Thursday, January 10, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan. 10, 2019 Guns & Bibles This Morning

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
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Guns & Bibles This Morning

Bible distribution debate continues at Mechanicsburg school board meeting
Phyllis Zimmerman For The Sentinel January 9, 2019
An ongoing debate about allowing students to distribute Bibles during school lunch periods dominated a Mechanicsburg Area School Board meeting Tuesday night, attracting an estimated crowd of more than 80 people that spilled into an adjoining hallway at Elmwood Academy. Members of the Christians in Action Student Club at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School said they requested in the first week of November permission to hand out Bibles during a lunch period earlier this school year, but high school principal David Harris and other administrators told them they could not do so. Student club members said they contacted the Independence Law Center in Harrisburg, which describes itself on its website as a public-interest law firm affiliated with the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a nonprofit organization funded through tax-deductible contributions that works to preserve religious liberty, promote marriage and the family, and protect human life.

A look at the Independence Law Center
Zack Hoopes The Sentinel January 9, 2019
The Independence Law Center, according to its website, is affiliated with and located in the same office as the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a 501(c)3 nonprofit group. The Pennsylvania Family Institute, according to its website and tax filings, is involved in advocacy work promoting religious freedom, family values and advocating against abortion and same-sex marriage, and spent over $1.4 million in 2016, according to its most recent publicly available tax filing. The Pennsylvania Family Institute’s website also contains a blog that references the Mechanicsburg High School Bible controversy in multiple postings, including two posts with the headlines “School Bans Sharing Bibles” and “Lift the Bible Sharing Ban.”

Blogger note: we’ve been having some email issues for the past couple days. Here are links to those postings if you did not receive them:

PERC Report on Principal Mobility
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan. 9, 2019

Time to end Pa.'s Hunger Games for education funding
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan. 8, 2019

PA Schools Work: Join a movement to support public education in NEPA
Luzerne County Intermediate Unit Wednesday, January 30th at 6:00
368 Tioga Ave, Kingston, PA 18704

Classrooms are underfunded and overcrowded and public education is suffering. We can't afford to stand by while students miss out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to gain the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed after graduation. Join parents, community members, teachers, school board members, and others as we discuss our regional strategy and plans to secure significant increases in state funding for public schools in the 2019-2020 state budget.
Please plan to attend this event and share this with your networks!
Email Susan Spicka from Education Voters of PA with questions.

With lawsuits looming, Tamaqua Area School Board to vote on suspending controversial armed staff policy
Jill Whalen  Of the Hazleton Standard-Speaker January 9, 2019
The Tamaqua Area School Board will vote on a measure to suspend a controversial policy that would allow employees to carry guns in school. A motion to stop the policy’s implementation was approved for the agenda for the board’s regular meeting next week. Security Committee members approved the agenda in a 2-1 vote during a work session Tuesday evening. According to the proposed motion, “The Security Committee approves suspending implementation of school district Policy 705, pending a resolution as to its validity by the Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County.” Board President Larry Wittig and Director Thomas Rottet were in favor of adding the motion to the agenda, but Director Nicholas Boyle — who chairs the Safety Committee — was not. “I’m voting no on that,” Boyle said. “My issue with delaying the policy is that we’re allowing the anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment lobbyist group to dictate school policy. “If something happened because we delayed the policy, it’s going to be us here in this room cleaning up the mess while they go back to Philadelphia — and I have a big issue with that,” he said. “And that’s going to drag this out for a year, a year and a half, whatever it’s going to be.”
Boyle didn’t name the group, but, CeaseFirePA, based in Philadelphia, has rallied against the policy, which was approved unanimously in September.

Pennsylvania Republican who's a former FBI agent signs onto gun background check bill
With a Democratic House, is there a path through Congress for a gun background check bill? U.S. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, have shown interest in the issue. Fitzpatrick, of Bucks County, signed onto the House bill.
Laura Olson Contact Reporter Morning Call Washington Bureau January 9, 2019
Can the latest effort to tighten background checks on gun sales make it through Congress?
House Democrats are seeking to find out, introducing a bill Tuesday on the eighth anniversary of the shooting that killed six people and severely injured former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The bipartisan measure would require background checks on all gun sales and most gun transfers. Among its co-sponsors are five House Republicans, including Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Bucks County. Fitzpatrick supported a series of gun-control measures last year, including a bill creating gun violence restraining orders intended to prevent a potentially dangerous person from owning or buying a gun. In a statement expressing his support for the new gun-control bill, Fitzpatrick said background checks “are a proven, effective measure in keeping our communities safe.” U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, a Democrat representing the Lehigh Valley’s 7th District, also is supportive of the bill. Wild and Pennsylvania’s three other Democratic congresswomen are part of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, and have called for legislation on universal background checks, federal research on gun violence prevention, and limits on large-capacity magazines.

Rep. Frank Ryan: Time to eliminate property taxes in Pennsylvania
Pottstown Mercury By Rep. Frank Ryan Guest columnist January 9, 2019
Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret.) represents the 101st District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
There have been discussions about eliminating property taxes for decades. In November 2017, a constitutional amendment passed by substantial margin to allow for the elimination of property taxes. With that amendment, it would only be necessary for legislation to be enacted to rid the Commonwealth of this regressive tax. The question then becomes what is the status of the bill to eliminate property taxes? In December 2018, I circulated a co-sponsorship memo in the PA House for a bill which will eliminate property taxes 100% for all properties if enacted. The objective of the bill is simple — to eliminate all property taxes. The tricky part is the replacement tax. That very simple statement will be the subject of eight detailed articles I intend to write explaining the issues in detail to solicit your feedback and to allow the best possible solution to come about as quickly as possible.

What's next for Innovative Arts Academy Charter School?
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call January 9, 2019
The Catasauqua Area School District administration advised the school board Tuesday against renewing the charter for the Innovative Arts Academy Charter School. What’s next for the charter school?
Catasauqua Area School District must provide specifics about why the charter will not be renewed: Under the 2009 Pennsylvania charter school law, there are a number reasons why a sponsoring school district can chose to revoke or not renew a school’s charter. Superintendent Robert Spengler declined Tuesday to go into detail about why the district’s administrative review team could not recommend the charter for the school be renewed.
A public hearing date will be set: The school board must conduct a hearing to show their reasons for denying the charter. The board of trustees and charter school administrators will present evidence supporting their decision to withdraw the charter and the charter school administrators and board of trustees will have a chance to make the case for renewing the charter.
A decision must be made in public: The school board must take their vote about the charter at a public meeting where the public has a chance to provide comments.

Schools stuck waiting:  Enforce or change federal law on medical weed
Post Gazette Editorial JAN 9, 2019 12:00 AM
It is black letter law: federal trumps state. So, there should be no real confusion when it comes to medical marijuana. The feds say it is illegal. But, lots of states disagree, as is evidenced by the burgeoning number of prescriptions, dispensaries, and farms across the U.S. The legal conflict has not escalated to a court battle because federal prosecutors and agents are not arresting patients with valid prescriptions. But a difficult conundrum has arisen. Pennsylvania school districts are caught in the cross hairs of the conflict. Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation legalizing marijuana for medical uses in April 2016. In fact, it’s legal in more than two dozen other states. Yet it is not the law of the land. On the federal level, possession of the plant for any purpose — no distinction between medicinal or pleasure — can result in criminal charges and asset forfeiture. In an effort to guide school districts dealing with this quandary, Mr. Wolf directed state education officials to publish regulations for the implementation of the law by fall 2018. Yet no rules have been forthcoming to districts. The explanation is that the process for developing regulations is “complex and time-consuming,” according to a statement from the state Education Department. To be sure, this is true. At the same time, it is unacceptable. School districts need legal protection and guidance as they cope both with the contradictory federal/​state statutes as well as students with valid prescriptions.

Pottsgrove School Board OKs early-bird 3-year teacher pact
Evan Brandt @PottstownNews on Twitter January 10, 2019
WEST POTTSGROVE — With a 7-1 vote Tuesday night, the Pottsgrove School Board approved an early-bird contract with the teachers union that will add nearly $2 million to the district's payroll over the next three years. Patricia Grimm was absent and board member Bill Parker cast the only vote against the contract. Megan DeLena, president of the Pottsgrove Education Association, said her membership approved the pact Monday night by "an overwhelming" majority. DeLena said the contract re-structures the salary scale with a goal of raising the salary of starting teachers. "That will make our district more competitive in keeping younger teachers here with other, larger school districts paying much higher salaries," said School Board Vice President Al Leach. The salary re-structuring means different teachers in different steps in the salary scales will receive different raises, so the most accurate way to describe the financial impact is the additional money the contract will add to the payroll. Although he did not have the exact numbers at hand, Superintendent William Shirk said the higher salaries with add 3.3 percent to the payroll, or "more than $600,000," each year. That means by 2022, the school district's payroll will have risen by at least $1.8 million. However, the district may save some money out of the payroll if at least 12 Pottsgrove teachers take up the retirement incentive offer included in the new contract.

South Middleton proposes swap in start times for elementary and secondary schools
Joseph Cress The Sentinel January 9, 2019
The South Middleton School Board may consider a swap in the start times of its elementary and secondary schools  beginning in 2019-20. District administrators have scheduled focus groups this week with department chairs, support staff and parents on a proposal that could come up again during the Jan. 21 board meeting. Under the proposal, the school day for grade K-5 students in the W.G. Rice and Iron Forge buildings would run from 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Meanwhile, the school day for grades 6-12 students would run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. for the Yellow Breeches Middle School and Boiling Springs High School. The swap is designed to make sure teenagers get the recommended amount of sleep they need to achieve their full potential and stay alert in class, said Melanie Shaver-Durham, director of curriculum and instruction. She said the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended middle and high school students start at 8:30 a.m. or later to meet a target of 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night.

Harrisburg, Central Dauphin schools could lose millions to railroad in tax dispute
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | Updated 5:48 AM; Posted 5:40 AM
The Harrisburg School District raised taxes on residents last year by the maximum amount allowed by law, to generate an additional $1.4 million to cover rising costs. But the bulk of that tax increase could be erased if the Norfolk Southern Corporation prevails in a property tax dispute with Dauphin County. The district could owe more than $1.2 million in refunds to the railroad company and lose more than $474,000 annually going forward. The city of Harrisburg stands to owe $1 million and lose more than $340,000 annually going forward. In all, the five taxing authorities, including Harrisburg’s, Swatara Township and the Central Dauphin School District, could be on the hook for $6.8 million in refunds to compensate the railroad company for taxes it has paid under protest since 2015. Going forward, $2.1 million annually is at stake for those taxing authorities.

Waynesboro school board eyeing tax increase for 2019-20
Waynesboro Herald Mail By Jennifer Fitch Jan 8, 2019
WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Waynesboro Area School District property owners are facing a 2.9 percent tax increase in 2019-20 based on preliminary drafts of the district’s budget. The school board on Tuesday took an early look at a proposed $60.5 million spending plan for the coming year. That budget calls for a 2.75-mill tax increase. A mill represents $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. The average assessment in the Waynesboro Area School District is $18,500, which equates to a house with a market value of $132,000. That property owner would pay an additional $50.89 if the budget passes as proposed. Business Administrator Eric Holtzman lamented the state’s basic education funding formula, which is based on historic spending. “That goes back to the state not recognizing the growth of school districts,” he said. Board member Stephen Kulla urged that state lawmakers be brought into a meeting about the funding formula. He also criticized past school boards for not raising taxes in incremental amounts from 2012-13 to 2015-16. “We’ve had to make up for that just to balance the budget,” he said.

Massachusetts education funding bill supported by teachers, mayors, advocates would cost up to $2 billion a year
Mass Live By Shira Schoenberg | Updated Jan 9, 2:57 PM; Posted Jan 9, 2:57 PM
BOSTON —A large coalition of politicians, mayors, teachers and education advocates are throwing their support behind a new bill that could eventually increase state education funding by between $1 billion and $2 billion a year. “It affects every district across the commonwealth, those that are fluent, those that are struggling. There’s something in there for everyone,” said state Rep. Aaron Vega, D-Holyoke, one of the bill’s primary sponsors in the House. The bill, named the PROMISE Act, is sponsored by Vega, Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, D-Boston, and Rep. Mary Keefe, D-Worcester. The bill is similar to a bill that passed the Senate last year and would create a process for implementing the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission. The 2015 commission found that the existing formula used to distribute state funding for public schools is outdated. It underfunds employee health care costs, special education costs, costs for English language learners and for districts with high concentrations of poverty. That report found that the state is underestimating the cost of public education by $1 billion to $2 billion a year.

Audits show Georgia online charter schools struggling
Atlanta Journal-Constitution By  Ty Tagami January 9, 2019
New state audits of Georgia’s online charter schools show academic achievement lagging.
The results from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts show both Georgia Cyber Academy and Georgia Connections Academy underperformed on the state schools report card, the College and Career Ready Performance Index. “Georgia Cyber Academy’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores were below the state average for the elementary, middle, and high schools, with elementary and high school scores approximately 20 points below the state average,” says one of the reports, published in late December by the Performance Audit Division. The CCRPI is a 100-point scale, and the Cyber Academy underperformed in all components at the elementary and high school levels; middle school performance was similarly low, except in a category called “readiness.”

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.

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: PSBA Advocacy Day at the Capitol in Harrisburg has been scheduled for Monday April 29, 2019

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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