Tuesday, May 7, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 7: In 2016-17, taxpayers in House Ed Committee member Rep. Jesse Topper’s school districts in Bedford, Blair, Franklin & Fulton Counties had to send over $3.2 million to chronically underperforming cybers that they never authorized.

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.

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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“School leaders say that when traditional public schools offer online classes, the cost is about one-third of what they’re often billed in tuition costs by the state’s cyber schools.”
School funding fights developing at Capitol
Meadville Tribune By John Finnerty CNHI News Service May 5, 2019
HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s cyber schools overbill public school districts $200 million a year, the head of the Pennsylvania School Board Association said last week. Cyber school supporters strongly disagree, citing the enhanced opportunities those schools provide. The school board group is calling on the state Legislature to act on legislation that would discourage families from using cyber schools if the traditional public schools offer similar online programs, said Nathan Mains, chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania School Board Association. Mains said school board members are also encouraged that Sen. Patrick Browne, R-Lehigh County, recently introduced legislation that would create a commission to examine the way charter schools are funded in Pennsylvania. Measures to force parents to pay if they choose to enroll their students in outside cyber schools if their local district offers online classes have been introduced in both the state House and Senate. The author of the House legislation, state Rep. Curt Sonney, R-Erie County, is chairman of the Education Committee. But in a recent interview, Sonney said other charter school reforms might be on the front-burner before lawmakers try to tackle the funding controversy.

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.

Bedford Area SD
Central Fulton SD
Chestnut Ridge SD
Claysburg-Kimmel SD
Everett Area SD
Fannett-Metal SD
Forbes Road SD
Northern Bedford County SD
Southern Fulton SD
Tuscarora SD
Tussey Mountain SD


Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

Has your state senator cosponsored SB34?

“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.”
HB800: PA House Committee Approves Private Schools Voucher Increase
BCTV by Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection May 06, 2019
Advocates for public schools in Pennsylvania say there's no data to show whether students receiving vouchers have improved academic outcomes.
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 last 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.

Possible citizenship census question could pinch poorer school districts
MATT MCKINNEY Pittsburgh Post-Gazette mmckinney@post-gazette.com MAY 6, 2019 11:37 AM
A potential citizenship question on the 2020 census could have far-reaching effects, including putting a squeeze on high-poverty school districts in Pennsylvania and beyond. The measure, which President Donald Trump’s administration proposed in 2018, is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court and a ruling is expected by the end of next month. At issue is how the nation counts its population and whether a census questionnaire should include a question regarding a person’s citizenship. Critics say the question could cause millions of immigrant families to decline to fill out the census forms if they are asked to name occupants who are not U.S. citizens, which would cause the federal government to undercount the number of non-citizens. That in turn would skew federal funding to states and localities driven by census figures.  Experts say such a ruling could have implications for school districts – particularly ones with a large percentage of impoverished students – that rely on federal funding based on formulas tied to population and poverty, although the potential dollar impact is unclear.

Here’s what the latest voter registration numbers tell us about the state of the Commonwealth | Analysis
By  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor Nick Field May 6, 2019
Nick Field, of Bucks County, contributes to a number of publications including Pennlive, WHYY, City & State, PhillyVoice and LevittownNow. His work appears occasionally on The Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.
The 2018 midterms were cause for celebration for Democrats. Nationally, they captured control of the House with the help of a four seat net pick-up in PA while Governor Wolf and Senator Casey also won overwhelming re-election victories. The seeds of these results could be seen in the voter registration gains Democrats made throughout 2017 and 2018. Conversely, the erosion of Democratic numbers in 2015 and 2016 portended Donald Trump’s surprise upset. So how are things shaping up for 2020? Of course it’s very early, and efforts to update the rolls had a significant effect on these numbers, but the recent deadline for this month’s primary marks a good starting point to examine the next cycle. The following is a county-by-county tally of the net shift in voter registration from October 2018 to today.

Turzai lends support to gift ban after activists shower lawmakers with dollar bills, get arrested
PA Capital Star By  Stephen Caruso May 6, 2019
Twenty activists were arrested at the Capitol on Monday, after dropping dollars labeled “bribe” and blocking a building entrance in an attempt to pressure the state House to pass what they say is a long overdue gift ban. The activists came from March On Harrisburg, a grassroots anti-corruption organization, at the conclusion of a nine-day march from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. “It is absurd that bribery is legal in Pennsylvania,” Emmie DiCicco, a spokesperson for March on Harrisburg, said. The group is calling for the passage of legislation sponsored by Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks, which would bar lawmakers from taking “any transportation, lodging, hospitality, cash, gift or anything of economic value” from lobbyists or other groups with business before the General Assembly. The bill makes exception for light refreshments, commemorative gifts, informational materials, and “items of nominal economic value such as greeting cards, pens, caps or shirts.” Eight activists disrupted the opening of Monday’s House session by showering the chamber in “bribe” money and releasing a banner that read “Some are guilty, all are responsible” from the chamber gallery.

“As has been the case in recent years for school districts, charter schools and employee pension payments are top cost drivers. The district is looking to pay a bit more than $30 million in charter school tuition next year. That’s about a 3.3% increase from the current budget. Pension payments are expected to come in around $37 million, a 7% increase from 2018-19. While charter school tuition is still a large bill for the district, the number of children enrolling in charter schools has seems to have leveled off, Roy said.”
Bethlehem Area School District looking at no tax hike for first time in 25 years
For the first time in 25 years, Bethlehem Area School District taxpayers will likely not see a tax hike. At Monday night’s meeting, the district recommended that the board hold the line on taxes on 2019-20′s proposed $290 million budget. The district has a $1.6 million deficit, but administrators say that can be closed by borrowing from the fund balance rather than raising taxes. The district estimates that it’s been about 25 years since a budget has been passed without a tax increase. When budget discussions first began in February, the district was looking at a $7 million deficit. Even the $7 million the district initially faced was one of its lowest in years. In recent years, the deficit has been around $15 million. [More News] Key witness in Palmer Twp. murder trial faints outside of court; testimony moved to Tuesday » “This is an important place to be,” Superintendent Joseph Roy said. Last June, the board passed a $281 million budget that included a 2.5% tax hike.

End abatements, air-condition the schools, say Philly teachers, parents pushing for more education money
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: May 6, 2019- 7:27 PM
After coming from Indonesia a year ago, Jason Hoo said, he was surprised by the conditions at his high school in South Philadelphia. In addition to “nasty mold on the walls” and chipping paint, “we suffer from sitting in really cold classes in the winter and really hot classes during the summer,” Hoo, a junior at Furness High School, said Monday. “Many students refuse to take notes because their hands are so cold.” Hoo was among the students, teachers, education advocates, and parents who spoke at a hearing convened by City Councilwoman Helen Gym to call on city leaders to steer more money to Philadelphia’s schools. About 100 people attended the hearing in Council chambers. Many of those who spoke called for physical repairs to school buildings — $170 million to fix lead and asbestos problems that have been highlighted by The Inquirer, and to replace windows, repair leaky roofs, and pay for more cleaning services to address rodent issues found in most city schools. Other requests included doubling the current number of air-conditioning units, and playground improvements.

Public demands Council invest in Philly schools
Testimony broadly supported Councilwoman Helen Gym's proposal to establish full-time community support position in every school
The notebook by Greg Windle May 7 — 4:44 am, 2019
Parents and students joined advocates in City Council on Monday to call for a new “community connector” staff position in every public school and funds to make $170 million in emergency building repairs identified by the teachers’ union. They also demanded additional counselors double the number of school air conditioners. “The health of our schools is paramount,” said community organizer Kendra Brooks. “Not only the physical health of our schools but the mental and emotional health of our students. Our children face trauma at an alarming rate.” Brooks, who has children at Steele Elementary and SLA-Beeber, said the community connector position was crucial to “build a bridge…the ultimate goal is to improve the success of the students, and the best way to do that is by supporting the entire family.” The hearing was called by Council member Helen Gym to highlight urgent school needs, many brought on by draconian state budget cuts during the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett. She was joined for most of the hearing by Council members Jannie Blackwell and Blondell Reynolds Brown. Speakers at the meeting said with the return of the School District to local control last year after nearly two decades under the state it was time for Council to step up.

‘Cream of our crop for our local businesses.’ First group of CentreReady students graduate
Centre Daily Times BY BRET PALLOTTO MAY 06, 2019 07:42 PM
A group of 69 Centre County students earned the business community’s seal of approval after graduating from the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County’s workforce preparedness initiative, the organization announced Friday. The CentreReady program focuses on assessing students’ proficiency in six core categories — work ethic, manners, teamwork, communication, critical thinking and understanding supervision — that county employers say are essential. More than 40 businesses, all five of the county’s school districts and its two career and technical training institutions either partnered with, or support the initiative. “We are honored to celebrate the achievements of students who took it upon themselves to earn the CentreReady designation,” CBICC President and CEO Vern Squier said in a statement. “We commend their desire to excel at job attributes that are so critical in today’s workplace. Our businesses have said that they need employees with strong core skills. As a community response to local workforce needs, CentreReady is beginning to build that pool of potential job candidates.”

Ears on the Philly Board of Education: April 25, 2019
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools by Diane Payne
Last month’s March 28th Action Meeting ended abruptly when the Board left the room after a hasty vote to recess.  Sponsors and students from the Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) had disrupted the meeting after the Board voted to pass a policy that mandates metal detectors in all high schools.  PSU had testified at Action and Committee meetings over the past the past three months and had met with District administrators to discuss the issue. (See APPS March 28th Ears for that report.) The Board never returned; without notice, they reconvened in another room and voted on the remaining Items there.  Thus, many public speakers did not get to give their testimony. The Board had said that those people could go first at the April Meeting, but  APPS members asked that they get their three minutes from March in addition to their three in April. Board President Joyce Wilkerson agreed to our request.  A total of 78 speakers were listed.

Betsy DeVos offers a defense of her free-market approach to public education
Washington Post By Laura Meckler May 6 at 6:23 PM
BALTIMORE — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos offered an effusive defense of her free-market approach to public education on Monday, saying existing schools have failed too many students and the only answer is to give families an alternative. Appearing at the national conference of the Education Writers Association, DeVos took a few shots at teachers unions. She said recent teacher strikes have hurt children and disagreements should be handled outside the classroom. And she ramped up her ongoing battle with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Great teachers perhaps should be making at least half as much as what Randi Weingarten does at a half-million dollars a year,” she said. Weingarten replied before the lunchtime event was over. “I’d be delighted if Betsy wants to get all teachers close to $200,000,” she said. “They deserve that — and so much more.”  Last year, Weingarten earned about $406,000 in salary, plus more than $100,000 in expenses and disbursements, according to a government filing. It was the first time DeVos had appeared before the education writers group. Her willingness to show up was seen as notable, given that she has endured negative coverage since being nominated as education secretary.

Betsy DeVos: ‘There is no such thing as public money’ and 5 other revealing things she just said -- or wouldn’t say
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss May 7 at 6:00 AM
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos schooled education reporters Monday during a rare appearance at their convention in Baltimore, telling them that too many articles do not accurately portray her newest school choice program proposal. She also said that “public education” needs to be redefined and that “there is no such thing as public money.”  DeVos answered questions — or attempted to dodge them — from members of the Education Writers Association about a range of topics, including immigration, school choice, civil rights for LGBTQ students, school discipline policies and more. What she said, and what she wouldn’t directly address when asked, revealed her broad agenda to turn America’s traditional public education system into a free market and allow parents to use taxpayer money to do whatever they want to educate their children. She has made it no secret that her top goal is to expand alternatives to the traditional public school system, which she has called “a dead end.” She doubled down on her views Monday. Referring to the Trump administration’s proposed $5 billion education tax credit program called Education Freedom Scholarships, she said reporters incorrectly use the term “public money.” That phrase has long been used to refer to taxpayer money that the government collects to provide goods and services to the people of the United States.

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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