Tuesday, July 2, 2019


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
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

“This isn't a new problem. There is a better way to fund charter schools, and it's not rocket science.
·         If school districts could deduct their charter school tuition from the tuition calculation to ensure that it didn't unfairly ratchet up the tuition rate from year to year, it would save them $450 million.
·         If school districts could use their actual percentage of special education students in the special education charter school tuition calculation instead of a fictitious number, it would save them $65 million.
·         If school districts could cap the annual charter school tuition rate growth at their Act 1 index to mitigate annual cost increases, it would save them $96 million.
·         If the state would take on the cost of cyber charter school tuition since the state is responsible for authorizing and overseeing cyber charter schools, it would save school districts $520 million.
We need an honest conversation that leads to a real, meaningful and immediate solution, and we need it this fall. We all have to be at the table and agree that the charter school funding status quo can't continue. Failing to address this critical issue cancels out the education increases in the newly enacted state budget and ensures that the burden on school districts and taxpayers gets worse.”
Pennsylvania Association of School Business Managers Website By: PASBO On: 07/01/2019
School districts across the state will usher in a new fiscal year with much-needed boosts for state basic education funding, special education funding and school safety as a result of the newly enacted state budget. The PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) applauds Governor Wolf and the General Assembly for their efforts in providing additional education resources in the new budget.  However, our work is not done. PASBO remains committed to addressing charter school tuition costs when the General Assembly returns this fall. Without remedying charter school funding policy, the positive impact of the increases for education in the 2019-20 budget will be negated, and the $160 million increase in basic education funding for school districts will go directly to charter schools.
PASBO does not debate the existence of charter schools nor the important role they play in providing an alternative public education option for Pennsylvania students. However, charter school reforms are long overdue, and there is no reform need greater than the 22 year-old charter school tuition calculation.  

HB621: Armed teachers in Pa.’s schools? Groups on both sides of the gun debate say Senate bill would allow it
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison June 27, 2019
Shira Goodman and Kim Stolfer may not agree on much, but they recently found common ground on a school safety bill now before the state Senate. Goodman, leader of the gun control group CeaseFire PA, and Stolfer, president of the pro-gun Firearms Owners Against Crime, both say that a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Regan, R-York, would grant schools more discretion in arming trained employees. That could mean deputizing teachers to carry firearms. “Could a teacher be able to carry a firearm if they met qualifications [under the bill]? We believe if a school board wanted that, the bill would enable it,” Stolfer said. That’s welcome news to Stolfer, who thinks Pennsylvania should arm its teachers to prevent deadly mass shootings. Goodman, on the other hand, argues that the proliferation of guns in schools will only endanger students. And she’s troubled that two groups with opposite philosophies on gun safety share the same interpretation of Regan’s bill. “We obviously have different views from them about school security, what makes school safe in general,” Goodman said Wednesday. But if a gun rights group such as Stolfer’s sees the bill as a path to arm teachers, she said, “we’re worried.” Staffers in Regan’s office said Wednesday that the bill was never meant to let teachers carry guns, but agreed that schools may interpret its language differently. That could lead to costly lawsuits if districts start arming teachers, Goodman said.

HB621: ELC Opposes Bill to Loosen Restrictions on Arming School Personnel
In a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf in June 2019, the Education Law Center urges him to veto Senate Bill 621, arguing that it represents a dangerous loosening of the existing restrictions on who can be armed in schools. Current Pennsylvania law already allows for school police officers and school resource officers to be armed in schools. The bill would give authority to security guards to be armed, including outside, third-party security firms. ELC maintains that if this bill becomes law, it will exacerbate the current risks of having armed personnel in schools. We cannot afford to have any confusion about roles or accountability with armed personnel. “Armed school police officer” is not a role that should be contracted to outside private firms. The best school safety strategies involve investing in building strong school communities and strong supports for students.
Read our letter here.

This Case Could Break The Wall Between Church And School
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Monday, July 1, 2019
Three weeks ago, I wrote about the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue case for Forbes, trying to explain why it would be a big deal if the Supremes decided to hear this case. One thing has changed since then-- the court has decided they will hear the case.
This is a big deal. Here's a slightly modified version of that Forbes piece to serve as an explainer for why we need to pay attention.
This summer the US Supreme Court has decided to hear Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Its decision will have huge repercussions for public education. To grasp why this case matters and why it's coming up now, there are two pieces of background you need to understand.

Supreme Court to Consider Montana Religious School Tax Credit
Education Week By Mark Walsh on June 28, 2019 11:03 AM
Washington - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to review a decision by Montana's highest court that struck down a tuition tax-credit program which, as enacted by that state's legislature, allowed tuition scholarships to benefit students at private religious schools as well as secular schools. The action came June 28 in a final orders list one day after the formal end of the Supreme Court's term. The justices will hear arguments the new case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue(No. 18-1195), in the new term that begins in October. The Montana Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in December 2018 that the program, which provides a tax credit of up to $150 per year to individuals and corporations that donate to tuition scholarship organizations, violates the state constitution's provision barring government aid to "sectarian schools." The state high court said that the tax-credit program could not be saved by a rule adopted by the state revenue department that excluded private religious schools from participation.  The state high court said that the Montana Constitution "more broadly prohibits 'any' state aid to sectarian schools and draws a more stringent line than that drawn by" the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against government establishment of religion.

Answered Prayer?
Montana case could prompt last judgment for Blaine Amendments
EducationNext By Joshua Dunn FALL 2019 / VOL. 19, NO. 4
School-choice supporters hoped that the U.S. Supreme Court would declare Blaine Amendments unconstitutional in the 2017 case Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer. But the court declined to do so, leaving advocates to pray for another test case to reach the court. A state-court decision out of Montana last year could well provide that test. Blaine Amendments—provisions in 38 state constitutions forbidding public aid to sectarian institutions—were largely adopted during a spasm of anti-Catholic sentiment in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Supreme Court has long held that the free exercise clause of the First Amendment forbids “laws that . . . impose disabilities on the basis of religion.” Despite that conflict, school-choice opponents have often relied on these amendments in state litigation. In December 2018, Montana officials successfully invoked that state’s Blaine Amendment in convincing the state supreme court to strike down a tax-credit scholarship program in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue.

Op-Ed: 2019-20 Pennsylvania budget built on record of fiscal responsibility
North Central PA By Rep. Bryan Cutler and Rep. Stan Saylor July 1, 2019
State Rep. Bryan Cutler is the Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Rep. Stan Saylor is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
After months of debate and bipartisan cooperation, Pennsylvania has a balanced budget that doesn’t raise taxes, puts more money into education, and sets money aside in the state’s Rainy Day Fund to prevent the calls for future tax increases. This on-time budget keeps our promise to Pennsylvanians by being respectful of the tax dollars they entrust to us. House Bill 790 is the General Appropriations bill for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The budget spends $33.997 billion and only grows by 1.8 percent as compared to the current 2018-19 fiscal year. There are no new taxes or fees in this budget. For years the citizens of Pennsylvania have been badgered by false rhetoric that if their taxes are not raised the Commonwealth would fall into economic collapse. House Republicans stood up for taxpayers and said no to new taxes. By holding strong, we proved that the governor’s proposed taxes were unnecessary. The result of rejecting these calls for new taxes is that we have seen a surging economy while still making historic investments in PreK-12 education.

Harrisburg School District’s receiver sweeps out the old staff, brings in a new agency: Why?
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | cvendel@pennlive.com Updated 6:21 AM; Today 5:15 AM
When Janet Samuels took over the Harrisburg School District as receiver this month, she eliminated 14 administrative positions and signed a $1.4 million annual contract with an outside agency to provide all business, operational and human resource functions for three years. So why clean house and go with an outside agency instead of hiring a new superintendent, chief financial officer and other key staff members to fill vacancies? Because this novel approach should show results more quickly and attract more highly-qualified candidates for vital positions who might otherwise not consider working for the troubled district, according to education experts. Instead of spending months advertising for positions, interviewing candidates and making hiring decisions, the team from the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit can hit the ground running, the experts said. Candidates who might be leery about leaving a stable job to work for the Harrisburg School District after years of scandals and dysfunction could be more willing to work for the Intermediate Unit, experts said, with its infrastructure in place and its strong track record. The Harrisburg School District plans to hold a news conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday to introduce some of the new leaders from the Intermediate Unit, including John George, the intermediate unit’s executive director, who will serve as Harrisburg’s Financial Recovery Plan Service Director. George lead the team that previously pulled off what the auditor general called a “miraculous” financial and academic recovery in Reading, arguably one of the state’s poorest school districts.

Harrisburg School District in good hands, but she will need all hands on deck | PennLive Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board Posted Jul 1, 3:16 PM
At last. After years of dysfunction and a momentous month of June, a qualified individual without an ax to grind is firmly in the driver’s seat of the Harrisburg School District. Dr. Janet Samuels took over last week as a court-appointed receiver empowered to do virtually whatever it takes to get the beleaguered district on solid academic, financial and operational footing. She must steer a perilous route for the foreseeable future, while tuning out some dangerously distracting backseat drivers (a lame-duck school board and possibly others). Yet there are strong reasons for hope. Samuels has moved quickly and decisively to assert control. She contracted with the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit to provide business office and human resource department functions, as of July 1, and with the IU’s executive director, John L. George, to serve as the financial recovery plan service director. Samuels notes that George has a track record of working miracles, having led the transformation of the Reading School District, which was hailed by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale as the “most miraculous recovery of a school system he’d witnessed.”

North Allegheny chooses tax hike over cutting music classes
Post-Gazette by SANDY TROZZO JUL 1, 2019 2:21 PM
A majority of North Allegheny school board members opted to raise taxes rather than cut music classes, increase class sizes and raid the fund balance to an extent that would hurt the district’s bond rating. The school board on June 26 approved a $175.9 million budget that raises taxes by 0.6851 mills. The new millage rate is 19.1408, which is the sixth-lowest among the 42 suburban districts in Allegheny County. North Allegheny has the largest enrollment – 8,493 – and the 14th-lowest cost-per-student in the suburbs, according to data released with the budget. “Our spending per student is about $3,000 below the average for the districts in Allegheny County,” said board member Kevin Mahler. “We are not a middle-of-the-road school district, but we spend like one.” The increase will cost the owner of an average home valued at $239,000 approximately $163 per year.

“Superintendent Mark Holtzman said while he took Ms. Weiss’s comments seriously, the district has been “put at a huge disadvantage with charter schools” to which the McKeesport Area pays $7 million a year. Additionally, he said increases in pension costs are also part of the reason for the tax increase. Mr. Holtzman added McKeesport Area relies heavily on state and federal funding, which makes up about 70 percent of its revenues.
“When the state fails us, there’s nowhere else to turn to for funding,” he said.”
McKeesport Area approves budget with 0.68-mill tax increase
Post-Gazette by DEANA CARPENTER JUL 1, 2019 5:27 PM
Taxes in the McKeesport Area School District are going up by 0.68 mills for the 2019-20 school year. The school board on June 26 approved the district’s $69 million budget, which sets the millage rate at 20.16 mills. The vote was 6-2, with board members Joseph Lopretto, Mary Jane Keller, Tom Filotei, Ivan Hampton, Steven Kondrosky and Jim Poston voting yes. Board members James Brown and Dave Donoto voted no. Mindy Sturgess was absent. The new rate would mean property owners would pay $2,016 in school taxes per $100,000 of assessed value, a $68 increase from last year. Prior to the vote, resident Frances Weiss expressed concern about the tax increase, saying that senior citizens like herself on fixed incomes struggle to pay their taxes. “I fear the new tax increase will be the one that forces us out of our homes,” Ms. Weiss said.

Moon Area approves budget with 1-mill increase
Post-Gazette by SUSAN SCHMEICHEL JUL 1, 2019 6:47 PM
The Moon Area school board voted to balance the district's 2019-2020 budget by raising the property tax rate by 0.98 mills and by using money from its fund balance. The budget calls for expenditures of $80.9 million with an expected revenue of $79.5 million causing a shortfall of $1,461,247. The approved real estate tax is 22.10 mills. The budget was approved unanimously on June 24.  "The district does have a fund balance, but that amount is to be determined," explained Jill Regan, director of fiscal and school services. "It is estimated to be $4 million. The district will use these funds to balance the 2019-2020 budget. Emergency expenses are evaluated as these happen. Capital Reserve funds would be used in this case depending on the amount." District officials had anticipated the need to dip into the fund balance to cover the coming school year's expenses, with Ms. Regan, proposing the idea earlier this year.

Philly Student Board of Education representatives end their term with proposals for change
The recommendations include setting up a system so that student districtwide have equal access to advanced courses.
The notebook by Makoto Manheim July 1 — 11:23 am, 2019
 “You’ve upped the game for all of us.”  Philadelphia Board of Education President Joyce Wilkerson was speaking to Julia Frank and Alfredo Praticò, two students who have served for the last year as non-voting advisory members to the nine-member board.  Frank and Praticò coordinated student feedback and passed along policy recommendations for the board to consider. As the first student board representatives in 17 years – the School Reform Commission had no student advisers during its time in control of the District– they had to establish a lot about the position on their own. “We crafted our own set of objectives,” Frank said. Those objectives were: to obtain feedback from students on how the board could better support them, to bridge the gap between board members and students by advocating for students’ interests and explaining the board’s decisions, and to encourage student voice, engagement, and involvement in School District decisions.

State grant boosts environmental education in Pottstown
Pottstown Mercury by MediaNews Group July 2, 2019
POTTSTOWN — State Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-146th Dist., has announced that Pottstown School District has been awarded an environmental education grant. The $3,000 grant will be used to support the Pottstown Powered by Nature program, teaching fourth- to sixth-grade students scientific inquiry in environmental issues. “I’m delighted to see Pottstown School District receive this funding,” said Ciresi.  “We know that every dollar spent on our public school children pays dividends," he said."In a world where our children will be dealing with the effects of climate change, funding specifically earmarked for environmental education is doubly impactful,” Ciresi said. Administered through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Education Grant Program awards funding to organizations to implement educational projects that focus on priority topics of climate change, water, or environmental justice. Projects range from creative, hands-on lessons for students, teacher training programs, and outdoor learning resources to conservation education for adults.

PSBA Members: State Budget Webcast JUL 9, 2019 • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Join PSBA government affairs experts for an in-depth look at the 2019-20 state budget and related School Code bills. What do the new numbers and policy changes mean for your school district, teachers and students? Bring your questions to this complimentary webcast for members!
Presenters: PSBA Chief Advocacy Officer John Callahan, Director of Government Affairs Jonathan Berger and Director of Research Andy Christ. This webcast is for PSBA members only. Members may register at no cost online through PSBA’s webconferencing host: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/7177219780206800141.

The deadline to submit a cover letter, resume and application is August 19, 2019.
Become a 2019-2020 PSBA Advocacy Ambassador
PSBA is seeking applications for two open Advocacy Ambassador positions. Candidates should have experience in day-to-day functions of a school district, on the school board, or in a school leadership position. The purpose of the PSBA Advocacy Ambassador program is to facilitate the education and engagement of local school directors and public education stakeholders through the advocacy leadership of the ambassadors. Each Advocacy Ambassador will be responsible for assisting PSBA in achieving its advocacy goals. To achieve their mission, ambassadors will be kept up to date on current legislation and PSBA positions on legislation. The current open positions will cover PSBA Sections 3 and 4, and Section 7.
PSBA Advocacy Ambassadors are independent contractors representing PSBA and serve as liaisons between PSBA and their local elected officials. Advocacy Ambassadors also commit to building strong relationships with PSBA members with the purpose of engaging the designated members to be active and committed grassroots advocates for PSBA’s legislative priorities. 

PSBA: Nominations for The Allwein Society are open!
This award program recognizes school directors who are outstanding leaders & advocates on behalf of public schools & students. Nominations are accepted year-round with selections announced early fall: http://ow.ly/CchG50uDoxq 

EPLC is accepting applications for the 2019-20 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Education Policy & Leadership Center
PA's premier education policy leadership program for education, policy & community leaders with 582 alumni since 1999. Application with program schedule & agenda are at http://www.eplc.org 

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. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NBCNDKK

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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