Wednesday, May 8, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 8: PA House Won’t Fund Its Own Basic Ed Formula for Another 20 Years But Authorizes Another $100 Million Annually for Unaccountable Private & Religious Schools.

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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“Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says he's hesitant to boost business tax credits at the expense of education funding that goes into classrooms.”
HB800: Republicans move expanded private school tax credits through Pa. state House
WTAE by The Associated Press Updated: 4:09 PM EDT May 7, 2019
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Republicans in the Pennsylvania House are moving a proposal ahead to expand a private school tax credit program. Representatives voted 111 to 85 Tuesday to nearly double the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, increasing it by $100 million. The bill also includes an automatic 10 percent increase, if all available credits are used in a given year. All Republicans and four Democrats voted for it, advancing the proposal to the Senate. The 18-year-old tax credit program reimburses corporations for donating to groups that offer private school scholarships to low- and middle-income families. The bill would expand eligibility limits from families that make $85,000 to families with income of $95,000.

HB800: House passes $100 million expansion of private school scholarship tax credit
PA Capital Star By  Stephen Caruso May 7, 2019
The House voted Tuesday to nearly double the size of a state tax credit for individuals and businesses that donate money for private school scholarships. The bill expands the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program by $100 million, from the current $110 million per year to $210 million. The bill passed 111-85, with every Republican and four Democrats voting yea. House Speaker Mike Turzai, the legislation’s sponsor and an ally of school choice, said the bill was about recognizing that “when it comes to education, one size does not fit all.” “For a variety of reasons unique to each individual, these great public schools are not always the right fit for every child or for every family,” Turzai, R-Allegheny, said in a statement.
In place for two decades, the EITC program allows companies to write off of their taxes 75 to 90 percent of their total donations to private school scholarships. Pennsylvania is one of 22 states that offers such tax credits. The Keystone State also has another credit aimed only at low-income individuals. A federal report released last fall found that Pennsylvania’s program led to 34,000 scholarships  — worth $57 million, or roughly $1,600 each — in 2016-17. Besides expanding the credit initially, Turzai’s bill would increase funding for the program by 10 percent in years when 90 percent of the credits are claimed. It would also raise the maximum income threshold for families of scholarship recipients from $85,000 — plus $15,608 per child — to $95,000. According to the federal report, 2,690 donors gave $77 million to the program in 2016. Opponents have contended that the bill sacrifices tax revenue that could be otherwise spent on public schools.

HB800: House of Representatives Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session 
Roll Calls for House Bill 800

HB800: Pennsylvania House advances speaker's bill to double scope of state's school choice program
For Pennsylvanians who might prefer options for schooling their children other than the public school system, the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program has been a popular way to defray the costs of private schooling – almost too popular, in fact. Reports in recent years have shown that about half of the families in the state that seek to make use of the tax credit are turned away because of the $100 million cap on the program. But that could soon change after the state House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation that would more than double the size of the cap. House Bill 800, put forth by House Speaker Mike Turzai, increases the annual cap to $210 million, hikes the income limitation for families that apply to $95,000, and provides for annual 10 percent increases to the cap if more than 90 percent of the tax credits are claimed.
After hours of debate spread out over two days, HB800 passed, 111-85, largely along party lines. A number of Democratic lawmakers took the opportunity to speak on the floor of the House on Monday and Tuesday to explain their opposition.

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.

Delaware Valley SD
East Stroudsburg Area SD
Pleasant Valley SD
Pocono Mountain SD
Stroudsburg Area SD


Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

Has your state senator cosponsored SB34?

SB34/HB526: State College Area SD supports bills to eliminate cyber school funding; some people are worried
WJAC by Alexis Wainwright Tuesday, May 7th 2019
STATE COLLEGE – The State College Area School District board of directors approved a resolution to support a bill that would stop funding cyber charter schools. The district's decision has some people worried about the future of cyber charter schools. District officials say they've spent more than $463 million statewide during the 2016-2017 school year to fund cyber charter schools -- so now they say it needs to stop. Monday, the State College Area School board unanimously supported State Senate bill 34 and House Bill 526. Those bills would eliminate the school districts' tuition payments for students who choose non-district cyber charter schools over the district's online learning option. School officials say if the bill is passed, they could use the money towards other needed areas in their schools. But that takes away from programs like PA Cyber Charter School -- which offers online courses with certified teachers. And where parents believe their students can get more individual attention. "It would take choice away from our students and families. There is a reason that our students and families choose to come PA Cyber,” said Jolene McLaughlin, regional representative for Central PA and PA Cyber Charter School.

PSBA Video Edition Episode 10: Rep. Curt Sonney talks career & tech ed, cyber charter funding reform (runtime 8:45)
In this episode, PSBA Chief Advocacy Officer John Callahan joins Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Erie), chairman of the House Education Committee, to discuss the importance of career and technical education, and the future of House Bill 526 that would provide relief for districts that offer their own high-performing cyber education programs. 

CEO of Innovative Arts Academy Charter School submits letter of resignation ahead of charter hearings
Douglas Taylor, the chief executive officer at the embattled Innovative Arts Academy Charter School, has submitted a letter of resignation. The resignation comes just weeks before the school’s hearing before the Catasauqua Area School Board to renew its charter. Dave Rank, president of the school’s board of trustees, said the board is in the process of scheduling a meeting for next week to vote on Taylor’s resignation and begin plans for a transition. He said Taylor’s letter indicated he was heading “back to Alabama with his family.” Taylor did not return messages seeking comment. Rank said the board did not receive any other letters of resignation from the Innovative Arts Academy administration. It’s not clear how the leadership change will affect the upcoming hearings for the school, slated for May 21-22.  “I can’t answer that question,” Rank said of whether the school would request new hearing dates. “We haven’t addressed that yet.” Catasauqua Superintendent Robert Spengler said Tuesday the dates for the hearing have not yet changed.

“Mr. Wielgus pointed out that wages have gone up about 1% per year for the past 10 years, and medical expenses have stayed even over that time period. What has changed, he said, is the cost of the state’s retirement system, which has gone up 700% in 10 years. He said school districts have been unsuccessful in persuading the state Legislature to deal with the problem.”
North Hills school board weighs possible tax increase to balance budget
Post-Gazette by SANDY TROZZO MAY 7, 2019 3:40 PM
North Hills School District’s proposed final budget contains a 2.2% tax increase, but board members and administrators say that the final budget may be lower when it comes up for a vote in June. The school board approved the proposed final budget on May 2 by a 5-4 vote. Board members Timothy Burnett, Sandra Kozera, Allison Mathis, Annette Giovengo Nolish and Kathy Reid voted for the budget. Tom Kelly, Lou Nudi, Dee Spade and President Ed Wielgus — all of whom are up for re-election — voted no. “This year is different, and it’s political. Everybody that is running for office voted 'no.’ All of us who are not running voted 'yes,’” Mrs. Reid said. The $82.7 million spending plan raises millage by 0.4 mills to 18.65 mills, which would result in an annual increase of about $54 for the average homeowner, said David Hall, director of finance and operations. The median home value in North Hills is $135,000.

On second try, Allentown School Board narrowly approves taking out $10 million loan
The Allentown School Board has narrowly approved borrowing $10 million for the district to avert a financial crisis — almost two weeks after it was deadlocked on the same vote. For the second time, the board voted Tuesday on the bond the district recommended to fill a $7.6 million hole in this year’s budget. At that last meeting, only eight members were present because board President Audrey Mathison was absent for health reasons. The bond failed that night on a tie vote. At the special meeting Tuesday night which Mathison called for, all nine members were present. The board voted 5-4, eight members repeating their previous votes and Mathison deciding it. Mathison, Vice President Elizabeth Martinez and directors Ce-Ce Gerlach, Charlie Thiel and Sara Brace voted yes for the bond. Directors Lisa Conover, Cheryl Johnson-Watts, Phoebe Harris and Robert E. Smith, Jr. voted against borrowing. Directors who voted for it felt as if borrowing money was the only way to pay employees and bills; those who voted against it thought it was irresponsible to vote for a loan that includes more than $4 million in interest.

The Central High School social studies teacher is on a mission to change the world outside his classroom—by registering to vote every eligible high schooler in the city
The Philadelphia Citizen BY ROXANNE PATEL SHEPELAVY SEP. 12, 2018
Thomas Quinn first pulled an election lever in 1988, when he was an 18-year-old freshman at Temple University—the first time he was eligible to vote. It was not a particularly memorable moment for him, and it was not a particularly successful one either: A registered Democrat, Quinn cast his vote for Jesse Jackson, who went on to lose the primary. But the voting stuck. And now Quinn, the chair of Central High School’s social studies department, is leading a citywide effort to pass on the importance of voting to a new generation of 18-year-olds. Through the Caucus of Working Educators—an activist coalition within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers—Quinn is directing Philly Youth Vote, an effort to register every eligible high school senior in the city. So far, the group has recruited teachers in nearly 35 district schools who have volunteered to get registration information and forms into the hands of any of the 12,000 seniors who will be 18 on November 6th. (Another 11 schools still need leaders.) “Voting is something students are aware that they should do,” Quinn says. “But I go to the polls, and it’s almost all old people, with very few younger people. What is it that’s stopping them? As teachers we’re in a perfect position to reach kids, when they’re learning about government, about to go to college or to work, and are first eligible to vote.”

Armed school officers and security will get additional training under Senate bill
PA Capital Star By Sarah Anne Hughes May 7, 2019
The devil is in the details, as a state Senate committee hearing demonstrated Tuesday.
The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously to amend last session’s Act 44, a law that provided $60 million in grant funding for, among other efforts, training and compensating armed school resource and police officers. In addition to school police and resource officers, Act 44 defined the position of school security guard as an “individual employed by a school entity or a third party contractor who is assigned to a school for routine safety and security duties and is not engaged in programs with students at the school.” That’s where the General Assembly ran into trouble. The state Department of Education released an “Act 44 Updates” memo in February stating that, per the School Code, school security guards are not empowered to carry firearms.
“While the School Code does recognize school security guards as a type of school security official, the School Code vests school security guards with six specific duties, none of which include the authority to carry a firearm,” the Education department wrote. “As such, school security guards who are employed by school entities—either as employees or independent contractors—are not authorized to possess a firearm within the scope of that employment.”
That would change under legislation introduced by Sen. Mike Regan, R-York. The bill also allows schools to contract with sheriffs and deputy sheriffs to work as school resource officers, a previous oversight Regan said.

Six months after the shooting at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, hundreds of students gathered at the State Capitol to demand more funding for nonpublic schools.
Six months after the shooting at the Tree of Life - Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh, hundreds of students gathered on Tuesday to demand more funding to increase security for nonpublic schools and community institutions in Pennsylvania.  The students were part of a delegation to the State Capitol organized by the Orthodox Union’s Teach PA, a division of Teach Coalition founded in 2013 to advocate for equitable government funding for nonpublic schools. “For the Pennsylvania Jewish community, the massacre which took place at the Tree of Life - Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh was a turning point," Teach PA Executive Director Arielle Frankston-Morris said in a statement. "It was when we realized that our community was a target and therefore, we need to increase security at both our houses of worship and our day schools and yeshivas. Since then, we’ve been working with state legislators to provide the necessary funding for our schools so that our children can go to school feeling safe.” A bill that aims to guarantee to nonpublic schools the access to the recently created School Safety and Security Grant Program has been referred to the Education Committee. The funding that the bill provides can be used for hiring security personnel and mental health professionals, installing protected doors, windows, alarm systems and other measures to secure school buildings. The students that gathered at the State Capitol came from 11 different schools. 

Springfield school drops 'God Bless America' after complaint
Delco Times By Susan L. Serbin Times Correspondent May 8, 2019
SPRINGFIELD — Students at Sabold Elementary School will no longer proclaim "God bless America" every morning — and the change is drawing some national attention. Each morning Principal Peter Brigg used the public address system to lead the children in the Pledge of Allegiance, which conforms to state law. He followed that by saying “God bless America,” which has become a Sabold custom for several years. As students recited the pledge, they were inclined, but not compelled, to say the phrase as well. At least one parent took exception to this practice and contacted the Freedom from Religion Foundation, making a case it violated a portion of the First Amendment. A letter to district Superintendent Tony Barber, dated March 25, 2019, from foundation legal counsel Christopher Line read, in part, “A concerned Springfield School District parent has reported that Sabold Elementary School proclaims ‘God Bless America’ over the loudspeaker following the Pledge of Allegiance each morning. The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages.”

Jeanne Allen's Charter Murder Mystery
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Monday, May 6, 2019
Nobody represents the angry anti-public school side of reform better than Jeanne Allen. She's the founder, president, and chief spokesperson for the Center for Education reform. She graduated from Dickerson with a degree in political science, then moved on to study political philosophy at the Catholic University of America. She was the "youngest political appointee to serve at the pleasure of the president, Ronald Reagan, at the US Department of Education, then became the ed policy chief at the Heritage Foundation." She earned an Educational Entrepreneurship masters at University of Pennsylvania in a program that offers what I once called "a degree in soulless profiteering." She announced her intention to step out of the president role in 2013, but no successor was named and apparently, she stayed right in place. CER is packed with charter groups, charter operators, and investor groups from their board to theadvisors to their contributors. Oddly enough, the smallest group is The Team

Democrats Seek to Cut $40 Million From Federal Aid to Charter Schools
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on May 7, 2019 10:35 AM
UPDATED - Times have changed for charter schools in Washington. 
The House appropriations bill crafted by Democrats would cut $40 million from the federal charter school grant program. The bill was released at the end of last month, although the cut to charter school grants was not part of the initial bill language or summary released by the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Department of Education's budget.  ight now, charter schools get $440 million from the Education Department in fiscal 2019, meaning the bill would cut nearly 10 percent from the grants. Keep in mind, however, that Congress (including Democratic lawmakers) has approved a relatively small increase for charter schools during the Trump administration. So just because House Democrats want to slash aid to charters doesn't mean it's a done deal.  The House appropriations committee will hold a hearing on the bill Wednesday, after the subcommittee reported the bill favorably to the full comittee last week.  Trump wants $500 million for charters, a $60 million increase, in fiscal 2020, which starts Oct. 1. But in March, during a hearing on the Trump administration's proposed budget, Democrats on that House subcommittee blasted the proposals to increase aid to school choice, including charter schools. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the subcommittee chairwoman, was particularly sharp in her critiques of the department's charter school aid. 

House Democrats seek cut in federal charter school funding, saying Education Department isn’t a ‘responsible steward of taxpayer dollars’
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss May 7 at 4:20 PM
House Democrats are proposing a sweeping cut in federal funding for charter schools, saying they are “deeply concerned” that the U.S. Education Department “does not intend to be a responsible steward” of taxpayer dollars used to help the charter movement. The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released its proposed 2020 budget for the Education Department and is seeking $75.9 billion. That is $11.9 billion more than President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are requesting, and $4.4 billion more than what was enacted in 2019. There are big boosts for Title 1 — a program intended to help children from low-income families — and special education. The section on charter schools is seeking $400 million for the federal Charter Schools Program, which is $40 million less than what was given last year and $100 million less than Trump’s proposed budget. Trump and DeVos have said that expanding alternatives to traditional public school systems, including charter schools, is their top priority. Whether Congress will approve this cut is unclear. But the proposal marks a change for Democrats, who for years have largely been as enthusiastic as Republicans about expanding charters.

Secretary DeVos Comes Face to Face With Education Reporters
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos defended her education agenda in front of hundreds of education reporters on Monday, as she discussed efforts to expand school choice and the reversal of policies and guidance set forth by the Obama administration on student discipline, special education, and student loan forgiveness. “The simple truth is: I never imagined I’d be a focus of your coverage,” she said in opening remarks at the Education Writers Association’s annual conference in Baltimore, where she was interviewed by Erica Green, an education reporter at The New York Times and an EWA board member. DeVos also fielded questions from the audience. “I don’t enjoy the publicity that comes with my position,” she said. “I don’t love being up on stage or on any kind of platform. I’m an introvert.” The appearance was the first by Secretary DeVos at an EWA seminar. She declined invitations to speak at EWA’s National Seminar in 2017 and 2018.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: May 1 - 7, 2019
FairTest Submitted by fairtest on May 7, 2019 - 12:32pm 
Lots of progress this week in reducing (or eliminating!) the role of standardized tests in teacher evaluation plus huge opt-outs in New York and more test-optional admissions policy adoptions.  The grassroots assessment reform movement continues to grow -- and win -- across the U.S.

PA Schools Work Capitol Caravan Days Wed. June 5th and Tues. June 18th
If you couldn’t make it to Harrisburg last week, it’s not too late. We are getting down to the wire. In a few short weeks, the budget will likely be passed. Collectively, our voices have a larger impact to get more funding for Pennsylvania’s students. Legislators need to hear from you!  
Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) will be at the Capitol on Wednesday, June 5th and Tuesday, June 18th  for our next PA Schools Work caravan days. We’d love to have you join us on these legislative visits. For more details about the caravans and to sign up, go to: . Please call Tomea Sippio-Smith at (O) 215-563-5848, ext. 36 or (C) 215-667-9421 or Shirlee Howe at (O) 215-563-5848, ext. 34 or (C) 215-888-8297 with any questions or specific requests for legislative meetings. 

PCCY Annual Celebration Wednesday, May 15 at Franklin Institute in Philly
PCCY would also love to have you join us at our annual celebration on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. PCCY’s Celebration is a fun way to network with colleagues, make new friends and learn more about the important role PCCY plays in the lives of children in our region. Tickets are on sale NOW for the 2019 Celebration of the Public Citizens Of The Year honoring Chuck Pennoni and the Penonni team and our regional Advocates of the Year. Come out for a phenomenal evening of food, drinks, entertainment, auction and a spirited celebration.  Buy tickets and learn more at:

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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