Monday, August 19, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup August 19, 2019 Editorial: Leadership on charter school reform applauded

Started in November 2010, daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, charter school leaders, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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PA Ed Policy Roundup August 19, 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

EITC: Who’s Trading Public School Funding for a Tax Credit?
Gadfly on the Wall Blog August 18, 2019 stevenmsinger 
Ever wonder why our roads and public school buildings are crumbling?
Ever wonder why classroom teachers are forced to buy paper, pencils and supplies for their students out of pocket? Because businesses like Giant Eagle, American Eagle Outfitters, and Eat’n Park aren’t paying their fair share. It’s a simple concept – you belong to a society, you should help pay for the roads, bridges, schools, etc. that everyone needs to keep that society healthy. After all, as a stockholder, CEO or business owner, you directly benefit from that society. If it didn’t exist, you wouldn’t have nearly as many customers – if any. Many of us learned this kind of stuff in kindergarten or grade school. But ironically programs that allow businesses to avoid paying their fair share are being used to short change many of those same kindergarten and grade schools. In Pennsylvania, one such program is called the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC), and everyone from local banks to Duquesne Light to UPMC healthcare providers are using it to lower their taxes while stealing from the public school cookie jar. Here’s how it works.

EdWeek: A Big Charter School Struggle Has Been Galvanized by a Democratic Governor
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on August 18, 2019 8:48 AM
A battle over school choice in Pennsylvania is intensifying, in large part due to a governor who doesn't like his state's status quo.  Back in June, we reported on Gov. Tom Wolf's decision to veto a bill expanding the state's tax-credit scholarship program and how, in doing so, the Democratic governor captured the mood of the national party's skepticism of choice. Just a few days ago, Wolf underscored the position he's staked out on the issue by calling for major changes to charter schools in the Keystone State.  On Tuesday, the second-term governor directed his state department of education to determine a way to limit enrollment in "underperforming" charters (as the Associated Press put it). In addition, according to the AP, Wolf also "wants charter schools to meet stricter transparency, ethics, and financial management standards and to prevent them from overcharging public schools for their services." (The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, which applauded Wolf's proposals, said that in the 2017-18 school year, state school districts provided $1.8 billion to charter schools.)  There still is some uncertainty about what Wolf is proposing. Among the questions we had about Wolf's suite of policy proposals:
  • How exactly would the state determine what constitutes a high-quality charter school or (conversely) a school that fails to meet that standard?
  • Why would Wolf oppose limiting enrollment at these charters, instead of calling on them to be shut down or presenting a proposal to the state legislature to do so?
  • Does the state have any numbers to share about how much his proposed financial reforms could benefit districts?
We put those questions to the state education department, and we'll update this post if we hear back. Pennsylvania's legislature is controlled by Republicans, making any legislative proposals on this issue from Wolf a tough sell. 

“Those who support charters say that Wolf and legislators calling for reform are acting at the behest of state teachers' unions. Those who support reforms point out that charter school management companies are significant political contributors to legislative leadership which can keep reform bills from coming to votes. And so it goes with politics in Harrisburg.  Charter school proponents say the system guarantees choice for families who want an alternative to a struggling public school. But it is a "choice" that leaves taxpayers with an unfair burden and no accountability in the charter school to meet performance standards.  That's not a choice we can justify. Charter school reform is desperately needed in Pennsylvania, both to contain costs for taxpayers and to ensure educational standards are being met. The governor's leadership on this issue is timely and on target.”
Pottstown Mercury Editorial Aug 18, 2019
Gov. Tom Wolf last week brought the long-simmering issue of charter school cost and accountability to the front lines, vowing executive action and legislative reform of the 22-year-old charter school option in Pennsylvania.  Speaking in Allentown flanked by public school officials, Wolf said he would take action to "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.” The specific reforms he promised would require transparency into the ownership and management of charters and give local districts the authority to limit enrollment in poor-performing schools. Currently, students can freely opt for a charter school and their local public school district pays the tuition. In recent years, particularly with the growth of cyber charters, the cost to public schools has exploded. According to a statewide list compiled by PennLive, local district costs range from $2.7 million in Pottstown; $4 million in Souderton; $8.9 million in Norristown; $9.3 million in Reading; $5.8 million in Phoenixville, and up to $54.9 million in Chester-Upland.  Public schools take the most issue with cyber charters that provide online instruction without the expense of brick-and-mortar schools and with poor to mediocre results. School boards had strongly supported two reform proposals in the last legislative session that would allow public school districts  to acknowledge their own cyber-learning programs as a competitive alternative to cyber charters.  House Bill 526 and Senate Bill 34 -- neither of which made it to floor votes -- could save $19.6 million in school taxes each year in Montgomery County alone, according to a March 2019 analysis by the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit.

 “In a statement after the committee hearing Wednesday, Langerholc said there’s consensus that such reforms are needed. “It is clear from what we have heard today that we need to establish fair, commonsense approaches that will provide education funding in a way that supports all public students no matter where they attend school without imposing a huge financial burden on taxpayers,” the chairman said. State Sen. Pat Browne, R-Allentown, said the key issue is to identify what the actual cost is to educate a student and use that as the starting point for funding.”
Pennsylvania superintendents, charter school administrators agree on need for funding changes, differ on details
Members of the Pennsylvania State Senate Education Committee heard contrasting comments this week from public education superintendents and leaders of statewide cyber charter schools about funding issues both face in educating students. Committee Chairman Wayne Langerholc, R-Richland Township, called for the committee to meet in Everett, a rural community roughly halfway between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, and hear from some leaders of smaller school districts about the cost issues they face when students leave the public school system and enroll in a statewide cyber charter. The issue in particular is a 22-year-old state law that established how to fund charters. Many claim that law has set up a sometimes contentious battle between educators. On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf issued an executive order outlining changes in managing charters. Those changes include requiring the charters to pay the state for the costs the state Department of Education incurs to oversee them. In addition, Wolf wants the same ethics standards for public educators to be applied to charter leaders. The governor also wants the Republican-led General Assembly to push through a reform package.

Charter reform proposal must tackle cost inequity, local school officials say
Lindsay C. VanAsdalan, York Dispatch Published 8:45 a.m. ET Aug. 17, 2019 | Updated 9:01 a.m. ET Aug. 18, 2019
It's clear that the funding formula for Pennsylvania charter schools does not equate tuition costs with the cost of education — with skyrocketing price tags and a huge discrepancy between districts, say local superintendents. "For 15 years, I've been waiting for someone to tackle this problem," said Northern York County Superintendent Eric Eshbach. Northern York paid about $10,000 in regular education tuition and about $19,000 for special education last year to charter schools. Spring Grove Area School District paid about $1.4 million combined, and West York Area School District paid about $2.7 million — with about $1.19 million allocated to cyber charters.
That's the highest cost to Spring Grove yet, said the district's superintendent, George Ioannidis, and the biggest increase from one year to the next. Last year was just over $1 million. On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf Tuesday rolled out a slew of proposed changes to how charter schools are funded and regulated — some executive actions and some proposed legislative changes — aimed at addressing cost and accountability. Among them were regulations ensuring boards of trustees and operating companies be free from conflicts of interest and that charters not overcharge for services; enrollment caps in low-performing schools and a moratorium on new cyber charters. 

“Wolf’s moves were welcomed by lobbying organizations for traditional schools and also got the backing of a powerful Republican, state Sen. Patrick Browne, R-Lehigh County, the chairman of the Senate appropriations committee. “The Governor’s actions today are an indication of the seriousness of the concerns for the current funding of public charter and cyber charter schools and its effect on overall public school finance in Pennsylvania,” Browne said. “It has reached a crisis point creating the potential of significant detrimental effects on all of our students’ progress in school.” Browne said the issue of updating the state’s charter school law has been debated at the Capitol for a decade without success. He called for Wolf to convene a special session of the General Assembly focused on finding a solution to the stalemate.”
Wolf targets charter schools
Meadville Tribune By John Finnerty CNHI News Service August 18, 2019
HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf announced a series of executive steps to improve oversight of charter schools while calling on the Legislature to follow his moves with action as well. The administration’s steps will include establishing clearer processes for charter schools to document how much they spend educating students, as well as requiring that charter school operators abide by the same ethics rules other education officials must follow. In addition to ordering the Department of Education to act, Wolf said the Legislature should pass and send him bills that would establish a moratorium on new cyber schools, cap enrollment at poor-performing cyber schools until outcomes improve and pass fairer funding rules for charter schools. Traditional public school officials have long complained that charter schools and computer-based cyber charter schools collect more in tuition revenue paid by the local school districts while underperforming in educating students. Wolf said the state’s current charter school law has attained “national notoriety” for being fiscally irresponsible. While charter schools account for only 6 percent of the schools in the state, they represent 25 percent of the schools identified as underperforming by the Department of Education.
“Today I’m announcing comprehensive charter school reform through executive action, regulation, and legislation," Wolf said. "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.”

Gov. Tom Wolf, GOP leader address reforming Pennsylvania's charter school system
HARRISBURG, PA — Reforming the way Pennsylvania funds charter schools was the talk of Harrisburg last week. Under the state's Charter School Law of 1997, charter schools are considered public schools and receive funding from the home school districts of their students based on the per-pupil cost of educating those children in their home districts. Complaints about their funding include the inequity some see in funding a cybercharter school at the same rate for a special needs student when the public school is spending money on physical supports not being provided by a cybercharter. The other big issue is the Charter School Law's failure to demand accountability of charter schools regarding costs and academic performance. The latter is a concern raised about I-LEAD Charter School in Reading, which the city school board has sought to deny recertification over its students' poor performance on standardized tests. Concerns over cost and accountability were bipartisan. “Pennsylvania's charter school law is unfair for students, parents, school districts, and taxpayers,” said Gov. Tom Wolf said in a news release announcing his reform plan. “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.” State Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr., a Clearfield County Republican and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, expressed similar sentiments during a hearing held last week in Everett, Bedford County. “It is clear from what we have heard today that we need to establish fair, commonsense approaches that will provide education funding in a way that supports all public students no matter where they attend school without imposing a huge financial burden on taxpayers,” Langerholc said in a news release after the hearing.

Wolf orders change to Pennsylvania's charter regulations; operators fire back  
KYW by MIKE DENARDO AUGUST 18, 2019 - 4:00 AM
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf wants more accountability from charter schools, and he's taking executive action to change the state's charter regulations. But charter operators are saying "not so fast." The governor's executive order would allow school districts to cap enrollment at charters that aren't providing a "high-quality, equitable" education. It would also allow for more oversight of charter management companies. "I want to create a level playing field for all taxpayer-funded public schools," Wolf said. "I want to increase the quality and accountability of the charter school system." The governor is proposing new legislation that would establish charter performance standards, and place a moratorium on new cyber charter schools. Charter schools are publicly funded but independently run.  David Hardy, who founded Boys Latin Charter in Philadelphia and is the executive director of Excellent Schools PA, says Wolf should demand accountability from all schools. "The governor is trying to make it seem like if we fixed these things, we've done something to fix public education," Hardy said. "I think that is a fallacy." The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools said it seemed Wolf was abusing his authority, and that it was prepared to challenge the governor's actions in court.

Pennsylvania: The Political Contributions of the Owner of the State’s Largest Charter School
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch August 17, 2019 //
Pennsylvania’s largest charter school is the Chester Community Charter School. It is owned by Philadelphia lawyer Vahan Gureghian, who is a major donor to the Republican Party in the State. He was the biggest contributor to former Republican Governor Tom Corbett. What is surprising about his political donations is how little it takes to win the affection of the party in power. The Chester Community Charter School enrolls most of the elementary students in its district and even draws students from Philadelphia, despite the fact that it is a low-performing school on state tests. As you will see in one of the articles below, CCCS received a charter renewal through 2026, an extension not given to any other charter in the state. The Keystone State Education Coalition posted this list of his political contributions. 
Blogger commentary: In an effort to gain a better understanding of the dynamics in Harrisburg, from time to time over the years we have published “Follow the Money” charts using data from the PA Department of State’s Campaign Finance Reporting website:
We’ll leave it up to our readers to draw their own conclusions regarding how such contributions may or may not influence policymakers as they go about the people’s business in Harrisburg.

Steven Singer: Charter Schools Are Gobbling Up My School District
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch August 17, 2019 //
Do you want to understand why Pennsylvania’s charter school law needs to be reformed?
Let Steven Singer explain. Singer teaches in Pennsylvania. In this post, he describes the dangers that privatization poses to his school district. I work in a little suburban school district just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that is slowly being destroyed by privatization. Steel Valley Schools have a proud history. We’re located (in part) in Homestead – the home of the historic steel strike of 1892. But today it isn’t private security agents and industrial business magnates against whom we’re struggling. It’s charter schools, voucher schools and the pro-corporate policies that enable them to pocket tax dollars meant to educate kids and then blame us for the shortfall.

Blogger note: State Rep Ciresi previously served for several years as a member and as President of the Springford Area School Board

“Ciresi is a cosponsor and active proponent of bipartisan cyber charter funding reform through H.B. 526, which would end the use of taxpayer funds to pay for external cyber charter education if the school district already offers a comparable cyber program. He has also introduced H.B. 1571 to allow school districts to decide whether to pay for charter schools outside of their boundaries and oversight, and has repeatedly called for reforms to give elected school boards greater oversight and board representation over charter school operations.”
Ciresi supports Gov. Wolf’s Charter School Reforms
Rep. Joseph Ciresi    August 13, 2019 | 4:27 PM
HARRISBURG, Aug. 13 – State Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, applauded the executive action Gov. Tom Wolf announced today to reform Pennsylvania’s charter school law, and echoed his call for comprehensive charter school reform legislation. “Charter school costs have been growing at an unsustainable rate at the expense of PA taxpayers, and it’s time we got better results,” Ciresi said. “The outdated charter school law written in 1997 doesn’t fit the new reality of cyber charter education, and too many charter schools statewide underperform without any accountability to their students and our taxpayers. “The additional oversight Governor Wolf announced today, including holding charter schools to the same transparency and ethical standards as school districts, limiting enrollment at under-performing charter schools, providing more oversight of for-profit charter operators, and preventing charter schools from overcharging taxpayers are all commonsense measures that will give us greater confidence that taxpayer funds are being spent responsibly. “I have been actively working towards charter school reform in the legislature, including pushing for cyber charter funding reform, returning local control over charter funding to school districts, and ensuring accountability over how taxpayer money – $9.7 million just from my district – is spent through elected school board oversight. I am pleased to see the governor calling for new legislative reforms including performance standards, funding reform and relief for school districts, and greater transparency, and I look forward to working with him on creating meaningful change,” he said.

Urgent: Support Pa. Governor’s fight to reform charter schools
Network for Public Education
Governor Tom Wolf is taking a bold and important step. Because the legislature refuses to enact charter reform, the Governor is promising his own reform by executive order. And he also called out charters for what they are: the privatization of public education.
Call his office (717-787-2500) and say, “Thank you for your courageous push for charter reform by Executive Order. I agree. Charter schools are not public schools and their funding is destroying the Pennsylvania public school system.”
Then send him a thank you email by clicking here.
Cyber charters, which have been an educational disaster in Pennsylvania, are draining millions from local districts. The Pennsylvania charter law has been called the “worst charter law in the country” by the state’s own attorney general. The time to fix the law is now.
Call 717-787-2500 now and let the Governor know you applaud his courageous stand for charter reform. Then follow up with your email here

Pat Toomey pushed for gun control after Sandy Hook. Can the Republican senator lead again?
WASHINGTON — After the U.S. House passed sweeping gun control legislation in February, freshman Democratic Rep. Madeleine Dean went to see a fellow Pennsylvanian: Sen. Pat Toomey.  The two-term senator had been the lead Republican sponsor of an effort to expand background checks for guns in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. Toomey’s effort, co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, failed in April 2013 and again in 2015.  “I went over and asked for a meeting with Sen. Toomey on the gun violence stuff after we passed the two bills,” Dean told the Capital-Star in a June interview, referencing House-passed legislation to expand background checks and give the FBI more time to conduct then.  Dean got the meeting — “and he certainly was gracious to take the meeting,” she says — and asked Toomey, “‘Will you partner with me? How can we get your leadership to take up these bills? They will save lives.’” “And he said, ‘They’ll never be taken up,’” Dean recalled of their 20-minute conversation. “He said, ‘It’s not going to happen.’ If anything, he would offer an amendment to some vehicle that begins there — a weaker background check bill.”  The legislation that cleared the House in February is stricter than Toomey’s effort. His Senate bill would have required background checks on all commercial gun sales; the House bill would mandate federal criminal background checks on all gun sales, including private transactions. A second gun control bill passed by the House in February would extend the timeframe for the FBI to conduct background checks. 

No area school districts will try snow day alternative this year
The Boyertown Area School District is the latest to abandon plans to implement a new state program that would allow students to do school work from home to avoid having too many snow days. Boyertown and Pottsgrove were the only two tri-county area districts to indicate they were considering submitting plans to the state by the Sept. 1 deadline, but both have now reversed course. Flexible instruction 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. Earlier in the month Pottstown, Phoenixville, Owen J. Roberts and Methacton all indicated they would not participate this year. MediaNews Group has now confirmed the same also holds true for Upper Perkiomen, Spring-Ford, Daniel Boone and Perkiomen school districts.

Scranton School Board approves recovery plan in 7-2 vote
SCRANTON — The Scranton School District is officially on the path to financial recovery under a plan that calls for hefty tax hikes and recommends closing schools while seeking to boost academic achievement and upgrade technology, curriculum and textbooks. Before approving the recovery plan during a special meeting Thursday at Scranton High School, the board unanimously appointed longtime district administrator Melissa McTiernan as assistant acting superintendent. She replaces Alexis Kirijan, Ed.D., who resigned Thursday. The board voted 7-2 to approve the recovery plan. Board President Barbara Dixon and Directors Mark McAndrew, Paul Duffy, Tom Schuster, Katie Gilmartin, Kenneth Norton and Tom Borthwick voted yes. Board Vice President Greg Popil and Director Bob Lesh, who participated in the meeting by phone, voted against the five-year plan. In February, the state put the district in financial recovery. Candis Finan, Ed.D., former Delaware Valley superintendent in Pike County, was appointed chief recovery officer and worked with a team for six months to draft the 214-page recovery plan. If the board did not approve the plan, Scranton could come under state receivership by February.

Our view: Erie board breaks faith with state
GoErie By the Editorial Board Posted Aug 18, 2019 at 2:01 AM
We’ve frequently been critics of state officials when it comes to public education, among other things. And we believe Pennsylvania still has a long way to go in making public school funding adequate and fair. That said, the Erie School Board owes those same state officials some good faith in the aftermath of Harrisburg providing an additional $14 million a year in funding to give the Erie School District a path out of its years-long financial crisis. On Wednesday night, the board snubbed them instead. The legislation that granted the $14 million required the district to work with a state-appointed financial administrator on a fiscal improvement plan to be approved by the state secretary of education. The legislation also gave Education Secretary Pedro Rivera the power to have that administrator, Charles Zogby, take over the district’s operations if the School Board balked at implementing the provisions of the plan. On Wednesday, the board did just that in two separate votes. In doing so, school directors started a game of chicken with the state and raised questions about what, and whom, their priorities are. The School Board voted, 7-1, to reject eliminating a union-friendly policy for bidding construction jobs that was aimed at lowering district costs. It also failed, in a 4-4 vote with one member absent, to approve a proposal to seek bids to possibly outsource custodial work, also in search of major savings. Zogby called the vote on custodial services “very troublesome.” And a spokesman for the Department of Education on Thursday told reporter Ed Palattella that officials there were discussing what to do in the face of the School Board’s defiance.

Why a pizza contract is causing controversy (again) at State College Area School District 
Centre Daily Times BY SARAH PAEZ AUGUST 16, 2019 02:34 PM, UPDATED AUGUST 17, 2019 12:11 PM
With the State College Area School District board of directors poised to consider a contract for Papa John’s delivered pizza for elementary and middle school students, district parents and community members are lodging an effort to stop that. An email from a SCASD parent sent out to Standing Up for Racial Justice members urged them to tell the school district to vote against approving a contract for delivered Papa John’s pizza. “Papa John’s founder uses the N-word to describe people of color,” SCASD parent and SURJ member Lorraine Jones wrote in the email. “In response, many Allies have been protesting the sales of Papa Johns. Locally, the school district wants to continue to support the sales of Papa John’s pizza as a fundraiser in the district despite the fact of racist language has been used by the former owner.” Jones said several SCASD parents and community members from different racial backgrounds and nationalities are trying to get the school board to reject the bid for Papa John’s. “From the beginning, our district has taken the Papa John’s contract very seriously because we understand the sensitivity of his comments within our black community,” SCASD Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said in a statement. “While nothing is final with the current proposed contract, we are committed to equity and inclusivity.”

Editorial: Keep up fight against vaping by children
Pottstown Mercury Editorial August 18, 2019
For years now health professionals, educators and government officials have been warning about the dangers of vaping by children and trying to come up with ways to eradicate the practice. Yet despite attempts to spread the word about the dangers of e-cigarettes and to impose regulations meant to discourage their use by young people, the problem persists. Electronic cigarettes have been described as a less dangerous alternative to regular cigarettes, but they contain heavy amounts of nicotine, which health officials say is harmful to developing brains and might make kids more likely to take up cigarettes. According to the surgeon general, each Juul cartridge contains as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, and it’s formulated to give a smoother, more potent buzz that can get people hooked quickly. It’s almost time for a new school year, meaning educators once again will be put in the difficult position of trying to tame a problem that’s so hard to control because popular vaping devices are so easy to hide. And the latest news on the subject is not encouraging. The Associated Press reported that as many as 50 people in at least six states have come down with breathing illnesses that may be linked to vaping products. No deaths have been reported, but at least a few have come close. Symptoms have included shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain and vomiting.

The need to heed other voices, to understand other people's concerns, despite our political differences [editorial]
Lancaster Online by THE LNP EDITORIAL BOARD August 18, 2019
THE ISSUE: The children of El Paso, Texas, started school last week, nine days after a gunman fatally shot 22 people and injured two dozen others at a Walmart in that American city on the U.S.-Mexico border. The gunman told police he was targeting “Mexicans.” The fear and anxiety stemming from that domestic terrorist act continue to be felt across the U.S. and in Lancaster County. According to the most recent U.S. census data, Hispanics constitute nearly 11% of Lancaster County’s population of 519,445; 39% of Lancaster city’s 59,322 residents are of Hispanic descent. Maria Taveras moved with her family to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic when she was 19. Her brother needed open-heart surgery that the physicians of that island nation could not perform. Taveras now co-owns La Cocina Restaurant on East King Street. She has lived in Lancaster city for 25 years and in the U.S. for 35 years. And, as she recently told LNP staff writer Junior Gonzalez, “I’ve never felt the discrimination that is now going on.” People with racist views, she said, express them “so openly.” President Donald Trump, she maintained, is “giving people permission to be the way they are now. They feel entitled.” She is not alone in feeling this way. Her voice deserves to be heard and considered. So, too, does that of Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, an ordained Mennonite minister and Lancaster city resident who writes in today’s Perspective section of her concern about the language used by the president, of the way he “flings his words carelessly ... not worrying that they might spawn destruction.”

Your View by school board member: How to avoid having people being taxed out of their homes
Opinion By MERLYN CLARKE THE MORNING CALL | AUG 15, 2019 | 8:00 AM
Merlyn J. Clarke is a member of the Stroudsburg Area School Board
It is apparently becoming fashionable to refer to the school property tax as “the hated tax.” This is the tax that, incidentally, bolsters the value of our property, educates the workforce that will pay for senior citizen benefits such as Social Security and Medicare and insures an educated public that is essential for our democratic society. There’s really only one thing wrong with school property taxes: they are too high. It’s instructive to consider why these taxes are high. The cost of providing universal education is expensive. It requires buildings, transportation and the services of thousands of professionals. But there are factors that exacerbate these expenses — unnecessarily — that are the result of legislative mandates or failures to act. A few are worth mentioning. Schools are mandated to administer standardized exams, at the cost of millions of dollars, that are of zero benefit to either students or teachers. Yet state officials insist on them.
There is the “school choice” craze, supported by many legislators. School districts in Monroe County are mandated to spend $20 million every year in tuition for redundant charter schools, whether brick-and-mortar or at-home cyber schools, because some people prefer these schools over public schools. Taxpayers must pay for this “choice” even though there isn’t a single failing school in Monroe County. (For what other “public need” provider do we have choices? None.)
Additionally, the State House recently passed legislation that diverts some $200 million away from public schools to provide scholarships to private and religious schools through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program. Finally, the Stroudsburg, East Stroudsburg and Pocono Mountain school districts are underfunded a combined $40 million every year because the state Legislature fails to distribute education money according to its own fair funding formula.

“Let it be said that, yes, there are some wonderful charter schools. And yes, there are lousy traditional public schools. That isn’t open for debate. The question is whether the remedies pursued as part of school reform efforts are really helping the problem or hurting. Here is a piece on some of the negative consequences of school choice that supporters don’t like to talk about. It was written by Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who is executive director of the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit advocacy group. She has been chronicling problems with corporate school reform efforts for years on this blog. Burris was named the 2010 Educator of the Year by the School Administrators Association of New York State, and in 2013 the same organization named her the New York State High School Principal of the Year.”
Three big problems with school ‘choice’ that supporters don’t like to talk about
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss May 3, 2017
President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have been quite clear that expanding school choice is their top education priority. On Wednesday at a White House event, Trump said, according to a White House transcript: During my campaign for president, I promised to fight for school choice — very important. It was featured in my joint address to Congress. And today, I’m calling on all lawmakers to work with us to help extend school choice to millions more children all across the United States of America, including millions of low-income Hispanic and African American children who deserve the same chance as every other child in America to live out their dreams and fill up their hearts and be educated at the top, top level.
But one thing Trump, DeVos and many other choice advocates don’t talk publicly about are the negative consequences that have come with the implementation of school choice in states throughout the country. We hear a lot from them about how wonderful it is that some families have some educational choices beyond their neighborhood public schools — the public schools DeVos has flatly called a “dead end” — but we don’t hear about the financial scandals or the lack of transparency or public accountability that have resulted in many places. If these were outliers, it would be understandable, but they aren’t. The charter and voucher/voucher-like sectors in some states are so broadly flawed that some choice supporters have recognized it.  In 2015, charter-school researcher Margaret “Macke” Raymond of the Hoover Institute at Stanford University said this to people from Ohio about their troubled charter sector: “Be very glad that you have Nevada, so you are not the worst.” Raymond had previously issued a report saying Ohio charter-school students were learning 36 fewer days of math and 14 fewer days of reading than traditional public school students.

How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment
The Founders never intended to create an unregulated individual right to a gun. Today, millions believe they did. Here’s how it happened.
The Brennan Center by Michael Waldman May 20, 2014 Crossposted on Politico Magazine
"A fraud on the American public." That’s how former Chief Justice Warren Burger described the idea that the Second Amendment gives an unfettered individual right to a gun. When he spoke these words to PBS in 1990, the rock-ribbed conservative appointed by Richard Nixon was expressing the longtime consensus of historians and judges across the political spectrum. Twenty-five years later, Burger’s view seems as quaint as a powdered wig. Not only is an individual right to a firearm widely accepted, but increasingly states are also passing laws to legalize carrying weapons on streets, in parks, in bars—even in churches. Many are startled to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t rule that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own a gun until 2008, when District of Columbia v. Heller struck down the capital’s law effectively banning handguns in the home. In fact, every other time the court had ruled previously, it had ruled otherwise. Why such a head-snapping turnaround? Don’t look for answers in dusty law books or the arcane reaches of theory.

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 (*).

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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