Thursday, June 6, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup June 6: Charter Reform: Palm Beach mansion that once asked $85M is under contract

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
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"Every dollar that we draw out is less money for those [public] schools, and those dollars should be spent in a transparent and accountable way," she said. "We don't know what's happening with it." ….The GOP-controlled House already passed the measure, which is sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai. Having now passed the Senate Education Committee, it is bound for consideration by the full chamber. However, it's likely the bill will become a piece of a larger budget measure, and as such could be subject to the horse-trading budget negotiations typically entail.”
HB800: More tax credits? More spending? Lawmakers continue to clash on education.
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jun 5, 2019 3:16 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- Republicans in the state House and Senate are briskly moving a bill they say helps low-income students, and that Democrats say is unfairly routing money away from struggling public schools. The proposed increase to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit will likely to be used as a bargaining chip in ongoing budget negotiations. The tax credit goes to people and businesses that donate to private school scholarships or run related programs. It lets them deduct most of that money from their state taxes. The available credits have grown incrementally and substantially since the program started in 2001--often with bipartisan support. This bill goes further than past iterations, however. It would nearly double the amount of credit available and escalate it automatically if at least 90 percent gets used. It would also raise the income cap for eligible families, from $85,000 to $95,000. Chester County Democrat Andy Dinniman, minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, has long supported the program. But he said this is too much. "My concern is that we have students sitting in classrooms in some of our schools that have asbestos and lead in those classrooms," Dinniman said. "We need to make sure some money is given there." Fellow Democratic Senator Lindsey Williams, of Allegheny County, noted she is concerned there isn't enough oversight involved with the program.

HB800: Expansion of private-school tax credits advances in state Senate
WITF Written by The Associated Press | Jun 5, 2019 12:57 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- Legislation to substantially expand taxpayer support for private and religious schools is taking another step in Pennsylvania. The Senate Education Committee approved the bill Wednesday over the protests of Democrats. It's sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai and passed the Republican-controlled House last month on a near-party line basis. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is critical of it, saying it boosts business tax credits at the expense of public school funding. But Turzai is expected to make it part of June's budget negotiations for the fiscal year starting July 1. It would nearly double the Educational Improvement Tax Credit to $210 million annually, add automatic 10% increases and lift the family income eligibility limit to $95,000. The program reimburses corporations for donating to school groups, which primarily offer private school scholarships.

HB800: Pa. Senate Advances Expansion Of Private School Tax Credits
KDKA CBS Pittsburgh June 5, 2019 at 12:43 pm
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Legislation to substantially expand taxpayer support for private and religious schools is taking another step in Pennsylvania. The Senate Education Committee approved the bill Wednesday over the protests of Democrats. It’s sponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai and passed the Republican-controlled House last month on a near-party line basis. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is critical of it, saying it boosts business tax credits at the expense of public school funding. But Turzai is expected to make it part of June’s budget negotiations for the fiscal year starting July 1. It would nearly double the Educational Improvement Tax Credit to $210 million annually, add automatic 10% increases and lift the family income eligibility limit to $95,000.
The program reimburses corporations for donating to school groups, which primarily offer private school scholarships.

Senate Education Committee Roll Call Vote on HB800 Tax Credit Bill

Centre Daily Times Letter by Kirk Whitaker, Boalsburg June 5, 2019
The May 29 opinion by Rob Thomas on using public money for private schools is deceptive on a number of levels. While I applaud the excellent work they have done to establish St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, public money should not be used for private schools. Whether an individual receives a tax credit or a check is written from the state treasury, the result is the same. The rest of us will be taxed a little more to make up the revenue shortfall. There is no public accounting on the use of these funds. Our public schools are not “one size fits all.” I submit that our local public schools offer not only a dizzying amount of choice in academics, instructional formats, extracurricular programs, and sports; they do so at a level that cannot possibly be matched at any regional private school. And it’s free for the asking. He is, however, correct in saying that the public schools are lacking in religious instruction; it’s a Constitutional thing. On the contrary, I would expect the moniker of “one size fits all” to apply far more to the private school than the public. They will all wear the same uniform. All will have prescribed hair styles. All will study the same religion. All academic instruction will be filtered though the same thick lens of an institutional censor. I welcome the presence of private schools in our community – just don’t ask for my tax dollars to fund it. Senator Corman, are you listening?

HB800: Guest column: Raise the limits on tax credit scholarships
Pottstown Mercury By Jocelyn Maddox Guest columnist June 5, 2019
It was the middle of Wednesday and I had 30 minutes — 30 minutes and a choice. I could either eat my lunch in peace after a hectic morning of work, or I could use that half hour to fill out scholarship applications for my son, Myles. It was a no-brainer, and I’ll tell you why. We live in Steelton, just outside Harrisburg, with my other two children, Myles’ older brother and sister. I grew up there and attended Steelton-Highspire High School. But not Myles. In fact, none of my kids have attended our local school district. I know my kids better than anyone else, and I knew the district school would not be able to meet their needs. Myles has an eye condition called Nystagmus, which causes his eyes to stay in a constant motion. It takes him longer than usual to adjust his depth perception as his field of view changes. After sustained periods of reading Myles gets eye fatigue and has trouble concentrating. So, I chose to send him to St. Stephen’s Episcopal School for K-8, then to Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg. It was my choice, and I’m grateful for it. But it hasn’t been easy. After scratching and scraping to put my older two through private school, and now college, there wasn’t much left for Myles. I was faced with a cold, hard reality: I couldn’t afford to keep Myles at Bishop McDevitt. But I knew it was the environment he needed to succeed. I had to do something. Our lifeline turned out to be a scholarship through Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program.

PA Spotlight JUN 4, 2019 | Featured, Stories | No byline
The Education Income Tax Credit (EITC) has long drained resources from public schools to benefit the rich in Pennsylvania. It has been a constant source of grief for communities, parents, and our public schools and many education advocates have spoken out against the program. To no surprise, one of the tax scheme’s biggest backers is the Koch-funded Commonwealth Foundation. Pennsylvania’s EITC is one of the most generous tax giveaways in the country dressed up as education reform. In reality, these type of programs allow corporations and the rich to profit at the expense of children in public schools. A study in recent years described programs like the ETIC as a “get-rich scheme for shrewd taxpayers.” In Pennsylvania, corporations can literally profit from this. Privatized schools that have taken money from these type of schemes have went as far to highlight to funders they can “profit up 29 percent” off their contribution.
With this in mind, PA Spotlight would like to introduce you to the Commonwealth Kids LLC. If that name seems a little too close to the Commonwealth Foundation for comfort, your suspicions would be correct. In the same way they do for their billionaire funders, the Commonwealth Foundation have hidden their true intentions behind pushing for an expanded EITC in Pennsylvania. It’s no surprise given how their agenda has failed in Harrisburg.

“Cumulatively, costs of pensions, charter schools, and special education rose by $4.67 billion between 2010 and 2018, according to the group’s analysis of Pennsylvania Department of Education data. State funding increased by only $2.24 billion over the same period, forcing local taxpayers to make up the difference.”
To help balance the books, school officials ask Pa. lawmakers to boost basic ed funding, reform charter school law
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison June 5, 2019
Administrators who balance budgets for Pennsylvania’s school districts are calling on lawmakers to increase state aid for education, saying that compulsory spending hikes have led to tax increases and staff cuts in public school systems across the state. Members of two organizations representing Pennsylvania’s school administrators said Tuesday that state education spending has failed to keep pace with the rising costs of charter schools, employee pensions, and special education. Those three areas generated a 7.8 percent spending increase for the average Pennsylvania school district in the 2017-18 school year, according to an annual survey of school district budgets conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) and Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA). School districts don’t have any authority to lower these “mandated costs,” the administrators said. They must cut programs or increase taxes to balance their budgets. “Managing a school district budget is a formidable challenge,” Jay Himes, PASBO executive director, said during a Capitol press conference Tuesday. “Costs go up every year, and unfortunately [districts have] only limited options to address those increases.”

“Only $700 million of the $6.54 billion dollars budgeted for Basic Education, about 11 percent, will be distributed to school districts pursuant to the new formula. The remaining $5.8 billion is set to be distributed based on the allocation used prior to the 2014 budget everyone acknowledges is woefully inadequate. Essentially, 11 percent of our budgeted education dollars get where they are needed.”
Sen. Boscola: Antiquated basic education funding formula is hurting homeowners, students
Delco Times Opinion By Sen. Lisa Boscola Guest columnist Jun 5, 2019
State Sen. Lisa Boscola is a Democrat who represents Northampton County in the Pennsylvania Senate.
The Basic Education Funding Formula is the single largest education funding stream in Pennsylvania’s budget. Until 2014, each year when the General Assembly passed a budget it distributed basic education funding dollars to our school districts based on what they received the year before — regardless of whether the student population grew or shrank. This led to large disparities throughout the state when it came to where money went versus where it was needed. Some school districts received over 70 percent of their funding for their school programs from the state while other school districts received as low as 30 percent. As you can imagine this led to significant inequality in property tax burdens for homeowners. In 2016, the Legislature adopted a Basic Education Funding Formula to more equitably distribute state resources according to actual needs. The new formula includes factors reflecting student and community differences such as poverty, local effort and capacity, and rural and small district conditions. While the funding formula was met with universal praise, its implementation has been remarkably disappointing especially to areas like the Lehigh Valley. The formula was not applied to the dollars that the state was already spending on schools, but only to new additional dollars allocated after the formula was adopted. Last year only 8 percent of our basic education dollars were distributed through the formula. As a result, Lehigh Valley homeowners continue to be overburdened and our students shortchanged. This year’s proposed budget isn’t much better.

Cyber charters in Pa. are wildly ineffective, and 3 other takeaways from new Stanford study
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent June 5, 2019
Pennsylvania’s charter school debate attracts a lot of heated rhetoric.
But this week, the conversation got some cold, hard numbers.
The Center for Research on Education Outcomes, a group based at Stanford University, released a deep dive into Pennsylvania’s charter schools, which now serve roughly 140,000 students. Debates about the quality of the growing sector can be especially fraught because comparing schools is rarely an apples-to-apples exercise. A charter school serving many low-income students might not post top results on state tests, but may actually do a better job serving disadvantaged students than a nearby traditional public school. On the flip side, some studies show charters sidestep the toughest-to-serve students, like those with extreme special needs or those who are learning English. These skeptics worry that traditional public schools end up with these cast-aside students, and thus, lower test scores. CREDO’s analysis is an attempt to control for these variables. The researchers — who have done similar analyses in cities and states across the country — look at charter school students and try to find students in nearby traditional public schools who are their “virtual twins.” They create these “twins” by looking at a student’s age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, English language ability, and special education status. Then the CREDO researchers compare the test-score growth of charter school students with their “twins” to see if the charter school is making a difference.
This latest Pennsylvania study covered the years 2013-17.
So what did CREDO find?

Cyber Charter Funding: This morning there are more than 70 bipartisan cosponsors on this bill; has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

Blogger note: as we roll into the heart of budget season and this year’s episode of Pennsylvania Charter School Reform, it is worth remembering the power politics and money involved in that process. As noted in Martha Woodall’s Inky article below, running the (Chester Community Charter) school appears to be a lucrative business. State records show that Gureghian's company collected nearly $17 million in taxpayer funds just in 2014-15, when only 2,900 students were enrolled.”
Palm Beach mansion that once asked $85M is under contract
Nearly 36K sf home was once the most expensive listing in Palm Beach
The Real Deal June 05, 2019 10:30AM
An oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach that once asked $84.5 million is reportedly under contract. The property, a never-occupied estate at 1071 North Ocean Boulevard, was first listed for $84.5 million in March 2015. The owners lowered the asking price several times since then, taking it down to about $60 million. It was the most expensive home listing in Palm Beach for about two years. Philadelphia lawyer and charter-school entrepreneur Vahan Gureghian and his wife, Danielle, a lawyer, own the seven-bedroom, nearly 36,000-square-foot home. It’s now under contract, according to the Palm Beach Daily News, citing Multiple Listing Service data. Agents Ashley McIntosh, Gary Pohrer and Vince Spadea of Douglas Elliman are the listing agents. They took over the listing in late February. It had been on the market before with Christian Angle of Christian Angle Real Estate. The mansion sits on a 2-acre double lot with 242 feet of beach frontage with two oceanfront balconies, a massage room, home theater, library, staff quarters and more.

“It also guarantees that CSMI LLC, a for-profit education management company that operates the K-8 school with 4,200 students, will receive millions of dollars in revenue for nine more years. Chester Community's extension comes as school districts across the commonwealth and nation are wrestling with the growth of charter schools, more privatization in education and the impact on traditional public schools. It also renews lingering questions about the intersection of politics, government and schools. CSMI's founder and CEO is Vahan H. Gureghian of Gladwyne, a lawyer, entrepreneur and major Republican donor –the largest individual contributor to former Gov. Tom Corbett. And though CSMI's books are not public – the for-profit firm has never disclosed its profits and won't discuss its management fee – running the school appears to be a lucrative business. State records show that Gureghian's company collected nearly $17 million in taxpayer funds just in 2014-15, when only 2,900 students were enrolled.”
Reprise 2017: How Chester Community Charter School got a 9-year deal
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, Posted: December 22, 2017
For years, charter school proponents have been trying to change Pennsylvania law so that operating agreement renewals could be extended from five years to 10. They haven't succeeded in Harrisburg. But that didn't deter Chester Community Charter School.
One year into Chester Community's latest five-year agreement, Peter R. Barsz, the court-appointed receiver who oversees the financially distressed Chester Upland School District and wields nearly all the powers of a school board, took the unprecedented step of extending the Delaware County school's term for five more years to 2026. Barsz contends that the move was designed to protect Chester High School: In return, Chester Community, which already enrolls about 70 percent of the primary grade students in the struggling district, agreed not to open a high school. The decision means staff and parents at the state's largest bricks-and-mortar charter – already slated to receive more than $55 million in taxpayer funds this school year – won't have to worry about its fate for nearly a decade, even if its test scores continue to fall far short of state benchmarks.

Lehigh Valley districts fielded hundreds of tips through new Safe2Say app to protect students
It was 10 minutes to 8 a.m. on a Friday in March when Bethlehem Area School District officials received a chilling tip. A student was walking into Liberty High School with what looked like a shotgun. The anonymous tip on March 19 came through the Safe2Say Something app ― a statewide system designed to stop school threats. District officials believe it came from a student at a bus stop with a view of the school. Todd Repsher, district coordinator of school safety and emergency management, said the school mobilized immediately to investigate, initiating a school-wide lock-in that kept students in classrooms as authorities searched. Within 30 minutes, the tipster logged back into the Safe2Say Something app and saw that authorities were seeking additional information. The student gave them more to go on. “We were able to discern a time and an entrance,” Rephsher said. “And then lo and behold, we got it all on the camera. It turned out to be a student with a prop.” The tip that helped investigators determine there was no threat at Liberty High School is one of nearly 21,000 received statewide through the Safe2Say Something system as of May 10. School administrators and law enforcement officials say the system, which launched on Jan. 14, has changed the way they receive and respond to school threats. While it has made more work for school officials, the system appears to be working.

He’s out. Easton Arts Academy charter school announces ‘departure’ of controversial administrator
Rudy Miller | For Updated 10:00 AM; Today 9:21 AM
An administrator accused in a lawsuit of rigging grades and criticized by teachers for creating a toxic work environment no longer works at Easton Area Academy, according to an email sent to parents. The email sent Tuesday afternoon to parents of the charter school says Chief Administrative Officer Shawn Ferrara has left the school. “It is with regret that we announce the departure of Mr. Shawn Ferrara effective June 3, 2019. Shawn has contributed a great deal to the successful start-up and daily operations of Easton Arts Academy. We thank him for his unconditional commitment and dedication to the education of our students. We wish Shawn the best of success in all his future endeavors,” says the email from school CEO Joanna Hughes. Messages left for Hughes, for school attorney Brian Leinhauser and for school board president Michelle Zattoni weren’t returned Wednesday. Hughes confirmed on April 2 that Ferrara had been placed on leave, although she didn’t comment at the time on the reason for the leave. Ferrara was accused by former school principal Susan Bostian of rigging grades and rewriting employee evaluations. Bostian made the allegations in a lawsuit filed in December. The lawsuit says safety protocols weren’t followed when students threw chairs and desks, that students didn’t receive services required through their Individualized Education Programs and that administrators didn’t report truancies to parents. The lawsuit remains pending in Northampton County.

“Action is needed — and needed quickly. A 2018 study found that over 75 percent of Philadelphia school district buildings were built prior to 1969, with the average building age being 66 years. This number is particularly striking when compared to the national average of 42 years.”
Guest Opinion: Infrastructure package must address our public schools
Bucks County Courier Times By Brian Fitzpatrick and Mary Gay Scanlon Posted May 30, 2019 at 5:12 AM
Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania’s First Congressional district, which covers Bucks County. He sits on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat, represents Pennsylvania’s Fifth Congressional district, which includes Delaware County and parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.
In an era of harsh political polarization, there are few policy issues that garner significant support on both sides of the aisle from lawmakers across the United States. Infrastructure is one of those areas, and the greater Philadelphia region will greatly benefit if we are able to deliver a comprehensive infrastructure package. Infrastructure affects nearly all aspects of our lives, from our daily commute to our ability to access the internet. Unfortunately, a lack of investment in the upkeep of our nation’s infrastructure has put America at a competitive disadvantage with other nations. Not only this, but we have continually missed out on high paying jobs and safer, more efficient means of transportation as a result. The American people have taken notice. A poll conducted by Politico and Harvard University showed that 79 percent of Americans believe that “increasing spending on our nation’s infrastructure” is “extremely important.” Notably, the poll, released in January, was in regard to the public’s priorities for this Congress.

Bill that would create curriculum standards for CPR education for PA high school students heading to Gov. Wolf’s desk
POSTED 10:46 PM, JUNE 4, 2019, BY FOX43 NEWSROOMUPDATED AT 07:31AM, JUNE 5, 2019
HARRISBURG -- A bill that would ensure all Pennsylvania high school students are trained in Hands-Only CPR has passed the state Senate and is heading to Gov. Tom Wolf's desk for his signature. To do this, up-to-date curriculum standards for CPR education would be created, making Pennsylvania one of 39 states that would provide guidelines. "It's important to note my legislation includes no mandate. CPR instruction is already part of Pennsylvania’s academic standards. My bill ensures all schools are providing the most current method of administering CPR, the hands-only technique, and affords schools flexibility in how their students are taught, such as working with community organizations like the American Heart Association to facilitate the training," said Sen. Tom Killion (Chester and Delaware counties), the bill's sponsor. "Medical emergencies can befall any of us without forewarning. Correctly performed, CPR saves countless lives every year." he added. "My legislation will ensure our high school students receive hands-only, state-of-the-art CPR training and education. “The news release states that numerous organizations participated in the crafting of Senate Bill 115, including the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), PA Athletic Trainers’ Society, Independence Blue Cross, PA Medical Society, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, the American College of Cardiology, and the Foundation for Delaware County.

Pa. considers bill to get children to start their school years earlier and stay longer
Lehigh Valley Live By Sasha Hupka | For PennLive Today 7:15 AM
In Pennsylvania, some children enter kindergarten at 5-years-old. Some start school at 6 or 7. And some wait until age 8 to begin their education. Currently, Pennsylvania does not require children to attend school before age 8, and students can drop out at age 17 without parental consent. But the state’s compulsory school attendance age may soon be changing to get children in school earlier and keep them there longer. Changing the compulsory attendance age is part of the state budget proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf. His proposal would mandate that children be enrolled in some sort of school — a public district, private institution, charter school or a homeschool program — by age 6. It would also require students to attend school until age 18. The idea seems to have some support. The House Education Committee held a hearing on legislation that would change the compulsory school age on Tuesday morning. Afterwards, committee Chairman Curtis Sonney, R-Erie County, said he expects to move the bills to the House floor at some point in the future — although he couldn’t promise they would be part of the state budget agreement, which has a rapidly-approaching June 30 deadline.

Grants to fund expansion of after-school programs
Johnstown Tribune-Democrat By Jocelyn Brumbaugh Wednesday, Oct.3, 2018.
Federally funded grants will support local nonprofits’ expansion of academic enrichment after-school programs for students in Cambria and Somerset counties.  State Rep. Frank Burns said the grants, part of a package of 21st Century Community Learning Center grants, are administered through the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The funds will provide academic, artistic and cultural enrichment opportunities for students in several local school districts.  A $600,000 grant was issued to Respective Solutions, a nonprofit group that works closely with several Cambria County schools, to expand programming at Central Cambria Elementary School, Central Cambria Middle School, Cambria Heights Elementary School, Cambria Heights Middle School, Glendale Elementary School, Glendale Junior/Senior High School, Jackson Elementary School, Portage Elementary School and St. Michael Elementary School.  In addition, Greater Johnstown School District received a grant of $400,000, and Somerset Area School District received $172,500 for its after-school programming.  Burns said the grants are meant “to reinforce core concepts with students who are struggling academically, and also (to) provide career and technical education opportunities and resources.” “This is a true investment in our region’s future and ensures every child has a chance to succeed,” Burns said in a press release. Burns said the competitive grants are provided to community learning centers to fund these enrichment programs. 

Bensalem schools get $800,000 in state grants
Bucks County Courier Times By Chris English  Posted Jun 5, 2019 at 3:00 PM Updated Jun 5, 2019 at 6:25 PM
The same amount of funding will continue for five years, school district officials said.
Two state lawmakers who represent and live in Bensalem have delivered some good news for public and private schools in the township. State Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, R-6 and state Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, R-18, recently announced an $800,000 award from the state’s 21st Century Community Learning Center grant program. A news release from the Bensalem School District said the $800,000 grant is actually in the form of two $400,000 awards that will continue in those same amounts for five years and will be used to operate 21st Century Community Learning Centers. One will be at Bensalem High School in partnership with The Ivins Outreach Center and will be for students in grades 9-12. Others will be at Robert K. Shafer Middle School and St. Charles Borromeo and St. Ephrem Catholic schools in Bensalem in partnership with Ivins, and will be for students in grades 7-8. The centers will provide academic, artistic and cultural enrichment opportunities for students and their families during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session to help students meet state and local standards in core academic subjects, the release said.

New contract sets foundation for future in West Jefferson Hills
Trib Live by STEPHANIE HACKE | Friday, May 31, 2019 3:30 p.m.
West Jefferson Hills School District and its teachers union entered a new six-year agreement on May 28 that leaders say reflects their vision for the district’s future. The contract, which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2025, clears the way for schedule changes, personalized learning time and the launch of a cyber program. “We’ve rethought how education is being offered here to incorporate research, best practices and be progressive,” Superintendent Michael Ghilani said. “We want this district to be the best, and I think this contract is a mutual agreement that shows that we all want to be the best.” West Jefferson Hills School Board members unanimously ratified the contract with the Jefferson Federation of Teachers on May 28. There are 220 teachers represented by the federation. The federation currently is working under a five-year contract with the district that was set to run through June 30, 2020. With changes abounding in the district, the early bird contract helps outline the vision leaders have to move forward, they said.

Proposed property tax increase in Penn Hills raises objections
Post-Gazette by JAKE FLANNICK JUN 5, 2019 3:32 PM
A proposed property tax increase in Penn Hills School District is raising objections from residents and school district officials alike as the debt-laden district prepares to vote on its 2019-20 budget and a comprehensive plan that is meant to help it regain solvency. The proposed 6.7% tax hike, among several dozen measures recommended under a financial recovery plan to help the district begin to emerge from more than $170 million in debt, is unpopular with the nine-member school board. The board is scheduled to vote on the 2019-20 budget as well as the recovery plan on June 24 at Linton Middle School. “I hope that we can come to a conclusion,” board member Bob Marra said of the tax increase. He pointed out the district is seeking funding from the state Department of Education that could help reduce the levy, which would raise the district’s millage rate to 30.58 mills from 28.66 mills. The proposed tax increase is nearly double that of the state property tax threshold, part of the Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006, which is based on a formula including the statewide average weekly wage and the federal employment cost index. It is adjusted for each school district.

Phoenixville School Board Eyes Homework Limits
Digital Notebook Blog by Evan Brandt Wednesday, June 5, 2019
To "death and taxes," the only thing a weary student might add to the list of things that are sure in the world is "homework." But unlike when you and I went to school, and any discussion of not doing it was a quick one, the entire practice of homework is being re-examined now, both nationally and in the Phoenixville Area School District. And like the sleep study and decision to move to later start times which preceded it, the school board is approaching the question through an appointed committee which gave its recommendations last month. The 60 pages of recommendations were reviewed by the full school board Tuesday night and generated an interesting and spirited discussion. For example, the guidelines include suggestions like no more than 10 minutes of reading per day for kindergarten students, plus another 10 minutes of other assignments; up through 25 minutes of daily reading for fifth graders. In middle school, it was recommended that 60 minutes of homework should be the limit for sixth graders and 90 minutes for seventh and eighth graders, with no assignments over fall, winter and spring breaks which should be "reserved for family." No more than two hours of homework a night was recommended for high school students. In both high school and middle school levels, homework assigned over the weekend "shall be considered the equivalent of a one-night daily assignment," according to the guidelines. The board members all agreed that the homework committee had done a good job, with many calling it "a step in the right direction," but they still had many questions.

Boston Massively Expanded Its Charter Sector — Without Sacrificing School Quality. New Research Sheds Light on How Education Reforms Can Remain Effective While Applied at Scale
The74 By KEVIN MAHNKEN | June 4, 2019
How do you bring success to scale?
It’s a question that has tormented education experts — and, really, anyone designing public policy — for years. Smart, successful investments in teacher coachingwhole-school reforms and new curricula have attracted rapturous headlines and public interest, then faltered after being brought to more classrooms. When education reforms are implemented in new contexts, by teachers and school leaders who played no role in creating them, their effects fade all too often. But new research offers evidence that ambitious new policies can remain effective while applied at scale. The working paper, released earlier this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, finds that charter schools in Boston kept hitting high marks even after replicating their model several times over. The city’s charter sector, ranked among the best for systems across the country, saw no decline in its results.

PA Education Leaders to Hold Advocacy Day 2019 in Harrisburg June 18th
PA Principals Association Press Release June 5th, 2019
(Harrisburg, PA) — A delegation of principals, education leaders and staff from the Pennsylvania Principals Association, the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) will participate in PA Education Leaders Advocacy Day 2019 (#paadvocacyday19) on Tuesday, June 18 at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pa., to meet with legislators to address several important issues that are at the forefront of education in the commonwealth. These include: Increasing Basic Education Funding/Special Education Funding/Early Childhood Funding; Revising Act 82: Principal and Teacher Evaluations; Supporting Pre-K Education; Supporting Changes to Pennsylvania’s Compulsory School Attendance Ages; and Supporting and Funding Career and Technical Education.

PA League of Women Voters 2019 Convention Registration
Crowne Plaza in Reading June 21-23, 2019
May 22, 2019 – Deadline to get special room rates at Crowne Plaza Hotel 
                            Book Hotel or call: 1 877 666 3243
May 31, 2019 – Deadline to register as a delegate for the Convention
June 7, 2019 – Deadline to register for the Convention

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. 

2019 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 16-18, 2019
WHERE: Hershey Lodge and Convention Center 325 University Drive, Hershey, PA
WHEN: Wednesday, October 16 to Friday, October 18, 201
Registration is now open!
Growth from knowledge acquired. Vision inspired by innovation. Impact created by a synergized leadership community. You are called upon to be the drivers of a thriving public education system. It’s a complex and challenging role. Expand your skillset and give yourself the tools needed for the challenge. Packed into two and a half daysꟷꟷgain access to top-notch education and insights, dynamic speakers, peer learning opportunities and the latest product and service innovations. Come to the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference to grow!

NPE Action National Conference - Save the Date - March 28-29, 2020 in Philadelphia, PA.
The window is now open for workshop proposals for the Network for Public Education conference, March 28-29, 2020, in Philadelphia. I hope you all sign on to present on a panel and certainly we want all to attend.

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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