrote for the court’s majority. For years, ECOT officials argued unsuccessfully that the state’s requirement that e-schools provide login data represented an illegal and unfair change of the rules. Lawyers for the school also contended that to receive funding, state law only required that e-schools offer learning opportunities to their students—not that students actually participate in online classes.

An Open Secret: The Problems with Virtual Schools
National Education Policy Center Newsletter July 31, 2018
News media accounts and NEPC research have exposed numerous problems with virtual schools. Yet new schools and new enrollment continue unabated.

“Now that August recess has begun, please review the final NSBA Congressional Recess and Grassroots Engagement Guide with additional updates. This guide has been developed to provide you and your members with background information on key issues from NSBA's Advocacy Agenda impacting public education during this session of Congress, suggested talking points and tips to help prepare for meetings with legislators and their staff, as well as grassroots activities and social media engagement techniques to elevate the conversation around public education. Further, it includes resources to use during the upcoming midterm elections.”
NSBA Congressional Recess and Grassroots Engagement Guide
National School Boards Association Summer 2018
Working with and through your respective state school boards association, your engagement at the community and grassroots level is crucial to ensuring that the best interests of our local school boards, students and public education are represented in federal legislation, administrative policies and agency regulations. During the summer Congressional recess, your federal legislators will be in their states and home districts, working in the community with constituents. This is the perfect time to get to know your legislators and their staff by contacting and informing them about your legislative priorities, many of which will be covered in this recess guide. As a school board member and/or public education advocate, you are an influential member of your community; and are well placed to advocate for the interests of our nation’s school districts and fifty million public schoolchildren. This guide has been developed to provide you with background information on key issues from the NSBA Advocacy Agenda impacting public education during this session of Congress, suggested talking points and tips to help you prepare for meetings with your legislators and their staff, as well as grassroots activities and social media engagement techniques you can use to elevate the conversation around public education.

PSBA Officer Elections: Slate of Candidates
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than June 1, 2018, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 17 at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person's name with an asterisk (*). Voting procedure: Each school entity will have one vote for each officer. This will require boards of the various school entities to come to a consensus on each candidate and cast their vote electronically during the open voting period (Aug. 24-Oct. 11, 2018). Voting will be accomplished through a secure third-party, web-based voting site that will require a password login. One person from each member school entity will be authorized as the official person to register the vote on behalf of his or her school entity. In the case of school districts, it will be the board secretary who will cast votes on behalf of the school board. A full packet of instructions and a printed slate will be sent to authorized vote registrars the week of August 7. Special note: Boards should be sure to add discussion and voting on candidates to their agenda during one of their meetings in August, September or October before the open voting period ends.

Become a PSBA Advocacy Ambassador
PSBA Website July 18, 2018
PSBA is seeking applications for three open Advocacy Ambassador positions. This is a part-time, 9-month (September 2018-May 2019) independent contractor position with a monthly stipend and potential renewal for a second year. The individuals should have previous experience in day-to-day functions of a school district — on the school board or in a school leadership position. The purpose of the PSBA Advocacy Ambassador program is to facilitate the education and engagement of local school directors and public education stakeholders. Each Advocacy Ambassador will be an active leader in an assigned section of the state and is kept up to date on current legislation and PSBA positions based on the association’s Legislative Platform and Priority Issues to accomplish advocacy goals.  The current open positions are for PSBA Section 1; Sections 3 and 4; and Section 8.  (see map).  Advocacy Ambassadors are independent contractors who serve as liaisons between PSBA and their state legislators, and who also work with local school officials in their section to advance PSBA’s public education advocacy mission. To complete the application process and upload required documents go to PSBA’s Career Gateway to create an account and apply. Career Gateway questions can be directed to Michelle Kunkel at 717-506-2450, x-3365.  Questions and information regarding the specific duties of the Advocacy Ambassador position should be directed to Jamie Zuvich at 717-506-2450, x-3375. The deadline to submit cover letter, resume and application is August 10, 2018.
All other required documents must be submitted upon successful application.

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

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!

“Not only do we have a superstar lineup of keynote speakers including Diane Ravitch, Jesse Hagopian, Pasi Sahlberg, Derrick Johnson and Helen Gym, but there will be countless sessions to choose from on the issues you care about the most. We will cover all bases from testing, charters, vouchers and school funding, to issues of student privacy and social justice in schools.”
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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