Bucks County Herald by CLIFF LEBOWITZ Thu, Mar 14, 2019
The Palisades School District wants the current proposals for charter school funding reform to be the ones that finally get out of committee. At the March 6 public school board meeting, Superintendent Bridget O’Connell announced she had written in detail to state legislators calling for their support of Senate SB34, and a similar version in the House, HB526. She especially called for support to move the bills out of their committees and onto the floors for full votes. Board members have complained bitterly for many years that bills aiming to reform charter and cyber (online) charter funding, as well as general oversight for their operations, have never gotten out of committee, while public school districts work under comprehensive oversight, and increased pressure to control costs. With significantly increased costs for cyber charter school tuition cited in recent annual budget discussions as primary drivers for tax increases, the district has called for active support for the two bills. Taxpayers in the state’s public school districts support the private school tuitions for students living within their borders, with the support calculated by the state through formulas that district officials have long complained are grossly unfair to their taxpayers. O’Connell said that passage of the two bills would save the district $558,061 this year, which is an amount greater than the district budget deficits that had to be made up in recent years by tax increases.
PA Capital Star By Stephen Caruso March 13, 2019
On Tuesday, voters in West Philadelphia elected the first Muslim woman to serve in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly. Democrat Movita Johnson-Harrell, an anti-gun violence advocate and former staffer for District Attorney Larry Krasner, won two-thirds of the vote in a four-way special election for the 190th District. When she is sworn in March 25, Johnson-Harrell will be one of three openly Muslim members of the Legislature. The other two are Rep. Jason Dawkins and Sen. Sharif Street, both Philadelphia Democrats. “I think this is a good sign for Pennsylvania,” Johnson-Harrell told the Capital-Star after her win. “Our diversity is our strength.” She added that her election, as well as the election of the first two Muslim women to Congress last year, are a show of force against discrimination and bigotry. During her campaign, Movita Johnson-Harrell told PhillyMag she would be the first Muslim woman elected to the state House. In fact, she is believed to be the first Muslim woman to serve in the entire General Assembly.
Unchecked ‘concerns’ could doom Easton charter school expansion plans
By Rudy Miller | For lehighvalleylive.com March 14, 2019
Fliers circulated by parents indicate Easton’s only charter school hopes to add sixth, seventh and eighth grades by the start of the 2020 school year. If the Easton Arts Academy Elementary Charter School hopes to expand, it will have to earn the support of the Easton Area School District and its skeptical superintendent. Petitions circulating among parents call for community members to support the school’s expansion to “provide another educational option for the families and taxpayers of Northampton County.” The K-5 charter school at 30 N. Fourth St. in Easton is in its second year of operation. The school is publicly funded but operates independently from the Easton Area School District. Easton Area School District Superintendent indicated he opposes the expansion. “Until we have evidence, through our attorney and those being served, that they have addressed a range of parent and procedural concerns within their current program, it is unlikely that they will get support to expand their program from anyone,” Reinhart said in an email.
Blogger note: Pam Harbin is a friend of this blog; we wish her luck
Pam Harbin Wants to Go From Pittsburgh School Board Watchdog to School Board Member
Gadfly on the Wall Blog March 12, 2019
My friend Pam Harbin is trying to undergo a startling metamorphosis. She wants to transform from an education activist into a Pittsburgh School Director. Now that Board President Lynda Wrenn is stepping down after 4 years, city voters in District 4 will have to decide whether Harbin can make the change. The election is on May 21. Residents in parts of Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze, Shadyside and North Oakland already know Harbin as a fierce warrior for children’s civil rights, the plight of disabled kids and authentic public schools. I’ve known Pam, personally, for years in my own role as an education activist. Though I don’t live in the city, I’ve participated in numerous collective actions to fight for the schools all our children deserve. And right beside me in every case – often in front of me – was Pam. I may not live in the district, but I wish I could vote for her. Harbin is an amazing leader with boundless energy, piercing intelligence, a deep knowledge of education policy, an advanced degree in finance and marketing, and an impressive track record of education justice achievements.
Teen has the stuff for MIT or Princeton, but might not graduate from Easton Area High School
By Rudy Miller | For lehighvalleylive.com Updated Mar 10, 2019; Posted Mar 10, 2019
William W. Timmann is “going places,” according to his father. The 17-year-old got perfect scores in math on the SAT and ACT tests. He gets straight As in math and mostly As in the rest of his subjects. The Easton Area High School senior is taking five AP tests this year and is splitting time between high school and Northampton Community College because he’s so far ahead of his peers. But he might not graduate in May. That’s because his father, William E. Timmann, refuses to allow him to take the Keystone Exams. High schoolers across Pennsylvania take the standardized tests after they complete algebra, literature, and biology classes. The Keystones allow the state to assess whether students are proficient in these subjects before they graduate. Timmann opposes the Keystones and the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests. The PSSAs are mandatory for third through eighth graders. “The PSSAs and the Keystones do nothing for the children. They grade the schools,” said Timmann, who lives on Easton’s South Side. State funding is tied to students’ test scores. The tests are designed to measure which school districts succeed and which ones fail to produce academically proficient students. But they don’t help individual students improve, Timmann says. He doesn’t want his son to waste time with them. “What is this doing for him and what is this doing for his education? No one can explain that to me,” Timmann said.
Harriton H.S. senior wins prestigious science award for work on HIV
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Updated: March 13, 2019- 3:14 PM
It would be hard to top Harriton High School senior Samuel Weissman in a “what I did on my summer vacation” essay: working in a lab at the University of Pennsylvania, looking for new ways to rid the body of the HIV virus. The Merion 17-year-old’s work ethic — and an obsessive curiosity about biology that started in third grade — paid huge dividends this week as he took second place, and a $175,000 prize, at the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s most prestigious science and math contest for high school seniors. Weissman — who on Tuesday received the award, formerly sponsored by Westinghouse, at a ceremony in Washington — said he was awed just to be on stage with the other finalists, including $250,000, first-place winner Ana Humphrey of Alexandria, Va., who studied planets outside the solar system. “When I got called, it dawned on me how amazing it was to be on the same stage as all these really brilliant people,” Weissman said Wednesday. He said he’s so excited about his research that he plans to spend a “gap year” working full time at the Penn lab before entering college.
Building a workforce for PHLPreK: Not an easy proposition
WHYY By Melanie Bavaria, The Notebook March 13, 2019
The decision by Mayor Jim Kenney to focus on expanding public pre-K options with a locally funded program certainly had its controversies. Most obviously the decision to fund it with a sugary-drinks tax has come under relentless legal challenges from the soda industry. But everyone involved in the early childhood education community, from the Mayor’s office and the School District of Philadelphia to the smaller participating community providers, seems to agree that the program, known as PHLPreK, has already improved quality and availability around the city, particularly for low-income parents. Yet they also seem to agree on the program’s most fundamental problem: staffing. “Oddly enough, of all the work and all the challenges we face, the hardest thing we do is finding highly qualified, dedicated staff,” said Leslie Spina, director of Kinder Academy, a pre-K provider that includes five locations in Northeast Philadelphia serving 500 students, including a handful of PHLpreK classrooms.
Soda tax-funded preK will drive Philadelphia’s future | Opinion
Meyata McMichael, For The Inquirer Updated: March 13, 2019 - 6:51 AM
Meyata is a PHLPreK instructor at Beautiful Beginnings Childcare Center, Inc. Her position became available in October 2018 as a result of slots awarded to the Holmesburg school through funding from the sweetened drink tax.
PHLpreK has transformed the lives of my students, and it’s all thanks to the city’s sweetened drink tax. In 2016, leaders in Philadelphia united behind a bold approach to provide new opportunities to its most vulnerable and underprivileged kids to break the cycle of poverty, injustice, and inequity. The tax has generated $137 million in revenue, which has already had a significant impact. More than 2,000 new pre-K seats have been created, per the city’s count — with several thousand more on the way — and nearly half of these new seats have the highest quality ratings as identified by Pennsylvania’s Keystone Stars program. More than 200 new teachers have been hired at early childcare centers, two-thirds of which are owned by women and minorities. New community schools have been built, and the city is starting a massive rebuilding project tthat will upgrade parks, playgrounds, and recreation centers.
‘We’re heartbroken’: Customers say goodbye to ShopRite that is closing and blaming soda tax
Inquirer by Laura McCrystal, Updated: March 14, 2019- 5:25 AM
Didi Anderson walked two blocks from her home to the ShopRite in West Philadelphia on Wednesday morning to buy a can of peas for beef stew. But she lingered inside, filling her cart with more than just peas, as she realized that the Haverford Avenue store, which will close Thursday, was offering all items at a 75 percent discount. Anderson was happy about the low prices but not the closing of the store, which will leave her neighborhood without a supermarket. “It has such a negative impact,” she said. “I’m in good health, but there are so many seniors who walk here.” Jeff Brown, president and CEO of Brown Super Stores Inc., announced in January that he would close his Haverford Avenue ShopRite, blaming Philadelphia’s tax on soda and other sweetened beverages for a 23 percent decline in sales and an annual net loss of more than $1 million. Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, meanwhile, contends that Brown is using the tax as a scapegoat for the store’s struggles and insists there is no evidence that the levy has impacted grocery sales.
Rep. Madeleine Dean: Universal background checks needed for firearm purchases
Pottstown Mercury Opinion By Rep. Madeleine Dean Guest columnist
U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean is a Democrat who represents Pennsylvania's 4th Congressional District, which includes parts of Montgomery and Berks counties.
Americans like to argue about politics — but on one issue, almost everyone agrees. More than 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks for firearm purchases, including 83 percent of gun owners. Republicans, Democrats, it doesn’t matter: we recognize that owning a firearm is a serious responsibility. As Abraham Lincoln said, “With public sentiment, nothing can fail” — and last month, the House passed historic legislation requiring universal background checks. We also voted to close the Charleston loophole. Right now, federal law permits gun sales to proceed if the purchaser’s background check hasn’t cleared in three days — a nonsensical policy that allowed Dylann Roof to acquire a gun and murder nine South Carolina churchgoers in 2015. (The bill also included an amendment that I cosponsored to study the connection between firearms and domestic violence.) Given the logic — and public support — behind universal background checks, what explains the remaining opposition? In my conversations with Republican colleagues in Congress, this is what I hear:
Why Lunch, Exercise, Sleep, and Air Quality Matter at School
Education Week By Sarah D. Sparks March 12, 2019
From technology to textbooks to teacher training, school planning often has a lot of competing priorities. Some things—like the morning schedule, lunch and activity time, or the building's physical environment—by their very banality often fall to the bottom of that priority list. Yet evidence is mounting that attending to these basic aspects of students' school experiences can significantly improve their academic focus, concentration, and mental well-being. And often the challenges to making changes in school structures seem insurmountable. But many schools are coming up with creative solutions. In Seattle, for example, "it took years" to convince the district to delay high school start times to give adolescents more sleep, according to teacher Cynthia Jatul. "When we first started bringing it up to the school board, they said that they had tried and had never been able to fully implement the policy because there are so many factors that surround school start time, and a lot of those things are difficult to change. So even though it was known that it would be much better, nothing was done." Yet switching the bus schedule to pick up elementary students before high schoolers ultimately reduced stress at both levels, as older students got more rest and parents of younger children were able to get to work earlier.
We Are Spending Millions to Put More Cops in Schools. What Could Go Wrong?
The real risk of undertrained school resource officers
Education Week By Lisa Thurau & Johanna Wald March 12, 2019
Children and their parents have long felt anxious about school. This year, however, many leave home each morning suffering from an acute fear unknown before 1999: that their school will be the site of another mass shooting. Since last year's deadly school shootings, parents, psychologists, and educators report that children are suffering from PTSD and panic attacks that may be adversely affecting their brain development. Given these disturbing trends, it is understandable that community, police, and school leaders feel intense pressure to demonstrate they are taking tangible measures to keep children safe. The most visible way to do so, unfortunately, is also the least effective, most expensive, and most harmful to vulnerable students. Beefing up the presence of police officers on school grounds is a tempting but wrongheaded approach. Although there is no convincing evidence that police presence in schools reduces the risk of the violence parents and children most fear, officials have succumbed to the public pressure, at great expense. In just the first six months after last year's deadly Parkland shooting, state legislatures in 26 states allocated nearly $950 million for security upgrades and school resource officers. One Florida county voted to nearly triple the number of school resource officers, or SROs, at an additional cost of almost $4 million.
White House Hopeful Beto O'Rourke Has Criticized 'Arbitrary, High-Stakes' Tests
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on March 14, 2019 7:08 AM
Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke is running for president, and he brings a history of being skeptical of standardized tests to the 2020 campaign. The Texas Democrat, who announced his candidacy Thursday, doesn't have an extensive record on education policy from his time in Congress, but he has announced a few positions that will probably sound good to many educators and teachers' unions. O'Rourke has criticized what he calls a heavy emphasis on "arbitrary, high-stakes" testing in education, and said, "I want to make sure that we have the backs of those teachers and allow them to teach to the child and not to the test." He voted in favor of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, which maintains the annual testing regimen from the No Child Left Behind Act but barred the federal government from having a hand in teacher evaluations. He's also opposed vouchers, saying on the website for his unsuccessful Senate campaign last year that, "No public tax dollars should be given to private schools." He also wants additional funding for "underserved" communities. And O'Rourke has spoken out against laws that discriminate against students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Testing Resistance & Reform News March 6 - 12, 2019
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on March 12, 2019 - 1:29pm
The advent of public school testing season brings with it heightened grassroots pressure for meaningful assessment reform. From third-grade promotion exams to high school graduation tests to exam-score-based teacher evaluations, policymakers are responding to concerns from parents, students, educators and community leaders.
Snow geese population may be near peak with 150,000 birds [photos, video]
Lancaster Online by MICKAYLA MILLER | Website Producer March 13, 2019
Snow Geese storm off the water at the Middle Creek Reservoir on Tuesday Morning, Feb. 19, 2019. The Pennsylvania Game Commission estimates that there are nearly 15,000 snow geese at Middle Creek currently. The past few years have brought earlier snow geese migrations, but Middle Creek Manager, Lauren Ferreri, said that it's more typical for the migration to happen around this time of year. Monday and Tuesday, Ferreri reported numbers of snow geese ranging at over 100,000, with Tuesday being the season's peak - so far- with 150,000 birds at Middle Creek. There are also 4,750 Tundra Swans and 1,500 Canada Geese at the wildlife area.
Middle Creek set up a live camera to view the birds, which can be viewed here. At this time last year, there were some 200,000 geese in the area. The back-to-back snowstorms that hit the Lancaster County area were to blame for this year's later migration. This year is more like an average year for the bird migration, said Ferreri. In 2017, the peak season only saw about 70,000 birds, and the year before saw nearly 65,000 birds, according to the Game Commission's website.
The League of Women Voters of Delaware County and the Delaware County Intermediate Unit present: EPLC 2019 Regional Training Workshop for PA School Board Candidates April 27th 8am – 4:30pm at DCIU
Ron Cowell of The Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Center will conduct a regional full day workshop for 2019 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.
Date & Time: Saturday, April 27, 2019, 8am to 4:30pm
To register, please visit http://tinyurl.com/CandidatesWksp
“BACKPACK FULL OF CASH” DOCUMENTARY – Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor, Matt Damon, BACKPACK explores the real cost of privatizing America’s public schools. Before the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the appointment of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, filmmakers Sarah Mondale and Vera Aronow couldn’t have known that the new administration would dramatically shift the national debate about education to the very issues at the heart of their film: charter schools, vouchers and privatization. Now, this timely new documentary takes viewers into the world of market-based education “reform”.
BACKPACK FULL OF CASH follows the tumultuous 2013-14 school year in Philadelphia and other cities where public education – starved of resources and undermined by privatization – is at risk. The documentary also showcases a model for improving schools – a well-resourced public school system in Union City, New Jersey, where poor kids are getting a high-quality education without charters or vouchers. BACKPACK FULL OF CASH makes the case for public education as a basic civil right. The film features genuine heroes like the principals, teachers, activists, parents and most hearteningly, students who are fighting for their education. Former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, writer David Kirp and policy expert Linda Darling Hammond are among the national thought leaders who provide analysis in the film.
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.
Indiana Area School District Safety & Security Symposium March 15, 2019
Indiana Area School District Website
Background: It’s 2019, and school safety has catapulted as one of the top priorities for school districts around the country. With an eye toward providing educators with various resources and opportunities specific to Pennsylvania, the Indiana Area School District -- in collaboration with Indiana University of Pennsylvania, PA Representative Jim Struzzi, and as well as Indiana County Tourist Bureau-- is hosting a FREE safety and security symposium on March 15, 2019. This safety and security exchange will provide information that benefits all stakeholders in your education community: administrators, board members, and staff members alike. Presenters offer valuable resources to help prepare your organization to continue the discussion on safety and security in our schools. Pre-registration is required, and you will be invited to choose the breakout sessions that you feel will have the most impact in your professional learning on these various topics, as well as overall impact on your District’s systems of operations. Please take time to review the various course breakout sessions and their descriptions. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect and learn.
How to Register: Participants attending the Safety Symposium on March 15, 2019, will have the option to select a maximum of 4 breakout sessions to attend on this day. Prior to the breakout sessions, attendees will hear opening remarks from former Secretary of Education - Dr. Gerald Zahorchak. We want to empower the attendees to exercise their voice and choice in planning their day! Please review the various break out session descriptions by clicking on the "Session Descriptions" on the right-hand side of this page. On that page, you will be able to review the sessions offered that day and register for the symposium.
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.
Wyndham Garden Hotel, Mountainview Country Club
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools