Wednesday, March 20, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 20: New bill, new legislative session. But the math of property tax reform remains as daunting as ever

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New bill, new legislative session. But the math of property tax reform remains as daunting as ever

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 (and Incumbents) 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.
Location: Delaware County Intermediate Unit, 200 Yale Ave. Morton, PA
Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in this workshop. Registration is $75 (payable by credit card) and includes coffee and pastries, lunch, and materials. For questions contact Adriene Irving at 610-938-9000 ext. 2061.
To register, please visit

“And that’s always been the rub: Replacing the revenue that would be lost with a full elimination, which, as recently as four years ago, was a relatively quaint $14 billion. And now, as a new report by the Legislature’s Independent Fiscal Office makes clear, the hill that reformers will push their tax boulder up this year is even steeper. According to IFO projections, property tax collections will total nearly $15 billion when the current fiscal year ends on June 30.”
PA Capital Star By  John L. Micek  March 20, 2019
If there’s one thing you can count on with the start of every new legislative session, it’s that tax hawks in the state House and Senate will inevitably float bills aimed at ridding Pennsylvania of school property taxes. It’s a scenario that’s played out for years — with the same, predictable result: The bills inevitably fail, and Pennsylvanians still pay school real estate taxes, and still — particularly if they’re senior citizens — complain about having to pay them. Undaunted, state Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill, has reintroduced his “Property Tax Independence Act.” The tax elimination plan, formally known as Senate Bill 76 (because, “independence,” geddit?) is now before the Senate Finance Committee, where, if past is prologue, it will remain mired, suffering through its own long, dark Valley Forge of the soul. Over in the House, Rep. Frank Ryan, a Lebanon County Republican and a former Marine — which means he knows a thing or two about longshot offensives — is prepping his own bill. Reformers came close as they’ve ever come to a win in 2015, when the Senate voted 25-24, with then-Lt. Gov. Mike Stack casting a rare tie-breaker, to reject that year’s version of the bill. As was widely reported at the time, the bill came to the floor with some heavy-duty opposition — including from Gov. Tom Wolf — and without an independent analysis proving that the bill could raise the money it said it could raise.

PA Independent Fiscal Office March 18, 2019 | Property Tax
This report contains the IFO's forecasted school district property tax collections from FY 2017-18 through FY 2023-24. The report also contains projections of the Act 1 index and estimates of school district property taxes that can be attributed to homesteads. Total school property tax collections for FY 2017-18 ($14.5 billion) and FY 2018-19 ($14.9 billion) are estimated using millage rates published by the Pennsylvania Department of Education and property tax assessment data. For FY 2019-20 through FY 2023-24, collections are projected based on the statutory, economic and structural factors that affect growth rates of property taxes. During that period, total school property tax collections are projected to grow by an average annual rate of 3.2 percent, reaching $17.3 billion by FY 2023-24.

Blogger note: Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 was over $1.6 billion; $393.5 million, $398.8 million, $436.1 million and $454.7 million respectively. Over the next several days we will continue rolling out cyber charter tuition expenses for taxpayers in education committee members, legislative leadership and various other districts.
In 2016-17, .@SenatorMartin’s school districts had to send over $8.5 million to chronically underperforming cybers that they never authorized. SB34 (Schwank) or HB526 (Sonney) could change that.
Links to additional bill information and several resources have been moved to the end of today’s postings
Data Source: PDE via PSBA
Conestoga Valley SD
Hempfield  SD
Lampeter-Strasburg SD
Manheim Township SD
Octorara Area SD
Penn Manor SD
Pequea Valley SD
Solanco SD
Lancaster SD


New data shows racial achievement gaps at more than half of Allegheny County school districts
Public Source by  Mary Niederberger  | March 19, 2019
Caroline Johns saw three important problems to solve after becoming superintendent of the Northgate School District in July 2016. She needed to increase the number of graduates going to higher education, improve third-grade reading scores and examine the five tracks of math that students were funneled into in middle school. But not until a year later did she become aware of an underlying academic achievement issue she hadn’t recognized. Academic achievement of black students trailed that of white students in grades 7-12. Black students at the middle school were stuck in the lowest-achieving math tracks, and black students were not enrolled in upper level or Advanced Placement courses in high school, according to data presented by the district’s newly hired curriculum director. “It revealed institutional racism that we hadn’t even thought of,” Johns said. “It’s a very difficult issue, and, on the surface, it looks like there’s no problem there.” Of the 42 Allegheny County school districts outside the City of Pittsburgh, 23 had one or more schools with achievement gaps between black and white students in the 2017-18 school year.
The state doesn’t provide public data on the remaining 19 districts because they do not have at least 20 black students at their schools.

Allegheny County schools with reported racial achievement gaps
Public Source by  Mary Niederberger , Stephanie Hacke and  Natasha Vicens  | March 19, 2019
See how proficiency rates compare between black and white students at 23 Allegheny County school districts. (This does not include Pittsburgh Public Schools; learn about its racial achievement gaps here).
Click on the plus sign next to a school name to see proficiency rates for English, math and science. Download the full dataset here.

New poll shows support for Wolf’s teacher minimum wage hike | Wednesday Morning Coffee
PA Capital Star By  John L. Micek March 20, 2019
Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
In polling, as in life, it’s safe to say you get what you pay for. A new poll, commissioned by the state’s largest teachers union, shows … wait for it … broad support for Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to increase teachers’ base pay from the current $18,500 a year to $45,000 a year. The poll, by central Pennsylvania-based Harper Pollingshows that two-thirds of the 600 likely voters who responded support the minimum wage hike for educators that Democrat Wolf rolled out during his budget address last month. The poll also found widespread geographic support for Wolf’s proposal: As you might imagine, PSEA officials trumpeted the results. It’s been decades since the state minimum was raised, they noted. “Raising the minimum teacher salary will help Pennsylvania school districts attract and retain the best and brightest to teach in our schools,” PSEA President Rich Askey said in a statemeant. “Pennsylvanians understand that and widely support this proposal.” But as is the case with most polls, it comes down to how you ask the question:

“Our brief outlines a promising research base supporting legislation aligned with developing, expanding, and further researching promising practices in trauma-informed education.”
RFA Brief: Trauma-Informed Schools in Pennsylvania: Aligning Expansion with High-Quality Implementation
Research for Action Authors:  Mark Duffy,  Rachel Comly Publication Date March 2019
Abstract: Recent momentum to develop a trauma-informed education system provides an important opportunity for Pennsylvania schools. About two out of every three school-age children are likely to experience at least one traumatic event, such as abuse, neglect, or exposure to violence, by age 17. The effects of traumatic stress can include negative impacts on cognitive, academic, and behavioral outcomes, yet many schools lack the staff and systems necessary to meet the needs of students who have experienced trauma. Although further research is needed, trauma-informed education shows promise in preparing schools to help mitigate the effects of trauma on students. In order to contribute to a wider understanding of trauma-informed education, this brief:
·         Defines childhood trauma and summarizes existing research on its prevalence in Pennsylvania;
·         Outlines the relationship between trauma and student learning and behavior;
·         Summarizes the evidence about the characteristics and impact of trauma-informed education; and 
·         Highlights examples of trauma-informed approaches in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. 
Our brief outlines a promising research base supporting legislation aligned with developing, expanding, and further researching promising practices in trauma-informed education.

Senate Panel Endorses Telepresence Education Proposal
PA Senate GOP website Posted on Mar 19, 2019
HARRISBURG – The Senate Education Committee approved a bill today that would ensure students who face an extended absence from school due to injury or illness could continue to participate in classroom activities and learning, according to one of the bill’s prime sponsors, Senator Scott Martin (R-13). Senate Bill 144, which was introduced by Martin and Senator Ryan P. Aument (R-36) and Senate Democrat Leader Jay Costa (D-43), would create a new grant program to help Intermediate Units purchase technology that will allow homebound students to participate in normal classroom learning, schoolwork and activities remotely through the use of telepresence technology. Martin said the technology includes robotic devices that resemble an i-Pad mounted on a mobile Segway unit that allow real-time communication between students and their classrooms. “One school district I represent said they had as many as 10 to 15 local students who require homebound instruction every year,” Martin said. “Long-term injuries or illnesses can create a serious void in the lives of young people, making them feel isolated and placing them at risk of falling behind in their studies. Telepresence technology can help bridge the gap between these students and their teachers and classmates.”

School Safety: Central Pa. Schools Increasingly Prioritize Mental Wellbeing
On a recent school day at Mount Nittany Elementary School in State College, Tiffany Myers read a children's book out loud to a class of about 20 fifth graders. “The story we’re going to read today is called, ‘Red: A Crayon’s Story.’ Just right off the bat, what are you noticing about this crayon that make it different than what you might expect?” Myers, a school counselor, asked. The story is about how a blue crayon labeled as red overcomes others’ misconceptions and embraces his own unique traits. Students nodded their heads as Myers summed up the lesson.  “We all have lots of things that make us who we are, and we might not be able to recognize those things about somebody else just by looking at them,” Myers said. Schools nationwide are putting more effort into ensuring students’ mental wellness. That’s in part to benefit learning and growth, but also partially in response to school violence.

Rep. Bernstine co-introduces bill creating job experience program for students
Beaver County Times By J.D. Prose Posted at 4:00 AM
State Rep. Aaron Bernstine has joined with two colleagues to introduce a bipartisan bill creating a program to help high school students gain work experience while still in school. Bernstine, R-10, New Beaver, state Rep. Kate Klunk, R-York County, and state Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Philadelphia, introduced House Bill 796, also called the Schools to Workforce Pipeline Act, on March 12. “This innovative pilot program would bring our business leaders and students together to transform our education system and prepare Pennsylvania students for Pennsylvania jobs,” Bernstine said in a joint statement. The bill was referred to the House Education Committee, which includes state Reps. Josh Kail, R-15, Beaver, and Valerie Gaydos, R-44, Aleppo Township. Under the legislation, a pilot grant program would be established to encourage schools and businesses to partner on workplace learning opportunities for students. The statement released by the lawmakers said the program is based on a “successful partnership” between the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce, businesses in the Hanover area, and the Hanover Public School and South Western School districts.

“In a sweeping and rare look at what types of charter schools are being proposed and approved to open across the country, NACSA found that no-excuses charter schools made up 7 percent of all charter proposals last year, down from 14 percent five years ago. The decline in approvals for no-excuses charter schools was even more drastic. In 2017-18, no-excuses schools made up just 7 percent of all approvals, a drop from 22 percent in 2013-14.”
'No-Excuses' Charter Schools May Be Falling Out of Favor, Report Suggests
Education Week By Arianna Prothero on March 19, 2019 3:49 PM | No comments
New proposals to open "no-excuses" charter schools have dropped sharply over the past five years. So, too, have the number of approvals for such schools, according to a new report from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.   No excuses charter schools are arguably the most prominent and controversial model to come out of the charter movement. They're defined for serving mostly low-income students of color in prep-school-like environments with high academic expectations, strict codes of behavior, and extended school days or years. This model includes some of the largest and best-known charter networks, such as KIPP and Success Academy. The model has been both praised for raising test scores and getting more disadvantaged students into college as well as criticized for harsh disciplinary practices and for excluding students with disabilities. There are signs, now, that the model may be falling out of favor, at least when it comes to proposals for new charter schools.

Is it finally time to get rid of the SAT and ACT college admissions tests?
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss March 19 at 6:00 AM
Is it finally time for colleges and universities to stop requiring applicants to take the SAT and ACT college admissions exams? The question, long asked by testing critics, is being revived with new urgency amid the explosive college admissions bribery scandal rocking the world of higher education. As part of an investigation they called Operation Varsity Blues, federal prosecutors last week charged some 50 people, including famous Hollywood actresses and wealthy financiers. The alleged schemes included hiring impostors to take SAT and ACT exams, or rigging the test by asking for additional time to take it even when that wasn’t necessary. As high-profile as Varsity Blues is, it is just the latest issue facing the College Board, which owns the SAT, and ACT Inc. — including repeated cheating scandals and fundamental questions about the value of the scores. Now, the testing giants find themselves again defending the integrity of their exams. Colleges admissions tests have for decades played an important — and sometimes decisive — role at colleges and universities as they choose who to admit and who to reject. Millions of students take one of the two exams each year, earning millions of dollars for the nonprofit organizations that own them. Schools like to use the scores as a concrete data point to compare thousands or even tens of thousands of applicants.

Bradford: When the Cost of Admission Is Paying Off a College, Americans Are Outraged. But When It’s the Price of a House Near a Good School, There’s Silence
The74 by DERRELL BRADFORD March 17, 2019
Meritocracy is a cornerstone of the American ideological edifice. Or at least it was, until the FBI took a sledgehammer to it as it revealed Operation Varsity Blues: a sting that outed a long-running pay-to-play scam at some of the country’s best-known colleges and universities. The details — the bulk of which amount to Mafia-style interstate racketeering — have quickly become the stuff of Twitter trends. Righteous (and justified) indignation mixed with bitter schadenfreude has rarely been more plentiful. Certainly, part of the current anti-privilege mood is implicated in all of this. Two wealthy celebrities are the faces of the conspiracy — the payouts they made are eye-popping to any ordinary citizen — even though they were not the greatest of the scheme’s offenders. The moralizing on bad parenting and setting the right example from many is deep, and again, pretty justified, even before the plight of the student who “might” have been admitted to one of these schools is discussed.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: March 13 -19, 2019
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on March 19, 2019 - 1:49pm 
Not surprisingly, the huge, national college admissions scandal -- with a major testing component -- dominated this week's education news.  The fact that so many other stories about standardized exams also appeared attests to the power of parents, educators and activists in making assessment reform a powerful issue.

Delco Students for Education Meeting Sat, March 30, 2019 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Location: William Penn School District - Administration Building, 100 Green Avenue – Annex, Lansdowne, PA 19050
Sponsored by Rafi Cave, Yeadon Borough Councilman, The Urban League of Philadelphia & PA Schools Work, the nonpartisan statewide campaign to support equitable public education funding in Pennsylvania.
It's no secret Delco schools are underfunded. Join your peers and education advocates to learn what you can do to work for change in your school community. Ask questions, hear from experts, and meet State Representative Joanna McClinton. Includes breakfast & giveaways!! Don't miss out.
Register here:

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 (and Incumbents) 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
Location: Delaware County Intermediate Unit, 200 Yale Ave. Morton, PA
Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in this workshop. Registration is $75 (payable by credit card) and includes coffee and pastries, lunch, and materials. For questions contact Adriene Irving at 610-938-9000 ext. 2061.
To register, please visit

“BACKPACK FULL OF CASH” DOCUMENTARY You Are Invited to A Free Screening presented by BASD Proud Parents and the Bethlehem Area School District MARCH 21, 6:30pm – 8:00pm  NITSCHMANN MIDDLE SCHOOL Discussion to Follow
“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.

2019 State of Education report now online
PSBA Website February 19, 2019
The 2019 State of Education report is now available on in PDF format. The report is a barometer of not only the key indicators of public school performance, but also the challenges schools face and how they are coping with them. Data reported comes from publicly available sources and from a survey to chief school administrators, which had a 66% response rate. Print copies of the report will be mailed to members soon.

All PSBA-members are invited to attend Advocacy Day on Monday, April 29, 2019 at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. In addition, this year PSBA will be partnering with the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) and Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) to strengthen our advocacy impact. The focus for the day will be meetings with legislators to discuss critical issues affecting public education. There is no cost to attend, and PSBA will assist in scheduling appointments with legislators once your registration is received. The day will begin with a continental breakfast and issue briefings prior to the legislator visits. Registrants will receive talking points, materials and leave-behinds to use with their meetings. PSBA staff will be stationed at a table in the main Rotunda during the day to answer questions and provide assistance. The day’s agenda and other details will be available soon. If you have questions about Advocacy Day, legislative appointments or need additional information, contact  Register for Advocacy Day now at
PSBA members can register online now by logging in to myPSBA. If you need assistance logging in and registering contact Alysha Newingham, Member Data System Administrator at or call her at (717) 506-2450, ext. 3420

Board Presidents’ Panel
Learn, discuss, and practice problem solving with school leader peers facing similar or applicable challenges. Workshop-style discussions will be facilitated and guided by PSBA experts. With the enormous challenges facing schools today, effective and knowledgeable board leadership is essential to your productivity and performance as a team of ten.
Locations & Dates
Due to inclement weather, some dates have been rescheduled. The updated schedule is below.

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.

Annual PenSPRA Symposium set for March 28-29, 2019
Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association Website
Once again, PenSPRA will hold its annual symposium with nationally-recognized speakers on hot topics for school communicators. The symposium, held at the Conference Center at Shippensburg University, promises to provide time for collegial sharing and networking opportunities. Mark you calendars now!
We hope you can join us. Plans are underway, so check back for more information.

2019 NSBA Annual Conference Philadelphia March 30 - April 1, 2019
Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19107

Registration Questions or Assistance: 1-800-950-6722
The NSBA Annual Conference & Exposition is the one national event that brings together education leaders at a time when domestic policies and global trends are combining to shape the future of the students. Join us in Philadelphia for a robust offering of over 250 educational programs, including three inspirational general sessions that will give you new ideas and tools to help drive your district forward.

Save the Date:  PARSS Annual Conference May 1-3, 2019
Wyndham Garden Hotel, Mountainview Country Club
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools

PSBA Tweet March 12, 2019 Video Runtime: 6:40
In this installment of #VideoEDition, learn about legislation introduced in the PA Senate & House of Representatives that would save millions of dollars for school districts that make tuition payments for their students to attend cyber charter schools. 

PSBA Summaries of Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 526

PSBA Sample Board Resolution in Support of Statewide Cyber Charter School Funding Reform

PSBA Sample Board Resolution in Support of Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 256

How much could your school district and taxpayers save if there were statewide flat tuition rates of $5000 for regular ed students and $8865 for special ed.? See the estimated savings by school district here.
Education Voters PA Website February 14, 2019

Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

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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