Thursday, November 1, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup November 1: More than half of Pa. districts have no teachers of color

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More than half of Pa. districts have no teachers of color

“According to a new report by the Education Law Center and the statewide coalition PA Schools Work, spending on special education has risen among the state’s 500 school districts. But the study says state funding has failed to keep up with rising costs, creating an ever-widening funding gap. Spending across the commonwealth on special education increased 51 percent to $4,545,979,595 between 2008-09 and 2016-17. Meanwhile, the state’s share rose 7 percent to $1,041,792,660, over the same period, according to a Morning Call analysis of the study’s data.”
SPECIAL REPORT: As costs skyrocket, Pennsylvania's share of special education funding has fallen
Sarah M. Wojcik and Eugene Tauber Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call October 29, 2018
Griffin Farrell sits in an East Hills Middle School eighth-grade class learning equations alongside his peers. It’s something the 14-year-old with Down syndrome has done since kindergarten. Griffin’s brothers go to Catholic school. But his mother, Dena Farrell, said the Bethlehem Area School District has the best resources to work with her son’s unique learning needs and allow him to be part of a regular classroom. “It’s been nothing but a positive experience. We’ve always wanted to do this as a team,” Farrell said, referring to the district’s special education program. “And they do everything as a team.” Griffin’s inclusive curriculum has become standard for many special education students. At the same time, it has become costlier for districts to provide.

The gap between student and teacher demographics in Pennsylvania is among the highest in the country.
The notebook by Lijia Liu and Dale Mezzacappa October 30 — 2:18 pm, 2018
More than 60 years after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, an analysis of state data shows persistently stark racial disparities in the demographics of Pennsylvania’s teachers and students  — among the widest gaps in the country. Just 5.6 percent of Pennsylvania’s teachers are persons of color, compared to 33.1 percent of its students. The data also show that 55 percent of the state’s public schools and 38 percent of its school districts employed only white teachers. Among the districts in the Philadelphia suburbs, more than half have no black teachers. Nearly three in four of the state’s black teachers — 72 percent — work in Philadelphia and Allegheny County, where 54 percent of the state’s black students attend. But these two counties, too, have racial disparities — 40 percent of the students are black, compared to 14 percent of the teachers. These numbers are based on information provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for the 2016-17 school year. The nonprofit organization Research for Action(RFA) created a data set containing the racial breakdown of teachers and students in every school, district, and county in Pennsylvania, as well as summary statistics for the entire state. RFA also published a brief of the main findings to accompany the new data.

It’s not just Trump: Education a big issue in 2018. ‘No candidate wants to be seen as stingy’
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: 57 minutes ago
Hot-button issues like immigration and guns might be commanding more attention, but in Pennsylvania and around the country, education has become a major player in state elections. From Arizona and Oklahoma to Florida and Maryland, candidates for governor across party lines have been committing to steer more money toward schools and, in a number of states, pledging to boost teacher paychecks — elevating a lower-profile issue into a campaign-trail talking point. Gubernatorial campaigns always feature "sort of a litany of issues — create jobs, improve the state's economy, educate our kids. But this time, it really is more top of mind, and I think more pivotal in a number of races," said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor who tracks governors' races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Midstate school district becomes first in Pa. to allow armed teachers
WITF Written by Avi Wolfman-Arent/WHYY | Oct 29, 2018 6:42 PM
A Schuylkill County school district recently, and rather quietly, became Pennsylvania's first to pass a policy permitting teachers to carry guns in schools. But a backlash has since developed, setting up a showdown over the place of guns in Pennsylvania schools that could set statewide precedent. In September, the Tamaqua Area School District revised a policy to explicitly allow "administrators, teachers, or other employees" to have guns on school district property, so long as they meet certain training and certification requirements. Although the policy itself says little about implementation, school board member Nicholas Boyle said he and others envision a program where, at any given time, about three unidentified staffers in each school carry concealed weapons. Boyle thinks the initiative would give schools in this largely rural district a better chance of fighting off an attacker, while also acting as a deterrent.

How Pittsburgh-area classrooms are addressing Squirrel Hill massacre with students
OCT 29, 2018 7:58 PM
David Brown had planned all along to return to work on Monday after spending several weeks on leave to care for his newborn daughter, Avery Elizabeth, named for his late grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. But his first day back Monday took on added significance for the Woodland Hills High School teacher, who leads classes on world cultures and the Holocaust, after the mass shooting Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue, the same building where his parents worship in a separate congregation. He and his family live in Squirrel Hill. He grew up there. He returned, in large part, because of its cultural identity. And so on Monday, Mr. Brown embraced the doleful task of explaining to his students that anti-semitism festers beyond their history books and that people in their own community have been gunned down in 2018 – in a neighborhood many of them recognized for its diversity – apparently because of their faith.

Pittsburgh shootings a reminder: state gun laws matter | Editorial
The Inquirer Editorial Board Posted: October 29, 2018 - 6:00 PM
This one hit close to home. The Pittsburgh shooting that left 11 Jewish worshippers dead occurred in our sister big city — a member of the family. Since the modern era of mass shootings, we've come to expect similar responses to each one:  despair, numbness, and surprise that once again, nothing is different, that nothing has changed. Unfortunately, Saturday's shooting comes at a point where things have changed – for the worse. The divides among us, the anger and fear that is often encouraged – explicitly and implicitly — by our leaders,  including the president, have grown deeper.   As "the other" is seen as a threat, we are being trained to suspect one another.   Outrageous theories are given credence and not shoved back into a dark hole where they belong. In an armed nation, that's going to have dire consequences. Some voices of reason said in response to the weekend shooting,  "This isn't who we are,"  and that expecting armed guards in places of worship "isn't America." But it is who we are.  It is America.  In fact, it's only America. It's also Pennsylvania. This weekend is a tragic reminder of why state gun laws matter.    The Pennsylvania state legislature has routinely killed efforts at reasonable gun control, prohibiting municipalities to make their own laws and supporting the right for the NRA to sue cities. The legislature recently had a chance to pass three major gun laws.  It managed only one — making it easier to require violent domestic abusers to surrender their guns.

Small but real steps: Time for reason on gun safety
It is long past time for rational action on gun laws in America
THE EDITORIAL BOARD Pittsburgh Post-Gazette NOV 1, 2018  6:00 AM
Robert Bowers, the alleged assailant in the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, had 21 firearms registered to his name, including the rifle and the three handguns used in the attack. Mr. Bowers got his guns legally and there was little warning that he was someone who might snap, and hence no legal reason to deny him his guns. And there is little doubt that anyone determined to do harm can get a gun in this country, somehow and easily. Or he can use a knife, a car or a van. It is impossible to anticipate every act of hate or violence and very hard to prevent a determined hater who wants to kill. That said, it is indisputable that there is an epidemic of gun violence in our land. We make it easy for haters and killers by making guns so abundant and readily available. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of annual firearm homicides is nearly 13,000.  Many thousands more are injured in non-fatal shootings each year. But the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensures “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms,” and the Supreme Court has ruled that it means what it seems to say. All gun laws must be subservient to the Second Amendment. It is as real as the First.
But no right is absolute, or infinitely applicable.

Wolf, Casey maintain big leads in new F&M Poll
Penn Live By Ron Southwick | Updated Oct 31, 3:44 PM; Posted 6:00 AM
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf holds a 26-point lead over Republican challenger Scott Walker among likely voters, according to the new Franklin & Marshall College poll. In Pennsylvania’s other key statewide contest, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., also holds a big edge over U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, the F&M Poll found. Among likely voters, Casey leads his Republican challenger by 15 percentage points, according to the poll. Both Wolf and Casey have consistently held double-digit leads in independent polls for months. G. Terry Madonna, director of the F&M Poll, didn’t discount the possibility that Wagner and Barletta could close the gap in their races if the Republican base gets more fired up. “The Republicans can do better,” Madonna said. "The real question is: How much better?” Voters are motivated by President Donald Trump, one way or the other. Most Democrats say they are casting their ballots as a vote against Trump, while Republicans say supporting the president’s agenda is a primary factor in backing the GOP’s candidates, the poll found. Here’s a quick look at the F&M Poll’s key findings. The poll was released Thursday morning.

Read the Latest F&M Poll Results
The October 2018 Franklin & Marshall College Poll finds that nearly three in four (71%) of the state’s registered voters are “very interested” in the 2018 elections, an increase of ten points since our September survey. At the moment, similar proportions of Republicans (75%) and Democrats (73%) say they are “very interested” in the election which is a change from our September survey when more Democrats (64%) than Republicans (58%) or independents (49%) were “very interested.”  Interest in the election is higher among all three groups than it was in August or September.  Voters’ evaluations of how well key political figures are doing their jobs have remained remarkably stable compared to prior surveys. About one in two (54%) registered voters in Pennsylvania believes Governor Wolf is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as governor. Two in five (43%) registered voters believe Senator Casey is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as the state’s US Senator. About one in three (36%) registered voters in Pennsylvania believes President Trump is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as president.

MAPS: See who is contributing to Pennsylvania governor and Senate races and how much
Steve Esack and Eugene TauberContact Reporters Of The Morning Call October 31, 2018
Polls have shown that the races for Pennsylvania governor and one U.S. Senate seat have not been competitively close for months. But polls aren’t the only way to judge how well a candidate is doing. Money — and who is contributing and how much — is another telltale sign. So what is the flow of money in the gubernatorial race — featuring Democratic incumbent Tom Wolf and his opponent Republican Scott Wagner — and the Senate race — featuring incumbent Democrat Bob Casey and his Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta? The Morning Call teamed up with National Institute on Money in Politics, a Helena, Mont., nonprofit, to offer a new visual way to gauge the candidates’ support.

A blue wave? These Pa. House races could show if it takes shape
Inquirer by Jonathan Tamari, Posted: October 31, 2018- 3:03 PM
If a Democratic wave takes shape on Election Night, some of the first warning signs could arrive in Harrisburg or Erie County, Pa. Democrats are targeting two solidly Republican districts in those areas, hoping that a surge could give them a chance in races well outside the typical swing districts. The party's best chance for a U.S. House majority still runs through suburbs like those around Philadelphia and other big cities. But their shot at a true wave could hinge on difficult exurban and rural races like these. The district around Harrisburg has given Republicans the most anxiety. Recent polls from the New York Times/Siena College and Susquehanna Polling and Research both found virtual ties between U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.) and his Democratic challenger, George Scott. "If Scott Perry loses, people better be battening down the hatches elsewhere. It's going to be a long, wet night," said Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist who lives in the district. One poll out this week even suggested a close contest between U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R., Pa.) and challenger Jess King in a Lancaster County-based district that President Trump won by nearly 26 percentage points. By contrast, another dark horse race in the Scranton area could send up a warning sign for Democrats, as Republicans hope to unseat U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright in a district that swung strongly toward Trump.

Even if a blue wave hits, Republican lawmakers favored to keep control in Harrisburg
Keystone Crossroads By Jim Saksa October 29, 2018
“Do you walk that slow?” Tina Davis is impatient. It’s cold and blustery on this Sunday morning in Levittown, but it’s not the weather that has her so eager to get going. Davis is a Democratic state representative challenging long-time incumbent Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson for the Pennsylvania 6th Senate District seat, and she’s the underdog. If she wants a shot at winning, Davis knows she needs to out-hustle her opponent. Incumbents usually have a big leg up on their challengers — more than 90 percent of state legislators win reelection. But registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in this part of Bucks County, and the district backed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016. Over the last few months, Democrats seem to be more motivated to vote in the upcoming midterms than Republicans, and have donated more money. While the enthusiasm and money gaps have narrowed in recent weeks, forecasters still expect a blue wave to sweep Democrats into control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Harrisburg, though, isn’t Washington D.C., and in Pennsylvania, operatives from both parties expect only a blue ripple to hit the General Assembly. No neutral observer thinks Democrats can retake either chamber of the state legislature this year.

Pa. bill would open major school-construction projects to competitive bidding
Inquirer by Gillian McGoldrick, Posted: October 31, 2018- 11:07 AM
Citing a 2010 study that shows schools across Pennsylvania wasted tens of millions in taxpayer dollars on roofing projects, a state legislator has introduced a bill to open major construction projects to competitive bidding. State Rep. Jesse Topper said his bill, now in the State Government Committee, would improve on so-called cooperative purchasing. That system is intended to save time and money on classroom and cafeteria supplies, but Topper said he's "not convinced" it's a money-saver on bigger projects such as roof repair or replacement. "Co-op purchasing has some things it can do for time factor and familiarity, but we need to balance a lot of that to ensure we're getting the best bang for our buck," said Topper, a Republican who represents parts of Bedford, Franklin, and Fulton Counties. By using cooperative purchasing instead of competitive bidding, school districts overspent by more than $100 million on school roofing projects from 2005 to 2010, according to an assessment by market research firm Ducker Worldwide commissioned by the Coalition for Procurement Reform.

Mandated: Fiscal pressures make nonmandated program cuts more tempting
By Joseph Cress The Sentinel Oct 29, 2018
About 67 percent of school districts statewide are in survival mode, according to Richard Fry, president of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and superintendent of Big Spring School District. Such districts tend to be driven by the strictest compliance of state testing requirements and the mandated curriculum standards of the core content areas, according to Fry. He said districts statewide have shed 22,000 teaching positions since the Great Recession of 2008. While Fry did not have statistics on the breakdown of lost positions by content area, he suspects a “substantial slice” of the job loss was in such nonmandated curriculum programs as art, business education, family/consumer science, music, technology education, library science and world languages. Districts statewide struggle with budget pressures brought on in part by rising health care costs and double-digit annual increases in their contributions to the Pennsylvania Public School Employee Retirement System.

Garnet Valley ready to kill off class rankings
By Susan L. Serbin Delco Times Correspondent Oct 29, 2018
CONCORD — Garnet Valley School District is taking every necessary step in researching, evaluating and consulting with stakeholders on the issue of class rank. In all probability, the process of identifying placement of each graduate will be a thing of the past for the Class of 2020. The decision is based on  all relevant factors amassed under the direction of high school Assistant Principal Greg Hilden and College and Career Guidance Counselor Mike Salladino. “Eliminating class rank has become the trend. Half the colleges in the country are not using rank in admissions decisions, but are looking at students in a more total way,” said School Board Director Tracy Karwaski at the October meeting. “We are among only a few local districts still with a ranking system.” The majority of the county’s districts have dropped class rank; beyond that the practice is taking hold nationwide. According to a posting on website, “Due to the tremendous differences in curricula and grading standards at different high schools, many admission officers (especially at selective private colleges) have begun to discount the accuracy and importance of class rank as a factor in evaluating students. Some colleges that used to rely on class rank now use SAT® scores and GPA.

Teachers swarm midterms as school funding given a failing grade
Trib Libe by JOSH EIDELSON, BLOOMBERG NEWS | Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, 10:24 a.m.
WASHINGTON — When teachers in several U.S. states walked out of their classrooms this year to protest stagnant pay and school funding, they struck a chord with the public. Now they’re battling to turn that sympathy into gains at the ballot box — and Democrats are hoping that a wave of teacher candidates will help them flip control of statehouses and governorships. More than 1,400 current or former education workers are contesting state seats in Nov. 6 elections, according to the National Education Association, the largest U.S. union. More than 1,000 of them are Democrats — accounting for 19 percent of the party’s candidates in state elections.

Laura Chapman: The Deluge of Cash Flowing Into the Charter School Industry
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch October 30, 2018 //
Laura Chapman, tireless researcher, did a cursory scan of the abundance of billionaire cash flowing into charter schools, enhanced by another $400 million from the U.S. Department of Education. There are literally dozens more foundations and organizations pouring money into the charter industry, such as Reed Hastings (Netflix), Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, John Arnold (ex-Enron), Michael Dell (computers), the Fisher Family (Old Navy, the Gap), and many more. Why is the U.S. Department of Education pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into this well-funded industry? Betsy DeVos recently handed out $399 million to jump-start new charter schools, even in districts and states where there is no demand. Next year, Congress has allotted $450 million for charters, whether they are wanted or not. What is clear from Laura’s review is that charter schools are not in need of funding. They are in need of accountability, transpency, stability, supervision, regulation, and integrity.

Chicago Teachers Just Voted 98% to Authorize the First Charter School Strike in U.S. History
In These Times BY REBECCA BURNS TUESDAY, OCT 30, 2018, 5:47 PM
On Tuesday, teachers at 15 Chicago charter schools voted 98 percent to authorize a strike as they continue to bargain a contract with Acero Schools, the largest unionized charter network in the city. On Friday, four locations of the Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS) will take a strike authorization vote. And teachers at nine other Chicago charter networks are also in contract negotiations, and could similarly opt to take strikes votes in the coming months.  If no agreement is reached, Chicago could be home to the nation’s first-ever charter strike. Teachers have been inching closer to this possibility for the past two years, during which time eleventh-hour deals have narrowly averted strikes against at least three other charter operators. That’s a stunning reversal from 2012, when Chicago charter operators bragged that, unlike unionized public schools, charters were unaffected by teacher strikes.

Betsy DeVos Shifts School Choice, Privacy Offices at Education Department
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on October 30, 2018 3:26 PM
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her team are moving forward with parts of a department-wide reorganization proposal unveiled earlier this year, including elevating the office charged with helping to advocate for the private school community within the federal bureaucracy, and changing the way privacy policy is handled. The office of nonpublic education, which was previously part of the soon-to-be-defunct office of innovation and improvement, will now report directly to the office of the secretary. DeVos is a longtime advocate for vouchers, tax credit scholarships, and other forms of private school choice. That move and other reorganization changes were first reported by Politico.

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