Wednesday, December 5, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec. 5, 2018 Nation's First Charter School Strike Begins in Chicago

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Nation's First Charter School Strike Begins in Chicago

“Benjamin Franklin was America’s first great newspaperman and one of the greatest champions of a free press and free speech. “When this support is taken away,” he wrote, “the constitution of a free society is dissolved.”When you lead the University of Pennsylvania, which Benjamin Franklin founded, open expression is not some abstraction. It’s the bedrock of all that we do. Diverse and unexpected ideas are as foundational to Penn as they are to the survival of a free society.”
For democracy to flourish, we must fight the assault on free press | Opinion
Inquirer Opinion Amy Gutmann Updated: December 4, 2018 - 10:13 AM
Amy Gutmann is president of the University of Pennsylvania. This piece is adapted from remarks she gave on Nov. 28 as a recipient of the Inquirer’s Industry Icon Award.
On October 2, a journalist entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. He was an outspoken critic of the Saudi government and wrote for The Washington Post. Once those consulate doors closed, he never came back out. Government officials of several countries, and most recently the CIA, believe he was murdered on orders from the Saudi crown prince. Today, around the world, a free and robust press is under assault. Journalists face jail time, or worse. Online forums are censored. News organizations are dubbed “enemies of the people” and fact-based reporting is smeared as fake news. I am a moral and political philosopher and an educator, by passion as well as profession. I have devoted my life’s work to better understanding – and strengthening – the groundwork of both American democracy and education. For any democracy to survive and flourish, no single principle is more fundamental than the free and robust exchange of ideas – especially when we disagree. Unhindered press, transformative higher education, engaged civic and business leaders: These are lynchpins for open and free expression in American society. These stand proudly as the pillars of a free world.

PSBA: Safe2Say Something Program update
PSBA Website December 4, 2018
In accordance with Act 44 of 2018, the Office of the Attorney General’s Safe2Say Something Program has launched its training for school entities and 911 emergency dispatch centers to be trained on the new Safe2Say Something application, which will be fully implemented January 14, 2019. Each designated school entity lead should have received a training schedule, information and registration link to register their team for training at any one of several locations over the next few weeks. School entity leads should be providing information and updates to their school administration and boards following the training sessions. For questions regarding the program and training registration information, please contact: A Frequently Asked Questions document has also been prepared by the Office of the Attorney General for additional information regarding the program. An overview of the Safe2Say Something Program is available to members by watching the recorded School Safety Update webcast in the Online Learning section of myPSBA.

“More and more charter school teachers nationwide are unionizing, about two decades since the first charter schools opened. Teachers with Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School unionized through the Pennsylvania State Education Association in 2014. Teachers with Agora Cyber Charter School also formed a union in 2016. The PSEA, the state’s largest teachers union, also represents teachers at Young Scholars of Western PA Charter School in Baldwin.  The move marks a significant change in direction for the teachers unions, who for years have criticized some charter schools and charter networks as a financial drain and poor alternative to traditional public schools. “
Environmental Charter teachers join other charter school educators in call for union representation
ELIZABETH BEHRMAN  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette DEC 5, 2018 6:44 AM
By the end of the month, the teachers at Environmental Charter School could be among a small but growing number of charter school educators across the country to unionize. About 80 percent of Environmental Charter School’s teachers and staff voted in favor of forming a collective bargaining unit through the American Federation of Teachers in early November, said Jordan Jones, a teacher at the school and one of the organizers of the effort. The teachers met and discussed the move with school administrators before the school’s board of directors denied their petition Nov. 29. The teachers submitted their case to the NLRB last week, and hope for a card vote by winter break, Mr. Jones said.  “The vision behind this is that we really, I think, as teachers, desire to partner and collaborate with school leadership in a more meaningful way,” Mr. Jones said. “I think that it may not be guaranteed as the school grows, and I think we saw this as a step to guarantee that the infrastructure would be in place to allow teachers to have a seat at the table.”

Upper Darby teachers reject contract, rally at school board
Delco Times By Kevin Tustin  December 5, 2018
UPPER DARBY — After rejecting a tentative contract agreement Monday, members of the Upper Darby Education Association came to the school board meeting Tuesday night with a roar. Hundreds in the unionized force – which includes teachers, nurses, counselors and other professional staff - entered the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center carrying picket signs and chanted about wanting a new contract that provides almost 1,000 district professionals with better wages, working conditions and benefits. Union members have been without out a contract since July 1, 2018 and a first vote on a tentative agreement that was presented to the union on Monday failed; 80 percent of the members rejected it.

Upper Darby teachers overwhelmingly reject contract offer, plan protest
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Updated: December 4, 2018- 5:35 PM
A simmering dispute over whether teachers in the Upper Darby School District are underpaid boiled over as union members in Delaware County's largest school system overwhelmingly rejected a tentative contract offer on Monday and made plans to stage a protest at Tuesday night's scheduled board meeting. Just over 80 percent of Upper Darby Education Association members voted to reject the board's latest proposal, which would have boosted teacher pay by a total of almost 3 percent over the next four years – not nearly enough, union leaders argued, to stop the flight of the most highly trained educators to affluent nearby districts. Zeek Weil, a regional leader with the umbrella Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), said teachers who voted against the offer are unhappy that the Upper Darby district – which recently said higher-than-expected turnover had netted more than $4 million in savings – isn't proposing to invest that windfall in better pay and benefits to keep them. "A lot of teachers come to Upper Darby, get their master's degree, and move to another place," Weil said in the wake of Monday's rejection. "From the district's perspective, it's a real challenge."

Help wanted: Teachers for Philly district, charter and private schools
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Updated: December 4, 2018- 4:46 PM
Want to teach in Philadelphia? A new website will make it easier to find a job in hundreds of city schools. Launched Tuesday and backed by Mayor Kenney and Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., TeachPHL lists open educational positions in traditional public, charter, and private schools across the city. It’s a rare step for Philadelphia, where there have traditionally been sharp divisions among the sectors. Connecting prospective teachers to open jobs is a central aim, said Mark Gleason, executive director of the Philadelphia School Partnership, which organized and bankrolled the website. But more important is selling Philadelphia as a destination for educators.

Philadelphia launches website aimed at attracting new teachers — and keeping them
WHYY By Sara Hoover December 5, 2018  Listen 1:03
An education nonprofit has launched a website to help recruit teachers — and retain them — in Philadelphia. To help make it easier to find teaching jobs, the Philadelphia School Partnership created, which has a job board for any teaching position in the city — whether it’s at a traditional public, charter, private or parochial school. Potential teachers who want to work in the City of Brotherly Love will no longer have to go from one school website to the next to look for job postings. During a Tuesday ceremony in the Mayor’s Reception Room in City Hall, Philadelphia School District Superintendent William Hite said he wants the city to be a destination for educators.

“The report was compiled as the result of new accounting rules that require municipal governments and school districts to disclose for the first time the value of corporate tax breaks they grant in the name of economic development. Among its findings: Schools in 28 states lost at least $1.8 billion over the last fiscal year as a result of corporate tax subsidies; School districts in 10 states, including Pennsylvania, collectively lost nearly $1.6 billion.”
Report: Phila. School District lost $62 million in revenue in 2017 to tax abatements
Inquirer by Claudia Vargas and Kristen A. Graham, Posted: December 4, 2018- 1:06 PM
Tax abatements and other tax breaks cost the School District of Philadelphia $62 million in 2017, according to a study released Monday. Good Jobs First, a think tank that monitors economic development subsidies, analyzed new abatement disclosure data from 5,600 school districts throughout the country and found that Philadelphia lost the second-highest amount of revenue. At the top of the list was the Hillsboro School District in the western suburbs of Portland, Ore., which lost $97 million in potential revenue to tax breaks last year. Lee Whack, spokesperson for the Philadelphia schools, said it was not possible to gauge the net impact of the incentives. "Do tax breaks result in increased activity with benefits that outweigh the value of those tax breaks?" he said. "The study doesn't answer that question."

“The School District of Philadelphia, which only last year regained control from state officials after climbing out of a deep fiscal crisis, lost the second most revenue at $62 million.”
Corporate tax breaks cost U.S. schools billions of lost revenue: report
Reuters by Hilary Russ December 4, 2018
 (Reuters) - Corporate tax subsidies, in the spotlight again after Inc’s (AMZN.O) secretive quest to find a site for its second headquarters, are costing American public schools big money, a report will say on Tuesday. In fiscal 2017, U.S. public schools lost $1.8 billion across 28 states through corporate tax incentives over which most schools themselves had little or no control. The 10 most affected states could hire more than 28,000 new teachers if they were able to use the lost revenues, according to a report to be released by Good Jobs First, a left-leaning Washington think tank. The report comes amid increased taxpayer scrutiny of such deals in the wake of Amazon’s nationwide, year-long search for its “HQ2” site.

Pennsylvania pressing schools to ensure special-ed students aren’t on their own
WHYY/Keystone Crossroads By Avi Wolfman-Arent December 4, 2018
After a pair of state investigations, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Special Education will send new guidelines to school districts across the state on how to identify and serve students who require surrogate parents to advocate for their special-education rights. The directive comes on the heels of complaints filed on behalf of two homeless students in Philadelphia who didn’t receive surrogates and ultimately failed to receive special-education accommodations. According to federal law, when special-education students don’t have guardians, school districts must assign them a surrogate who will fight for their legal rights and approve services the student will receive. Surrogates volunteer for the role and are typically substitute teachers or someone who has a relationship with the child.

Education answer lies in priority shift, not more funding
Williamsport Sun Gazette EDITORIALS DEC 5, 2018
The school and community leaders who met last week in a summit focused on funding for public schools got their message half correct. Mark DiRocco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators and leader of the summit, said both Pennsylvania and the nation are behind in funding and training of skilled laborers through career and technical schools. We could not agree more. For the past five decades, a four-year college education in some sort of professional field has gained the lion’s share of post-high school emphasis among education leaders and parents. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. Except that it does not fit the skill set of every youngster. For those proficient in mechanical and skilled labor, there has not been enough attention in terms of making lessons and training available to them. This area has a pretty strong technician career training setup, but that’s not the rule nationwide. A stronger focus on technical education is overdue. But the solution is not simply more state funding. This state already is in the top five in the nation in its per-pupil public school funding allocation. In our view, it’s unfair to say the state is shortchanging public schools with its education funding.

Unmarried teacher says Catholic school fired her over her pregnancy
Morning Call by Associated Press December 4, 2018
A Pennsylvania teacher who is pregnant said she was fired from her Catholic school job because the Harrisburg diocese was upset she wasn't married. Naiad Reich said she taught at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School in Edgewood for four years but was fired Friday after informing administrators she was expecting a child with her boyfriend. "I feel like I'm a rewriting of 'The Scarlet Letter' at this point, just minus the affair," Reich, 31, said. She was told she was fired because she had no immediate plans to marry, the News-Item reported . Reich said she and her longtime boyfriend made the decision to start a family and planned the pregnancy. Reich informed school administrator Sister Mary Anne Bednar earlier that week. "She said it would be a problem, and she had to contact the diocese," Reich said.  Bednar did not respond to requests for comment. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg said in a statement that it does not comment on personnel matters for legal reasons.  Reich said the diocese's website lists "immorality" as a cause for dismissal and said it was the reason for her firing.

Nation’s First Teachers’ Strike at Charter Network Begins in Chicago
New York Times By Dana Goldstein Dec. 4, 2018
Over 500 educators in Chicago began the nation’s first strike at a charter school network on Tuesday, shutting down 15 schools serving more than 7,000 children. Teachers for the Acero Schools network rallied at local schools to call for higher pay and smaller class sizes, among other demands. The action is the latest mass teacher protest in a year when educators have closed ranks in places where organized labor has historically been weak — first in six conservative or swing states where teachers walked out of classrooms, and now in the charter school sector, where unionization is sparse. All of the picket lines have formed out of a dispute over public dollars — whether education funding is adequate, and what percentage of the money should go toward educator pay and classroom resources versus other costs.

The Nation's First Charter School Strike Has Begun in Chicago
Education Week Teacher Beat By Madeline Will on December 4, 2018 12:20 PM
In the country's first-ever charter teachers' strike, hundreds of educators in Chicago's Acero charter school network have walked out of their classrooms and onto the picket lines Tuesday morning. The 15 schools across the charter network have canceled classes as more than 500 teachers, paraprofessionals, and support staff members went on strike after a series of failed negotiations with management. The educators, who are members of the Chicago Teachers Union, are fighting for pay raises, smaller class sizes, and more funding for special education services. "We're going to stay on strike until we get educational justice for the people who work in Acero charter schools," said CTU President Jesse Sharkey, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Acero educators work more hours for less money than their peers in Chicago Public Schools, the union has said. Educators are also asking for guaranteed protections for undocumented students and families.

First teachers strike at a charter-school network begins in Chicago
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 4 at 12:04 PM
(Update: Adding comment from Illinois charter school association)
Charter-school teachers and other staff members in Chicago went on strike Tuesday, the first such labor action by educators at a charter-school network in the country. The striking teachers, paraprofessionals and support staff work at 15 charter schools operated by the UNO/Acero charter network and have been negotiating for improvements on a number of issues, including class size (there are now 32 students in each class), the need for more special education staff and raises for underpaid employees. The teachers and staff, who are represented by the Chicago Teachers Union, broke off negotiations after threatening a strike if no progress was made at the bargaining table. The action is the latest teacher strike this year, which began with walkouts by public school teachers in mostly Republican-led states, including West Virginia and Oklahoma. Educators demanded higher wages and more resources for ailing schools. This is, however, the first time that educators at a charter network have gone on strike after negotiations failed. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated, and most are not unionized. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reported that in 2016-2017, 11.3 percent of charter schools were participating in collective bargaining agreements with teachers unions.

“The legislation's six co-sponsors include Rep. John Rutherford of Florida, a former sheriff, and Rep. Lloyd K. Smucker of Pennsylvania, a member of the House education committee. A total of four Republicans and two Democrats cosponsored the legislation. (This isn't Mitchell's first foray into education issues: Mitchell is the leader of the congressional School Choice Caucus.)”
House Lawmakers Seek Federal Money for More School Police Officers
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on December 4, 2018 4:04 PM
This blog's headline as well as the post have been corrected to reflect that Democrats and Republicans support the legislation. 
House lawmakers on Capitol Hill have introduced legislation that would direct more federal funds to pay the cost of police officers working in schools. The School Resource Officer Act, introduced by Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Mich., would authorize $300 million in funding for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants, compared to current appropriations of $225 million, and require 30 percent of COPS hiring funds to pay for school resource officers' salaries and benefits. The grants would award 75 percent of the cost of SRO salaries and benefits, with a 25 percent local match. More broadly, the bill states the sense of Congress that school resource officers are "instrumental in establishing community partnerships and providing multidimensional school safety," according to a press release from Mitchell's office. In a statement, Mitchell noted that his son served as an SRO at one time, and that school leaders have frequently extolled their positive impact on safety. "Having a SRO in a school not only provides a safer atmosphere, but these officers often become an integral part of the school community, serving as a positive influence and a reminder of what we expect of our children," Mitchell said.

Citizen Z: An Education Week Project
Teaching Civics in a Divided Nation
Education Week  Updated: November 28, 2018
U.S. public education is rooted in the belief by early American leaders that the most important knowledge to impart to young people is what it means to be a citizen. If America is experiencing a civic crisis now, as many say it is, schools may well be failing at that job. To better understand the role of education in the current crisis, Education Week has undertaken a long-term investigation with support from the Education Writers Association’s Reporting Fellowship grant program. We brought together an advisory group of experts in civic education, visited classrooms, and conducted surveys. The first results of that work follow.

Build on finance, policy, board culture skills at PSBA’s Applied School Director Training
Four convenient locations in December and January
Take the next step in your professional development with Applied School Director Training. Building upon topics broadly covered in New School Director Training, this new, interactive evening event asks district leaders to dive deeper into three areas of school governance: school finance, board policy and working collaboratively as a governance team. Prepare for future leadership positions and committee work in this workshop-style training led by experts and practitioners. Learn how to:
·         Evaluate key finance documents such as budget and audit materials
·         Review and analyze board policies and administrative regulations
·         Build positive board culture by developing strong collaboration skills
Locations and Dates:
Dec.11, 2018 — Seneca Valley SD
Dec. 12, 2018 — Selinsgrove, Selinsgrove Area Middle School
Jan. 10, 2019 — Bethlehem, Nitschmann Middle School
Jan. 17, 2019 — State College

Cost: This event is complimentary for All-Access members or $75 per person with standard membership and $150 per person for nonmembers. Register online by logging in to myPSBA.

PASBO is looking for leaders! The deadline for board seats is Dec 31st, 2018.
PASBO members who desire to seek election as Director or Vice President should send a letter of intent with a current resume and picture to the Immediate Past President Edward G. Poprik, PCSBO, who is chair of the PASBO Nominations and Elections Committee.
More info:

NSBA 2019 Advocacy Institute January 27-29 Washington Hilton, Washington D.C.
Register now
The upcoming midterm elections will usher in the 116th Congress at a critical time in public education. Join us at the 2019 NSBA Advocacy Institute for insight into what the new Congress will mean for your school district. And, of course, learn about techniques and tools to sharpen your advocacy skills, and prepare for effective meetings with your representatives. Save the date to join school board members from across the country on Capitol Hill to influence the new legislative agenda and shape the decisions made inside the Beltway that directly impact our students. For more information contact

PSBA Board Presidents’ Panel
Nine locations around the state running Jan 29, 30 and 31st.
Share your leadership experience and learn from others in your area at this event designed for board presidents, superintendents and board members with interest in pursuing leadership roles. Workshop real solutions to the specific challenges you face with a PSBA-moderated panel of school leaders. Discussion will address the most pressing challenges facing PA public schools.

Annual PenSPRA Symposium set for March 28-29, 2019
Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association Website
Once again, PenSPRA will hold its annual symposium with nationally-recognized speakers on hot topics for school communicators. The symposium, held at the Conference Center at Shippensburg University, promises to provide time for collegial sharing and networking opportunities. Mark you calendars now!
We hope you can join us. Plans are underway, so check back for more information.

2019 NSBA Annual Conference Philadelphia March 30 - April 1, 2019
Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19107

Registration Questions or Assistance: 1-800-950-6722
The NSBA Annual Conference & Exposition is the one national event that brings together education leaders at a time when domestic policies and global trends are combining to shape the future of the students. Join us in Philadelphia for a robust offering of over 250 educational programs, including three inspirational general sessions that will give you new ideas and tools to help drive your district forward.

Save the Date:  PARSS Annual Conference May 1-3, 2019
Wyndham Garden Hotel, Mountainview Country Club
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools

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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