Tuesday, July 9, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 9: Here’s what taxpayers in PA Senate Majority Leadership members school districts spent on cyber charter tuition for 2017-2018

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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.

Blogger note: over the past year we have been publishing 2016-2017 cyber charter tuition data. We just received the 2017-2018 data set this morning and will be pushing it out during the summer.

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. (PASBO)

If we adopted single, statewide tuition rates for both regular and special education students that were tied to the actual costs of providing cyber education we could save taxpayers $250 million each year. (Education Voters PA)

Jake Corman
John Gordner
Bob Mensch
Ryan Aument
Patrick Browne
Kim Ward
David Argall
Data Source PDE via PSBA

'Nobody is going to go to heaven.’ Pa. budget deal divides Democrats
Post-Gazette by SASHA HUPKA Harrisburg Bureau JUL 8, 2019 8:00 AM
HARRISBURG — When the state budget wrapped up recently, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf could boast that he navigated yet another budget season without any major clashes with the Republican-controlled Legislature. Instead, it was the progressives within the governor’s own party who left the state Capitol this year feeling shortchanged. The nearly $34 billion budget bill, which Mr. Wolf has signed, contained few of their legislative priorities. Though it boosts money for public education — long one of Mr. Wolf’s priorities — it siphons money from environmental protection efforts, lacks an increase to the state’s $7.25-per-hour minimum wage, and strips funding for a cash assistance program that helps Pennsylvania’s poorest residents. Democratic lawmakers, including some newly elected in a progressive wave last year, balked at some of the missing items. Though they stopped short of publicly directly criticizing Mr. Wolf and their leadership, they expressed frustration that they did not have greater input in the process, which produced a plan that they believe abandons their ideals.

“Like many of his colleagues in the General Assembly, Corman is a recipient of a generous public welfare program that gives lawmakers who live outside a 50-mile radius of Harrisburg an allowance of about $187 per day to cover food, lodging, dry cleaning, and other incidentals not covered by their $88,610 base salaries. The allowance doesn’t require receipts. No questions asked. No monitoring of how the money is spent. No chance at all for fraud, waste, or abuse.
In 2015, Corman collected $9,861 in per diems, and about half that in 2016. In all, taxpayers spent $2.5 million on per diems, covering about 250 legislators. According to a report by pennlive.com, a top recipient was Pat Browne, who collected $23,574 in 2016. (Per diems are based on the number of days spent in Harrisburg, and vary with each lawmaker.)”
Pa. lawmakers kill general assistance, but keep their own welfare program | Editorial
The Inquirer Editorial Board opinion@inquirer.com Updated: July 9, 2019 - 5:00 AM
Charges of hypocrisy rarely hit their intended targets — mainly because hypocrites are blind to their own role in irony or injustice. The elected state lawmakers who voted last month to eliminate a general assistance program that helped the most desperate and needy of people in the state have this blindness. Currently, about 10,000 people get grants of $200 per month — $2,400 per year — to help cover basic needs. This has been a popular target; general assistance was eliminated in 2012 but the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional. At that time, the program served 60,000 of the neediest Pennsylvanians. The issue went viral last month when, during a hearing on the topic, State Senator Katie Muth tried to read a letter from John Boyd, a general assistance recipient, explaining what a huge difference this small amount of money made to his life. Muth’s reading was shouted down by Republican Majority Leader Jake Corman. The exchange generated outraged attention by presidential candidates and other national figures. Corman has called the general assistance program flawed because of the lack of monitoring of how the money is spent by participants.

National teacher shortage affects Pennsylvania
Observer Reporter by Karen Mansfield Jul 7, 2019 Updated 19 hrs ago
The United States, including Pennsylvania, is dealing with a teacher shortage. Since 1996, the number of undergraduate education majors has declined 55%. Additionally, since 2009, the number of newly issued in-state instructional teaching certificates has dropped by 71%, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Pennsylvania used to issue licenses to more than 14,000 new teachers annually. In 2016-17, the state issued 4,412. Dr. Diane Fine, a professor at California University of Pennsylvania’s College of Education, has watched the decline in the ranks of students seeking education degrees across all disciplines. Fall enrollment for education majors at the university has dropped below 551 each year since 2014. In the fall of 2018, 452 aspiring teachers enrolled in Cal’s education program, almost 100 fewer than in 2014. “These are definitely challenging times, no doubt, in education. I tell my students that they’re entering teaching at a challenging time,” said Fine. “It is tougher to recruit students into education programs.” The teacher shortage is most pronounced in math and science, with graduates joining the corporate world – including STEM fields – where jobs offer greater pay and stability. While Canon-McMillan School District continues to draw quality teacher candidates, the pool of candidates is getting shallower in those fields, along with foreign language, said Superintendent Michael Daniels.

Your View by education major: Why armed guards not the answer to school shootings
As a college senior preparing to enter the workforce with an education degree, I am taxed with the same question all teachers before me have asked themselves: How am I going to keep my kids safe? This question takes on a new meaning for the upcoming generation of young professionals as the threat of school shootings looms ever present. Though I ask myself this same question with uncertainty, I do know the answer is not with armed officials. Armed guards in schools should not be used to decrease the number of school shootings.  School shootings are not frequent occurrences, despite what news coverage may suggest. A Washington Post piece by David Ropeik, an instructor at Harvard and author of “How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts," puts the likelihood of a student falling victim to death via school shooting on any given day at 1 in 614 million. That number does not take away from the tragedy of the life of a child being cut short in a place meant for learning and growing. However, allocating funding and personnel to prevent an event with such a small likelihood seems foolish, especially if the funding is coming from the already stretched budgets meant for educational purposes. Anyone working within schools can see money for staff, supplies and programs should not be spread even thinner. Particularly not for the sake of arming guards to stand at the ready in case of a school shooting that is wildly unlikely to happen.

Pa. is right to give schools the room to make their own choices on security | Opinion
By Kim Stolfer and Greg Archetto Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributors July 9, 2019
A recent Capital-Star op-Ed jointly authored by CeaseFire Pennsylvania and the Education Law Center took aim at legislation that had been passed by both the Pennsylvania House and Senate (SB621) which focuses on school security. While this legislation was recently signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf, their issue is the supposed diabolical plan to “arm teachers” in schools, despite no such language being included in the bill. Of specific concern is language creating “school security guards” which these organizations feel could be a “back door” to arming teachers and other school staff.  We still feel it is important to address these fallacies put forth, in this joint op-Ed. First of all, the legislation sponsored by Sen. Mike Regan, R-Cumberland, does not require anyone to carry a firearm.  It has stringent training requirements for those authorized to do so.  To those worried that a “math teacher” could be considered a “security guard,” is not the difference between an armed and well-trained security guard versus and armed and well-trained teacher simply a snappy uniform?

“We have created a culture where guns and violence are worshipped and the victims and survivors are left to fend for themselves in the wake of severe trauma. Our legislative bodies have done very little to protect anyone from gun violence, and yet some of them tout their dedication to gun violence prevention right here in Pennsylvania. But they voted in favor of SB 621. We have created a plan for our schools’ safety that trains children from early ages to expect a shooter to enter their school, we ask that they run, hide, and ultimately sacrifice themselves to save their classmates, like Kendrick Castillo did at STEM.
Yet we have not funded dedicated mental health counselors in all schools, we have not expanded access to quality mental health care, and we have not provided our children with adequate socio-emotional learning programs like peer mediation and conflict resolution.”
From a Columbine survivor: New Pa. law allowing more armed guards won’t make our schools any safer | Opinion
By Jami Amo  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor July 9, 2019
Last Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill (SB621) into law creating new categories of armed security guards for our schools. Aware of great concern about and opposition to arming teachers, Wolf issued a signing statement saying this bill does not and will not allow the arming of teachers. For many, the idea of more armed security might bring comfort. But for me, the passage and signing of this bill is a sign that our legislature is so weak they cannot bear to stand up for even the youngest children in our schools. First of all, statewide, funding per student by district varies so widely; disparity is obvious already. An increase in funding will allot fiscal space to provide these armed Security Officers, though some regions simply don’t have the resources to dedicate. Third-party security firms will be granted permission to enter these roles as long as they meet the conditions laid out in the bill. This is unacceptable to me aside from the obvious false claim that more guns equate to more safety.

“Schools must apply to establish a program for flexible instructional days and provide a plan detailing how they will notify students, parents and staff when a flexible instructional day is used; how they’ll accommodate students with insufficient technology or internet access and students with special needs; and the responsibilities of students and staff. Those plans must be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.”
Snow days aren't going anywhere — for now, at least — despite new 'flexible instructional day' law
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer July 9, 2019
Are we witnessing the snow day’s demise?
Not quite — at least not in Lancaster County, school officials told LNP.
Gov. Tom Wolf last week signed a bill into law that allows school districts to use up to five “flexible instructional days” during the academic year starting in 2019-20. When schools are forced to close due to an emergency, districts with a state-approved plan may provide online instruction rather than losing one of the required 180 school days — and making it up later on. The legislation was cosponsored by Lancaster County Republican Sens. Ryan Aument and Scott Martin. While many Lancaster County school officials say they’re intrigued by the idea, implementing such a program would involve significant roadblocks, they say. “On the surface, it may sound like a worthwhile idea,” Donegal Superintendent Michael Lausch said. “However, there are several issues for which careful planning must occur in order to make flexible instructional days something that is considered in Donegal.” Among the challenges, Lausch and others said, were students’ at-home internet access, serving students with special needs and English language learners, as well as creating assignments that fit the curriculum.

Missing computers turn up at Harrisburg School District
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | cvendel@pennlive.com Posted Jul 8, 6:20 PM
Computers that had gone missing from the Harrisburg School District have now mysteriously turned up, school officials confirmed Monday. We are now able to account for all computers,” said John George, the district’s new Financial Recovery Plan Service Director when asked by PennLive. “At this moment, I am unable to provide any other information.” Pennsylvania State Police are investigating. George would not provide any additional details about the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of the computers, including whether they were simply misplaced, how or where they turned up and whether any data or documents were missing from them. If electronic files were deleted from the computers, a forensic reconstruction might be able to identify what was deleted. The computers containing key financial records were discovered missing last Monday by a team of new administrative staffers brought in by the newly-appointed Receiver of the school district, Janet Samuels. The new team had been on the job less than 24 hours when they discovered the missing computers, which vanished amid a mass-firing of the superintendent, acting business manager and seven others.

‘Teachers can’t become political targets’: Central H.S. teacher fires back at ex-Pa. GOP chair
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Updated: July 8, 2019- 4:07 PM
Thomas Quinn won accolades for his successful campaign to register Philly 18-year-olds to vote, a volunteer effort he launched in addition to a busy schedule teaching social studies at Central High School. But with a month to go before last fall’s election, Quinn was jolted — and briefly stopped in his tracks — by an accusation from an unlikely person: then-Pennsylvania state Republican Party Chairman Val DiGiorgio said Quinn was engaging in “liberal indoctrination." Quinn had never met DiGiorgio, but the 1985 Central graduate said he had evidence of the teacher engaging in partisan political activity in violation of Philadelphia School District policy. DiGiorgio wrote to Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., calling Quinn’s conduct “a very serious matter” and took his story to the media, showing a photo of what the GOP chair said was an anti-Republican flier Quinn handed out to students. But the photo DiGiorgio circulated, Quinn said, was a cropped shot of several political posters hanging in a Central staff room. The poster admittedly had a liberal bent, Quinn said, but it hung in a space that has featured others praising President Ronald Reagan and President Donald Trump, and it was never circulated to students. Quinn was cleared by the district of any charges of political indoctrination, but did receive a disciplinary memo for hanging a partisan poster in a school space.

State could seek $40M after probe finds Indiana Virtual School inflated enrollment — even counting a student who had died
Chalkbeat BY STEPHANIE WANG July 8, 2019
Two school years after a student died, Indiana Virtual School kept him on its rolls and received state funding to educate him. Five years after two students moved to Florida, they reappeared on enrollment records for Indiana Virtual School and its sister school. And nearly every one of the more than 900 students kicked out of Indiana Virtual School and its sister school in the 2017-18 school year for being inactive were re-enrolled the next school year, included in per-pupil funding calculations that netted the two online schools more than $34 million in public dollars last year.
These were among the ways that Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy allegedly inflated their enrollment to at least twice its actual size, according to the findings of a state examiner’s investigation released Monday. Now, the state could demand that the schools — slated to close next year amid widespread mismanagement — return about $40 million in funding for students they never educated. The Indiana State Board of Education is set to discuss at its Wednesday meeting whether to claw back money from the virtual schools, which have been the subject of numerous Chalkbeat articles examining financial conflicts of interest and dismal academic performance. Board members could vote to recover half of the money that the schools received over the past three years by reducing state funding going forward. But the virtual schools’ superintendent Percy Clark said that if the state asks for its money back, the schools will be unable to pay for teachers and educational services — which “means the end of the road for the Schools and most of their students.”

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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