Thursday, April 11, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 11: In 2016-17, taxpayers in Senate President Pro Tempore .@SenatorScarnati’s school districts in Bradford, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter & Tioga Counties had to send over $10.7 million to chronically underperforming cybers that they never authorized.

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In 2016-17, taxpayers in Senate President Pro Tempore .@SenatorScarnati’s school districts in Bradford, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter & Tioga Counties had to send over $10.7 million to chronically underperforming cybers that they never authorized.

Berks County Intermediate Unit 1111 Commons Boulevard Reading, PA 19605
PA Schools Work is organizing in Berks County. We are looking for advocates to fight for more funding for our students. Agenda will include detailed information about individual school districts, meeting with local Berks representatives to share your stories, statewide support for your efforts and much more. We want to work together to make a difference. School leaders, parents, community members and local citizens that care about education are all welcome. Registration starts at 6 with meeting beginning at 6:30. Networking available so bring material to share about your organization too. If you have any questions, please contact Sandra at

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. We will continue rolling out cyber charter tuition expenses for taxpayers in education committee members, legislative leadership and various other districts.
In 2016-17, taxpayers in Senate President Pro Tempore .@SenatorScarnati’s school districts in Bradford, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter and Tioga Counties had to send over $10.7 million to chronically underperforming cybers that they never authorized. #SB34 (Schwank) or #HB526 (Sonney) could change that.
Data source: PDE via .@PSBA
Links to additional bill information and several resources have been moved to the end of today’s postings

Austin Area SD
Bradford Area SD
Brockway Area SD
Brookville Area SD
Cameron County SD
Canton Area SD
Clarion-Limestone Area SD
Clearfield Area SD
Coudersport Area SD
Dubois Area SD
Forest Area SD
Galeton Area SD
Jersey Shore Area SD
Johnsonburg Area SD
Kane Area SD
Keystone Central SD
Northern Potter SD
Northern Tioga SD
Oswayo Valley SD
Otto-Eldred SD
Port Allegany SD
Punxsutawney Area SD
Ridgway Area SD
Smethport Area SD
Southern Tioga SD
Saint Marys Area SD
Wellsboro Area SD
West Branch Area SD

Has your state senator cosponsored SB34?

Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

This new Josh Shapiro email speaks volumes about his future plans | Thursday Morning Coffee
PA Capital Star By  John L. Micek April 11, 2019
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Any interview with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro follows a pretty predictable playbook: There’s a couple of questions about his plethora of lawsuits against the Trump administration; his ongoing efforts to implement the reforms included in last year’s bombshell grand jury report about sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses, and, inevitably, some question about his plans for the future. The last one is largely pro forma. There isn’t anyone in Pennsylvania politics who expects that Shapiro, who is 45, and has energy and ambition to spare, isn’t going to run for something in 2022, when the terms of both Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey will be up. Shapirowho was elected in 2016, is also widely expected to run for a second term in 2020. The smart money for the future seems to be on Shapiro making a bid for Wolf’s open seat. Unless Toomey does something catastrophically stupid between now and 2022, there’s every reason to expect he’ll run, and probably get re-elected to a third, six-year term (Unless, of course, current LG John Fetterman gets a case of happy feet, in which case, all bets are off.).

Is Your School Year Over Already?
Forbes by Peter Greene Contributor Apr 10, 2019, 01:39pm
Depending on which state you live in, your schools are now, or are about to be, entering testing season. It's the magical time of year when your schools must subject students to the annual Big Standardized Test, a narrow slice of testing aimed at reading and math skills. In most states, the stakes are high, including the rating of the school itself as well as the professional ratings for the teachers who work there. And so every spring, schools turn their attention to preparing students for that test. Fans of the modern test like to argue that these tests are impervious to test prep, which is true if you think that test prep refers only to memorizing the specific answers that will be on the test. And it's true that classic rote memorization is of very little use on these tests. But modern test prep is not about rote memorization. Test prep involves teaching students to think like the people who manufacture these tests. Test prep involves learning the kinds of wrong answers (distractors) that these test manufacturers favor. In a multiple choice test, distractors are the whole game, the little traps and tricks that test writers include to "catch" students in particular sorts of mistakes, so students need to learn what sorts of enticing traps to recognize and avoid. And while students can't memorize specific answers to specific questions, they can expect certain types of questions, and so benefit from practicing those types of questions.

Thaddeus Stevens College celebrates opening of new $23.9M Greiner Campus, touts impact on local workforce
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer April 10, 2019
For 19-year-old Dawson Good, job offers are already flooding in.
Good, a freshman studying computer integrated machining, is part of the first batch of students attending Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology’s new 60,000 square-foot, $23.9 million Advanced Manufacturing Center, also called the Greiner Campus, in southeast Lancaster city. School and community leaders from across the county and state gathered together Wednesday to celebrate the building’s dedication — and what students, like Good, mean for the skilled worker shortage plaguing the county, state and nation. “The new center is a model of collaboration between bipartisan government, industry, and the community coming together to address an urgent and growing need to meet a labor skills gap … in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and across the country,” college President William Griscom said during the ceremony. Accompanying Griscom on the stage were state Department of General Services Secretary Curtis Topper, state Sen. Scott Martin (R-Marticville), state Rep. Mike Sturla (D-Lancaster), former Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray and major donors Frank and Sharon Greiner, among others, who praised Thaddeus Stevens’ role in boosting the state’s economy and advocated for continued state funding.

Penn Hills School District financial recovery plan nearly complete, details not released
Trib Live by MICHAEL DIVITTORIO   | Wednesday, April 10, 2019 11:36 p.m.
A financial plan to bring the financially struggling Penn Hills School District back in the black is nearing completion. State financial recovery officer Daniel Matsook has been working with a special advisory committee to craft the extensive plan the past few weeks. It is expected to be submitted to the state Department of Education by Tuesday, April 23 and approved by the district at a meeting Monday, April 29. A draft of the plan was submitted to the school board earlier this month. It includes roughly 70 initiatives designed to streamline operations, increase revenues and reduce expenses. Board President Erin Vecchio said officials were instructed not to discuss the details until its finalized. “Nothing’s going to be finalized until we make sure the impact of this recovery is not going to hurt the kids in this district,” Vecchio said. “If it does get to that point, I will make sure we get a meeting with the (state) secretary of Education. I still believe the state is responsible for this whole mess.”

ACLU sues McKeesport schools for thwarting Black Student Union
 Students from McKeesport Area High School have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the McKeesport Area School District and its superintendent, saying it has denied them permission to form a club they dubbed the Black Student Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania announced Wednesday. According to the ACLU's release, school administrators "diverted the students by requiring new conditions and eventually by refusing to approve the club," because they objected to its name. The administrators had proposed instead an alternative club, the McKeesport Student Union, the ACLU wrote, citing a press report. The students, through the ACLU, said in the statement that they had "concerns about the way students of color are treated at McKeesport. ... We feel that the club, which would be open to all students, will be a space for us to discuss our concerns and then plan to constructively address those concerns in the broader school community, including with adult leaders. Unfortunately, administrators keep shutting us down.” The ACLU claims that state data show that in McKeesport schools, students of color are more likely to be disciplined than white students.

Princeton report shows correlation between higher black student discipline and implicit bias
Researchers combined federal Department of Education records with data collected from 1.6 million visitors to the Project Implicit website to reach their conclusions.
The notebook by Naomi Elegant April 9 — 11:44 am, 2019
In public schools across the country, black students experience higher rates of disciplinary action compared to their white classmates. According to a new report from Princeton University researchers, this disparity is greater in counties that demonstrate higher levels of racial bias as shown by an ongoing data-gathering effort called Project Implicit.  The report’s authors, Stacey Sinclair and Travis Riddle, combined federal data from the Department of Education with data from Project Implicit. The project is run by a nonprofit organization that collects information about people’s biases by having them take tests online. The researchers analyzed more than 3,100 counties in the United States and, using a statistical model, they found a correlation between higher recorded levels of racial bias and higher disciplinary disparities between black and white students. “Our research joins a wealth of other findings suggesting that racial bias is contributing to disciplinary disparities,” said Sinclair, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton. “In terms of a policy fix, it’s hard to say what that would be. Our particular research identifies a relationship between racial bias and disciplinary disparities, but does not specify the reasons for this relationship.”

Fox Chapel student one of two in the world to receive perfect AP statistics score
ELIZABETH BEHRMAN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette APR 10, 2019
A Fox Chapel Area High School student was one of two in the world to receive a perfect score on his Advanced Placement Statistics exam last year. Rajeev Godse, a junior, earned every point possible on the May 2018 test, which is scored on a scale of 1 to 5. He was only one of two students out of more than 222,000 globally who took the exam to do so. Last month, he received a letter from the College Board’s senior vice president for AP and Instruction praising his work. “Rajeev is an incredibly intelligent and talented young man,” said Antoinette Payner, his AP statistics teacher, in a press release. “Not surprisingly, he picked up the material quickly, was helpful to his peers and has a natural curiosity for learning. I am thrilled this amazing feat happened to such a nice student.”

Northampton schools shave $600K off budget, but 2.7% tax hike persists
Administrators in Northampton went back to the drawing board after unveiling a 2019-20 school district budget that would hike taxes by about 4%. Since January, district officials have carved $653,257 out of the $110 million budget. But judging by the reaction of Northampton Area School Board members on Monday, there is still more work to do.
What it means for your taxes
First and foremost is the issue of taxes. The first draft of the budget included a 3.79% tax increase, but that’s lower now. Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik on Monday unveiled a 2.69% tax increase instead. This lower tax hike comes with a 1.45 millage increase, which raises the average borough tax bill by $86.19.
What did they cut?
The lower tax increase was made possible by a few things:
  • About $411,000 in local increases for real estate taxes and access funds.
  • About $389,000 in savings from 10 staff retirements, which were replaced.
  • About $356,400 in savings from reducing administrative building and department budgets by roughly 10%.

LA teachers join WE caucus convention to talk about contract negotiations
The caucus plans to deliver 3,300 signatures to City Council demanding an end to the 10-year tax abatement.
The notebook by Greg Windle April 10 — 4:14 pm, 2019
Protesters from the Working Educator's fifth annual convention in 2019 (Photo: WE Caucus)
Fresh off a successful six-day strike in January, Los Angeles teachers strategized Saturday with their Philadelphia counterparts, who will soon begin negotiations on a new contract. The Los Angeles teachers were in town for the fifth annual convention hosted by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers’ progressive caucus, called the Working Educators. The caucus plans to present union leadership with contract demands of their own. They expect negotiations to begin this fall; the current contract expires at the end of August 2020. The Working Educators are a sister caucus of the Power Caucus, which won leadership elections for the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) in 2014. “Our strike in LA is part of the growing movement of educators standing up for our children and fighting back against the racism of public funding and privatization of education,” said Georgia Flowers Lee of UTLA. “We learned through our work in LA that when the community comes together with the union, we are unstoppable.”

DeVos Defends School Choice as Democrats Demand Answers on Arming Teachers
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on April 10, 2019 3:46 PM
Washington House Democrats who focus on education peppered U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos with questions about her vision for school choice, arming teachers, and federal education law during a lengthy, often confrontational hearing here Wednesday. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the committee chairman, set the tone when he highlighted the Education Department's core mission of ensuring equitable opportunities for all students. "Unfortunately under the president's fiscal 2020 budget, it would be nearly impossible to meet that challenge," he said. That budget request would cut 10 percent from the department's $71 billion budget and eliminate 29 programs covering literacy, educator training, and more, but is highly unlikely to pass Congress. DeVos, meanwhile, repeatedly stressed that her vision and plans focused on students not systems, citing the proposed $5 billion Education Freedom Scholarships that would provide tax credits to support private school tuition, transportation, after-school tutoring, and other educational services. 

Testing Resistance & Reform News: April 3 - 9, 2019
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on April 9, 2019 - 1:30pm 
As annual school tests get underway in more states, the pace of assessment reform action -- from opting out to pressing for legislation to roll back testing overkill -- continues to escalate.  Add in the fallout from the "Varsity Blues" college admissions scandal plus renewed interest in overhauling teacher licensing exam requirements and it's not surprising that the resources on  are hosting record visitor volume. Please take advantage of these free tools, and remember to sign-up allies for weekly news updates at

Berks County Intermediate Unit 1111 Commons Boulevard Reading, PA 19605
PA Schools Work is organizing in Berks County. We are looking for advocates to fight for more funding for our students. Agenda will include detailed information about individual school districts, meeting with local Berks representatives to share your stories, statewide support for your efforts and much more. We want to work together to make a difference. School leaders, parents, community members and local citizens that care about education are all welcome. Registration starts at 6 with meeting beginning at 6:30. Networking available so bring material to share about your organization too. If you have any questions, please contact Sandra at

Electing PSBA Officers – Application Deadline is May 31st
Do you have strong communication and leadership skills and a vision for PSBA? Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to submit an Application for Nomination no later than May 31 to PSBA's Leadership Development Committee (LDC).
The nomination process: All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall file with the Leadership Development Committee chairperson an Application for Nomination (.PDFon a form to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked no later than the application deadline specified in the timeline established by the Governing Board to be considered timely-filed.” (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 6.E.). Application Deadline: May 31, 2019
Open positions are:

Success Starts Here is a multi-year public awareness campaign sharing positive news in PA public education.

Calling all Norristown parents, educators, leaders & stakeholders! Join us for Norristown Parents & Students for Education on Saturday, April 20 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Norristown Public Library.
Together we can harness the power of all to make a difference in our schools and communities! Hear from the experts and learn how to advocate! Free breakfast & givewaways. Don't miss out!
Sponsored by Norristown Men of Excellence, The Urban League of Philadelphia & PA Schools Work.

PSBA: Nominations for the Allwein Society are welcome!
The Allwein Society is an award program recognizing school directors who are outstanding leaders and advocates on behalf of public schools and students. This prestigious honor was created in 2011 in memory of Timothy M. Allwein, a former PSBA staff member who exemplified the integrity and commitment to advance political action for the benefit of public education. Nominations are accepted year-round and inductees will be recognized at the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference, among other honors.

PSBA: 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

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.

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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