Tuesday, August 6, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Aug. 6: Gov. Tom Wolf calls charter schools ‘private,’ draws heated response from their largest advocacy group

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PA Ed Policy Roundup August 6, 2019

PA Senate Education Committee Public Hearing on Charter School Funding
Wednesday, August 14, 2019 1:00 PM
Everett Area H. S. 1 Renaissance Cir. Everett, PA

In 2017-18, taxpayers in Senate Ed Committee Members’ school districts had to send over $149 million to chronically underperforming cyber charter schools that they never authorized.
Data Source: PDE via PSBA.

Wayne Langerholc
Andrew Dinniman
John DiSanto
Joseph Scarnati
Ryan Aument
Patrick Browne
Mike Folmer
Robert Tomlinson
James Brewster
Daylin Leach
Lindsay Williams

Do your lawmakers support cyber charter school funding reform?
Education Voters PA Blog Published by EDVOPA on August 2, 2019
Right now, lawmakers are in their districts enjoying summer vacations. They are away from Harrisburg and have time to reflect on issues they will prioritize in the fall. Emails from constituents querying their positions on cyber charter schools will keep this issue on their radar and ensure that they know their constituents are watching them and expecting them to take action. Click HERE to email your state senator and representative to ask them about their positions on cyber charter school funding and accountability reforms.
As you know, in February, Education Voters of PA issued a report about cyber charter school funding. We detailed how capping cyber charter school tuition rates at the actual cost of educating a child at home on a computer would eliminate wasteful spending and save more than $250 million in taxpayer dollars. We also detailed serious issues with cyber charter accountability and performance. Since then, we’ve helped build substantial statewide momentum behind cyber charter school reform. Thousands of advocates (you!!) contacted state lawmakers demanding cyber charter school reform and newspapers in 17 media markets throughout the state, from McKean to Philadelphia to Westmoreland to Susquehanna Counties, have covered our report and informed their readers about this issue. Three newspaper editorial boards have even endorsed cyber school funding reform (the Pottstown Mercurythe Washington County Observer-Reporter, and the Scranton Times-Tribune).  

“According to Superintendent Michelle Saylor the average cost for Bellefonte Area students to attend BeLA is about $4,000 per student. The average tuition for one student in a cyber charter school is about $16,000.”
If passed, Senate Bill 34 could save district, taxpayers money
Bellefonte Area School District Website By Brit Milazzo bmilazzo@basd.net Public relations, BASD
In the 2018-19 school year, Bellefonte Area School District spent $582,113.56 to fund tuition for students within the district attending cyber charter schools, which district Director of Fiscal Affairs Ken Bean said is used with taxpayer dollars. Under Senate Bill 34, that money could be saved and instead put toward a plethora of projects within the district that could also come with savings for local residents. Senate Bill 34 would require families to pay out-of-pocket tuition to attend cyber charter schools if their home school district offers its own cyber education program. Bellefonte Area School District does, through the Bellefonte eLearning Academy, under direction of Cyber Education Coordinator Rebecca Leitzell. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Judy Schwank who said, “Currently, school districts are responsible for the tuition of resident students attending cyber charter schools. This is set at the amount of the district's net per-student share of state basic education funding. Under my legislation, a district that offers a cyber program equal in scope and content to the cyber charter school will not be responsible for the tuition costs. Instead, tuition costs will be treated in cyber situations the same as they are when resident students attend non-district brick-and-mortar schools.” According to Superintendent Michelle Saylor the average cost for Bellefonte Area students to attend BeLA is about $4,000 per student. The average tuition for one student in a cyber charter school is about $16,000. “Coupled with this staggering cost is that the vast majority of PA cyber schools consistently place in the bottom five percent,” Saylor said. “Often cyber charter students who return to the traditional public schools show significant needs for remediation.”

“Wolf referred to charter schools as “the privatization of education in our public schools” at a July news conference celebrating historic funding increases for public schools included in the 2019-20 budget. In a news release about that event, he lamented the “increasing amounts of school funding siphoned by private cyber and charter schools” and called for increased accountability of the public funds flowing to charter schools. According to the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, school districts paid charter schools more than $1.8 billion last year, which was a 10 percent increase from the prior year.”
Gov. Tom Wolf calls charter schools ‘private,’ draws heated response from their largest advocacy group
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com August 5, 2019
To say Gov. Tom Wolf struck a nerve with the charter school community when he recently referred to their schools as “private” is putting it mildly, but his administration is not backing away from that description. An organization representing those schools sent Wolf a letter on Thursday voicing their “grave concerns” about his comments as well as his perception of charters, which are public schools that operate independently of school districts. “I am shocked that you and your staff are unaware that none of Pennsylvanian’s charter schools [brick-and-mortar or cyber] are private or for-profit institutions,” states the letter signed by Ana Meyers, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, the state’s largest organization representing charter schools. “I would have thought that a governor who has championed public education like you have over the past four-plus years would know better. I believe that you would have a much better understanding of how charter schools operate in Pennsylvania if you took the time to visit a few of them.”

Vahan Gureghian is the poster child for school privatization in Pennsylvania. While none of Pennsylvania’s charter schools [brick-and-mortar or cyber] are private or for-profit institutions, charters may contract with private, for-profit management companies.  Those companies are not subject to right-to-know laws and can operate with virtually no accountability or transparency to the public. Gureghian’s CSMI also manages the Chester Community Charter School, Pennsylvania’s largest brick and mortar charter.
Gureghian charter school cut corners ‘for money’s sake,’ N.J. ex-principal says in suit
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: August 2, 2019
A former New Jersey charter school principal says she was fired after raising concerns about illegal practices at the school, managed by Gladwyne entrepreneur Vahan Gureghian’s company. In a whistle-blower lawsuit filed in Atlantic County, Jeanine Bethel accuses the company, CSMI, of retaliating against her after she repeatedly informed it of problems at the Atlantic Community Charter School during her tenure, which lasted from 2016 to 2018. Among her allegations: “Illegal deductions” were being taken from staff paychecks; students weren’t being tested to determine whether they needed special education; and CSMI’s administrators were illegally using federal money to supplant, rather than supplement the charter school’s funding. Bethel also says she was asked, but refused to misrepresent educational data on the school’s plan for federal Title I money. “The common theme uncovered by plaintiff in her tenure as principal was that CSMI, which was running a for-profit charter school, would compromise the charter school’s educational program for money’s sake,” says the lawsuit, dated June 26.

“When an area experiences a growth in population of school-aged children, that leads to more school spending and higher taxes. Our senior citizens, who for years worked tirelessly and now live on a fixed income, struggle to pay the increased school property tax,” Davis said in a release. “This should be the least of their worries, and a solution should be put in place so that our most vulnerable citizens aren’t living paycheck to paycheck.” In 2012 the Washington Post found that Pennsylvania had the largest disparity in per-pupil spending between wealthy and poor districts. The state is currently being sued for inequitable funding. That lawsuit is scheduled for trial in summer 2020.”
Bipartisan Group Of PA Lawmakers To Find Alternatives To School Property Taxes
Pennsylvania lawmakers will meet soon to try to find alternatives to school property taxes. The task force is far from the first effort to replace the funding mechanism. Attempts to kill property taxes have stalled for years as legislators have searched for the right mix of taxes to replace the $13 billion in property taxes that pay for public education. There are a number of bills in the legislature that would either cut property taxes entirely or shift more of the burden to other taxes like personal income.   Allegheny County Democratic representative Austin Davis was recently appointed to the task force. He serves school districts including McKeesport, Clariton and Steel Valley. “They have an older, shrinking tax base. Their homes are not valued at the same amounts as places in, like, the North Hills. So that absolutely adds to an equity issue,” he said. Davis acknowledges that lawmakers have tried to find a more equitable solution for decades. Pennsylvania puts a heavier burden on local taxpayers to fund public education than most states. According to the 2016 Census, the state covers about 38 percent, the rest comes from local districts through property taxes. That creates a disparity between wealthier and poorer districts. Davis also worries about senior citizens who he says can’t afford the tax increases that school districts say they need.

Skopov announces second challenge to Turzai
PA Capital Star By  Stephen Caruso August 2, 2019
After falling short in 2018, Democrat Emily Skopov, a former screenwriter and nonprofit executive, is taking another run at toppling the state House’s highest ranking official, Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny. Turzai, first elected in 2001, beat Skopov 54.4 percent to 45.6 percent last year. At the same time, Democrats dominated the district at the top of the ballot. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf did best, winning nearly 55 percent of the district’s voters in his successful reelection campaign. The 28th House District, which Turzai currently holds, is in the affluent northern Pittsburgh suburbs, including McCandless, Franklin Park and Marshall townships. President Donald Trump won the district by 52 percent in 2016, a full ten points less than 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, according to data collected by Daily Kos, a progressive blog. Skopov announced the run in a press release Thursday. She told the Capital-Star that she thinks her race last year was a signal to both state politicos and the district’s voters. “The people here are now realizing this is a race that can be won by a Democrat,” she said, adding that “no one really understood what that district was yet.” A spokesperson for Turzai’s reelection campaign did not return a request for comment. In 2016, Turzai won 65-35 against a Democratic candidate. He was unopposed in the previous two races.

Reprise April 2019: School choice is a necessary complement to public schools | Opinion
Mike Turzai, For the Inquirer Updated: April 30, 2019 - 6:00 AM
Every student in Pennsylvania deserves the best education possible; one that fits the individual needs of each student. When it comes to serving these individual needs, we know that one size does not fit all. So, I have introduced House Bill 800 to bring the best of what other states have done to Pennsylvania and to continue to lead the way on school choice and innovation. Each year, the largest expenditure in Pennsylvania’s state budget is dedicated to primary and secondary education — more than $11 billion to support every public school in the Commonwealth. When added to local spending, we devote more than $30 billion annually to funding our public-school districts. In return for this great investment, Pennsylvania boasts many of the best public schools in the nation, providing immense benefit to our students and our communities. But, for a variety of reasons unique to each individual, these great public schools are not always the right fit for every child or every family.

Emily Skopov’s Campaign Website Statement on Education
If a community cannot provide excellence in its public education, then it is failing not only the children of that community, but the future of that community.  Emily is dedicated to creating a Pennsylvania in which every single child has access to the high quality public education that they deserve, regardless of their zip code. She will fight for increased funding for our public schools, while also making sure that charter schools are held to the same standard as traditional public schools. Emily will work for a fair severance tax on oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania, dedicating a majority of the revenue to improving our schools and protecting the environment without adversely impacting the economic benefits of the industry. Though our public universities and community colleges are outstanding institutions, their skyrocketing tuition has made them increasingly unaffordable.  Emily pledges to combat this out of control spending by insisting on more accountability and transparency, while working to increase funding where it is most needed. Knowing that our economy is everchanging, Emily will work to increase funding for job training programs and incentivize the creation of paid apprenticeships to ensure that every Pennsylvanian who wants a well paying job will have the skills to enter or remain in the workforce.

‘We cannot accept this as normal’: Wolf calls on U.S. Senate to pass background check bill
PA Capital Star By  John L. Micek August 5, 2019
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday called for the U.S. Senate to return from its summer recess to take up gun-control legislation previously approved by the U.S. House. The Democrat also called on Republican leaders in the majority-Republican state House and Senate to “advance common-sense reforms that would reduce access to guns for violent and dangerous individuals.” Wolf’s office released a statement just hours after President Donald Trump used a televised address to the nation to pledge more resources for mental health treatment, but not stricter gun-control measures, after lone gunmen killed 31 people and wounded scores more in separate incidents in Texas and Ohio over the weekend. “The biggest and most immediate step that we could take as a nation is for the United States Senate bill, approved by the U.S. House in February,” Wolf’s statement reads. “Further, it is my belief that Congress should immediately pursue a ban or significant restrictions on assault rifles and ammunition accessories — those weapons of choice of mass shooters. I call on Majority Leader McConnell to immediately end the Senate’s recess and bring this bill to a vote. This is a nationwide crisis and it demands a national solution.”

Pa. Gov. Wolf calls for banning assault weapons and targeting white nationalism after mass shootings
Penn Live By Ed Mahon & Emily Previti | PA Post Updated Aug 4, 10:04 PM
In the wake of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that left at least 29 people dead, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called for increased gun restrictions and targeting white nationalism. Several other Pennsylvania politicians called for action, following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this weekend. Sen. Bob Casey echoed Wolf in a statement, concluding: “Today, President Trump should address the nation to condemn white nationalism and pledge an all of government effort to confront white nationalist terrorism. For years, Congressional Republicans have blocked action on measures to reduce gun violence and they must be held accountable. It’s time for Senator McConnell and Congressional Republicans to confront gun violence or get out of the way.” Casey and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey also took to Twitter:

El Paso Shooting: Another day, another mass shooting in America. Let’s end it now | Opinion
By Shanna Danielson  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor August 4, 2019
Shanna Danielson, of Dillsburg, is the Legislative Lead for the Capital Region chapter of MOMS Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. 
This weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend a nationwide training with MOMS Demand Action, a group dedicated to reducing and eliminating gun violence in our nation. Two thousand dedicated gun violence prevention volunteers, leaders, and survivors from all 50 states came together to train, learn from each other, and celebrate our victories. While we were assembled together for lunch, we learned of yet another mass shooting in America, this time in El Paso, Texas.  It seems that not a day goes by without news of a shooting. Mass shootings receive endless media attention, but we also regularly experience gun violence in our communities in central Pennsylvania. There is so much we can do. An easy place to start is to pass the background check bill currently stalled in Washington. We need our senators in Washington D.C. to vote to require a background check on all gun sales. Join MOMS Demand Action and ask U.S. Sens. Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) to demand action, too. Text CHECKS to 644-33 and join our efforts. Together, we can make a difference and make America a safer place to live.

We don’t have to be sitting ducks for white nationalists: We can stand and fight | Pennlive Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board Updated Aug 5, 4:53 PM; Posted Aug 5, 12:34 PM
We don’t have to be sitting ducks. That’s one of the main messages they tell you in active shooter training. Don’t just let them kill you. If there’s no chance for flight, then you should fight. Let’s face it, we’re all under threat from hate-filled people with guns. Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, all of us – and of our children -- are going down when the shooting starts. These folks don’t take the time to ask about your political ideology, whether you’re a member of the NRA or who you voted for in the last election Flying bullets don’t distinguish between race, culture or creed. We may as well face it. We can’t run from this. We all in the room together, and we can hear the shots just outside the door. We have to stand and fight -- together. We have to stop this foolishness and figure out how to protect ourselves from deranged bigots who seem to be multiplying like . . . well, you know. People are dying, and we could be next. It’s a no-brainer we need to make it harder to kill dozens of people in a minute. No one needs an assault weapon outside of a battlefield. We understand hunters want their rifles to take down the deer, and we all want to protect our homes. No argument from us on this.

“In Dayton, police said they took down the gunman in 30 seconds. In that time, the guy fired dozens of shots in that time, killing 9 people and injuring 27 others. He used a .223-caliber high-capacity rifle with 100-round drum magazines. So, let’s start with taking a cold, hard look at the kinds of weapons we allow on our streets. And then let’s ban them and get the off the streets.”
Pat Toomey seeks to revive background checks legislation; opposes ban on military style firearms
Penn Live By Ivey DeJesus | idejesus@pennlive.com Updated Aug 5, 3:56 PM
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is seeking to revive his defeated proposal to expand background checks for gun buyers even as he holds firmly to the idea that bans on military style weapons and restrictions to magazine size are not solutions for staving off mass shootings. During a phone press conference on Monday, the Lehigh Valley Republican renewed his pitch for the expanded background checks measure that he and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) introduced six years ago in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. The so-called Manchin-Toomey bill would expand background checks to all gun sales. The measure was defeated in the Senate in 2013 when only four Republican senators voted in favor of it.

Walmart says it will keep selling guns, even as advocacy groups and workers voice concerns
Post-Gazette by ABHA BHATTARAI The Washington Post AUG 6, 2019 4:30 AM
Walmart said Monday it will not stop selling firearms or change its open carry policies, even as advocacy groups and workers voiced concerns about shootings at two of its stores that killed 24 people in the past week. “There has been no change in company policy,” spokesman Randy Hargrove said in an interview. “With this incident just having happened over the weekend, our focus has been on supporting associates, customer and the El Paso community.” A man with an assault rifle opened fire Saturday at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 20 people and injuring more than two dozen others. Two more people died Monday, authorities said. Days earlier, a Walmart employee in Southaven, Miss., fatally shot two co-workers. “The entire Walmart community is heartbroken,” chief executive Doug McMillon wrote on Instagram in response to the shootings. “I can’t believe I’m sending a note like this twice in one week.”

“Most tips, the report said, are not about violent threats. “The numbers in this report show the reality of what our children are facing in school as they struggle with bullying, anxiety and thoughts of self-harm,” the report concluded, urging state lawmakers to increase mental health resources in schools.”
State school safety tip system fielded 23K reports this year
AP News By MARK SCOLFORO August 5, 2019
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A state report released Monday said bullying, self-harm and suicide were the most common concerns fielded during the first half-year of operation for a new threat reporting system that covers Pennsylvania schools. The 21-page report by the state attorney general’s office said the Safe 2 Say Something program generated more than 23,000 tips between mid-January, when it launched, through the end of June. Most tips, the report said, are not about violent threats. “The numbers in this report show the reality of what our children are facing in school as they struggle with bullying, anxiety and thoughts of self-harm,” the report concluded, urging state lawmakers to increase mental health resources in schools. The report said there were 607 tips about threats against schools and 523 about threats against people. About 1,300 tips were determined to be pranks, including a majority of them that were immediately identified as false. “There is no question that this program is contributing to a safer school environment,” said Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, a prime sponsor of the legislation. “The success of Safe2Say lies in a caller’s trust that they will remain anonymous and that their tip will be taken seriously and acted upon swiftly.” Safe 2 Say Something covers all K-12 students in Pennsylvania, including charter, private and vocational-technical schools.

“Less than three percent of the total tips received were about threats of school violence — 607 of them between mid-January and the end of June.”
Pa. school safety tip-line used more to report bullying, suicidal thoughts, than violent threats
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent August 5, 2019 Update: 4:40 p.m.
A Pennsylvania tip system created to improve school safety fielded some tips about school violence, but received far more inquiries about student mental health, according to new data.  The state created the Safe2Say Something program — an anonymous tip line — after school shootings in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas. And while lots of students, educators, and administrators used the program during its first six months, few used it to report threats of violence against their schools. Instead, many of the 23,494 tips received online or by phone were related to bullying, self-harm, thoughts of suicide, or depression, according to data released by Pennsylvania’s Office of the Attorney General. “The numbers in this report show the reality of what our children are facing in school as they struggle with bullying, anxiety and thoughts of self-harm,” according to the program’s inaugural report. “The Attorney General urges Pennsylvania’s Legislature to read this report, study the data and act to address the need for increased mental health resources for students across our Commonwealth.”

 “This summer, Philabundance is providing 57,000 meals to kids who lose their school breakfast and lunch while school is out. LunchBoxes will be provided to children 18 years and younger through the end of August.”
Nonprofits work together to help fill summer meal gap in Bucks, Montgomery counties
Intelligencer By Lauren Purnell / lpurnell@thebct.com / @LaurenPurnellNJ Posted Aug 1, 2019
School’s out, and that means kids who receive free or reduced meals are vulnerable to not getting enough food. Philabundance is working with local nonprofits to ensure they get nutritious meals. For a lot of Bucks County children, the end of the school year also means the end of a reliable source for lunch during the week. On Tuesday, Fresh Connect Bucks County hosted a free farmer’s market in Warminster Community Park, where Philabundance helped provide fresh produce and 100 lunch boxes. Fresh Connect redistributes the packed lunches to meet the need in the county. It was just one site in the region trying to fill the hunger gap. Approximately 400,000 children in Philabundance’s nine-county service area receive school meals, and face uncertainty when it comes to lunch time meals during the summer. Philabundance’s LunchBox program is a partnership with Giant Food Stores. “It’s a partnership that just makes sense,” said Heather Foor, Fresh Connect food program manager and Bucks County Opportunity Council counselor. “We want to meet the need in Bucks County. It just makes sense, since we’re already doing Fresh Connect, to just add the lunches because we’re seeing families that we see their children coming through the line, and we know that summers can be a hard time for kids because they’re not getting meals at school, so we want to make sure that we have an option for the kids.”

Newly retired York City Superintendent Eric Holmes led district through troubled times
Lindsay C. VanAsdalan, York Dispatch Published 10:55 a.m. ET Aug. 5, 2019 | Updated 12:09 p.m. ET Aug. 5, 2019
York City School District officials are still waiting to hear if the state will accept their request to be removed from financial recovery status — a decision that was expected to come this July. The state Department of Education unofficially told the district it could be another three to four weeks, said the district's Chief Recovery Officer Carol Saylor on Monday, July 29, but department spokesman Eric Levis said the delay is just a normal part of the process. The district has been following a mandated recovery plan since just before former Superintendent Eric Holmes took over in the 2013-14 school year. Following his retirement this July, some applauded him for his leadership during one of the district's most trying periods. “He led the school district out of the immediate financial distress and at the same time made some gains in the education of the students, as shown by improvement in most of the schools,” said York City Mayor Michael Helfrich. Though achievement scores on state assessments are still below all other county districts and charter schools, students met or exceeded the growth standard in all state assessments for the past two years, according to the most recent Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System data.

Should the state have acted sooner to take over the Harrisburg School District?
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | cvendel@pennlive.com August 5, 2019
The list of mistakes by the Harrisburg School district in recent years is long.
The district:
  • Hired dozens of teachers at the wrong pay levels.
  • Employed teachers without valid certifications.
  • Paid for continued health care for 54 employees for years after they left the district.
  • Hired outside consultants at an alarming rate.
  • Lacked basic human resource records.
  • Logged timesheets for federal spending on paperwork that disappeared.
  • Claimed to have increased teacher salaries by nearly $16 million over three years when staffing and experience levels had declined and there were only small raises.
  • Claimed to have spent $10 million on capital improvements in recent years in addition to general maintenance, even though the condition of district buildings remained dreadful.
All of this happened while the district was under the oversight of the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The district has had a state-appointed chief recovery officer since late 2012. The state also brought in a financial consultant to assist the district’s struggling business office in 2012. Outside local auditors reviewed financial statements each year and flagged problems that received little, if any, publicity.

Targeted by the GOP, Pa’s Democratic U.S. House newcomers fill 2020 war chests
WASHINGTON — Freshmen Democrats from Pennsylvania are just getting settled in the U.S. House, but they continue to rake in campaign cash as they brace for battle again in 2020.  U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, an Air Force veteran who flipped the 6th District in suburban Philadelphia from GOP control in 2018, has already raised more than $847,000 so far this year for her 2020 race, according to her most recent campaign finance report. Her campaign has $1.5 million in the bank.  “It’s a lot of money,” said Leah Askarinam, an analyst with the nonpartisan newsletter Inside Elections.  Houlahan jumped into the 2018 race expecting to face off against incumbent GOP Rep. Ryan Costello, but he dropped out after the state’s Supreme Court ruled that the congressional districts had been illegally gerrymandered. The new map gave Democrats an advantage in the district and Houlahan cruised to victory over Republican Greg McCauley.  And while it’s early in the cycle, and Houlahan’s race doesn’t yet appear to be competitive, the freshman congresswoman doesn’t seem to be taking anything for granted.  “She was recruited as somebody who needed to be able to raise a lot of money,” Askarinam said, and Houlahan is the same candidate, even though the district changed. 

Area school districts eye snow day alternative with caution
Pottstown Mercury by MediaNews Group August 5, 2019
They're the bane of school administrators and the hopeful dreams of students. They mean waking early to scour weather reports and scout out road conditions. They mean days spent on the couch watching "The Price is Right" or outside sledding and building snow forts. They mean scheduling challenges and lesson interruptions and, in some cases, delayed graduation ceremonies. Snow days, at least in the Northeast, are as much a part of the educational experience as gym class and textbooks. But soon they might be a thing of the past, at least for some of the days off. It could occur as soon as the coming winter. The Pennsylvania Legislature has passed a bill that would create flexible instructional days, a way to avoid the classroom time lost when winter weather whips through and leaves a blanket of white behind. Flexible instructional days use nontraditional methods to provide instruction to students in their homes. While they can involve off-line instruction, the most common method is online lessons.

Philly teen tech entrepreneurs take matters into their own hands, or phones
WHYY By Naomi Brauner August 5, 2019  Listen 3:09
As students at Dobbins Technical High School, Kyree Keels, Nasir Holloman and Kadir Douglass could study culinary arts, barbering, building and property management, and a host of other subjects. Instead, they’re so excited about studying computer systems networking that Keels, Holloman, and Douglass quickly started to be the “go-to” people on campus for tech repairs. “Technical things are just things that there’s one solution to one problem, and they’re most likely easier than you probably would think,” Keels said. As word of their skills spread, Keels, Holloman and Douglass soon became part of the school’s unofficial IT department. “So we’re working with networking wires. Somebody’s board’s not working, we’ve got to fix that. You know, just regular tech service things around the school, computers, iMacs, laptops, everything,” Keels said. The work came with perks.

Former tech exec teaches entrepreneurship in Roxborough
Teaching, he says, "is all about selling."
The notebook by Makoto Manheim August 5 — 10:26 am, 2019
 “I created a culture where kids expect hard things and get it done.”
Frank Fesnak strongly believes in the potential of his students. He has reinvented the business and technology program at Roxborough High School to the extent that his students have been able to win awards and understand concepts that were never introduced to prior classes. Fesnak is also one of the 60 teachers who won the Lindback Award for distinguished teaching this year.   Though Fesnak says he didn’t need the recognition, he found it validating and looks at it as an objective data point that justifies his decision to go into teaching, which is his second career.  “I didn’t want to teach if I couldn’t do it well, and this is the validation that I did,” Fesnak said. He always had the idea of being a teacher in the back of his mind. He had some excellent teachers himself growing up, and they gave him the support that he needed.

ESSA Puts Pressure on Schools to Reduce Student Absences. Here's How They Might Do It
Education Week By Evie Blad on August 4, 2019 12:41 PM
The Every Student Succeeds Act puts more pressure on schools to ensure their students show up every day. But when it comes to addressing chronic absenteeism, some educators and policy makers say they are building the plane in the air, relying on a growing body of research about everything from student health and motivation to mentoring to family poverty to find ways to move the needle. A new brief from FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University, explores existing strategies state and local decision makers my consider. Working with University of Illinois researcher Patricia A. Graczyk, the report's authors explored the research behind 22 different approaches to determine how well they meet ESSA's requirements for evidence-based school improvement.

PDK Poll shows widespread frustration among teachers over pay and respect
By Laura Meckler August 5 at 7:00 PM
Half of teachers say they have seriously considered leaving the profession, and most said they would strike if given the opportunity, according to a survey released Monday. The poll found widespread teacher complaints about low pay and poor funding for their schools, and nearly half said they felt unvalued by their communities. Most said they would not want one of their own children to follow them into teaching. The annual survey was conducted by PDK International, an association of teachers, administrators and other education professionals, which has measured public attitudes toward schools for 51 years. This year’s version surveyed teachers as well as parents and members of the public. It found that nearly two-thirds of all adults supported teaching Bible studies in public schools, a trend taking hold in parts of the country. It also found, as in years past, that Americans rate their local schools far higher than the nation’s schools in general. Respondents’ views of their children’s schools improved a bit, while opinions about schools in their wider communities and across the country fell. The survey of 565 public school teachers, sampled to be representative of the nation’s teaching force, suggests that the discontent that drove teacher strikes in big cities such as Los Angeles and Denver as well as rural areas of West Virginia and Oklahoma is commonplace.

Pearson Embraces a Digital Knock-Off of Authentic Education
Tultican Blog By T. Ultican 7/6/2019
The world’s largest publishing company is betting on cyber education. Great Britain’s Pearson Corporation took a financial beating when common core state testing did not turn into a planned for cash cow and concurrently the market for text books slowed. With its world-wide reach, Pearson’s new play is for digital education to open up global markets. The corporation envisions creating life-long relationships with its customers to provide virtual schooling, professional certifications, assessments, and other services. In April, Education International Research published “Pearson 2025 Transforming teaching and privatising education data.” Authors Sam Sellar and Anna Hogan report, “Pearson aims to lead the ‘next generation’ of teaching and learning by developing digital learning platforms, including Artificial Intelligence in education (AIEd). It is piloting new AI technologies that it hopes will enable virtual tutors to provide personalised learning to students, much like Siri or Alexa. This technology will be integrated into a single platform—Pearson Realize™—that has now been integrated with Google Classroom.” “… [I]ts corporate strategy is premised upon creating disruptive changes to (a) the teaching profession, (b) the delivery of curriculum and assessment and (c) the function of schools, particularly public schooling. These disruptions do not follow a coherent set of educational principles, but capriciously serve the interests of the company’s shareholders.

IU1 and The Consortium for Public Education: Rachel's Challenge Presentation -  Aug. 14 9:00 – 3:30 California University of PA
IU1 and the Consortium for Public Education are joining forces to bring you a FREE professional development opportunity, Rachel's Challenge, presented by Darrell Scott. The mission of Rachel's Challenge is to equip and empower adults and students to sustain a positive culture change in their organization and communities by starting a chain reaction of kindness and compassion. Rachel's inspiring story provides a simple, yet powerful example of how small acts of kindness and acceptance motivates us to consider our relationships with people we come in contact with every day. Rachel's story gives us permission to start our own chain reaction of kindness and compassion, which positively affects the climate in our schools and communities. For more information, please visit https://rachelschallenge.org/.
To receive Act 48 hours for this event, you must complete all areas of the registration form below, including entering your PPID number. Each person from your team must register individually.

EPLC/DCIU 2019 Regional Training Workshop for PA School Board Candidates Sept. 14th
The Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Center will conduct a regional Full Day Workshop for 2019 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates at the DCIU on September 14, 2019.
Target Audience: School Board Directors and Candidates, Community Members, School Administrators
Description: Full Day Workshop for 2019 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates. Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in this workshop. The workshop will include Legal and Leadership Roles of School Directors and School Boards; State and Federal Policies: Implications for School Boards; School District Finances and Budgeting; Candidates and the Law; Information Resources; "State and Federal Policies" section includes, but is not limited to:
K-12 Governance
PA Standards, Student Assessment, and Accountability
Curriculum and Graduation Requirements
K-12 State Funding
Early Education
Student Choices (Non-Public, Home Schooling, Charter Schools, Career-Technical, and more)
Teacher Issues
Linking K-12 to Workforce and Post-Secondary Education
Linking K-12 to Community Partners
***Fee: $75.00. Payment by Credit Card Only, Visa or Mastercard, PLEASE DO NOT SELECT ANY OTHER PAYMENT TYPE*** Registration ends 9/7/2019

Register for Federal Focus: Fully funding IDEA at William Tennant HS Wednesday August 21st, 7-9 pm
PSBA News July 30, 2019
Join U.S. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-01) and other IDEA Act co-sponsors at this complimentary focus meeting to talk about the critical need to modernize and fully fund the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Learn about bipartisan efforts now in the U.S. Congress to ensure that special education funding is a priority in the federal budget, and how you can help bring this important legislation to the finish line. Bring your school district facts and questions. This event will be held Aug. 21 at 7:00 p.m. at Centennial School District in Bucks Co. There is no cost to attend, but you must register through myPSBA.org. Questions can be directed to Megan McDonough at (717) 506-2450, ext. 3321. This program is hosted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and the Centennial School District. 

“Each member entity will have one vote for each officer. This will require boards of the various school entities to come to a consensus on each candidate and cast their vote electronically during the open voting period (Aug. 23 – Oct. 11, 2019).”
PSBA Officer Elections: Slate of Candidates
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than June 1, 2019, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 15th at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person’s name with an asterisk (*).

Take the four-week PSBA advocacy challenge
Calling all public education advocates! Even though students are out for the summer, we need you to continue your efforts to share your district's story, and the needs of public schools across the state, with your legislators. Follow the four easy steps on the challenge to increase your engagement with lawmakers this summer and you'll receive some PSBA swag as a thank-you. We've also included some talking points to help inform you on the latest issues. Contact Advocacy Coordinator Jamie Zuvich at jamie.zuvich@psba.org with questions. Click here to see the challenge and talking points.

In November, many boards will be preparing to welcome new directors to their governance Team of Ten. This event will help attendees create a full year on-boarding schedule based on best practices and thoughtful prioritization. Register now:
PSBA: Start Strong: Developing a District On-Boarding Plan for New Directors
SEP 11, 2019 • 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
In November, many boards will be faced with a significant transition as they prepare to welcome new directors to their governance Team of Ten. This single-day program facilitated by PSBA trainers and an experienced PA board president will guide attendees to creating a strong, full year on-boarding schedule based on best practices and thoughtful prioritization. Grounded in PSBA’s Principles for Governance and Leadership, attendees will hear best practices from their colleagues and leave with a full year’s schedule, a jump drive of resources, ideas for effective local training, and a plan to start strong.
Register online at MyPSBA: www.psba.org and click on “MyPSBA” in the upper right corner.

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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