Friday, January 11, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan. 11: How did we end up owing $72 billion in pension obligations? Read it and weep.

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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How did we end up owing $72 billion in pension obligations? Read it and weep.

Save the date: PA Schools Work Delaware County Work Group Conference
Saturday, February 2, 2019 8:45 am – 12:00 pm at DCIU

“A letter to the governor from the Education Law Center asks him to propose an increase of at least $400 million for basic education funding and $100 million for special education.”
Educators Urge Wolf to Up Funding for Special Education
Pennsylvania Council of Churches Ministry of Public Witness by |  
January 7, 2019 – Andrea Sears, Public News Service (PA)
More than 270,000 children with disabilities attend Pennsylvania schools.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Education advocates want Gov. Tom Wolf to include increased funding in the next state budget for some of the state’s most marginalized students. A letter to the governor from the Education Law Center asks him to propose an increase of at least $400 million for basic education funding and $100 million for special education. Federal law requires states to provide a free, appropriate public education for all students with disabilities, in the least restrictive environment. According to Reynelle Brown Staley, the center’s policy director, from 2008 to 2016, special education costs in Pennsylvania increased by more than $1.5 billion, while state support for those costs increased by only $72 million, forcing local districts to make up the difference. “Local districts have varying ability to come up with the money, so we’re asking the state to meet their legal obligation to ensure that students with disabilities have access to the educational services that they need,” she states. Staley points out that inadequate state funding has led to Pennsylvania having the largest funding gap between rich and poor school districts of any state in the nation.

From boom to bust: A timeline of Pennsylvania's public pension systems
The Morning Call lists key dates in the legal, political and financial history of Pennsylvania's public pension systems for state workers and school teachers
Steve Esack Contact Reporter Call Harrisburg Bureau January 10, 2019
Public pensions are funded three ways: employer contributions, employee contributions and investment returns. When employers live up to their obligations and Wall Street performs well, public pensions pay for themselves. But that has not been the case for decades in Pennsylvania as this timeline shows. The timeline starts with the creation of state’s two public pension systems in the early 20th century. It includes key legal decisions cementing the pension systems into public policy. It highlights political and financial decisions politicians have made, as well as market downturns, that have helped laden the systems with debt. The timeline ends, for now, with a new law, which went into effect this month. The law reduces future investment risk for taxpayers by reducing retirement benefits for most future state employees and all future school workers.

Under new Pennsylvania mandate, schools must make it their business to prepare students for careers
Jacqueline PalochkoMichelle Merlin and Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporters Of The Morning Call January 10, 2018
At Wescosville Elementary in the East Penn School District, fourth-graders are in charge of running a doughnut shop. It’s all pretend, but as part of the assignment, the students have $5,000 to start the business from the ground up. They’re responsible for paying rent and utilities, buying baking supplies and paying employees’ salaries. The 9- and 10-year-olds discuss what people look for during the hiring process, research wages in food services, write interview questions and conduct mock interviews. They focus on eye contact, smiling, speaking clearly, posture, appropriate greetings and strong, confident handshakes. It’s not new for districts to expose students to skills needed to find and land post-education careers. But nationwide districts now are graded on how well they do it. The first report card came out in November. Another one — set to a higher standard — comes out in the fall. Schools, including charter schools, need to show the state that students, starting in kindergarten, are learning such job skills as making resumes, writing reports on industries and job shadowing. After the Wescosville fourth-graders are done with their assignment, East Penn officials will log each student as having received career readiness and send that information to the state Department of Education. The new accountability system is called Future Ready Pa Index and documents on a state website how well schools prepare students for careers.

Governor Wolf Announces $2.6 Million to Prepare Students for High Growth Jobs
Governor Wolf’s Website January 10, 2019
Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today announced more than $2.6 million in Business-Education Partnership (BEP) grants to 22 local workforce development boards (LWDBs). The grants connect businesses and schools to provide students with job training for high growth jobs in Pennsylvania. “Pennsylvania employers need more well-educated and highly-skilled workers. These grants will strengthen and expand the ties between the classroom and the workplace, allowing students to learn the job skills to succeed in today’s workforce,” Governor Wolf said. “Our 21st century economy demands a technically skilled, job-ready workforce and my administration is committed to helping our young people obtain the skills they need to succeed.” The BEP grant awards, which were 100 percent federally funded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act, increase awareness of in-demand technical careers for students, parents, guardians, teachers, and school faculty.

Report: Skilled Workers Needed: Investing in Career and Technical Education – January 2019
Skilled Workers Needed: Investing in Career and Technical Education, released by PPC and the PA Schools Work Campaign, explores the role of career and technical education in supporting Pennsylvania’s economic development.

Centre Co. officials emphasize importance of state funding for career and technical education
WTAJ By: Evan Hinkley Posted: Jan 10, 2019 10:29 PM EST Updated: Jan 10, 2019 10:29 PM EST
Pleasant Gap, Centre County, Pa- Thursday, local leaders gathered at the Central PA Institute of Science and Technology to speak about the importance of investing in career and technical education (CTE). The presentation highlighted the need for additional funding in the state budget because, right now, most of the funding for CTE must come from school districts. Some schools may be forced to eliminate or trim their CTE programs if they are unable to fund them. "Local schools are on the hook for 90% of the costs to send their students to career technical education programs. So as much as the state can pick up and help those local school districts pick up the tab... it's really important for state policy makers to realize that," said Kari King, President and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children. Other speakers said they feel both state democrats and republicans are committed to helping students looking to enter the workforce.

Officials vote to postpone policy to arm teachers
AP News January 10, 2019
TAMAQUA, Pa. (AP) — School board members in Pennsylvania have voted to postpone a policy allowing teachers to carry guns in school. In a 2-1 vote Tuesday evening, the Tamaqua school board’s Security Committee says it will suspend the implementation of the policy pending a court hearing on its validity. Both teachers and parents have filed lawsuits against the policy claiming it violates state law and poses a danger to the community. The district serves more than 2,100 students and is believed to be the first school system in the state to let teachers carry weapons. The policy approved in September says teachers and other employees can volunteer to carry concealed, district-issued guns after training. The full board will vote on the policy Jan. 15.

Superintendents' forum: Positive relationships enhance school safety
Boyertown schools chief discusses efforts to improve climate among students, staff and parents.
One of the common threads of many school safety incidents is that the students involved did not have a positive relationship with an adult in the building. By engaging students, staff, and parents to build relationships, we can take steps to improve school safety and climate. Staff can look at the discipline data, but to get a good feel about school climate and security, they should be in the hallways during arrival times, when classes change and have a presence in places such as the cafeteria. Educators can find out so much about what's going on in the building by observing students in their social environments. To help school staff and resource officers maintain safe schools; I worked with Tim Mallory, one of my former chiefs of safety and security, to identify some possible steps. These included but were not limited to the following to support building relationships and improving school climate:

“I don’t see a path to a final balanced budget,” he said. He estimates escalating costs — driven largely by increased pension fund payments and health insurance premiums — could put the district in the hole by as much as $1.5 million. He said even if the board raises taxes to the maximum allowed by the state, that will still leave a shortfall of $400,000 to $500,000.”
Hanover Area board member warns of budget shortfall
Times Leader By Mark Guydish - January 9, 2019
HANOVER TWP. — Hanover Area School District is likely facing a shortfall of at least $400,000 in the 2019-20 budget, even if taxes are raised to the state-allowed maximum, board member Vic Kopko warned. He made the prediction Tuesday morning while explaining his decision to vote against a motion Monday that will keep any tax increase under the state limit. Asked to elaborate, Kopko expressed frustration that his warnings seem to be falling on deaf ears, and said his no vote was intended to make a point. “I don’t see a path to a final balanced budget,” he said. He estimates escalating costs — driven largely by increased pension fund payments and health insurance premiums — could put the district in the hole by as much as $1.5 million. He said even if the board raises taxes to the maximum allowed by the state, that will still leave a shortfall of $400,000 to $500,000.

Parents at Jackson demand solutions for South Philly’s crowded schools
Councilwoman Helen Gym calls securing money for school construction her "number one issue for this upcoming budget"
The notebook Greg Windle January 10 — 9:11 pm, 2019
The combined gym and auditorium at Andrew Jackson school quickly filled up with parents concerned about the school’s lack of space for new students at a meeting with School District officials Wednesday night. Jackson sits on the corner of 12th and Federal streets – the heart of South Philadelphia, one of the city’s most rapidly growing and gentrifying neighborhoods. Jackson was under-enrolled for years. But with the new families moving into the neighborhood, many drawn by the school’s good reputation, Jackson is now so full it will have to stop accepting students from other neighborhoods to make space for students living nearby. New parents worry that five-year-olds will be turned away from kindergarten for the first time. District officials assured parents that would not happen – yet. A crowd of over 50 parents and prospective parents attended. Wednesday’s meeting was a follow-up to a similar December meeting, both of which were called by the Home and School Association. Aaron Edelman, a father of two students at the school and treasurer of Jackson’s Home and School, was skeptical of the District’s commitment to solve the problem, saying the last meeting was not productive.

Outsourced aides already provide quality service to Carlisle, superintendent says
Joseph Cress The Sentinel January 10, 2019
The outsourcing of instructional aides is already providing a quality education to students within the structure and culture of the Carlisle Area School District. That was the word recently from Superintendent Christina Spielbauer as she tried to reassure school board members and the public that a proposal to outsource the remaining aides would not hurt student success. She disputed claims that aides hired through Education Staff Solutions are not of high quality or vested in the long-term achievement of students. “We have wonderful people who are employed by ESS,” Spielbauer said. “They are committed to the school district. They are committed to the classroom teachers. They are committed to working with the building administrators and the students. I would expect that quality to continue.” In 2017, board members approved a budget for 2017-18 that began the transition of aide positions through attrition from the district payroll to the outside contractor. As aides left the district by retirement or resignation, new aides are hired through ESS. District administrators now recommend the board transition the remaining aides to save an estimated $700,000 in personnel costs for 2019-20. Even with this proposal, the Carlisle school district is facing a projected $3 million deficit.

New food pantry to help needy schoolchildren
Beaver County Times By Jared Stonesifer Posted at 4:00 AM
HARMONY TWP. — A food pantry has been established to help feed needy children during the weekends. The new Highland Helpers Food Pantry is a partnership among the Ambridge Area School District, the Ambridge Area Education Association, the Center for Hope and the Ladies of Charity. Eliana Jorgensen, a social worker at the school, said Thursday that the idea for the food pantry started in the fall of 2017. It was only her second week of work in the Ambridge district when a student approached her at Highland Elementary School in Harmony Township. “One of our kids was leaving for the weekend and said, ‘Mrs. J, I’m really hungry,’” she said. “And it dawned on me that the child’s living situation was pretty dicey and that the student might not have much to eat over the weekend.” The result of that conversation was the establishment of a food pantry that now serves more than 100 children, who receive food bags for the weekend. Officials in the school district spent last year doing a “trial run” of the program, but it was expanded this school year when preliminary results proved successful.

National Alliance for Public Charter Schools BLOG by Kristen Forbriger January 9, 2019
Kristen Forbriger is the vice president of external relations for the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. 
Parents are asking more from public education: recent polling found 65 percent of voters support policies that ensure parents have a variety of public options for their children. But charter schools don’t just pop up in a community. Behind every charter school is an authorizer. While the work of authorizing usually happens in the background, it is essential to creating more great charter schools. As charter school supporters, you probably know why the quality of authorizing matters. If and how authorizers fulfill their responsibilities—approving new schools, monitoring performance, and closing failing schools—determines the overall quality of charter schools in a community. Smart, proactive authorizing has transformed public education in places like Washington, DC, New York, New Orleans, Denver, and Boston. This transformation is needed in more cities, mid-size towns, and rural areas. Unfortunately, the quality of charter laws and authorizing institutions varies across the country. In some places, authorizers employ the same one-size-fits-all directives, red tape, and bureaucracy that lead to the creation of the charter school model in the first place. In other places, authorizers make school leaders jump through needless hoops before allowing a school to open, or worse, let mediocre schools remain open and continue to fail kids year after year.

‘I Love My Skin!’ Why Black Parents Are Turning to Afrocentric Schools
While New York City schools are deeply segregated, some black families are choosing an alternative to integration.
New York Times By Eliza Shapiro Jan. 8, 2019
 “I love myself!” the group of mostly black children shouted in unison. “I love my hair, I love my skin!” When it was time to settle down, their teacher raised her fist in a black power salute. The students did the same, and the room hushed. As children filed out of the cramped school auditorium on their way to class, they walked by posters of Colin Kaepernick and Harriet Tubman. It was a typical morning at Ember Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, an Afrocentric school that sits in a squat building on a quiet block in a neighborhood long known as a center of black political power. Though New York City has tried to desegregate its schools in fits and starts since the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the school system is now one of the most segregated in the nation. But rather than pushing for integration, some black parents in Bedford-Stuyvesant are choosing an alternative: schools explicitly designed for black children.

“Enlow predicts one particular flavor of private school choice policy will gain the most momentum in the future. “Everyone is moving toward the policy concept of education savings accounts,” he said. “It’s a program that has broad application, … and it could be administered in an easier way over time.” ESAs are really a “hybrid voucher program,” Education Week reporter Arianna Prothero recently explained in a blog post, since private school tuition is just one of numerous allowable expenses. “Making all students eligible for education savings accounts is sort of a Holy Grail to voucher proponents, given that ESAs give parents near-total control over how money is spent on their child’s education,” she wrote.”
What’s Ahead for Private School Choice Policy in 2019?
Vouchers and voucher-like programs may grow in some states, face pushback elsewhere
JANUARY 8, 2019 ERIK ROBELEN Education Writers Association
Arizona voters in November gave a decisive thumbs down to a ballot measure that sought to expand a voucher-like program in that state. The same voters, however, opted by a wide margin to re-elect Republican Gov. Doug Ducey — a champion of private school choice who threw his support behind the failed referendum. And so it goes. For education overall, the 2018 election outcomes revealed a case of seeming contradictions, as we reported right after the election.
So, what’s next for private school choice policy in 2019? The state level is where the main action is expected. And in 20 states, the governor’s mansion has a new occupant this year.

“Students in areas favoring Trump were also 9 percent more likely to say that children at their schools had been teased because of their race or ethnicity.
“We found consistent differences in teasing and bullying rates that were linked to voting preferences,” said Huang in a statement shared online. 
Newsweek BY CHANTAL DA SILVA ON 1/10/19 AT 6:22 AM
A Virginia study launched in response to reports of a surge in school bullying across the country following the 2016 presidential election found an increase of abuse in areas of the state that voted for President Donald Trump compared with those that supported his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.  The study, which was undertaken by Francis Huang of the University of Missouri and Dewey Cornell of the University of Virginia and published Wednesday in Educational Researcher, a journal of the American Educational Research Association, analyzed data from a school climate survey taken by more than 150,000 students from across Virginia.  Looking at student responses around bullying from 2015 to 2017, researchers found higher rates of bullying and teasing in areas that voted for Trump compared with those that voted for Clinton.  What's more, the researchers found that the difference in rates of bullying between the areas  emerged only after 2015.  Student responses in 2015 showed "no meaningful differences" between areas, the researchers said in their study. But by spring 2017, responses from seventh- and eighth-graders in areas that supported Trump suggest that bullying rates were 18 percent higher than in areas that voted for Clinton.

Blogger note: if you are up and outside before dawn look to the east; you can’t miss this…
In case you haven't noticed, the day is beginning with bright lights rising in the east. The sun? No. It's Venus and Jupiter, converging for a beautiful conjunction in the pre-dawn sky. …In the mornings ahead, Venus and Jupiter will draw closer and closer together, putting on a better show with each successive sunrise. At closest approach on Jan. 22nd, they will be only 2.5 degrees apart--a double beacon in the dawn sky visible even from brightly-lit cities.

Open Board Positions for 2019 PA Principals Association Election
Thursday, January 10, 2019 9:05 AM
Margaret S. (Peg) Foster, principal, academic affairs, in the Crestwood School District, has been appointed by President Michael Allison to serve as the chairperson of the 2019 PA Principals Association Nominations Committee to oversee the 2019 election. Her committee consists of the following members: Curtis Dimmick, principal in the Northampton Area School District; Jacqueline Clark-Havrilla, principal in the Spring-Ford School District; and Joseph Hanni, vice principal in the Scranton School District.   If you are interested in running for one of the open board positions (shown below) in the 2019 election, please contact Stephanie Kinner at or (717) 732-4999 for an application. Applications must be received in the state office by Friday, February 22, 2019.

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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