Wednesday, August 14, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup August 14: Statewide Coverage & Reactions to Gov. Wolf’s Charter Reform Proposals

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PA Ed Policy Roundup August 14, 2019

Public hearing on Charter School Funding
Senate Education Committee Wednesday, August 14, 2019 | 1:00 p.m.
Everett High School 1 Renaissance Cir, Everett, PA 15537 Bedford County
Watch Live at 1:00 pm; Click on panelists names below to read their submitted written testimony
1:00 – 1:10      Opening Remarks
Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. and  Senator Andrew Dinniman
1:10 – 1:40      Local Superintendents Panel
Dr. Daniel Webb, Superintendent, Everett Area School District
Dr. John Zesiger, Superintendent, Moshannon Valley School District
Dr. Mark Kudlawiec, Superintendent, Chestnut Ridge School District
Arnold Nadonley, Superintendent, Richland Area School District
1:45 – 2:15      Statewide Perspectives Panel
Dr. Gerald ZahorchakFormer Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, 2006 – 2010
Mr. David Lapp, Director of Policy Research, Research for Action
Ms. Hannah Barrick, Assistant Executive Director, PASBO
Dr. Alan Sell and Tom Bullington, Bedford Area School District, PSBA
2:20 – 2:50      Charter Schools Panel
Dr. Maurice Flurie, CEO, Commonwealth Charter Academy Cyber School
Mr. Lawrence F. Jones, Jr., CEO, Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School
Mr. Michael Whisman, CPA, Shareholder, Charter Choices
2:50 – 3:00      Closing Remarks
Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. and Senator Andrew Dinniman

Gov. Wolf Acts to Ensure Charter Schools Better Serve Students and Taxpayers
Governor Wolf Press Release August 13, 2019
Allentown, PA – Recognizing Pennsylvania’s flawed and outdated charter school law is one of the worst in the nation, Governor Tom Wolf is taking executive action, overhauling regulations, and will propose legislation to comprehensively reform the law. The governor outlined his vision that will strengthen charter school quality, accountability and transparency to control costs and improve outcomes for students.
“Pennsylvania’s charter school law is unfair for students, parents, school districts, and taxpayers,” said Governor Wolf. “While many charter schools are succeeding, others, especially some cyber charter schools, are underperforming and we are not doing enough to hold them accountable to the taxpaying public and the children they serve. “Today I’m announcing comprehensive charter school reform through executive action, regulation, and legislation. These changes will level the playing field for all taxpayer-funded public schools, strengthen the accountability and transparency of charter and cyber charter schools, and better serve all students.”
Brick-and-mortar charter and cyber charter schools, and for-profit companies that manage many of them, are not held to the same ethical and transparency standards of traditional public schools. Despite the rising costs of charter schools to school districts and property taxpayers, school districts and state government have limited authority to hold charter schools accountable.
The poor academic performance of some charter schools is also a concern. A recent report from Stanford University found overwhelmingly negative results from Pennsylvania’s cyber schools and called for the commonwealth to take urgent action.
Governor Wolf’s proposal promotes innovation and choice, while ensuring that charter schools are providing a high-quality education and meeting the same standards Pennsylvanians expect from traditional public schools.

Rolling out charter school reforms, Wolf calls for a ‘level playing field’
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison August 13, 2019
Pa. Education Secretary Pedro Rivera speaks alongside Gov. Tom Wolf in Allentown on Aug. 13.
Decrying Pennsylvania’s charter school law as one of the worst in the nation, Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Tuesday a series of executive actions that he says will increase accountability and transparency for taxpayers and school students across the commonwealth. 
Charter schools across Pennsylvania receive $1.8 billion in taxpayer funding each year and enroll 140,000 students. Unlike traditional public schools, they’re run by private management companies and boards that aren’t publicly elected.  According to Wolf, that’s because Pennsylvania has one of the most fiscally irresponsible charter school laws in the nation. 
“This is a problem we all have to deal with,” Wolf said Tuesday at Harrison-Morton Middle School in Allentown, where he appeared alongside public school administrators and state lawmakers. “What we’re trying to do is make sure that as students and families exercise [school] choice, we create a level playing field.” Wolf said his reforms will hold brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools to the same standards as traditional public schools.
The new executive actions will authorize the Pennsylvania Department of Education to recoup the cost of administering the charter school law by billing charter schools for payment processing and legal and administrative assistance, Wolf said. They’ll also require charter schools to solicit public bids for goods and services, and to comply with new ethics standards that prevent administrators from directing public funds to themselves or their friends or families.

After years of gridlock, Wolf plans executive action on charter school reform
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent August 13, 2019
After years of political gridlock on charter school reform, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said Tuesday he would use his executive power to hold charters to “the same ethical and transparency standards of public schools.” Wolf’s proposal would allow districts to cap enrollment at charter schools that fail to provide “high-quality” education or equitable access and would ramp up oversight of charter management companies — the private companies that sometimes provide academic and logistical services to non-profit charter schools. He’d also charge charter schools for the cost state agencies incur to oversee them and reform charter enrollment practices, among other changes. He plans to direct the Pennsylvania Department of Education to make these changes through regulation. “Our laws currently do not allow us — they don’t allow us — to hold charter schools and their operators to the same standards as our traditional public schools,” Wolf said Tuesday. The announcement triggered an immediate backlash from the state’s growing charter school sector, which educates about 143,000 children. “We’re very disappointed,” said Ana Meyers, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools.

Wolf announces executive orders and legislative proposals on charter school reform
He called for a moratorium on cyber charters and a cap on enrollment for low-performing cybers.
The notebook by Greg Windle August 13 — 4:31 pm, 2019
Gov. Wolf announced a plan on Tuesday to improve financial accountability and academics among Pennsylvania’s charter schools, focusing on cyber charters and charter management companies, through executive actions and new legislation. “Charter schools, like traditional public schools, should be high quality and they should be held accountable,” Wolf said. “But the laws currently don’t allow us to hold charter schools and their operators to the same standards as traditional public schools.” Wolf called the state’s charter law “irresponsible” and “flawed.” He described the original intent of the law as “creating new and innovative educational opportunities” and said that some charter schools are doing this and doing it well. “Unfortunately, this is not the case for all charter schools, especially among cyber charter schools,” he said. On average, Pennsylvania charter schools have not improved student test scores in reading compared to public schools and have done worse in math, according to a study from Stanford University cited by Wolf. It also found that the academic situation was worse among the state’s cyber charters, which dramatically underperform compared to public schools. The governor plans to propose several pieces of legislation in the fall, including one that would impose a  moratorium on new cyber charter schools and cap student enrollment at low-performing cybers, among other things. These would require legislative approval, of course.

Note: This article includes a breakdown of how much money each school district in the state spent in 2017-18 on charter school tuition payments:
Wolf moves to reform Pa.’s ‘flawed’ charter school law that he calls one of the worst in the nation
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Updated Aug 13, 9:22 PM; Posted Aug 13, 11:15 AM
Gov. Tom Wolf is calling for some radical changes in Pennsylvania’s charter school law, a law that he calls flawed, outdated and one of the worst in the nation. At a news conference in Allentown Tuesday, Wolf announced executive actions he is undertaking to reform the 22-year-old law. “We must update our flawed and outdated charter law for the benefit of every student and every taxpayer in the commonwealth," he said. Wolf acknowledged at the news conference that “there are charter schools out there doing an excellent job ... unfortunately this is not the case for all charter schools, especially among cyber schools."

Governor wants to take Pa.’s charter school law from among nation’s worst to 1 of its best
By Sara K. Satullo | For Updated Aug 13, 4:21 PM; Posted Aug 13, 12:57 PM
Pennsylvania’s 22-year-old charter school law’s gained national notoriety for being one of the nation’s worst, Gov. Tom Wolf says. Now he wants to flip that reputation on its head. Wolf on Tuesday visited Allentown’s Harrison-Morton Middle School to call for a major reform of the state’s charter school law, which he called flawed and outdated. When it was enacted, the charter school law was one of the first in the nation, billed as an engine to spur creativity and innovation outside of the confines of the traditional public school system. Its track record has been mixed. “This law has gained national notoriety for being one of the most fiscally irresponsible laws in the nation," Wolf said, flanked by the superintendents of the Allentown and Bethlehem Area school districts, which deal daily with the financial ramifications of the law. "(It’s) a law that has forced some school districts to increase property taxes way out of proportion to the educational outcomes. I want Pennsylvania to be known for having a good charter school law.” Wolf acknowledged there are charter schools doing excellent work -- he pointed to one his wife helped found a decade ago in York County as such an example -- but that’s not the case for all, especially among the state’s 15 cyber charter schools that offer students the opportunity to learn remotely via computer, he said. Wolf pointed to a study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes’ 2019 that identified “overwhelming negative results from online charter schools" in Pennsylvania and urged lawmakers to reassess Pennsylvania’s charter school rules.

Gov. Wolf calls for sweeping reforms for charter schools in Pennsylvania
Trib Live by DEB ERDLEY   | Tuesday, August 13, 2019 5:16 p.m.
Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday vowed to level the playing field between Pennsylvania’s traditional public schools and charter and cyber charter schools. He said the latter lack accountability and transparency and are draining millions of dollars from struggling school districts. Calling the state’s 22-year-old public charter school law flawed and outdated, Wolf said he plans to introduce a sweeping array of executive orders and will propose legislation to require additional transparency and accountability from charter and cyber charter schools that enroll about 140,000 students across Pennsylvania at a cost of $1.8 billion a year to taxpayers. While the majority of brick-and-mortar charter schools are located in urban areas, rural and suburban school districts feel the impact of charter school costs when students leave to enroll in cyber charter schools. The governor’s proposals come on the heels of months of complaints from public school advocates in the state who say school districts are being made to pay through the nose when students leave for charter and cyber charter schools that have little accountability to the public. When a student leaves a traditional school for a charter, the amount the district spends per pupil goes with them to the alternate school.

Charter schools decry ‘blatant attacks’ in Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to revamp state law
Penn Live By Ron Southwick | Updated Aug 13, 5:52 PM; Posted Aug 13, 5:49 PM
Pennsylvania’s charter schools took issue with Gov. Tom Wolf’s plans to revamp Pennsylvania’s charter school law. Earlier Tuesday, the Democratic governor announced plans to update the state’s charter school law. Wolf said the law is “flawed and outdated” and hurts public schools. He also said he wants to ensure the quality of charter schools and make them more accountable to the public. The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools sharply criticized Wolf’s proposals, saying they are ill-considered, potentially illegal and could be considered discriminatory. Ana Meyers, the coalition’s executive director, said in a statement that some of Wolf’s plans represent “blatant attacks” on charter schools. The coalition said it would pursue court action if the state’s charter school law is broken. Pennsylvania’s 180 charter schools serve more than 137,000 students. Under state law, students can freely enroll in a charter school and districts are required to pay their tuition. Last year, those costs reached more than $1.8 billion.

Gov. Tom Wolf pledges to change charter-school policy, says more accountability needed
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: August 13, 2019- 1:30 PM
Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday pledged to overhaul Pennsylvania’s charter-school policy to increase accountability for the schools, which have long been a source of controversy.
At a news conference at a school in Allentown, Wolf said he would direct the state Department of Education to change regulations for charters, including tightening ethics standards, charging fees for services provided by the state, and allowing school districts to limit enrollment at charters that don’t provide a “high-quality” education. Wolf also said he would push to revise Pennsylvania’s charter law, which he called “one of the most fiscally irresponsible laws in the nation." “I want to create a level playing field for all taxpayer-funded public schools," Wolf said, and “increase the accountability and quality of the charter-school system." It’s the latest effort in Pennsylvania to reshape the charter-school movement, which has grown even as the divisions over it have deepened. More than 143,000 students attended Pennsylvania charter schools last year, up from 79,000 students nearly a decade earlier.

Gov. Tom Wolf calls for charter school changes that could ease Allentown schools deficit
Gov. Tom Wolf called Tuesday for changes in the special education and cybercharter funding formulas that, if adopted by a reluctant Legislature, would save Allentown and other financially strapped school districts millions. Calling the charter school law “flawed" and “outdated,” Wolf told reporters in Allentown he also is instructing the state Department of Education to develop new regulations that would allow districts to limit student enrollment at charters that do not provide a “high-quality” education, and to boost oversight over charter school management companies. Democrat Wolf’s call for changes in reimbursement formulas dictating how much public school districts must pay charter and cyberschools for students would save districts like Allentown, now facing a $6 million deficit, millions. But passage in the Republican-controlled state Legislature, which created the charter school system, is far from guaranteed. Unless that happens, Allentown remains over a financial barrel, dependent on its charter schools to accept a voluntary 10% reduction in payments for the 2019-20 fiscal year. Tuesday morning The Morning Call reported incorrectly that the formula changes could be done by Wolf, guaranteeing an end to the Allentown School District’s fiscal woes. But the administration, when pressed for details, made it clear those changes would require legislative approval.

PSBA Supports Governor Taking Steps to Address Charter Funding Issues
PSBA Tuesday, August 13, 2019 (Mechanicsburg, PA) – Today, Governor Tom Wolf is calling for reform of the currently flawed funding system for charter and cyber charter schools and strengthening accountability and transparency. PSBA is pleased to see the Governor take action both by pushing much needed regulatory reform and proposing comprehensive legislation. PSBA has long-supported efforts to promote a level playing field between charter schools and traditional public schools, and has continuously called for desperately needed funding reform.
Our current funding system allows for drastically different tuition amounts from school districts for similarly situated students, without regard to the charter schools’ actual program costs. Based on preliminary numbers for the 2019-20 school year, school district tuition payments to charter and cyber charter schools range from $9,052 per student for one district to $21,602 per student for another district for the same education. When it comes to special education costs, the range is even more dramatic, as one district is paying $17,939 per student, while another is paying $48,522 per student, regardless of the severity of the student’s special educational needs.
Digging further into special education funding for charter schools, we know with certainty that school districts are over-paying charter schools for special education students. In 2016, a PSBA analysis of charter school special education revenue and spending estimated that charter schools received $100 million more than the reported spending on special education. Further, we have seen that special education overpayments are exacerbated in cyber charter schools. 21.8% of cyber charter students were identified for special education, compared to 16.8% in traditional school districts.

PASBO: Governor Wolf Proposes Charter School Reform
PASBO 08/13/2019 15:44:34
The PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) applauds Governor Wolf for today's announcement prioritizing the need for charter school reform. While we appreciate the comprehensive charter school reform he has outlined, we are most encouraged by his recognition of the critical need for charter school funding reform, and we look forward to working with the governor and the General Assembly to include meaningful charter school funding reform in future modifications to the charter school law. Charter school tuition is one of the largest areas of mandated cost growth for school districts. During the 2017-18 school year, school districts paid $1.8 billion to charter schools, an increase of 10%—or $170 million—from the prior year. As a result, $0.37 of every new dollar raised in property taxes in 2017-18 went directly to charter schools. The amount of tuition a school district must pay a charter or cyber charter school each year is dependent on a calculation defined in the charter school law. Based on this law, each school district must pay a unique charter school tuition rate for each regular and special education student enrolled in a charter school.

Education Law Center Applauds Gov. Wolf’s Call for Charter Reform
Statement from Reynelle Brown Staley, policy director, Education Law Center August 13, 2019
“Gov. Wolf is preparing to introduce regulations and propose new legislation governing the state’s charter schools. The Education Law Center shares his sense of urgency in addressing the issues of poor academic performance, equity concerns, and rapidly growing costs of charters. We look forward to working with state officials to implement regulatory and legislative changes that rectify these problems. “As an organization dedicated to ensuring the educational rights of all students in Pennsylvania’s public schools, we have repeatedly warned about the lack of adequate oversight and accountability tools to protect Pennsylvania students in the charter sector from unfair and discriminatory treatment. “Our recent study of Philadelphia charter schools found that the city’s traditional “brick-and-mortar” charter schools are not sharing equitably in the responsibility of educating all students. For example, they serve significantly fewer English learners than district schools, their population is less economically disadvantaged, and fewer of their students receiving special education require higher-cost aids and services. The result is that district and charter schools do not compete on a level playing field, and far from fulfilling their goal of providing educational alternatives to underserved student groups, charters are not equitably serving these students. We know that many of these same issues have arisen in districts across the state. We are encouraged that Gov. Wolf is committed to developing new regulations that ensure non-discriminatory charter school admissions and enrollment policies.

PCPCS Reacts to Governor Wolf’s Charter “Reform” Proposal
Harrisburg – This morning, Governor Tom Wolf held a press conference at the Allentown School District to introduce his charter “reforms” which include executive actions to implement regulatory overhauls and changes to PA’s Charter School Law. The following is a statement from Ana Meyers, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, on the Governor’s announcement.
“Pennsylvania’s charter school community – 180 schools educating 135,000+ students – was shocked to learn of Governor Wolf’s press conference this morning announcing his so-called charter reform package. Though the Governor often touts his willingness to bring stakeholders together to collaborate on issues affecting the Commonwealth, it seems that this only applies to stakeholders who share his political ideologies. Despite the Governor’s reform proposal having the potential to drastically impact PA charter schools and the thousands of families they serve, he neglected to consult any stakeholders from the charter school community in the drafting of his proposal. There is no way that Governor Wolf would ever think of proposing reforms that effect the operations of school districts or the teaching profession without consulting the special interest groups who represent these entities in Harrisburg. Furthermore, it seems that Governor Wolf is abusing his authority as we believe that some of what he is proposing through executive order and regulatory action is contrary to the law. This includes a “fee for services” that he is directing the PA Department of Education to institute for the work they do to implement the Charter School Law. It is outrageous that charter schools will have to spend taxpayer dollars, earmarked for educating children, to navigate the red tape that politicians and bureaucrats have created. We will be watching how the Governor implements his proposal in the coming days and weeks, and are prepared to challenge this administration in court if the Charter School Law is broken in any way.

2019 Legislative Trends Impacting Authorizing: More Expectations and Protecting Autonomy
National Association of Charter School Authorizers August 2019
Despite the tenor of the national rhetoric, 2019 was a quiet year for charter school legislation in statehouses across the country. That said, as we reflect on this year’s legislative activity, two trends highlight how policymakers are looking to authorizing as a lever to strengthen and grow their state charter school sectors. This week, we’ll explore the first trend: legislation that either places more expectations on authorizers or protects and expands their autonomy. Next week, we’ll dive into states with diverging views on statewide authorizing.
Placing Additional Expectations for Authorizers
Seven states introduced bills that placed additional expectations on authorizers, though many of these bills either failed to reach a final vote or are still pending. Bills with additional expectations for authorizers passed in two states. Nevada enacted authorizer-supported legislation requiring authorizers to conduct an academic needs assessment for the geographic area they cover, conduct three site visits during a charter school’s term, and develop action plans alongside schools for addressing deficiencies. Hawaii enacted legislation giving authorizers additional financial oversight, including granting them input on which independent auditor schools can use. Legislation in other states ultimately fell short. In Arizona, legislation would have required an authorizer to annually compile and publicly report information on the governing boards of each school it oversees. In California, a bill would have required authorizers to review and approve “local control and accountability plans,” in addition to mandating charter schools follow the same requirements applicable to school districts when developing these plans. In Missouri, authorizers would have been required to evaluate charter schools on financial and operational metrics in addition to academic metrics. Lastly, a bill is pending in Washington DC that would require the DC Public Charter Schools Board to monitor new governance requirements, publish additional financial information from charter schools, and oversee FOIA compliance.

Innovative Arts Academy Charter pledges curriculum overhaul, benchmarks for academic improvement
As the Innovative Arts Academy Charter School awaits a vote on the renewal of its charter, leaders sought to demonstrate their commitment to academic improvement Tuesday. The career-focused charter school, which serves grades 6 through 12, is under new leadership with interim CEO Bradley Schifko. School leaders sought to distance themselves from the school’s past by presenting a strategic growth report to the Catasauqua Area School Board, pledging to rework curriculum and follow data-driven benchmarks for growth and progress. The school’s charter is under review for renewal after administrators with the Catasauqua Area School District, where the charter school is located, determined the school was failing its students. The decision on whether to renew the charter rests with the school board, which will likely vote on Sept. 10. Ernest Batha, director of curriculum for the charter school, said there would be a new focus on data benchmarks at the school to track progress as well as professional development and teacher performance.

Last Chance High: Beautiful band of misfits fight to graduate — part two
WHYY Air Date: August 14, 2019  Listen 24:32
On this episode of Schooled, we continue following Joshua Martinez and his classmates at El Centro de Estudiantes as they fight to graduate. But a teacher at El Centro raises serious criticism about the rigor of the school that leads to bigger questions: For students who are far behind grade level, how much should we really expect? Where’s the line for who deserves a diploma? “Being bit of a whistleblower, or saying, like, ‘This is the man behind the curtain’ comes with a certain level of risk,” said El Centro teacher Kate Wand.
This is the conclusion of the “Last Chance High” storyline in Schooled’s third season.
Listen to part two above, or wherever you get your podcasts. The full story can be read here.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick finds ‘incredible’ overcrowding at southern border facility
Bucks County Courier Times By Chris English  Posted at 5:00 AM
The Republican Congressman and a Democratic colleague visited a full-fledged detention center and three other spots for processing immigrants during a fact-finding trip Tuesday. He wanted to see conditions for himself, and one of the things Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick witnessed during a fact-finding trip to the southern border Tuesday was “incredible” overcrowding at a detention center in Hidalgo County, Texas. Fitzpatrick, R-1, of Middletown, and Democratic colleague Rep. Josh Harder, of California, toured the detention center and three other Customs and Border Protection facilities in Texas to get a better idea of the complex issues facing the nation’s immigration system. Both are members of the Problem Solvers Caucus. “We saw the whole system from soup to nuts,” Fitzpatrick said in a telephone conversation after the tour. “We saw incredible overcrowding but not mistreatment. We spoke to several children and adults, and they all said they were being treated well.” His visit came a day after a new Pew Research Center survey found the American public is broadly critical of the administration’s handling of the wave of migrants at the southern border, with nearly two-thirds of Americans — 65% — saying the federal government is doing a very bad or somewhat bad job. The survey found broad support for developing a pathway to legal status for immigrants living in the country illegally.

“At the other end of the wealth scale, Morrisville Borough School District in Bucks County has the largest annual tax increase in the region, 6.3%. Bob Bruchak, Morrisville’s business manager, said rising special education and charter school costs have forced tax hikes. From the 2015-16 to 2018-19 school year, Bruchak said charter school costs nearly doubled, from $589,000 to more than $1 million. In that time, Morrisville’s state funding increased by less than $100,000. "State funding has been pretty flat for us,” said Bruchak. “The increases have been nominal. … They don’t even cover the increases in pension funds.”
How much are your school taxes increasing? Here’s a district-by-district look at the Philly region.
Inquirer by Lucia Geng and Laura McCrystal, Updated: 57 minutes ago
Barbara Robertson moved to Chester County to live closer to her daughter. Robertson and her husband, who are in their 80s, left Montgomery County and settled into a home in the Villages at Hillview, a 55-and-older community in Valley Township. There’s just one problem: The annual school district tax bill for their home is nearly $6,500, after the Coatesville Area School District board approved a 3.9% increase for the 2019-2020 school year. In the six years they’ve owned the house, school taxes have increased more than 20 percent, and their district’s tax rates are among the highest in the region. “I’m just fed up with it,” Robertson said Monday, after attending a hearing on education funding hosted by state lawmakers in Coatesville. “I’m ready to go back to the house I left.” The Robertsons are among hundreds of thousands of homeowners in the Philadelphia region who have learned to expect regular school-tax increases. In all, 52 of 59 school districts in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware Counties have raised taxes for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, according to an Inquirer analysis. The average increase is about $100 per household, or 2%, and continues a trend. In the last 10 years, on average, taxes have risen close to $1,000 per household, or nearly 25%, The Inquirer’s analysis showed. Increases in 48 school districts have exceeded the rate of inflation; rates were double inflation in eight districts.
School officials say they are waging a constant battle against rising expenses, particularly for mandated costs for pensions, special-education programs, and charter-school payments.

Property tax elimination hearing draws big crowd, but agreement still scarce
PA Capital Star By  Stephen Caruso August 13, 2019
YORK, Pa. — To Jim Rodkey, property tax is serfdom. “I am here today because I believe the property tax to be the most morally irresponsible, regressive, and unfair system of taxation in existence,” Rodkey, the head of the Pennsylvania Property Rights Association, a nonprofit group opposed to property taxes, said Tuesday. “Regardless of the strides that have been made in our society in the name of justice and progress, here we are still clinging to a system of taxation that is rooted in European feudal systems.”  Rodkey was one of a half dozen advocates and experts who joined a gaggle of Republican lawmakers at Penn State University’s York campus for a hearing on property tax elimination.  In front of a midday crowd of more than 100 people, the Senate Majority Policy Committee heard fiery pleas for the commonwealth to replace its system of collecting school taxes, as well as some bubbling anger over perceived waste in education spending. According to an estimate by the Independent Fiscal Office, a nonpartisan state policy analysis agency, Pennsylvania’s school districts are forecasted to collect $15.28 billion in property taxes this fiscal year to help pay for education costs. These locally collected taxes are supplemented with money allocated by the state from its General Fund.

Lawmakers hear calls for action on property tax reform; ‘we’re reaching the breaking point’
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Posted Aug 13, 6:27 PM
Why Pennsylvania has struggled for decades to come up with a different funding source other than property taxes to pay for public schools became apparent during a two-hour discussion on Tuesday. At a well-attended workshop in a Spring Garden Township auditorium, state representatives and senators heard from school officials who aren’t opposed to moving to a different way of funding schools. What they are worried about though is being starved for money to pay for mandated costs such as pension, charter school and special education over which they have no control. Businesses, meanwhile, don’t want to end up bearing a larger tax burden. No one wants to see retired people on fixed incomes lose their home because of unpaid taxes.
Renters want guarantees their rents will decrease if the tax burden gets shifted to higher income or sales taxes.

Plan to tax retirement income instead of property will be yanked without support of seniors, author says
State Rep. Frank Ryan, a 68-year-old longtime CPA and newcomer to politics, said Tuesday that he would not move forward with a proposal to eliminate the school property tax in part by taxing retirement income unless seniors embrace the plan. So far, they have not. Ryan, who first took office two years ago, caused a stir two weeks ago when he outlined a proposal to get rid of school property taxes with a mix of increases to other taxes and a new tax on retirement income, excluding Social Security. The Morning Call received many emails and phone calls from upset retirees following a story about the proposal. “People don’t understand that Social Security is not taxed,” said Ryan, a Lebanon County Republican. Beyond that, he said, his proposal also would exempt from the new retirement income tax any distributions from a retirement plan that are a portion of the saver’s original contribution to the plan ― referred to in CPA lingo as the “basis,” according to Ryan.

‘Biological sex’ policy to begin this month in Eastern Lancaster County
The ACLU of Pennsylvania says the district is inviting a lawsuit.
PA Post by Ed Mahon AUGUST 13, 2019 | 5:32 PM
A transgender locker room policy is set to take effect later this month in one south central Pennsylvania school district, despite concerns from the superintendent about how it will be enforced. The board of the East Lancaster County School District voted in April to require students to use bathrooms or locker rooms of the sex they were assigned at birth — or to use private facilities. That policy was put on hold in May after Superintendent Robert Hollister told school board members he would not discipline transgender students who refused to comply with the new policy. “It would be a violation of the law, as I understand it as a superintendent,” Hollister said, adding, “I won’t ask the administrators to pull the transgender student out of those areas, because of the ramifications of that, because of trampling on that student’s rights.” The policy was created after hundreds of community members showed up at board meetings, many of them there to criticize the district’s practice of allowing a transgender student to use the locker room and bathrooms that matches his gender identity.

Mt. Pleasant teachers issue strike notice
Trib Live by DEB ERDLEY   | Tuesday, August 13, 2019 2:10 p.m.
Mt. Pleasant Area School District teachers who have been working without a contract for the last year issued a strike notice this week after failing to reach an agreement during their 15th negotiating session. The Mt. Pleasant Area Education Association, which represents 143 teachers, counselors, nurses and school psychologists, said it is not planning to strike prior to the Aug. 26 start of school. The notice merely means the union has voted to give its leaders the authority to call a work stoppage should they deem it necessary. Negotiations have grown increasingly contentious since last fall, when the school board declined to accept the recommendations of a 56-page fact finder’s report that weighed heavily in favor of the union’s position. The two sides remain deeply divided.

PHOTOS: Where The Kids Across Town Grow Up With Very Different Schools
NPR July 25, 201911:06 AM ET
On one side of the line — fresh paint and computer labs. Across that line? Old textbooks, broken chairs and, above all, many more students of color. Decades after Brown v. Board supposedly ended segregated schooling, these boundaries show a country where education remains deeply divided and unequal. "You know it as soon as you look at the school. You know it the minute you walk into a classroom," says Rebecca Sibilia, the founder and CEO of EdBuild. Her organization has a new report on the pervasive inequality in U.S. schools. "There are kids who see this every day, and they understand." Across the country, racist housing policies created segregated neighborhoods. And because many schools in the U.S. are funded locally, through property taxes or other funds, school districts with wealthier residents are able to funnel money to their schools. Neighboring school districts miss out. Additional money from state and the federal governments is meant to close these local funding gaps, but it's seldom enough. Decades after Brown, housing segregation combined with this funding model have entrenched what EdBuild calls "racially isolated" school systems. In nearly 1,000 communities, according to EdBuild, one school district directly abuts a district that differs dramatically by racial makeup and spending per student.

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
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

Join @RepBrianFitz and @CongBoyle at this complimentary focus meeting to talk about the critical need to modernize and fully fund the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 
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 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 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: 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: 

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 

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.

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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