Thursday, August 8, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup August 8: Ask Your State Elected Officials About Their Position on Cyber Charter Schools

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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
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PA Ed Policy Roundup August 8, 2019

If school districts could deduct their charter school tuition from the tuition calculation to ensure that it didn't unfairly ratchet up the tuition rate from year to year, it would save them $450 million.

If school districts could use their actual percentage of special education students in the special education charter school tuition calculation instead of a fictitious number, it would save them $65 million.

If school districts could cap the annual charter school tuition rate growth at their Act 1 index to mitigate annual cost increases, it would save them $96 million.

If the state would take on the cost of cyber charter school tuition since the state is responsible for authorizing and overseeing cyber charter schools, it would save school districts $520 million.

Rep. Dan Williams to host Policy Committee hearing on Fair Education Funding Monday in Coatesville on Monday August 12 at 1:00 pm
PA House Democratic Policy Committee    August 7, 2019 | 2:32 PM
COATESVILLE, Aug. 7 – State Rep. Dan Williams, D-Chester, announced today that he will host a House Democratic Policy Committee Hearing next week on fair education funding.
The event is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12, at The Spackman Center, 215 Reeceville Road, Coatesville, 19320. Media and the public are invited to attend.
Williams requested the hearing to discuss ways to improve the allocation of education funds for school districts throughout Pennsylvania. Fellow state legislators, including Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, will also attend and participate.
Testifiers will include:
  • Dr. Cathy Taschner, superintendent, Coatesville Area School District
  • Pam Brown, president, PSEA Southeastern Region
  • Henry Assetto, school board director, Coatesville Area School District.
  • Tomea Sippio-Smith, K12 policy director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth
  • Local senior citizens about increasing property taxes.
This hearing is among a series being held across the commonwealth on House Democrats’ Plan4PA, which focuses on putting people first by growing good jobs, providing health care access, creating quality schools and providing training for jobs in a fair economy. More information about the plan is available at, and hearing materials can be found at

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

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

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

Pennsylvania Council of Churches Ministry of Public Witness August 7, 2019
 by |  posted in: EducationUncategorized |  0
From Education Voters of Pennsylvania (
Please take a few minutes to ask your state lawmakers about their positions on cyber charter school funding and accountability reforms at
Right now, lawmakers are in their districts enjoying summer vacations. They are away from Harrisburg and have time to reflect on issues they will prioritize in the fall. Emails from constituents querying their positions on cyber charter schools will keep this issue on their radar and ensure that they know their constituents are watching them and expecting them to take action. Click HERE to email your state senator and representative to ask them about their positions on cyber charter school funding and accountability reforms.
As you know, in February, Education Voters of PA issued a report about cyber charter school funding. We detailed how capping cyber charter school tuition rates at the actual cost of educating a child at home on a computer would eliminate wasteful spending and save more than $250 million in taxpayer dollars. We also detailed serious issues with cyber charter accountability and performance.

“And there is one area were the law is strikingly specific: who can apply.
To apply for this designation, the school must be located in a federal promise zone, have partnered with behavioral health specialists, and be within “the bottom 5% of all schools in this Commonwealth based on the percent of enrollment that is economically disadvantaged.” There is only one federal promise zone in Pennsylvania, and it’s in West Philadelphia. Within that promise zone, there are just seven schools, six of which are run by the School District of Philadelphia. The district said it did not advocate for this law and only found out about it shortly before the legislature approved it. The seventh school is Belmont Charter School, whose founder, Michael Karp, is a prominent real estate developer and political donor. Belmont Charter Network CEO, Jennifer Faustman, makes no secret: it was her school that lobbied for this law and her school that intends to apply for the innovation schools designation.”
Public schools, charter schools and…innovation schools? Why a new category of school in Pa.?
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent August 8, 2019
Amid a flurry of action before summer recess this year, state lawmakers created a new category of public school — with little warning or open debate — that seems designed to benefit one charter school in Philadelphia. They’re called “innovation schools.” Backers say the new category is a good-spirited attempt to cut through red tape and test a model that blends academics with behavioral health supports. Skeptics think it’s a political hand-out that could create a dangerous precedent for other schools who want special favors. It’s hard to define what an innovation school is at this point. An eight-page insert into Pennsylvania’s school code says applicants can apply to the state Department of Education and submit annual plans about their work. One part of this law seems to be about giving schools extra flexibility. If the state education department approves the application and the annual plan submitted by the innovation school, it must then waive any state regulations that would conflict with the implementation of that plan. The department must also seek federal waivers for any federal regulations that could get in the way of the approved annual plan.

Blogger comment: Charter supporters recently took umbrage at Governor Wolf characterizing them as “private”. However, IMHO it appears that a significant distinction between “public schools” and “public charter schools” is that if you are a charter operator and are able to contribute enough money to legislative leadership you can shape public policy without the usual inconveniences of the democratic process.  Vahan Gureghian’s 10 year charter reauthorization for his Chester Community Charter School is another recent example. This July 10th KEYSEC posting detailed Michael Karp’s campaign contributions…..
Follow the Money: Charter Operator Cost of Doing Business?
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup July 10, 2019
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. Michael Karp is the founder and board chair of the Belmont Academy and Belmont Elementary Charter Schools in West Philly.  He is also the principal at University Housing Company (UCH), which owns and manages 4000+ apartment units.
The chart below lists over $600,000 in campaign contributions made by Mr. Karp and UCH for PA state offices from 2016 through 2019.

PA: Governor Calls Charters Private, Makes Advocacy Group Sad
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Monday, August 5, 2019
When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf trotted out his budget last month, he made it a point to note that he was raising money for public schools-- and that he had some definite ideas about which schools are public and which schools are not.
He wants to see more of those basic education dollars to school districts get distributed through the state’s fair funding formula. He also wants to address concerns related to cyber charter schools, which he referred to as “the growing cost of privatization of education in our public schools.”
And just in case that wasn't clear enough, 
a press release from the governor's office was even more direct:
Pennsylvania must help school districts struggling with the problem of increasing amounts of school funding siphoned by private cyber and charter schools. Funding reform would increase transparency so all schools that receive state dollars are accountable to the taxpayers.
This made Ana Meyers sad.

Where does all that cyber charter tuition money go?
Blogger rant: Ever wonder just where all those public tax dollars go that are spent paying inflated cyber charter tuition (remember, cybers are paid the same rates as brick and mortar charters, even though they do not have the same staffing, facility and transportation costs)?  Yes, we know that Nick Trombetta spent a good bit on an airplane and condos. Yes, we know that a great deal is spent on advertising, but over the years K12, Inc. has put the “P” in privatization. They helped write the laws that enabled cyber charters, lobbied heavily to get those laws passed, and continue to support “friendly” legislators who protect their business. Unfortunately, the lion’s share of funding sent to chronically underperforming cyber charters comes from our most underfunded school districts, so it is reassuring to know that our neighbors’ tax dollars are also going to support a good cause: corporate profits and generous executive compensation.
K12 Inc. Tops $1 Billion in Revenues for Fiscal 2019, Even as Georgia Charter School Fight Looms
Education Week Market Brief Michele Molnar Associate Editor August 7, 2019
K12 Inc., the Herndon, Va. public company that provides online curriculum and manages virtual schools for students in pre-K-12, topped $1 billion in annual revenues for the first time in fiscal 2019, according to its annual results announced Tuesday. But a dispute with Georgia Charter Academy over the company’s contract for serving 10,000 public school students added a sobering note to the otherwise upbeat report. The company’s revenue growth of 10.7 percent year over year was “based on the managed public schools program,” said Nate Davis, CEO and chairman of the board, who spoke in a conference call for investors after the New York Stock Exchange closed yesterday. It “again demonstrates the strength of our core public schools business and the underlying demand for blended and online school options.”

Morningstar: K12, Inc. Key Executive Compensation for 2018 tops $18.2 million

KEYSEC Reprise March 2013: Collection of articles on Pennsylvania cybers and charters, including some additional history on K12, Inc. and (former) Pennsylvania Budget Secretary Charles Zogby’s involvement with them.
Keystone State Education Coalition PA Ed Policy Roundup March 9, 2013

“The dispute is yet another example of the messy process that can surround closing a charter school in Pennsylvania, leaving not just taxpayer money in limbo, but the education of students — whose prospects for the coming year remain unclear.”
Philly charter school on the brink of closing after losing payments from School District
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: August 8, 2019- 5:14 AM
Philadelphia’s Eastern University Academy Charter School is suing the School District for stopping its payments after a state appeals board vote in June to close the charter.
“The School District is not allowing the legal process to run its course. This is a de facto closure, and it’s illegal,” said the charter’s CEO, Omar Barlow, who has accused the district of targeting his school and other minority-led charters. The charter still has the right to go to court. But it might not have money to do so — or to open in September, potentially leaving several hundred students in limbo. Under Pennsylvania law, school districts send money to charter schools each month. Eastern hasn’t received payments since June from the School District, which has faulted the charter for poor standardized test scores and compliance issues. The former School Reform Commission voted to close the school in April 2018, a decision affirmed by the appeals board in June. Eastern says it intends to appeal that decision, but the board hasn’t yet issued a written order. The district, meanwhile, says the charter will no longer be in effect once the appeals board issues its order. At that point, the district said, it would have “no realistic method” of getting back money paid before the order was released.  “A substantial sum of public money paid to the [charter school] would be lost and never recovered,” the district said in a response to the charter’s lawsuit.

Tackling property tax relief on Pa. lawmakers’ minds again; work group formed to find a solution
A workgroup of House and Senate members, along with representatives from Gov. Tom Wolf's administration, has been formed to try to identify a path forward for solving the burdensome school property tax issue.
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Updated 6:41 AM; Today 5:15 AM
Pennsylvania state lawmakers are making overtures once again about attempting to address the intractable issue of school property tax relief this fall. A bicameral, bipartisan group of lawmakers along with administration officials are meeting behind closed doors later today to informally discuss possible pathways to lead to a new way to fund public schools. “Governor Wolf continues to be open to reforming property taxes. He proposed significant property tax relief in his first budget as governor. He looks forward to seeing what the working group comes to consensus on,” said J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for Wolf.

Pa. state rep crafts a plan to eliminate school property taxes
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Updated 6:43 AM; Today 5:10 AM
Plenty of ideas for solving the problem of burdensome school property tax bills over the years, but state Rep. Frank Ryan is offering a novel one that he stops the practice of school districts using your home as collateral to support their spending. The Lebanon County Republican’s proposal seeks to completely eliminate school property taxes while keeping local the majority of the new revenue it would raise. He is open to tweaking the plan which has yet to be introduced but he said right now he envisions it this way. It would:

“More than 10,000 tips statewide related to student bullying and cyber-bullying, suicide, depression, anxiety, and self-harm, the data show. Just 607 tips — three percent of the total — were threats of violence against schools.”
Pennsylvania set up a tip line for school threats. Instead, students overwhelmingly called with mental health concerns
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison August 8, 2019
Middletown Area High School, which enrolls 650 students in a rural part of Dauphin County, was designed with security in mind. The school is surveilled with more than 115 security cameras, according to its principal Michael Carnes. And while natural light floods the hallways, most of it comes from glass walls enclosing a courtyard at the center of the building — for security reasons, there aren’t many windows on the exterior, Carnes said. But Carnes knows that top-of-the-line safety features can only go so far in protecting students. “We’re never going to be 100 percent [safe],” Carnes said Monday, when his school hosted a threat response training for educators delivered by the U.S. Secret Service. “There’s no Fort Knox for a school, and we don’t want a prison. So how do you make it nice, but safe?” The answer, Carnes said, is to hire the right people. In the past decade, the Middletown campus has bolstered its ranks of mental health professionals, hiring its first social workers, doubling the number of school psychologists, and contracting with a private company to provide in-school counseling services, Carnes said.
While demand for mental health services outstrips access in Pennsylvania, state lawmakers in recent years haven’t increased spending, WITF-FM in Harrisburg reported in December.

“Census data show that about 12 percent of Americans age 16-24 are not in school and not working. In Philadelphia, the rate is nearly 20 percent, which ranks it among the worst for big cities nationally.”
Last Chance High: 'Beautiful band of misfits' fight to graduate
WHYY By Kevin McCorry August 7, 2019 Listen
Joshua Martinez started selling drugs at 14. It was the summer before 8th grade, and the first lesson he learned was a survival tactic, a lesson for the here and now:  don’t get caught. “You got to hide your material somewhere. Like you never have it on you. Why? Cause if the cops do come, all they catch you with is money,” he said. “They don’t catch you with the work.” Josh was born on Hope Street, in Kensington, a neighborhood in Philadelphia notorious for open air drug markets that’s been ravaged by the opioid crisis. Like most families in the area, Josh’s lives in poverty, and, as a kid, the drug trade offered some semblance of relief. “Mom didn’t have a job. Pop was locked up. So you know I had to do some things for money. Nothing nice,” he said, “but, that’s just how I grew up.” This was not the life Josh wanted to live. But he saw his mom struggling to raise five kids on her own and felt obligated to help. “My brother sold it. My brother-in-law sold it,” he said. “I knew what I was doing was bad and sometimes I would be scared. But at the end of the day, it helped my mom pay the bills.” Living hand to mouth, school did not seem like a big priority. “Always had a problem getting up,” he said. “And my mom never forced me to go to school so I would miss a lot of days.” He made it to nearby Edison High School, but felt completely disconnected. “When I was there, I felt out of place,” he said. “I didn’t talk to nobody.”
So, at 16, he dropped out — becoming one of about 3,500 students in Philadelphia who quit school during the 2014-15 year. For many dropouts, that’s where the academic journey ends.

After El Paso, Dayton, Franklin & Marshall poll finds strong support for new gun laws | Thursday Morning Coffee
PA Capital Star By  John L. Micek August 8, 2019
Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
Mirroring the national mood, 
a new Franklin & Marshall College poll finds Pennsylvanians well ahead of policymakers when it comes to support for new laws regulating gun ownership. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the 627 respondents contacted by the Lancaster County-based school say they “strongly” or “somewhat” favor “new laws that regulate gun ownership,” compared to 33 percent who oppose new controls. Three percent of respondents were undecided. The survey, conducted from  July 29 to Aug. 4, falls within the weekend of deadly shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, that left 31 people dead, and wounded dozens more. The polling sample includes 295 Democrats, 251 Republicans and 81 independent voters. The poll had an overall margin of error of 6 percent. The results are all-but-unchanged from a March F&M poll that found respondents favoring new gun laws 62-35 percent, with 3 percent undecided. “The support for gun control is there — and it’s been there,” F&M pollster Terry Madonna said Wednesday. “The real question is whether there’s going to be pressure on lawmakers in their districts,” to act.

Franklin & Marshall College Poll - The 28th year of consecutive polling in Pennsylvania
Below are the highlights of the September August, 2019, Franklin & Marshall College Poll. Complete results can be found at
  • Half (51%) of the state’s registered voters believe the state is “headed in the right direction.”
  • Most (61%) registered voters in Pennsylvania believe that the state’s tax system needs a fundamental overhaul and three in five (60%) believes that property taxes should be replaced by broader, state-wide taxes.
  • Most (65%) also believe that the state spends “too little” on services for people with mental health issues. One in four (27%) voters feel it would be hard to access mental health services.
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden (28%) is the top choice for president among Pennsylvania’s registered Democrats, followed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (21%).Bernie Sanders trails at (12%, and Kamala Harris at (8%).
  • About one in three (37%) registered voters in Pennsylvania believe President Trump is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as president, which is consistent with recent F&M polls.
  • Only one in three (34%) registered voters believes that the United States is “headed in the right direction.
  • Two in five (38%) registered voters believe President Trump has done a good enough job to deserve re-election and most (78%) of these respondents say they will vote for him no matter who runs against him.
  • Three in five (61%) voters say it is time for a change and four in five (85%) of these voters say they will vote against the president no matter who runs against him.

Wolf calls for ‘swift passage’ of red flag law, universal background checks in wake of El Paso, Dayton shootings
PA Capital Star By  Sarah Anne Hughes August 7, 2019
At the end of a Wednesday rally held in the wake of the latest high-profile mass shootings in America, Gov. Tom Wolf invited questions from the press about his call for additional gun control measures. After the assembled journalists were finished, Robert Woodkey of Uniontown wanted to make a statement. Woodkey, who said he learned about the event on a message board for Firearms Owners Against Crime, a Pennsylvania-based pro-gun group, told Wolf he represented “the other side of this.” “I know some of you have first-hand experience with loss of life. I understand that,” he said. “But there are laws in place that have not and cannot be enforced on gun control. I don’t think it’s going to accomplish anything.” Wolf stopped the man. “What we’re trying to say here, sir, is we all live in the same country,” Wolf replied. “We have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. … We’re not trying to take anybody’s rights away. We’re trying to preserve our own.” Less than a week after 31 people were killed by gunmen in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Wolf gathered in the Capitol rotunda with U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, state lawmakers, and dozens of supporters to demand action on gun control.

'It's just common sense,' Toomey says, calling for background checks to pass Congress
Lancaster Online by GILLIAN McGOLDRICK | Staff Writer August 7, 2019
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey on Tuesday issued a renewed call for the Senate to pass two pieces of bipartisan gun control legislation that he has sponsored. At a news conference in Philadelphia, the Allentown Republican pushed for action on the Manchin-Toomey background check bill he first introduced six years ago with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Toomey also called for action on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System Notification Act, which would require the FBI to notify state and local law enforcement when someone prohibited from buying a gun tries to do so. Toomey introduced the legislation with Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.

‘Symbolic steps on guns don’t save lives,’ Top Senate Republican says she’ll hold hearings on gun safety measures
PA Capital Star By John L. Micek August 7, 2019
 (*This post has been updated)
Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
A key legislative voice on gun-control is speaking out this Wednesday morning, and it voice belongs to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, whose word not only matters because her panel has a big say on any new gun legislation, it also matters because of who she is. Baker’s is one of the more deliberative in the Senate GOP caucus. If you remember her moving floor speech a few years back on a bill that would have restricted access to abortion, then you know what we’re talking about here. She’s also emerged as a thoughtful voice on criminal justice reform. So with calls mounting for a special session on gun violence, and with Gov. Tom Wolf set to hold a major event later this Wednesday afternoon on gun violence, the timing of Baker’s decision to speak up  is the first real signal of what a future debate might look like. “The Senate Judiciary Committee will be holding a series of public hearings intended as a prelude to action.  Advocates and opponents will have the chance to make their respective cases in full spotlight and answer the hard questions about their positions,” *Baker said in a statement Tuesday.

After mass shootings, some Pa. Democrats urge Gov. Wolf to call for special session
Penn Live By Ed Mahon and Katie Meyer | PA Post Posted Aug 6, 2:37 PM
Some Pennsylvania Democrats are urging Gov. Tom Wolf to call the legislature back to Harrisburg for a special session on gun violence, even as other legislators concede it’s unlikely such a session would produce any meaningful action. State Rep. Kevin Boyle, a Democrat who represents Philadelphia and part of Montgomery County, was the first to take to Twitter to call for the emergency session in the wake of two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. Other members of his caucus chimed in. Philadelphia representatives Malcolm Kenyatta and Brian Sims, and Chester County’s Danielle Friel Otten all said they were on board. Katie Muth, a Democratic senator from Montgomery County, gave the idea her blessing as well. Under the Pennsylvania constitution, the governor can call a special session “whenever in his opinion the public interest requires.” But while the governor can force legislators to return to Harrisburg, he can’t force an up or down vote on specific bills.

Scott Perry joins conservatives citing mental health issues as factor in mass shootings; research says otherwise
By Ivey DeJesus | Posted Aug 6, 5:48 PM
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry on Tuesday reaffirmed his take on mental health issues and mass shootings. The 10th Congressional District Republican reiterated a point of view increasingly common among the ranks of conservative lawmakers, tying mental health issues to the country’s mass shooting crisis. On Tuesday, Perry tweeted: “The recent events of cowardice and domestic terrorism this weekend point out, once again, our desperate need to address mental health issues in our Country, as well as our need to enforce firearms laws, which were written, passed and enacted for a reason.”The recent events of cowardice and domestic terrorism this weekend point out, once again, our desperate need to address mental health issues in our Country, as well as our need to enforce firearms laws, which were written, passed and enacted for a reason.
PennLive requested an interview with Perry seeking to have him elaborate on the correlation between mental health issues and the latest spate of mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. Another mass shooting took place last week in northern California. Mental health professionals show the correlation is erroneous.

Legislature must act on assault weapons ban
Post-Gazette Letter by REP. ED GAINEY, Lincoln-Lemington AUG 7, 2019
The writer, a Democrat, represents the 24th House District.
This weekend was a wrenching reminder of the grief and heartache that have pierced too many communities across our nation, a shared trauma that leaves us wondering not if a mass shooting will happen again, but when and where. The names are a roll call through the heart of America: Dayton, El Paso, Virginia Beach, Squirrel Hill, Santa Fe, Parkland, Charleston — the list goes on. We should be moved to tears, roused to action, and yet all too often we are left with a sense of impotent hopelessness, the feeling that despite our cries — and those of the families who have lost a cherished loved one — things will never change. But we are not powerless. There is legislation sitting in committee in the state House in Harrisburg that would address many of the issues that lead to and enable these tragedies, including a bill to ban assault weapons. They are sitting because the Republican leadership — including Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, who represents parts of Allegheny County — refuses to bring them to a vote, despite the support of Gov. Tom Wolf. I understand and respect Pennsylvania’s long-held support of gun rights, particularly for outdoor sportsmen. However, we cannot sit idly by and wait for another Tree of Life, or another Parkland to occur.

Secret Service teaches local educators techniques for spotting ‘kids in crisis’ in quest to keep schools safe
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Posted Aug 6, 1:29 PM
Teaching educators how to stop violence before it occurs is a lesson U.S. Secret Service officials shared with educators on Tuesday in the unending effort of bolstering school safety. John Bullwinkel, assistant to the special agent in charge of the Secret Service, said it comes down to recognizing what he calls “concerning behaviors” and intervening. If a student is depressed or not interacting with others, not acting the way they normally do, or seems obsessed with other school shootings or weapons or some troubling ideology, those are examples he offered as times when it would be appropriate to ask questions and connect them with community or school professionals who can help.

“Locally, Internet Essentials has connected 72,000 households in Philadelphia in the last year, a nearly 47% increase from last year. Now, about 288,000 individuals are connected. Statewide, Internet Essentials has connected 170,000 households in Pennsylvania, a 50% increase from last year and bringing the total to 680,000 individuals. Philadelphia is the poorest of the country’s 10 most populous cities.”
Comcast announces biggest expansion of low-income internet access
Recipients can also access training and education about the internet and a low-cost computer.
the Notebook August 6 — 3:59 pm, 2019
Comcast announced Tuesday that it has expanded its low-cost online access program Internet Essentials to a wider pool of people, adding eligibility to families who receive SNAP benefits, Medicaid,  Social Security Disability, low-income seniors and several other categories — effectively offering broadband connection to all low-income people in its service area. These changes, the largest since the program was founded, will make three million households newly eligible, officials said. In its eight years of existence, the program has connected eight million people from two million households. “This expansion is the culmination of an audacious goal we set eight years ago, which was to meaningfully and significantly close the digital divide for low-income Americans,” said David L. Cohen, senior executive vice president and chief diversity officer of Comcast NBCUniversal, in a statement. “The internet is arguably the most important technological innovation in history, and it is unacceptable that we live in a country where millions of families and individuals are missing out on this life-changing resource. Whether the internet is used for students to do their homework, adults to look for and apply for new jobs, seniors to keep in touch with friends and family, or veterans to access their well-deserved benefits or medical assistance, it is absolutely essential to be connected in our modern, digital age.”

No surprise here; could just as well be titled “Pennsylvania’s Wealthiest School Districts.”
Pennsylvania's Best School Districts: New 2020 Rankings Released
A new ranking of the Pennsylvania's best school districts has been released. See the top 100 here:
Patch By Kara Seymour, Patch Staff Aug 5, 2019 11:01 am ET
PENNSYLVANIA — Data compiler Niche has ranked Pennsylvania's best school districts for the 2019-2020 school year. The rankings were released Monday as part of the website's 2020 K-12 rankings. Each Pennsylvania district received a letter grade in the following categories: Academics; Diversity; Teachers; College Prep; Clubs & Activities; Health & Safety; Administration; Sports; Food; and Resources & Facilities. To arrive at the rankings, Niche looked at data from the U.S. Department of Education as well as test scores, college data, and ratings collected from Niche users. (You can read more about the methodology here.)

America's School Funding Struggle: How We're Robbing Our Future By Under-Investing In Our Children
Forbes by Linda Darling-Hammond Contributor Aug 5, 2019, 01:43pm
I work to foster equitable and empowering education for all children.
This week, U.S. lawmakers will gather for the annual National Conference of State Legislators meeting to tackle a range of issues, including school funding, which they identified as their top priorityearlier this year. Although there has been an upsurge in school funding since 2015, it comes on the heels of years of budget cuts during the Great Recession that left nearly half the states spending less on schools in 2016 than they were spending in 2007. Low-wealth districts, especially those serving concentrations of students from low-income families, were hardest hit by these cuts. In many cases, they experienced teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, and reduced services in areas ranging from counseling to after-school programs. These growing inequalities are rooted in the way American schools are funded, primarily through local property taxes that produce significant disparities. Although states try to offset inequalities, they rarely succeed in eliminating these funding gaps. The top-spending states spend about three times what the lowest-spending states allocate to education and, in many states, the wealthiest districts spend two to three times what the poorest districts can spend per pupil.

Toni Morrison, a Writer of Many Gifts Who Bent Language to Her Will
New York Times By Dwight Garner Aug. 6, 2019
Once upon a time in America, Toni Morrison wrote in “Beloved,” her masterpiece, the presence of a black face in a newspaper would induce something close to horror in certain readers. That face wasn’t there for any happy or noble reason. It wasn’t even there because the black person had been killed or “maimed or caught or burned or jailed or whipped or evicted or stomped or raped or cheated,” because those things didn’t qualify as news. The purpose of the photo had to be more unusual. Over the course of her long and exceptional literary career, which included the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993, Morrison, who died on Monday at 88, brought a freight of news about black life in America (and about life, period) to millions of readers across the globe. Much of this news was of the sort that, in terms of its stark and sensitive awareness of the consequences of racism, opened an abyss at one’s feet and changed the taste of the saliva in one’s mouth.

Toni Morrison, Author of 'Beloved' and 'Song of Solomon,' Dead at 88
Education Week By Catherine Gewertz on August 6, 2019 1:55 PM
Toni Morrison, the Nobel laureate who explored black history and identity, and whose novels were staples in classrooms across the United States, has died at 88. Morrison won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature for her work, which included 11 novels, and essays and children's books. Her novel Beloved won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award, and Song of Solomon won the 1977 National Book Critics Circle Award. President Barack Obama awarded Morrison the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, and in 2016, she was awarded the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction. BelovedSong of Solomon, and many of Morrison's other novels—including SulaJazz, and The Bluest Eye—were centerpieces in high school English classes around the country. To read samples of what high school students have written in response to Morrison novels, click here and here.

“In 2000, Booker was brought to Michigan to tout a ballot initiative called Proposal 1 that would have made private school vouchers a constitutional right in the state. He was invited to speak in Grand Rapids at the Wealthy Theater (really) by Betsy DeVos and Richard DeVos Jr., who were leaders of the school choice movement in their home state of Michigan and around the country.”
Cory Booker’s close ties to Betsy DeVos go back a long way, including a campaign donation from her husband
Inquirer by Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post, Updated: August 6, 2019- 9:20 AM
WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey had a big night Wednesday during the debate among 10 Democratic presidential candidates, with many pundits saying he won the night. That means there will be more focus on him and his record — and that includes his long-standing ties to controversial Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Sabrina Singh, a Booker campaign spokeswoman, said in an email that Booker "has been very critical of DeVos and remains consistent on that" — but that depends on your definition of "consistent." Booker voted against DeVos becoming President Donald Trump's education secretary in 2017, but that followed more than a decade of a consistently close association between them. Early in his political career, Booker was a supporter of the DeVos agenda on education reform, which focused on expanding alternatives to traditional public school districts, including charter schools and voucher programs that use public money for private and religious education. While many Democrats have supported charter schools — with something of a backlash now being seen — most oppose vouchers and voucherlike programs, and see the DeVos agenda as an effort to privatize the public education system. Not Booker. In 1999, Booker was a member of the Municipal Council of Newark and worked with conservatives to form an organization that sought to create a voucher program and bring charter schools to New Jersey.

Inside The NAACP’s Civil War Over Charter Schools
Leaders of the nation’s oldest civil rights group say that members are being paid by right-wing groups to infiltrate the organization and sow chaos.
Huffington Post By Rebecca Klein 08/06/2019 02:59 pm ET
When three local NAACP branches in California passed April resolutions opposing the national group’s call for a charter school moratorium, school choice advocates greeted the news with glee. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos voiced her support in an interview. The Wall Street Journal published a flattering editorial about the move, describing it as a welcome “revolt.” But leaders at the California state NAACP say this so-called “revolt” is fake news. They say the main member who pushed these actions ― a woman named Christina Laster ― is being paid by a right-wing group connected to the Koch brothers to infiltrate the organization and sow chaos. They also note that, despite the media attention, these resolutions were dead on arrival at the national organization for failure to follow proper submission protocol or rejection by higher committees.

Network for Public Education: Report of the Grassroots Education Network
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch August 7, 2019 //
The Network for Public Education is fortunate to have Marla Kilfoyle as director of its Grassroots Education Network. Marla previously was national executive director of the Badass Teachers Association and a full-time teacher. Would your group like to join the Grassroots Education Network? Contact Marla Kilfoyle at
Grassroots Education Network- July 2019 Newsletter
The NPE Grassroots Education Network is a network of over 130 grassroots organizations nationwide who have joined together to preserve, promote, improve, and strengthen our public schools. If you know of a group that would like to join this powerful network, please go here to sign up.If you have any questions about the NPE Grassroots Education Network please contact Marla Kilfoyle, NPE Grassroots Education Network Liaison at

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

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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