Friday, May 3, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 3: HB800: PA House Committee Approves Private Schools Voucher Increase

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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Advocates for public schools in Pennsylvania say there's no data to show whether students receiving vouchers have improved academic outcomes.
Public News Service May 3, 2019
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Expanding tax credits for private-school tuition will benefit the rich at the expense of public education, according to public-school advocates in the Commonwealth. The Pennsylvania House Education Committee this week voted to approve a $100 million increase for the Education Improvement Tax Credit, a school voucher program that pays tuition at private and religious schools.  Some critics have labeled the tax credit a "secret school tax," because the funds to pay for the vouchers are diverted from the state budget. Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of Pennsylvania, says House Bill 800 is far from revenue-neutral. "This is prioritizing private-school tuition breaks, rather than putting $100 million into school safety, property-tax relief or additional resources for public schools,” says Spicka. Proponents of the measure say it gives children in poverty increased educational opportunities, although the law prohibits collection of economic data to back up that claim. Spicka points out that in the 2014 to 2015 school year, the tax credit benefited some of the most expensive private schools in the state. "Twenty-three of the schools in Pennsylvania that have some of the highest tuition, that educate some of the most affluent children in the state,” says Spicka. “They got almost 10% of this funding." She notes the average tuition at those schools, concentrated in Philadelphia and Allegheny counties, is $32,000 a year. Spicka adds that the $100 million increase would only be the beginning. The legislation includes a provision for automatic 10% increases every year, which would raise it to $544 million a year in ten years. "We've spent a billion dollars on these vouchers since they were enacted years ago, and we have no idea if they have helped improve educational outcomes for students or if they've been wasted,” says Spicka. The bill could come up for a vote in the House as early as next week.

Blogger commentary: It is unfortunate that @PaLegis is unwilling to fund its own basic ed funding formula that would give hundreds of thousands more children the opportunity to attend better schools. Prospects are NOT looking up for those children who are being told that they will just have to wait 20 more years for the resources that they need in order to meet state standards.
HB800: Pennsylvania’s Choice ‘Escalator’
The Legislature moves to expand credits for education scholarships.
Wall Street Journal Editorial By The Editorial Board May 1, 2019 7:08 p.m. ET (paywall)
Prospects are looking up for Pennsylvania children who have been shut out of the state’s school choice program. A bill is now moving quickly through the Legislature to give thousands more children the opportunity to attend a better school.

State Sen. Ryan Aument no longer Senate Education Committee chair
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer  May 1, 2019
State Sen. Ryan Aument of Landisville is no longer the Senate Education Committee chair after being selected as the Republican caucus secretary.
State Sen. Ryan Aument has traded one legislative leadership role for another. The Landisville Republican, who in March was chosen as the Senate Republican caucus secretary, no longer serves as the Senate Education Committee chair, a position he held since January. State Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati this week announced that Republican Sen. Wayne Langerholc has replaced Aument as chair. Aument remains a member of the committee, which he’s been a part of each of the past four years. He previously served on the House Education Committee for two years as a state representative.

Langerholc picked to head up Senate education committee
Johnstown Tribune Democrat By David Hurst Apr 30, 2019
A Cambria County lawmaker has been picked to lead the state Senate’s education committee. State Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr., R-Richland Township, was named chairman of the high-profile 11-member committee, which is tasked with vetting, shaping and recommending legislation that impacts the education system. Pennsylvania spends approximately $6 billion annually on basic education alone, not including additional resources allocated for preschool programs and higher education. Langerholc’s appointment comes as the state has been revamping its funding allocations to public schools, increasing support for career-readiness and backing efforts to improve school safety and security at a time school shootings have been on the rise nationwide. Langerholc said he was “excited and honored” to take on the role – but also noted that it’s a serious one. “With education compiling 40 percent of our state budget, it is vital that we ensure these tax dollars are allocated fairly and equitably,” Langerholc said. 

Pennsylvania Approves $40 Million in Grants for School Safety
USA Herald By  Marivic Cabural Summers May 2, 2019
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the approval of $40 million in grants for school safety and $7.5 for community violence prevention and reduction. The School Safety and Security Committee under the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) approved the grants. According to Gov. Wolf, there are 234 recipients for the school safety grants and 25 recipients for the community violence prevention and reduction grants across Pennsylvania.
Ensuring Pennsylvania schools are safe and secure
In a statement, the Governor said, “These grants are the mechanism we need to create local strategies that will increase safety for our children and our teachers and prevent violence in classrooms and communities across the commonwealth.” In addition, Gov. Wolf stressed, “Schools should be safe, secure places for our children to focus on their education and on preparing themselves for a lifetime of success, not another place we need to worry about sending our children. Awarding these grants to more than 200 schools means a safer Pennsylvania.”

“This $40 million will provide some much-needed assistance to ensure our schools are safe; however, the total request from schools was $177.6 million, which illustrates that we must continue to fund this vital program,” Langerholc said.
Pennsylvania grants $40M in competitive school safety grants
WHYY/Keystone Crossroads By Min Xian May 2, 2019
The state has approved $40 million in grants for school districts to improve safety.
Over a dozen school districts in Central Pennsylvania received grants, including the Altoona Area School District, the Keystone Central School District and the Smethport Area School District. None of Centre County’s school district was awarded a competitive grant.
These competitive grants are in addition to $25,000 that most districts received last year.
Pennsylvania enacted Act 44 in reaction to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018.
“This grant program has already proven to be very successful in helping local school districts take the steps they need to make our students safer and our school buildings more secure,” Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-Bedford) said in a statement. He is on the 17-member School Safety and Security Committee, which approved the grants.

PSBA/PASA/PAIU Advocacy Day 2019 Highlights & Recap
PSBAvideo Published on May 2, 2019
About 200 school directors and superintendents met with legislators in Harrisburg during Advocacy Day on April 29, 2019. See footage from the event in this installment filmed at the Capitol that afternoon. Learn more about areas of focus for the day, including charter funding reform. Links for more information regarding PSBA's key issues:

The forces behind Philly’s high teacher turnover
Inquirer by Jessica CalefatiDylan Purcell  Kristen A. Graham, Updated: May 3, 2019- 5:00 AM
A stable teaching staff is crucial to a school’s academic success, but we found that thousands of the city’s most vulnerable children attend Philadelphia schools where teachers shuffle in and out at destabilizing rates — 25 percent is cause for alarm, experts say. Our investigation found 26 district schools that have lost at least 25 percent of their teachers for four years straight or lost more than one-third in each of the past two school years. Richard M. Ingersoll, a University of Pennsylvania professor and expert in school staffing, called these findings “appalling.”
Why is there so much teacher churn?
Schools beset by turnover typically fill their openings with teachers new to the district. More than half of the teachers who currently work at the 26 schools have less than four years of experience in the system. At Jay Cooke Elementary School, for example, which has a faculty of 30, more than 130 teachers have worked there in just seven years.

New “Good to Great” grants seek to boost early literacy
Ten elementary schools to have their projects funded and evaluated over 18 months
The notebook Maya Wernick May 2 — 7:08 pm, 2019
Ten elementary schools have received grants from The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia with the goal of strengthening early literacy programs. The new “Good to Great” grants, which range in size from $20,000 to nearly $75,000, were funded by the William Penn Foundation. The “Good to Great” grants, which totaled nearly $536,000, were designed to help schools tackle challenges faced by particular student populations, and focused specifically on grade-level reading proficiency by third grade. The District already has early-learning initiatives and is committed to reading proficiency for all students, but the grants were meant to give schools funding for projects that would assist them in ways that work for each school. A grant review team from the District and Fund chose the winning schools from 78 applicants, who were then narrowed down to 20 finalists. The schools came up with projects with specific outcome goals and outlined how their proposed ideas would contribute to increased reading proficiency.

Here's How Education Budget Plans From Trump and House Democrats Stack Up
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on May 1, 2019 11:40 AM
We now have two pretty different visions for what federal education spending should look like. In March, President Donald Trump released a fiscal 2020 budget request that would cut more than $7 billion from the U.S. Department of Education's budget—it would eliminate 29 programs, and create $5 billion in annual tax credits for educational choice. (Those tax credits would be administered by the Treasury Department). As a counterpoint, House Democrats unveiled legislation at the end of April for Education Department funding that would increase agency's budget by more than $4.4 billion and beef up several major programs.  Keep in mind that so far in the Trump era, Congress has decided to provide pretty small increases to the department over two fiscal years. But it's still instructive to compare what the president wants for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' department and what Democrats have in mind.  Check out our interactive chart below of how various programs would fare in the Trump budget request versus the House Democrats' bill, as well as what current funding is in fiscal 2019. 

School Funding Briefing Thursday, May 23, 2019 6:30 – 8:00 PM
Drexel Hill Middle School, 3001 State Road, Drexel Hill, PA 19026
In 2019, the Public Interest Law Center is celebrating 50 years of fighting for justice, and preparing for 50 more, through a series of 50th anniversary events.
As part of this series, the Upper Darby School Board is pleased to host the Public Interest Law Center at Drexel Hill Middle School on Thursday, May 23rd, for a School Funding Briefing.
Pennsylvania has the largest funding gap in the country between low-wealth and high-wealth school districts. Pennsylvania is also ranked 46th in the share of funding that comes from the state, leaving local taxpayers to take on rising costs. How did we get here? At the briefing, you will learn the basics of education funding and how it works in Pennsylvania, as well as ways you can get involved in advocacy for fully funded public education. You will also learn about the latest developments in the Law Center's school funding lawsuit.
Afterward, you will have a chance to meet Law Center attorneys working on this landmark case, as well as mingle with other interested in Pennsylvania education.

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:

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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