Tuesday, November 19, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Nov. 19: Happy American Education Week! Pennsylvania is celebrating by pushing ways to spend public tax $$$ with virtually zero fiscal accountability

Started in November 2010, daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, charter school leaders, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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If any of your colleagues would like to be added to the email list please have them send their name, title and affiliation to KeystoneStateEdCoalition@gmail.com

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Nov. 19, 2019


PA Schools Work Webinar: Focusing on School Funding Advocacy
Tuesday November 19th 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Join us for an Education Advocacy Lunch & Learn webinar Tuesday at noon. It's a brief 30-min session on how to effectively communicate with your state legislators about doing more to support our schools, so that all #PASchoolsWork. Register below! http://register.createdacard.me/9zIdB


Yesterday’s PA House Education Committee Roll Call Vote on HB1800 - Voucher Bill. Passed out of committee 13 to 12.
All Democrats and Republicans Rosemary Brown and Meghan Schroeder voted NO

HB1800: Please contact your representatives immediately and tell them to reject vouchers and vote NO on this bill.
The voucher bill is expected to be fast tracked for a vote by the full House as soon as Thursday
Call your House member - contact info here:

Pa. House panel advances HB1800 bill authorizing vouchers for Harrisburg schools
PA Capital Star By  Stephen Caruso November 18, 2019
A plan to let public school students use school vouchers to attend private schools in Harrisburg advanced out of the House Education Committee Monday. The bill sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, calls for half of the state’s per pupil contribution to the troubled Harrisburg School District — a little more than $4,000 — to go to from the school district to students who seek a private education. The capital city’s school district has roughly 7,736 students, according to the state Department of Education. The proposed voucher would be equal to the state’s annual per student appropriation to the district, split evenly between the school and the state.

HB1800: A tuition voucher program will set Harrisburg back | Opinion
Penn Live Opinion By Kia Hansard, Carrie Fowler and Jody Barksdale Updated Nov 18, 2019;Posted Nov 18, 2019
Kia Hansard is the co-founder of Concerned About the Children of Harrisburg (CATCH), a community/parent group. Carrie Fowler is a member of the Harrisburg School Board. Jody Barksdale is a Harrisburg teacher and president of the Harrisburg Education Association.
For the first time in many years, the Harrisburg School District is on the right track. The district finally has the right administrative team and a supportive school board to turn things around after years of fiscal mismanagement by the prior administration. Challenges still lie ahead, but the path is clear now. Why then would we want to upend this progress and replace it with an untested tuition voucher program that will siphon millions of dollars in funding from Harrisburg’s financially distressed schools? That is what some lawmakers in Harrisburg, led by Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, want to do. Speaker Turzai has introduced House Bill 1800, which requires Harrisburg’s receiver Dr. Janet Samuels to establish a tuition voucher program for students in the district. Harrisburg has been in receivership for less than six months now. When Speaker Turzai first floated this voucher program in August, district officials rightly pointed out the proposal was ill-timed and could disrupt the district’s recovery process.

Blogger note: PA Department of Education Future Ready Index Reports do not show much difference in student academic performance between Chester Community Charter School and the district’s elementary and middle schools.
Charter school pushes for takeover of Chester Upland’s elementary schools
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: November 18, 2019- 6:43 PM
If the school's petition is granted, the share of Chester Upland students enrolled in charters — already one of the nation’s largest — could grow to roughly 80 percent.
Pennsylvania’s largest brick-and-mortar charter school, which already enrolls 60% of the Chester Upland School District’s elementary students, has moved to let charters take over the fiscally distressed district’s primary schools. Chester Community Charter School has asked Delaware County Court to order the district and state to issue requests for proposals for charters to educate Chester Upland’s prekindergarten through eighth grade students. The charter did not ask that it be the only operator considered, but its management company said it is positioned to expand if the court moves ahead with the plan. Charters have increased their presence and faced heightened controversy in school districts nationwide. More than half of Chester Upland’s approximately 7,000 public school students attend charters, one of the largest such shares nationally. If the petition is granted, that number could grow to about 80%. Without elementary students, the district’s enrollment would drop from about 3,000 to 1,400. Chester High School would not be affected. It would also send millions of more tax dollars to charters and leave the Chester Upland district with less control and money, a prospect that district teachers say will further erode their mission and ranks.

Blogger note: One of the best things about having a charter management company is that those pesky Right-to-Know laws don't apply. So taxpayers know virtually nothing about how the $18 million management fee (for just one year) noted on this 2018 990 was spent.
2018 Form 990 for Chester Community Charter School
CauseIQ

“The trust is linked to Philadelphia lawyer and charter school entrepreneur Vahan Gureghian and his wife, Danielle, a lawyer. Mr. Gureghian didn’t respond to a request for comment sent to his education management firm, CSMI LLC.”
Once Asking $84.5M, Oceanfront Mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, Enters Contract
The 35,000-square-foot new build was last listed for $59.9 million
MANSION GLOBAL BY FANG BLOCK   |  ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON JUNE 6, 2019  |  
A never-occupied oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, that was once the island’s most expensive home on the market with a price tag of $84.5 million has found a buyer, according to listing records. The 35,000-square-foot mansion, custom built in 2016, was last listed by Douglas Elliman in October for $59.9 million. Its status changed to “pending sale” or “contracted” on the Multiple Listing Service as of June 3. Listing agents Ashley McIntosh, Gary Pohrer and Vince Spadea of Douglas Elliman declined to confirm the sale or disclose any information about the parties involved. The home first came onto the market in March 2015 for $84.5 million, making it the most expensive home for sale in Palm Beach. The price was reduced to $70 million, then to $65 million later that year, listing records show.

Blogger note: here is a December 2013 letter to the editor worth repeating for background and context as we consider turning Chester Upland into Pennsylvania’s own little charterized New Orleans. But instead of Katrina, it appears that we’ve had a flood of campaign contributions…

“In Palm Beach, Fla., the governor's (Corbett) largest individual campaign donor ($384,000) is building a new 20,000 square-foot mansion on a $29 million beachfront lot. For over six years he has been fighting a Right-to-Know request regarding financial details of his management company's operation of Chester Community Charter School, the state's largest brick-and-mortar charter school. A charter school amendment passed by the House in June included a clause that would have exempted contractors like him from Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know laws. In Chester, standardized-test scores dropped precipitously at that Chester Community Charter School after an investigation of possible past cheating brought new scrutiny to the school's testing practices. Results for 2012 state tests show that, schoolwide, scores fell about 30 percentage points in math and reading, with double-digit drops in every grade. Some fell more than 40 percentage points. The odds that erasure patterns were random on the reading portion of Chester Community Charter School seventh-graders' 2009 PSSAs were one in a quadrillion but somehow the state left the charter to investigate itself.”
Reprise Dec. 2013: Letters: Charter school bill: A disaster for education in Pennsylvania
Delco Times By LAWRENCE A. FEINBERG Times Guest Columnist Dec 7, 2013
Pennsylvania's 20-year experiment with charter schools has had mixed academic results at best for our kids but has been a veritable bonanza for some adults and politicians.
Senate Bill 1085, the latest attempt at 'charter school reform,' includes multiple provisions that would strip local control over tax dollars from school boards elected by their taxpaying neighbors, and permit colleges, universities and the state to spend local tax dollars with no authorization or oversight by local officials. SB 1085 also strips language from the law requiring charter schools to be models of innovation for public schools. That begs the question: What, then, is the purpose of charter schools?
Analyzing Pennsylvania's new School Performance Profiles, Philadelphia-based nonprofit Research for Action recently found that cyber-charters are some of the very lowest-performing schools in the state. Of the 11 cyber-charters for which information was available, none met the statewide average score for all publicly funded schools (77.2). The state's cyber-charters received a score of 44.7, far below the scores for both brick-and-mortar charters (67.3) and traditional public schools (77.8). Researchers also found that for the five cyber-charter schools with available data, student turnover rates were extraordinarily high. In 2011-12, 27 percent of the students in these cyber-charters withdrew from school. By the way, the state is currently considering applications for six new cyber charter schools.
In Pittsburgh, Nick Trombetta, founder of the state's largest cyber-charter, is on trial under a 41-count federal indictment for allegedly stealing $1 million. He had previously used $10 million in taxpayer dollars from his cyber school's fund balance to help finance construction of a performing arts center for the town of Midland. That was great for Midland, but should it have been funded by school taxes from all over the state?

PA Senate Education Committee Meeting Today
Rules Committee Conference Room 12:15 p.m.
To consider HB355 (Reese) Charter School Reform – Ethics Requirements for Charter Trustees and Administrators

Education Advocates Oppose New Voucher Bill
HB 1800 allows private/religious schools to exclude students with special needs.
Public News Service by Andrea Sears November 19, 2019
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Education advocates say a new school voucher bill would drain district resources and allow discrimination against students with special needs. House Bill 1800 would provide tuition vouchers worth up to $8,200 to students in the financially struggling Harrisburg school district to attend private schools, including religious schools. But according to Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, unlike public schools that must accommodate all students, the bill allows those schools to refuse students with disabilities. "This bill gives choice to private and religious schools to choose the students they want and then to discriminate against students that they don't want, all using taxpayer dollars,” Spicka said. State House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, sponsored the bill and said it would provide students in one of the state's worst-performing school districts with immediate access to a better education. But Spicka noted after years of financial turmoil, the district went into receivership in June, and now students and educators are optimistic about the changes they are seeing. "The voucher program would undermine all of that by draining millions and millions of dollars out of the school district just as it's beginning to get back on its feet,” she said.

PA: Vouchers Are One Step Closer To Ugly Reality
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Monday, November 18, 2019
HB 1800, the bill intended to pilot vouchers in Pennsylvania, made it out of committee today. The vote was 13-12, with two GOP representatives (Rosemary Brown and Meghan Schroeder) voting no. The precipitating excuse for this bill is the school system of Harrisburg, a system that has suffered from financial mismanagement and so was put in financial receivership, a sort of state takeover, last June. By August, House Speaker Mike Turzai was chomping at the bit, because after all, the state had had almost two whole months to turn things around. Turzai is a Betsy DeVos fanboy with a long-standing dislike for public education, so Harrisburg's vulnerability must strike him as a great chance to once again try to sell vouchers to a GOP-dominated legislature that has already grabbed onto plenty of choice-flavored assaults on public ed. The foot in the door is the classic voucher approach. It's generally "these will just be for the poor families" or "just for those trapped in a failing school." Turzai has always been a fan of the "We spent all this money on these schools and where are the shiny test scores?" line of reasoning, and Harrisburg schools don't have a lot of friends or political support right now, so they must look like a great chance to start the voucher train rolling in PA.

The last time the legislature tried to run a voucher bill was SB1, eight years ago in 2011. Here’s an OPED that is just as fresh today as it was then….

“Public schools are required to accept and expected to educate every student who shows up, regardless of economic status, English proficiency, disabilities, or behavioral problems. It's the law. Here's where "choice" really comes in: Private schools can choose to accept or reject any prospective student, and they can choose which students they retain or expel.
S.B. 1 demands accountability, but only from traditional public schools. While voucher proponents hold the accountability banner high, accusing high-poverty public schools of failing, there is no accountability whatsoever imposed under this bill's voucher scheme. It would allow private schools to receive tax dollars without being accountable for students' academic performance, requiring no standardized tests and making no scores available to the public.
Nor does the bill impose any accountability for how private schools spend tax dollars. There would be no transparency, public budgets, or right to know.
Meanwhile, S.B. 1 would dismantle neighborhood schools by siphoning off motivated students and parents, leaving behind a truly concentrated population of failing students, including those who are less motivated, "hard to educate," disabled, troubled, and able to speak little English. S.B. 1 offers absolutely nothing to help those students or improve their schools.
Ultimately, S.B. 1 and its so-called opportunity scholarships would provide our state legislators with an opportunity to wash their hands of their responsibility to provide a thorough and efficient system of public education for all.”
Reprise 2011: Pa.'s unaccountable voucher bill
Inquirer Opinion by Lawrence A. Feinberg Posted: February 21, 2011
Lawrence A. Feinberg is a school board member in Haverford Township, the chairman of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council, and a co-chairman of the Keystone State Education Coalition. He can be reached at lfeinberg@thelocalgroup.com.
In support of Pennsylvania's Senate Bill 1, which would provide taxpayer-funded vouchers to private schools, voucher evangelists have been citing a report by the Foundation for Educational Choice, "A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on How Vouchers Affect Public Schools." However, a review of the report by the National Education Policy Center finds no credible evidence that vouchers have improved student achievement. Located at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the National Education Policy Center aims to provide high-quality information on education policy. Its review found that the "Win-Win" report, "based on a review of 17 studies, selectively reads the evidence in some of those studies, the majority of which were produced by voucher advocacy organizations.
"Moreover, the report can't decide whether or not to acknowledge the impact of factors other than vouchers on public schools. It attempts to show that public school gains were caused by the presence of vouchers alone, but then argues that the lack of overall gains for districts with vouchers should be ignored because too many other factors are at play." The review goes on to note that "existing research provides little reliable information about the competitive effects of vouchers, and this report does little to help answer the question." Voucher proponents tout the supposed benefits of competition, but the playing field is not even close to level. The state's public schools operate under the bureaucratic weight of the Pennsylvania School Code's thousand pages (also created by the legislature) and another thousand pages of No Child Left Behind requirements. They face a virtual army of special-education attorneys with another thousand pages of laws. They are subject to right-to-know and sunshine laws. And they must bear the costs of complying with all of them. Religious and other private schools are relatively unaffected by any of this red tape, rendering the notion of fair competition ludicrous.

Aiming for equity: PPS pursues a laudable, lofty goal
Paying lip service to equity is easy, even trendy. But actually achieving equity requires long, hard work
THE EDITORIAL BOARD Pittsburgh Post-Gazette NOV 19, 2019 5:59 AM
Pittsburgh Public Schools’ new plan to reduce racial disparities within the district takes aim at a laudable and important goal. But PPS must proceed cautiously, regularly checking the successes and failures of its 27-step plan and reacting accordingly to ensure that every student is afforded the opportunity to succeed in a more equitable environment. Racial achievement gaps are an issue at many schools throughout the state and the country, and PPS is no different. But the district has made meaningful strides in recent years with a set of small policy changes meant to chip away at the problem. For instance, the school’s overall graduation rate improved by nearly 10%, growing from 70.4% in 2015 to 79.8% in 2016, and the rate of graduation for African American students rose more than 12% during that same period. But the 77.4% overall black graduation rate still lags behind the 87.1% graduation rate of white students, just one sign that there is work to be done. PPS’ plan, called “On Track to Equity, Integrating Equity Throughout PPS,” presents a bold, sweeping vision of the district’s future, outlining a set of changes meant to improve the school’s racial disparities.

Unknown number of Philly schools should stop drinking from tap and bring in ‘safe water,’ physician tells parents
WHYY By Kevin McCorry November 18, 2019
Gale Glenn is just one mother, but she says she speaks for 698 children.
Glenn came to Mastery Frederick Douglass Elementary in North Philadelphia Monday night to discuss recently revealed reports of high lead levels in drinking fountains at the school attended by her three children. The only parent in attendance, she sat in the second row of the auditorium and spoke informally with a panel of Mastery staffers and lead experts. “I just want things to be right. This school — we do have some issues here. We don’t want our kids to be sick,” Glenn said. “It’s better to know that not to know.” The meeting occurred in response to an investigative report last week by Keystone Crossroads/PlanPhilly that found a legacy of disturbing water quality issues at the school over 15 years. Most recently, after three water fountains failed city-mandated lead tests in April — including one 350 times the district’s 10 parts per billion limit — Mastery failed to inform parents of the results. Mastery says it decommissioned the fountains immediately, but it didn’t notify parents about the potential hazard to their children until months later — only when reporters began asking questions.

EDITORIAL: When it comes to substitute teachers, the law of supply and demand still rules
York Dispatch Published 4:37 a.m. ET Nov. 19, 2019
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • York County school districts are facing a shortage substitute teachers.
  • To attract quality substitutes, school districts are offering various incentives.
  • Some districts are offering bonuses, food and drink incentives and pay raises.
It’s a scene that had to send chills down the spine of every parent of a school-age child.
A female substitute teacher in Texas in seen in a viral video beating a 15-year-old female high school student. Apparently, the students in the class were being a little loud and the situation escalated when the teacher cursed at them. The girl reportedly told the teacher not to talk to her that way. The teacher responded by striking the student several times on her head before she stomped on the girl’s head. The girl was treated for severe injuries and the teacher was arrested and charged with aggravated assault. So, you might ask, what does this have to do with us here in York County? Well, it shows you the importance of hiring competent, professional substitute teachers. Right now, substitute teachers are mighty hard to find in these parts. In fact, there’s a serious shortage. The reason for the shortage is pretty simple. It stems from a drop in the number of full-time teachers, which first started around 2014 or 2015. Fewer full-time teachers means there’s going to be a need for more substitute teachers, and right now there simply are not enough to go around.

Eyes on the Philly Board of Education: November 21, 2019
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools by Karel Kilimnik November 17, 2019
APPS members continue to ask when the Board will institute real education reform.   Rebuild District infrastructure. Stop hollowing out the central administration and diverting that work to outside vendors. Fund smaller class size and the restoration of school libraries. The Board needs to step up and provide leadership in righting the direction of this District. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience within this District–use it. Stop bringing in outsiders with no commitment to the community.  Fill 440 with administrators who can answer our questions, respond to parents, students, school staff, and community members when concerns are raised and questions asked. It is time for the Board to step up and show us that they have the will and capacity to rebuild our District.

East Penn’s project-based ‘school within a school’ gets green light
By MICHELLE MERLIN THE MORNING CALL | NOV 18, 2019 | 6:02 AM
Some Emmaus High School freshmen will be able to try out a new project-based learning program next year. School board members last week unanimously approved a “school within a school” pilot that would offer college prep-level classes along with the same curriculum as the rest of the district. But students would be getting that information delivered via project-based learning and would work on projects together, sometimes with partners in the community. Mike Mihalik, supervisor of secondary curriculum and instruction for STEM, told school board members last month that he stumbled across such a project recently with his wife, who works with the Lehigh County Humane Society. She mentioned the Humane Society has boxes going back to 1906 that tell the history of the organization, which originally was devoted to protecting children and horses, he said. Digging into those files could be part of an American history project or a writing assignment, he said. The school within a school program also would aim to partner with the community. For older students, it could entail an internship or externship, Mihalik said. The district is hoping to have 32 to 48 students for the pilot group.

'Running out of room': How old turf fields raise potential environmental, health concerns
As fields are replaced, billions of pounds of rubber and synthetic fiber are piling up because the U.S. has no plan for disposing of this product.
Candy Woodall, York Daily Record Updated 9:13 a.m. EST Nov. 18, 2019
The hulking wall of rubber was first discovered by a borough maintenance crew.  About 6,000 rolled pieces were neatly stacked about 10 feet high, covering more than an acre of private land, according to the mayor of Cleona, Pennsylvania. The green blades of artificial grass peeking through the coiled logs offered the first clue. “This is what it looks like when someone gets rid of a dozen turf fields and there’s nowhere to send them,” said Mayor Larry Minnich. A York Daily Record/York Sunday News investigation has found an unregulated industry that is growing exponentially and dumping several hundred old athletic fields across the U.S. every year. 

135 days later: Hempfield teachers have a new contract, and it includes a 2.8% salary increase
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer November 19, 2019
It took 135 days, but Hempfield teachers finally have a new contract.
The Hempfield school board and the Hempfield Education Association representing 520 educators districtwide passed a five-year collective bargaining agreement last week — nearly four and a half months after the previous contract expired. It includes a 2.8% salary increase over five years. Teachers had been working under the old contract’s final year until this point. They invoked "work to rule," meaning they wouldn’t do more than the absolute minimum required, as negotiations dragged on. In a statement on the district’s website, school board President Bill Otto said adopting a contract that balanced "the need to employ and retain high quality educators and critical personnel" and "the community’s ability to shoulder associated costs" was the objective. "Via a collaborative process with HEA, we believe we have achieved those goals," he said. Neither Otto nor union President Rik Appleby responded to requests for comment. A post on HEA’s Facebook page, however, thanked the community for its support and said that "both sides feel that the contract is fair and is in the best interest of students and teachers."


114,000 Students in N.Y.C. Are Homeless. These Two Let Us Into Their Lives.
New York Times Written by Eliza Shapiro; Photographs by Brittainy Newman NOV. 19, 2019
Darnell, 8, lives in a homeless shelter and commutes 15 miles a day to school.
Sandivel shares a bedroom with her mother and four brothers. She is 10 and has moved seven times in the past five years. The number of school-age children in New York City who live in shelters or “doubled up” in apartments with family or friends has swelled by 70 percent over the past decade — a crisis without precedent in the city’s history. By day, New York’s 114,085 homeless students live in plain sight: They study on the subway and sprint through playgrounds. At night, these children sometimes sleep in squalid, unsafe rooms, often for just a few months until they move again. School is the only stable place they know.

Education in the 2020 Presidential Race
Education Week – Ongoing Updated Coverage
The 2020 presidential campaign has put key education issues in the spotlight, sometimes in unexpected ways. This interactive Education Week tracker gives you one-click access to where the Democratic and Republican candidates stand on nearly a dozen major education topics including school safety, civil rights, teacher pay, charter schools, education funding, and more, along with biographical detail on each of those seeking the White House. You can search either by topic or candidate. This tracker will be updated throughout the campaign based on what the candidates say and do.


A Networking and Supportive Event for K-12 Educators of Color (teachers, school counselors, and administrators)! Thursday, December 12, 7:00-8:30 pm Villanova University, Dougherty Hall, West Lounge
You are cordially invited to this gathering, with the goal of networking and lending support and sustenance to our K-12 Educators of Color and their allies. This is your chance to make requests, share resources, and build up our community. Please feel free to bring a school counselor, teacher, or administrator friend! Light refreshments provided.
Where: Villanova University, Dougherty Hall, West Lounge (first floor, back of building)
Directions, campus and parking map found here
Parking: Free parking in lot L2. Turn on St. Thomas Way, off of Lancaster Avenue. You will need to print a parking pass that will be emailed shortly before the event to all who register.
Questions? Contact an event organizer: Dr. Krista Malott (krista.malott@villanova.edu), Dr. Jerusha Conner (Jerusha.conner@villanova.edu), Department of Education & Counseling, and Dr. Anthony Stevenson, Administrator, Radnor School District (Anthony.Stevenson@rtsd.org)

PSBA Alumni Forum: Leaving school board service?
Continue your connection and commitment to public education by joining PSBA Alumni Forum. Benefits of the complimentary membership includes:
  • electronic access to PSBA Bulletin
  • legislative information via email
  • Daily EDition e-newsletter
  • Special access to one dedicated annual briefing
Register today online. Contact Crista Degregorio at Crista.Degregorio@psba.org with questions.


Save the Date: PSBA/PASA/PAIU Advocacy Day -- March 23, 2020
Registration will open on December 2, 2019

PSBA New and Advanced School Director Training in Dec & Jan
Do you want high-impact, engaging training that newly elected and reseated school directors can attend to be certified in new and advanced required training? PSBA has been supporting new school directors for more than 50 years by enlisting statewide experts in school law, finance and governance to deliver a one-day foundational training. This year, we are adding a parallel track of sessions for those who need advanced school director training to meet their compliance requirements. These sessions will be delivered by the same experts but with advanced content. Look for a compact evening training or a longer Saturday session at a location near you. All sites will include one hour of trauma-informed training required by Act 18 of 2019. Weekend sites will include an extra hour for a legislative update from PSBA’s government affairs team.
New School Director Training
Week Nights: Registration opens 3:00 p.m., program starts 3:30 p.m. -9:00 p.m., dinner with break included
Saturdays: Registration opens at 8:00 a.m., program starts at 9:00 a.m. -3:30 p.m., lunch with break included
Advanced School Director Training
Week Nights: Registration with dinner provided opens at 4:30 p.m., program starts 5:30 p.m. -9:00 p.m.
Saturdays: Registration opens at 10:00 a.m., program starts at 11:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m., lunch with break included
Locations and dates

Congress, Courts, and a National Election: 50 Million Children’s Futures Are at Stake. Be their champion at the 2020 Advocacy Institute.
NSBA Advocacy Institute Feb. 2-4, 2020 Marriot Marquis, Washington, D.C.
Join school leaders from across the country on Capitol Hill, Feb. 2-4, 2020 to influence the legislative agenda & shape decisions that impact public schools. Check out the schedule & more at https://nsba.org/Events/Advocacy-Institute

Register now for Network for Public Education Action National Conference in Philadelphia March 28-29, 2020
Registration, hotel information, keynote speakers and panels:

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.


Monday, November 18, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Nov. 18, 2019 Tuition vouchers will do more harm to Harrisburg’s recovering schools than good | Opinion


Started in November 2010, daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, charter school leaders, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

If any of your colleagues would like to be added to the email list please have them send their name, title and affiliation to KeystoneStateEdCoalition@gmail.com

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Nov. 18, 2019



PA Schools Work Webinar: Focusing on School Funding Advocacy
Tuesday November 19th 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Join us for an Education Advocacy Lunch & Learn webinar Tuesday at noon. It's a brief 30-min session on how to effectively communicate with your state legislators about doing more to support our schools, so that all #PASchoolsWork. Register below! http://register.createdacard.me/9zIdB



PA Capital Star By Kia Hansard, Carrie Fowler, and Jody Barksdale Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor November 17, 2019
Kia Hansard is the co-founder of Concerned About the Children of Harrisburg (CATCH), a community/parent group. Carrie Fowler is a member of the Harrisburg School Board. Jody Barksdale is a Harrisburg teacher and president of the Harrisburg Education Association.
For the first time in many years, the Harrisburg School District is on the right track. The district finally has the right administrative team and a supportive school board to turn things around after years of fiscal mismanagement by the prior administration. Challenges still lie ahead, but the path is clear now. Why then would we want to upend this progress and replace it with an untested tuition voucher program that will siphon millions of dollars in funding from Harrisburg’s financially distressed schools? That is what some lawmakers in Harrisburg, led by Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, want to do. Turzai has introduced House Bill 1800, which requires Harrisburg’s receiver, Dr. Janet Samuels, to establish a tuition voucher program for students in the district. Harrisburg has been in receivership for less than six months now. When Speaker Turzai first floated this voucher program in August, district officials rightly pointed out the proposal was ill-timed and could disrupt the district’s recovery process. Now, the proposal is set for a vote in the Pennsylvania House Education Committee on Monday and could get a full House vote soon after that. Lawmakers should defeat it. The legislation doesn’t give Dr. Samuels the option of creating a voucher program. It orders her to create one. The bill also forbids the district from putting any limits on the number of vouchers issued and even prevents officials from putting student accountability standards in place.

Tell Your State Representative to Oppose Voucher Bill HB1800
PA Council of Churches  by s.strauss@pachurches.org November 15, 2019
From Education Voters of Pennsylvania (http://www.educationvoterspa.org/):
State Representative Mike Turzai recently introduced a school voucher bill (House Bill 1800) that would create a costly school voucher experiment in the Harrisburg School District,  just when the district is beginning to recover from years of financial crisis. We expect the state House Education Committee to take up HB 1800 on Monday, November 18. It could see a full House vote later in the week. If HB 1800 passes, this expensive voucher program would drain up to $8.5 million out of the Harrisburg School District. The bill is also written in a way to expand vouchers to other school districts in Pennsylvania in the future.
Go to https://actionnetwork.org/letters/stop-hb-1800-the-school-voucher-bill to contact your state representative and ask him or her to OPPOSE House Bill 1800. Alternatively, you can contact them directly—find contact information at http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/index.cfm#address.
Rep. Turzai’s HB 1800 would provide tuition vouchers worth up to $8,200 to students in the Harrisburg School District, including students who are already enrolled in a private school and can afford to pay tuition without a taxpayer-funded subsidy.

“HB1800 is on the agenda for consideration by the House Education Committee on Monday, Nov. 18, with subsequent consideration by the full Pennsylvania House as soon as Thursday, Nov. 21. This bill would be a “camel’s nose under the tent.” Though funded by taxpayer dollars, it paves the way for future expansion of the program across the state – far from scrutiny and accountability by taxpayers. Public money is public money and it belongs in our public schools.”
Guest Column: Turzai’s ‘gold standard’ for education is lacking
Delco Times By Lawrence Feinberg Times Guest Columnist November 16, 2019
Lawrence A. Feinberg was just elected to serve his 6th four-year term as a locally elected volunteer school director in Haverford Township. He also serves as Co-Chair of the Delaware County School Boards Legislative Council.
The 2022 governor’s race has begun, and Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai wants to make it clear that he shares Betsy DeVos’ vision for privatization of public education. In a recent opinion piece Speaker Turzai touted our state “as a gold standard with respect to funding public school districts”, completely ignoring the fact that Pennsylvania is home to the widest per pupil funding gap between wealth and poor districts in the country. Under his leadership, the Pennsylvania Legislature has been negligent, willfully and deliberately ignoring the state’s historic gross inequity in the distribution of school funding and locking students in poorer districts into their underfunded and under-resourced predicament. A school funding lawsuit is pending, with the trial tentatively set to begin in summer 2020. In 2015-16, only 36.8 percent of aggregate education funding came from the state while 57.2 percent came from local sources, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Annual Financial Reports. The U.S. Census’ Annual Survey of School System Finances data from fiscal year 2015 ranks Pennsylvania 47th out of the 50 states in state support for public schools. Instead of addressing the funding issue, he has consistently and aggressively promoted anything but democratically governed public schools that are accountable to taxpayers. While he supported the Financial Recovery Act of 2012 setting in motion a plan for distressed school districts to get back on track, he is thwarting that effort by ensuring that such districts remain in financial distress.

“Turzai described the bill as a “pilot tuition grant program” upon introducing it in September, hinting at the possibility that it could be expanded to other parts of the state. The idea is scheduled for a vote Monday in the House Education Committee.”
GOP leaders want to pilot private school vouchers in Harrisburg
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent November 18, 2019
A bill introduced this fall by Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, would add a new branch to Pennsylvania’s school-choice tree — school vouchers.
Najmiah Roberson could be the poster mom for school choice in Pennsylvania.
The Harrisburg mother of three has children in three different schools — a Catholic school, a cyber charter school, and a non-denominational private school. And Roberson doesn’t pay a cent out of pocket, she says, thanks to scholarship money — some of it backed by state subsidies. She’s the beneficiary of a system that has made Pennsylvania a leader in expanding school choice. Still, she knows other parents who want to ditch their local public schools and can’t — either because they don’t qualify for existing state help or are stuck waiting in line for the limited supply of available assistance. “I have been that parent before,” said Roberson. “It was frustrating and scary.” A bill introduced this fall by Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, would add a new branch to Pennsylvania’s school-choice tree — school vouchers. Turzai’s bill is narrow in scope. It would allow parents living in the city of Harrisburg to use as much as $8,200 in taxpayer money toward private school tuition or the cost of attending another public school district. Half of that money would come out of the state’s annual subsidy to the Harrisburg City School District. The other half would be taken from local coffers. The Harrisburg City School District would still receive some state aid for students who opt to leave — about $4,000.

“Now, almost two centuries later, the mission is still the same: Fund pubic education fairly and equitably for all children.”
Thaddeus Stevens was right on education
Post-Gazette Letter by Kate Daher, Wilkinsburg NOV 18, 2019 12:00 AM
In response to Brian O’Neill’s Nov. 14 column, “City and Schools in a Fight Over Money,” we need only learn from Thaddeus Stevens, who served in the Pennsylvania state House before graduating to the U.S. Congress. During his time in the Legislature, Stevens wrote in defense of the Free Schools Act of 1834:
“Many complain of the school tax, not so much on account of its amount, as because it is for the benefit of others and not themselves. ... Why do they not urge the same objection against all other taxes? The industrious, thrifty, rich farmer pays a heavy county tax to support criminal courts, build jails, and pay the sheriffs and jailkeepers, and yet probably he never has had any direct personal use for either. ... He cheerfully pays the tax which is necessary to support and punish convicts, but loudly complains of that which goes to prevent his fellow being from becoming a criminal, and to obviate the necessity of those humiliating institutions. ...
“... I trust that when we come to act on this question, we shall all take the lofty ground — look beyond the narrow space which now circumscribes our vision — beyond the passing, fleeting point of time on which we stand; and so cast our votes that the blessing of education shall be conferred on every son of Pennsylvania, shall be carried home to the poorest child of the poorest inhabitant of your mountains so that even he may be prepared to act well his part in this land of freemen.”

“The plan caps online cyber school tuition payments and applies the special education funding formula to charter schools, as it does for traditional public schools, as recommended by a bipartisan Special Education Funding Commission. ….The Achieving Community Transformation Academy, the lowest-performing cyber school in Pennsylvania, will close by the end of December.”
Gov. Wolf’s Charter School Accountability Plan Saves Nearly $280 Million
Gant News Posted on Saturday, November 16, 2019 by Gant Team in Local News
HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to improve the educational quality of charter schools and control rising costs will save nearly $280 million a year, the governor told the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators on Friday. The governor has a three-part plan to fix Pennsylvania’s charter school law, which he said is regarded as one of the worst in the nation. “Every student deserves a great education, whether in a traditional public school or a charter school, but the state’s flawed and outdated charter school law is failing children, parents and taxpayers,” said Wolf. “Pennsylvania has a history of school choice, which I support, but there is widespread agreement that we must change the law to prioritize quality and align funding to actual costs. “My plan will hold charter schools accountable so parents and students have a high-quality option that prepares students for success and protects taxpayers.” Taxpayers spent $1.8 billion on charter schools last year, including more than $500 million on cyber schools. The rising cost of charter schools is draining funding from traditional public schools, which has forced cuts to classroom programs and property tax increases. The governor’s proposal would save school districts an estimated $280 million a year by better aligning charter school funding to actual costs.

Gov. Wolf calls for constraints on Pennsylvania charter schools at school administrator meeting
The Neighbor By Dave Lemery | The Center Square Nov 15, 2019
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Friday that the state’s charter and cyber charter schools are overfunded at the expense of traditional public schools and largely immune from public scrutiny – accusations that he intends to address through what he calls a “charter school accountability plan.” Speaking at a meeting of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, the governor renewed his claims that Pennsylvania’s charter school law is one of the worst in the country and argued that reforms are needed to put traditional public schools on more solid footing and to avoid the annual drumbeat of property tax increases. Wolf, a Democrat in his second term in office, insists that implementing his accountability plan will result in $280 million being redirected annually from charters to traditional public schools. To justify such a move, Wolf pointed to a Stanford study that showed that some cyber charter schools are underperforming. “Every student deserves a great education, whether in a traditional public school or a charter school, but the state’s flawed and outdated charter school law is failing children, parents, and taxpayers,” Wolf said in a statement. “Pennsylvania has a history of school choice, which I support, but there is widespread agreement that we must change the law to prioritize quality and align funding to actual costs.”

State considers fix for special education funding split
Johnstown Tribune Democrat By John Finnerty jfinnerty@cnhi.com Nov 15, 2019
HARRISBURG – A legislative panel must deliver recommendations by the end of this month on how the state can better divide its special education funding among its 500 school districts. As that process has unfolded, two issues in particular, seem to have caught the attention of lawmakers on the commission, said state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, a member of the special education funding commission. One is when school districts learn how much special education money they’re going to get from the state. The other is that the state may need to re-examine how it determines which schools get special assistance to help cover the cost of educating students with exceptionally-expensive special education needs,  Longietti said. The contingency fund is supposed to provide help for school districts that have children with very expensive special education needs. To qualify, a student’s special education costs must exceed at least $75,000 a year, according to Department of Education data. In the current fiscal year, the budget includes almost $10 million in the contingency fund. Because that’s just a fraction of the $1 billion in special education spending, there are far more requests for contingency fund help than the fund can support, said Hannah Barrick, assistant executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.

“Even though it found he violated the law, the Ethics Commission stressed that “this case should not be misunderstood as reflecting negatively on Conti’s character. Furthermore, we recognize the difficult position that Conti found himself in when he was abruptly informed that (PA Cyber) was terminating his employment regardless of whether he accepted the proffered separation agreement.” Conti resigned from PA Cyber without explanation in July 2016 amid the criminal trial of PA Cyber founder Nick Trombetta, who would later plead guilty to tax conspiracy and be sentenced to up to 20 months in federal prison.”
Ethics Commission: Former PA Cyber CEO violated law, but avoids fine
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose Posted Nov 14, 2019 at 3:38 PM
PA Cyber’s former CEO violated the law by taking payments from the Midland school while working for another cyber charter near Philadelphia, the State Ethics Commission ruled.
The State Ethics Commission has ruled that former Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School CEO Michael Conti violated the law by accepting compensation from the Midland school while working for another cyber charter near Philadelphia, but it has declined to fine him. In a ruling signed by Ethics Commission Chairman Nick Colafella, a Center Township resident and former Democratic state representative, the commission said it was not fining Conti “due to lack of prior precedent.” According to the ruling, Conti maintained through the investigation that the nearly $146,000 he received from PA Cyber from Aug. 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, while also being paid $159,390 by Agora, was part of a severance agreement he received when told by the PA Cyber board of trustees that he would be fired whether he accepted the agreement or not. Conti, in an interview with an Ethics Commission investigator, said in May 2018 that, “I don’t believe that was compensation.” The ruling also said that Conti said he did not perform any work for PA Cyber and there was no conflict with his position at Agora, where he remains the chief executive officer. He was named Agora’s CEO in September 2016.

PPG Editorial: Early to bed, early to rise: Lack of sleep can have broad implications for teens
Shifting the early-morning start times for school is a good idea
THE EDITORIAL BOARD Pittsburgh Post-Gazette NOV 16, 2019 7:00 AM
The research is clear — and obvious to anyone with late-sleeping teenagers at home — that shifting the early-morning start times for school is a good idea. Experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the American Medical Association recommend that high school classes not begin before 8:30 a.m. And studies have shown that when schools push back their start times, grades and attendance go up. The Brookings Institution has quantified the benefits in dollars and cents. Its research shows that shifting the start of school until at least 8:30 a.m. can increase lifetime earning for students by $17,500. The majority of Pennsylvania schools start their days between 7:30 a.m. and 7:59 a.m. Though the conclusion is not in dispute, postponing the start of the standard school day is not as simple as setting a new bell schedule. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill that will mandate start times of no earlier than 8 a.m. for middle schools and 8:30 a.m. for high schools. The process will be phased in over three years and some rural districts are exempt. And Mr. Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown, refused to sign a similar bill during his administration. Starting a school day later may sound easy, but it can disrupt after-school activities and jobs; it can boost transportation costs for districts; and it often isn’t embraced initially by teachers or the community. Schools boards should begin to engage in a public conversation on the subject.

Student lunch debt: Here’s how Lehigh Valley districts handle it
By JACQUELINE PALOCHKO THE MORNING CALL | NOV 15, 2019 | 9:11 PM
Quakertown is the latest school district to address rising lunch debt. (For The Washington Post)
Quakertown became the latest school district Thursday night to approve a policy that deals with student lunch debt. Under Quakertown’s policy, parents will be given written notice when a student has accrued debt and the school principal will meet with parents. The district will allow 30 days for the debt to be paid. If full payment is not received within 30 days, the student could be prohibited from attending events such as class trips, school dances and graduation ceremonies. Debt of $1,000 or more will be sent to a collection agency. Under state law, districts can take away student privileges for unpaid meals as long as it is the same policy for other debts, such as overdue books. Quakertown officials say they adopted this policy because of the $27,000 lunch debt students amassed at the end of last school year. The district paid that off with money from the general fund budget. Quakertown is not the first district to adopt a policy dealing with lunch debt. Since a 2017 law that banned schools from stigmatizing children for having debt, a practice known as “lunch shaming," districts have seen their meal debt skyrocket.
Here’s what some Lehigh Valley districts do:

Paul Muschick: Blame Quakertown parents, not school board, for unpaid lunch consequences
By PAUL MUSCHICK THE MORNING CALL | NOV 15, 2019 | 12:39 PM
The Quakertown Community School Board is taking a lot of heat for authorizing students to be banned from dances, class trips and graduation ceremonies if they have an unpaid lunch tab or overdue or lost books. We should be lauding them for being responsible. What they’re doing should be a model for other school districts. I said the same last year when the Bethlehem Area School District started siccing debt collectors on families with unpaid lunch bills. At some point, we have to draw a line. Asking taxpayers to eat lunch debt is crossing that line. That’s not an educational expense. It’s a family expense. Children don’t have to buy lunch at school. They can pack. I wonder how many people who are calling for all students to be fed at the district’s expense would feel if their property taxes jumped to cover the cost. Don’t get distracted by the inclusion of lost and overdue books in Quakertown’s policy, adopted at Thursday night’s school board meeting. This is being driven by lunch debt. The policy was written to cover all debts so it would comply with state law, which allows districts to take away student privileges for unpaid meals only if that’s the policy for other debts, too.

Power Bucks launches election campaigns
Doylestown Intelligencer By Peg Quann Posted Nov 15, 2019 at 6:15 PM
Interdenominational organization wants to promote fair funding in education, voter registration.
If you haven’t noticed, the 2020 election season has begun. And not just for presidential politics. At a meeting Thursday night at the Linconia Tabernacle Christian Center in the Trevose section of Bensalem, hundreds of religious congregants and political activists showed up for the Power Bucks Campaign launch. The event was emceed by the Rev. Bill Bloom, of the United Christian Church in Levittown, and Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy, of Congregation Kol Emet in Yardley, who were joined by about 15 representatives from a wide variety of Christian denominations along with Jewish, Muslim and other religious organizations. Levy said that the group formed last November and has been meeting since then to promote racial, social and economic justice. In surveys of congregants, it found that issues that need to be addressed include “police profiling, economic injustice, the addiction crisis, immigration detention, mass incarceration, unfair education funding, access to voting, and racist, Islamaphobic and anti-Semitic hate and harassment rising out of our communities.” “We are Power Bucks and we are powerful,” chanted Bloom, asking the attendees to join in.

Boyertown School Board member to challenge Toepel for 147th House Dist.
DOUGLASS (Mont.) — Just five days after voters went to the polls ending the 2019 election cycle, a Boyertown School Board member has announced her candidacy for a 2020 race.
Democrat Jill Dennin announced her candidacy for the 147th District seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The seat is currently held by Republican Marcy Toepel. Toepel has been in office since 2010 when she won a special election to fill the seat vacated by then-Rep. Bob Mensch, who resigned to run for the 24th District Pennsylvania Senate seat vacated by Rob Wonderling. In 2018, Toepel fended off a challenge from first-time candidate Josh Camson by winning more than 56 percent of the votes. The 147th District includes Douglass (Mont.), New Hanover, Upper Frederick, Lower Frederick, Marlborough, Upper Salford, Lower Salford, West Pottsgrove, Upper Pottsgrove townships, and Green Lane and Schwenksville boroughs. Dennin's term on the school board does not expire until 2021. “For the last 25 years I have been volunteering for various organizations in this community,” Dennin said in a press release announcing her candidacy. “We are seeing a trend in Harrisburg that leaves behind many of the people for whom I have advocated over the years.”


PSBA Alumni Forum: Leaving school board service?
Continue your connection and commitment to public education by joining PSBA Alumni Forum. Benefits of the complimentary membership includes:
  • electronic access to PSBA Bulletin
  • legislative information via email
  • Daily EDition e-newsletter
  • Special access to one dedicated annual briefing
Register today online. Contact Crista Degregorio at Crista.Degregorio@psba.org with questions.

PSBA New and Advanced School Director Training in Dec & Jan
Do you want high-impact, engaging training that newly elected and reseated school directors can attend to be certified in new and advanced required training? PSBA has been supporting new school directors for more than 50 years by enlisting statewide experts in school law, finance and governance to deliver a one-day foundational training. This year, we are adding a parallel track of sessions for those who need advanced school director training to meet their compliance requirements. These sessions will be delivered by the same experts but with advanced content. Look for a compact evening training or a longer Saturday session at a location near you. All sites will include one hour of trauma-informed training required by Act 18 of 2019. Weekend sites will include an extra hour for a legislative update from PSBA’s government affairs team.
New School Director Training
Week Nights: Registration opens 3:00 p.m., program starts 3:30 p.m. -9:00 p.m., dinner with break included
Saturdays: Registration opens at 8:00 a.m., program starts at 9:00 a.m. -3:30 p.m., lunch with break included
Advanced School Director Training
Week Nights: Registration with dinner provided opens at 4:30 p.m., program starts 5:30 p.m. -9:00 p.m.
Saturdays: Registration opens at 10:00 a.m., program starts at 11:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m., lunch with break included
Locations and dates

Congress, Courts, and a National Election: 50 Million Children’s Futures Are at Stake. Be their champion at the 2020 Advocacy Institute.
NSBA Advocacy Institute Feb. 2-4, 2020 Marriot Marquis, Washington, D.C.
Join school leaders from across the country on Capitol Hill, Feb. 2-4, 2020 to influence the legislative agenda & shape decisions that impact public schools. Check out the schedule & more at https://nsba.org/Events/Advocacy-Institute

Register now for Network for Public Education Action National Conference in Philadelphia March 28-29, 2020
Registration, hotel information, keynote speakers and panels:

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.