Friday, December 7, 2018

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec. 7: Trial scheduled in landmark Pa. school-funding case

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Trial scheduled in landmark Pa. school-funding case

PASBO Advocacy Tips For The New Legislative Session
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“A state formula passed in 2016 revising the way Pennsylvania funded its schools — directing additional aid to districts with higher-needs students and weaker tax bases — applied only to a fraction of what the state spends on education. The spending gap between rich and poor districts has grown in recent years, according to the plaintiffs. And although lawmakers and Gov. Wolf have added money for schools in recent budgets, school district pension expenses have risen faster than state aid — meaning available money for classroom costs has actually decreased since 2013, according to the plaintiffs.”
Trial scheduled in landmark Pa. school-funding case
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: December 6, 2018- 5:52 PM
A Commonwealth Court judge has set a trial date for a landmark case that seeks to overhaul how Pennsylvania pays for public schools. The case, brought by plaintiffs including the William Penn School District in Delaware County, will tentatively be heard in summer 2020, according to the order Thursday by Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer. Discovery in the case is due to be completed by October. “We’re glad that we’re moving forward toward trial. We remain confident we’ll be successful, and hope the legislature will act promptly ... but we’re prepared to go forward,” said Michael Churchill, an attorney with the Public Interest Law Center, which with the Education Law Center is representing plaintiffs in the case. Although Pennsylvania courts have previously dismissed challenges to the state’s school-funding system, the lawsuit by school districts, parents, and advocacy groups was revived by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last year.

Fair-funding trial date set for summer 2020
The case was first filed in 2014. Pennsylvania's funding disparities between wealthy and poor districts are the widest in the nation.
The notebook by Darryl C. Murphy December 6 — 6:19 pm, 2018
People who have just started following the lawsuit filed in 2014 that seeks to overturn Pennsylvania’s school funding system will have plenty more time to get familiar with the facts before the trial – more than a year, in fact. Commonwealth Court Judge Renee Cohn Jubelirer has scheduled the trial for summer 2020. “We’re very confident that we’ll be able to prove to the court that thousands of children in our state are deprived of the education they deserve and that they have a constitutional right to receive,” said Michael Churchill, attorney for the Public Interest Law Center, which, along with the Education Law Center, is representing the plaintiffs. The litigation is known as William Penn School District et al. v. PA Department of Education et al. Plaintiffs include six school districts and several parents who allege that their children are being shortchanged by a funding system that maintains the starkest inequities in the nation between wealthy and poorer districts. Both the NAACP and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools are also parties to the suit. Both sides will spend time gathering facts and producing expert reports before the judges hear the case. Fact discovery must be completed by Oct. 4, 2019, and expert reports and their rebuttals must be filed 60 days thereafter. Then they’ll each have until Feb. 4, 2020, to submit motions for summary judgment, a request for the court to rule that the opposing side has no case.

State court tentatively sets date for landmark Pa. school funding case
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent December 6, 2018
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has tentatively scheduled a hearing in a landmark education funding lawsuit for the summer of 2020, according to trial schedule released Thursday. It took four years of legal battles for the plaintiffs to get to this point, but it appears this lawsuit will finally receive a trial on the merits. In 2014, a group of districts and parents sued the state government, accusing it of underfunding public schools. The level of underfunding and the disparities among districts were so severe, they argued, that the legislature and the governor had violated the state constitution. The state supreme court reversed decades of precedent in late 2017 when it declared that the courts could get involved in this issue. Through the following year, the Commonwealth Court waded through a series of preliminary objections filed by Republican legislative leaders, ultimately deciding that the case should go to a full trial.

In a breakthrough for efforts to fix Pa.’s broken school funding system, Commonwealth Court has set a schedule for hearing the facts in William Penn et al. v. PA Dept. of Ed. et al.
Public Interest Law Center Website December 6, 2018
Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court released on Thursday a briefing and trial scheduling order in the lawsuit challenging the state’s school funding system. The trial is tentatively set to begin in summer 2020. Judge Renée Cohn Jubelirer issued the order and will oversee the pre-trial proceedings. “We’re very confident that we’ll be able to prove to the court that thousands of children in our state are deprived of the education they deserve, and that they have a constitutional right to receive,” Public Interest Law Center attorney Michael Churchill said. “The school districts who have joined our lawsuit know this is true, and students in underfunded schools know this is true. The legislature has the power to fix this, whether they take action before 2020 or wait for us to win at trial.”

“If a bipartisan coalition of state senators get their way, the PlanCon program will be back soon in a new and improved form. State senators, led by Democrat Vincent Hughes of Philadelphia and Republican Pat Browne of Allentown, organized a committee to rewrite the requirements for the program. The goal is to make the application process quicker and to expand its reach to include repairs and maintenance, in addition to new construction.”
Plancon: State senators want to revise system for school facilities funding
The PlanCon program is on hold, but a bipartisan coalition of state senators is trying to change that.
The notebook by Greg Windle December 6 — 3:19 pm, 2018
 “Our steps have cracks and holes in them. Once my teacher’s foot got stuck in a hole, and almost fell,” 4th grader Cheyenne Jacquet wrote in a letter to state legislators more than a year ago. Cheyenne added that her school, Cassidy Elementary, a 94-year-old building in Overbrook, looks “unwelcoming and raggedy,” with portions of the leaky building closed off to students. “Since I’m not yet an engineer, I can’t say how unsafe the school’s foundation is, but I know it needs work,” Cheyenne wrote. “Inside the school is a hot mess. Bathrooms are out of order, mice running rampant, windows and locks are broken. There are cracks and holes in the walls, broken lights, plaster falling from the ceiling and horrible leaks from the ceiling and pipes. “The heating system is so old that children sit in their classrooms with their coats on freezing to death.” The students at Cassidy, organized through a program run by the National Liberty Museum, hand-delivered their letters to state legislators in Harrisburg in 2017, seeking help in making their schools safe and modern. In recent years, the state government has provided virtually no assistance to school districts with their infrastructure needs. In 1973, the General Assembly approved a program called PlanCon, designed to reimburse a portion of construction and renovation costs incurred by school districts. But in 2012, under the administration of Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, the state stopped funding it. That left already-underfunded districts like Philadelphia, with its aging inventory of buildings, even more desperate for dollars.

School lunch rules OK refined grains, low-fat chocolate milk
Inquirer by CANDICE CHOI, Updated: December 6, 2018- 6:28 PM
NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. school lunch program is making room on menus again for noodles, biscuits, tortillas, and other foods made mostly of refined grains. The Trump administration is scaling back contested school lunch standards implemented under the Obama administration, including one that required only whole grains be served. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday only half the grains served will need to be whole grains, a change it said will do away with the current bureaucracy of requiring schools to obtain special waivers to serve select refined grains foods. Low-fat chocolate milk will also be allowed again. Previously, only fat-free milk could be flavored, although that rule had also been temporarily waived. A final goal for limiting sodium will be scrapped as well, but schools will still be required to meet reduced sodium targets. The School Nutrition Association, which represents local cafeteria operators and companies like Domino’s Pizza, Kellogg, and PepsiCo, had called for relaxing the whole grain-only requirement, saying it was too difficult for some districts to meet.

Curriculum audit: Allentown schools need to do better for its vulnerable students
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call December 6, 2018
The Allentown School District needs to better allocate resources to help its most vulnerable students, including its English language learners and Hispanic students, a study says. At Thursday’s school board meeting, the district released the results of a curriculum audit started last spring. The district, under Superintendent Thomas Parker, sought the $96,500 analysis to help identify areas it needed to improve in.
Among the findings:
·         While Hispanic students are the largest demographic, only a small percentage of those students pass the state assessments. The gap between white students and Hispanic and black students ranged from more than 10 points on high school state exams to more than 15 points on K-8 state tests.
·         The district’s program for English language learners is inadequate to eliminate the differences in achievement among student groups. Staffing is not enough to meet the needs of the district’s growing population of English language learners, and program implementation is not consistent.
·         Student assignments and samples of student work showed insufficient alignment with state standards to be academically successful.
·         Students perform below the state averages on state assessments. Student achievement on standardized tests has not improved but has generally regressed.
·         Hispanic, black, male and low-income students were overrepresented in programs for academically disadvantaged students.

The big jobs of small-town principals
Rural school leaders have some of the most complex roles in education — and some of the highest attrition
Hechinger Report by CAROLINE PRESTON December 6, 2018
CHERAW, Colo. — Matthew Snyder sinks into the chair in his office with a tattered purple carpet and running trophies arranged in a corner. It is well before dawn and students won’t start streaming past his window for at least another 45 minutes. Enough time, he thinks, to answer some of his 68 unread emails and comb through the inches-thick white binder on his desk holding a proposal that he needs to present to his school board the next morning. By 7 a.m., though, he is fielding a phone call from a parent with a sick kid. He welcomes into his office two sophomores seeking approval for a Future Business Leaders of America project. The math teacher wants to talk, and so does the school counselor; one of his board members rings on the phone. Buses for a field trip to a dinosaur museum have to be sorted. Then a mother needs help enrolling her son in the neighboring district’s alternative high school. It is barely 8:30 a.m.

What Does the Chicago Charter School Strike Mean for the Future of Organizing?
Education Week Teacher Beat Blog By Madeline Will on December 5, 2018 4:49 PM
The nation's first-ever strike by charter school teachers is underway in Chicago, as hundreds of educators protested on the picket lines for a second day on Wednesday.  More than 500 teachers, paraprofessionals, and support staff members from the 15-school Acero charter network are fighting for pay raises, smaller class sizes, and more funding for special education services, among other demands. They are members of the Chicago Teachers Union—and part of a small group of unionized charter educators. Just 11.3 percent of charter schools across the country are unionized, according to data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Charter schools were in part created to free school leaders from many state and district regulations, including collective bargaining contracts. But teachers' unions are making gains in charter school networks, especially as unions fight membership losses stemming from an adverse Supreme Court ruling this summer.

Pennsylvania schools work – for students, communities and the economy when adequate resources are available to give all students an equal opportunity to succeed.
Join A Movement that Supports our Schools & Communities
PA Schools Work website
Our students are in classrooms that are underfunded and overcrowded. Teachers are paying out of pocket and picking up the slack. And public education is suffering. Each child in Pennsylvania has a right to an excellent public education. Every child, regardless of zip code, deserves access to a full curriculum, art and music classes, technical opportunities and a safe, clean, stable environment. All children must be provided a level chance to succeed. PA Schools Work is fighting for equitable, adequate funding necessary to support educational excellence. Investing in public education excellence is the path to thriving communities, a stable economy and successful students.

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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