Tuesday, October 1, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 1, 2019 Report: More PA Kids Living in Concentrated Poverty

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 for October 1, 2019

Voter Registration Deadline for November Election Is Oct. 7
Register and check registration status online at votesPA.com

Data: Breaking Down the Where and Why of K-12 Spending
Education Week Managing the Money September 24, 219
America’s public school system today costs taxpayers over two-and-a-half times more than it did half a century ago—far outstripping changes in enrollment over that time. When federal, state, and local spending is taken together, it stands as one of government’s most-expensive endeavors. There’s not just one culprit. That increase reflects an array of policy and priority shifts, changes in student demographics, state and federal mandates, built-in cost drivers affecting the workforce, and factors stemming from the economy at large. Many will argue it’s still not enough, and that the money we are spending is not being distributed in a fair or effective way. Others make the case that massive governmental investment has failed to yield what it should have when weighed against student achievement. It’s clear, however, that K-12 advocates, politicians, the courts, and others over the years have raised expectations of what schools should provide and to whom, and that it takes money to meet those demands. Here are some significant milestones.

Report: More PA Kids Living in Concentrated Poverty
by Andrea Sears, Keystone State News Connection Oct 01, 2019
In Pennsylvania, 42% of African-American children live in concentrated poverty, compared with 28% nationally.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania is one of ten states where the number of children living in areas of concentrated poverty has grown, according to a new report. The data shows a nine point increase in the percentage of children living in concentrated poverty in the Keystone state in 2013-2017 over the previous 4-year period. Kelly Hoffman, vice president for data and strategy at the Pennsylvania Partnership for Children, said those kids are more likely to have low incomes when they become adults than their peers who grow up in areas with good schools and good jobs. “They also tend to lack access to healthy food and quality medical care, and they often face greater exposure to environmental hazards such as poor air quality and lead,” Hoffman said. The report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation defined concentrated poverty as areas where 30% or more of residents live below the poverty line. Nationally, 29 states and the District of Columbia showed some improvement. But Scot Spencer, associate state director of advocacy with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said that leaves 12% of the nation’s children still living in poor areas. “No children should be living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty,” Spencer said. “The fact that we still have 8.5 million children after multiple years of economic expansion and growth should not be a satisfactory solution for anyone in the United States.” Among the report’s recommendations: increasing government support for affordable housing, job training programs and small-business loan programs. Hoffman said additional steps can be taken to ensure all children get the opportunities they are entitled to. “Every child needs to be counted in the 2020 census so that communities can draw down the appropriate amount of federal dollars to support children within those communities,” Hoffman said. “And policymakers really need to ensure that all children receive a high-quality public education.” She added Pennsylvania continues to have the widest funding gap between wealthy and poor school districts of any state in the nation.

Did you catch yesterday’s postings?
PA Ed Policy Roundup October 1, 2019
Cybers: And you may ask yourself, well, “How did I get here?”
Blogger note: here are a couple articles that provide some historical context for Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools:

“Incredibly, despite the lower costs of an online education, under state law a school district must pay a cybercharter the same amount per student as it pays a brick-and-mortar charter. These required payments have no relation to the reality of what it costs to educate each student. A 2012 study out of Fordham Institute, a pro-charter group, estimated that per pupil costs for cyber schools ranged from $5,000 to $7,700. Our districts have their own cyber programs, which cost as little as $2,800 per student in Moshannon Valley. But a 2018 survey by the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators found that districts pay, on average, $11,306 for each general education student attending a cybercharter and $24,192 for each special education student.”
Mark Kudlawiec, Daniel Webb, John Zesiger & Arnold Nadonley: Level playing field for public, charter schools
Trib Live Letter by MARK KUDLAWIEC, DANIEL WEBB, JOHN ZESIGER & ARNOLD NADONLEY | Sunday, September 29, 2019 7:00 p.m.
As school superintendents with decades of experience as educators, we continue to look forward to the start of school each and every fall. While our enthusiasm has not waned, some things have changed. One is the intensifying struggle each year to finalize a budget that can deliver what our students need. There are many reasons for school district budget challenges, but the bottom line is this: Costs we cannot control are rising faster than the growth in local tax revenues and state funding. One of those cost drivers is the money we lose to unaffiliated cybercharter schools. In Pennsylvania, when a student enrolls in a brick-and-mortar or cybercharter school, the school district must pay the charter school a tuition for that student out of its own budget. Cyber charter schools deliver education online to students who use computers in their homes. The cost of educating a student online is considerably lower than a traditional education since cyber schools do not need to cover the costs that brick-and- mortar schools do.

“Pennsylvania, once a net exporter of certified teachers, is quickly entering an era where we will need to import teachers to meet current and future needs. The state Department of Education reports that 21,045 teaching certificates were issued during the 2010-11 academic year. That number fell dramatically to 7,970 over an eight-year period ending in 2017-18, the most recently reported year. That marks more than a 62% decline in just eight years.”
Your View by school superintendent: How Pennsylvania can address its looming teacher shortage
Timothy P. Williams is a Freedom High School graduate and the superintendent of the York Suburban School District.
If you have young children or are thinking about starting a family, or if your own children are starting families of their own, you should be very concerned. If you have no school-aged children and Social Security is in your future, you should also be very concerned. Pennsylvania is facing a crisis it has not faced in decades: highly qualified classroom teachers are becoming scarce. As the number of applicants for teaching positions continues to decline, schools consider themselves fortunate if they have one or two applicants for certain positions. Data recently released by the Pennsylvania Department of Education points to the reason why school districts are finding it challenging to draw qualified, let alone certified, candidates for their vacant positions. The agency’s data shows a disturbing decline in the number of college graduates earning teaching certificates. The downward trend is troubling for the future of the state and the nation.

Letter to the editor: Tom Wolf right to act on charter schools
TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Letter by Richard Patton, Franklin Township, Beaver County Wednesday, September 25, 2019 10:00 a.m.
I am writing to inform op-ed writer Colleen Cook (“Tom Wolf’s attack on charter schools unfair”) that Gov. Tom Wolf’s attempt to fix the problems with the state’s charter schools is spot on, particularly those that are cybercharter schools. While your son has benefited from taking his classes this way, many do not. Want proof? Go to the Pennsylvania Department of Education website and look up the graduation rates of these charter and cybercharter schools. It is rare to find a charter cyberschool with a graduation rate above 60%. While many charter schools are very successful, some have poor graduation rates. Most public high schools have graduation rates around 80-90%. The state puts the average graduation rate of all the state’s schools at 86% for the 2016-17 school year. The state also has a program to push future graduation rates up to 92%. Many charter schools are already there, as are the traditional district high schools. Cybercharter schools don’t even come close.

Pa. lawmakers accidentally took away school police officers’ ability to make arrests
PA Capital Star by  Elizabeth Hardison October 1, 2019
Amid a flurry of legislative activity in June, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill creating new training requirements for security officers and other armed personnel who patrol Pennsylvania’s schools. The only problem, according to lawmakers and local officials?  The bill mistakenly stripped school police officers — licensed law enforcement professionals who are employed by at least 80 districts across the state — of their power to arrest anyone.  They say that change only became clear in August, as educators and security personnel were preparing for the start of a new school year.  “The school police came to me and asked, ‘Does this say what we think it says?’” Snyder County District Attorney Mike Piecuch said. “It was very surprising … We had no heads up.” Lawmakers who were instrumental in the legislation say they didn’t intend to strip school police officers of their arrest power. The goal of the bill that Wolf signed in June was to increase training requirements for school security personnel. Lawmakers and the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police also wanted to ensure that school police officers hired by private, third-party contractors wouldn’t be able to perform arrests, they said.  But that simple change in the bill’s language made all the difference. 

EDITORIAL: West York schools cuts public out
The York Dispatch Editorial Board Published 5:32 a.m. ET Sept. 26, 2019
West York Area School District officials did all they could this past week to muzzle the public and dodge a potentially contentious debate about an armed guard walking the district's halls. Following a pretext-laden debate this past week, Superintendent Todd Davies implored school board members to ditch standard parliamentary procedure and fast-track a resolution that will arm the district's security guard. Some board members lamented that they hadn't even had time to read the draft policy prior to voting, and at least one member rightly noted that actions such as this only erode public confidence. "My other concern is the community," said board member Jeanne Herman. "When we add things at the last minute, it does not allow the community to come and voice during public comment, and so I think that's a disservice then to the public that we represent." And yet, after some twitching and squirming, Davies got his way by a 7-1 vote, with Herman dissenting. The board could have opted to exist as something more than Davies' rubber stamp. It could had demanded the resolution head to a second reading, as is normal procedure. It could have publicized the matter and invited public input.  Board members, though, had no interest in providing legitimate oversight, choosing instead to roll over for an unelected administrator.  To be clear, ours is not an outright condemnation of the policy of armed guards in schools. The issue is one of substantial national debate as districts scramble to avoid playing host to the next national tragedy.

Safe2Say: State officials talk about school safety with Upper Dublin students
Ambler Gazette Sep 26, 2019 Updated Sep 27, 2019
Safe2Say Something is a youth violence prevention program run by the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General. The program teaches youth and adults how to recognize the warning signs and signals, especially within social media, from individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others and to “say something” before it is too late. Upper Dublin schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Yanni commented that “Upper Dublin is pleased to welcome Attorney General Shapiro, Senator Hughes, and Ms. Kline to collaborate on this important topic with our students. Our students -- and students across the Commonwealth -- are always willing to share their thoughts and suggestions to improve school safety and keeping their peers safe. We thank these officials for giving their time to hear our kids.” According to Attorney General Shapiro, Safe2Say Something has received over 28,000 safety tips across the Commonwealth since its inception during the 2018-2019 school year.
For more information about Safe2Say Something, visit https://www.safe2saypa.org.

At Mighty Writers forum, office holders and students share stories of gun violence while seeking action
"How many more people have to die before you step up?"
The notebook by Joseph Staruski September 30 — 8:30 pm, 2019
Local high school students expressed their fear, sadness and frustration at a meeting with state and local officials, where they shared gruesome stories of gun violence and the subsequent trauma felt by individuals and communities in Philadelphia.  The afterschool program Mighty Writers hosted the Anti-Violence forum on Friday at the Friends Center, because “almost every young person we work with has been affected by violence in an immediate way,” said Shanise Redmon, Mighty Writers program manager. “We believe in uplifting our student voices at all costs.” The purpose of Mighty Writers is to help students express themselves through writing to better understand and cope with circumstances in their lives. Redmon has felt the impact of violence personally. Her uncle was murdered when she was 11 years old, and her cousin was murdered when she was in high school.  Shamsa Belgrave, a student who attends Mighty Writers, asked, “Where in Philadelphia can I feel safe?” State Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell responded: “To be totally honest, I don’t know if there is a way to stay safe. That is just the reality that we live in. People get killed driving down the street. We can’t go to church, we can’t go to mosque, synagogue, we can’t go to school, the movies, we can’t go to a show. Gun violence is everywhere.”

‘You have a voice’: Young Philly writers take a stand against gun violence
WHYY By Robby Brod September 30, 2019
As Philadelphia’s homicide rate has soared to a seven-year high, one after-school program is giving Philly students a voice to speak out against gun violence, many of whom have been affected by the issue firsthand. Members of Mighty Writers have produced an original Anti-Violence booklet containing student writings about how violence has affected them and their communities. Nia Peterson, a student at Masterman School in Spring Garden, says it is important for young people to have a voice because gun violence isn’t unique to her generation. “The issue, it’s generational. It keeps coming back,” Peterson said. “So then, the people who are fighting this issue and the actual action of solving it, also needs to be generational.” The booklets were presented to Philadelphia city officials and state lawmakers, including area Reps. Donna Bullock and Movita Johnson-Harrell, who also participated in a panel during which Mighty Writers members questioned them about their efforts to curb gun violence in the city.

“Any school built before 1980 likely contains asbestos material. Once prized for its heat resistance, the fibrous mineral was woven into pipe insulation, ceilings materials, and floor tiles. An Inquirer investigation last year, “Toxic City: Sick Schools,” revealed that more than 80% of district buildings had some amount of damaged asbestos, including in many areas frequented by students.”
Asbestos shuts down Philly’s Ben Franklin/SLA school building
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham and Wendy Ruderman, Updated: September 30, 2019- 9:39 PM
Damaged asbestos discovered within the shared campus of Benjamin Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy will shut down the building for at least two days, officials said Monday night. In an email to staff and families, Danielle Floyd, the Philadelphia School District’s chief operating officer, said damaged asbestos was found both in the schools’ unoccupied boiler room and in SLA’s commons area, which remains under construction. Tests revealed airborne asbestos fibers in both areas. “With the safety of our students and staff as the highest priority, the building will be closed on Tuesday, Oct. 1, and Wednesday, Oct. 2,” Floyd wrote. During the shutdown, asbestos abatement will begin on the damaged areas in the SLA commons; construction on this area has stopped. The boiler room asbestos abatement project will wait until the occupied area is fixed. While the schools, which together educate about 1,000 students, are closed, further testing will be completed by the district and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) to “rule out the presence of airborne asbestos fibers in other areas of the building,” Floyd said.

Moon Area SD receives top prize in national grant program
Beaver County Times By Daveen Rae Kurutz Posted at 4:00 AM
The district received a $100,000 grant from Schneider Electric to create an aquaponics laboratory.
MOON TWP. — You can lead a fish to water, but Moon Area students can lead the fish to grow plants, thanks to a grant from a national energy company. The district was the top winner in Schneider Electric’s national “K-12 Bold Ideas” contest and received a $100,000 grant to implement an aquaponics program at the high school. Aquaponics refers to the convergence of raising aquatic animals with the process of hydroponics, or growing plants in water. The program would span the district’s science, technology, business, special education and engineering curriculum, said Barry Balaski, assistant to the superintendent and high school principal. District officials are excited about the project, which they hope to have operational by the end of the 2019-20 school year. “We are excited by the opportunity Schneider Electric is giving us to invest in our students’ future,” said Maureen Ungarean, district superintendent. “Creating dynamic, hands-on learning opportunities, like this aquaponics lab, will enhance our existing programs and help all of our students graduate from Moon Area High School ready for their college and career success.

In 2010, Senate Education Committee Chairman Jeff Piccola and Philly State Senator Anthony Williams introduced a voucher bill, SB1. I testified at their public hearing on that bill.
Reprise Sept 30, 2010: Timing of Pennsylvania Senate committee hearing on school choice questioned
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Updated Jan 06, 2019; Posted Sep 30, 2010
The Senate Education Committee's upcoming hearing on school choice happens to fall during the four-day Pennsylvania School Boards Association's School Leadership Conference in Hershey. Is that by accident or design? Lawrence Feinberg, a Delaware County school board member from Haverford Twp., questioned the committee Chairman Jeffrey Piccola’s desire to hear from both sides of the school choice issue considering that he is holding it at a time when many school board and school administrators will be tied up at their annual conference. “I cannot imagine that he would have scheduled the hearing during the Charter School Association’s annual conference,” Feinberg said. Piccola, R-Dauphin County, said the hearing’s timing has everything to do with his availability as well as that of committee members and is being held on the next to last day of the Senate’s scheduled legislative session for the year so that should assure maximum attendance by members. “To think I pay any attention whatsoever to the junket schedule of the PSBA or their attendant organizations is ridiculous,” Piccola said. Nonetheless, he added, “We have invited them to provide their predictably negative views on this issue and if they can’t find someone to take several hours away from their luxury-filled junket in Hershey, they may submit them in writing.”

This 2012 Philadelphia Magazine piece highlights some of the financial support that the Students First PAC (Yass, Dantchik, Greenberg) gave to Senator Williams
Reprise July 6, 2012: Will a PAC Pick Philly’s Next Mayor?
Students First is very interested in City Council.
Phillymag by PATRICK KERKSTRA· 7/6/2012, 7:30 a.m.
The pro-privatization Students First PAC has been a huge player in state politics from the moment it emerged in 2010 flush with cash, much of it from three local businessmen who together founded Susquehanna International Group, a global investment company. Students First gave State Sen. Anthony Williams—a leading Democratic proponent of school vouchers—a staggering $3.65 million for his failed gubernatorial run. And ever since, the PAC has showered smaller sums on state representatives and senators receptive to the organization’s goal of sweeping education reform.

High Court Case Tests Religious Schools' Use of Tax-Credit Scholarships
Education Week By Mark Walsh September 30, 2019
Kalispell, Mont. - A national debate that has simmered for 200 years—whether public funds may go to the coffers of religious schools—is set to take center stage at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that originated in this small Montana city over a state tax credit for donations to groups providing private school scholarships. The dispute, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (Case No. 18-1195), which will be argued in the term that starts Oct. 7, is potentially the most significant high court case for K-12 education in years. A ruling in favor of parents seeking to use the scholarships at religious schools could affect state constitutional provisions in at least 37 states that bar the inclusion of religious schools in educational choice programs such as vouchers, tax credits for scholarship donations, individual tax credits or deductions, and education savings accounts. The Montana program, passed by a Republican-majority legislature in 2015 and modeled on similar programs in 18 other states, is quite small, authorizing $150 annual tax credits for scholarship contributions. Big Sky Scholarships, the only scholarship organization to emerge so far, provides $500 scholarships each year to about 40 families.

Are School Vouchers A Path To Religious Freedom?
Curmuducation Blog By Peter Greene Monday, September 30, 2019
Let me make a confession-- I am not at all unsympathetic to many Libertarian beliefs. I am wary of government involvement in many arenas, and the bigger the government, the warier I am. Additionally, I know some Libertarians personally, and they are perfectly nice human beings. But when you start turning general Libby philosophical notions into specific policies, particularly in areas where my exercise of my liberty crashes into your exercise of your liberty-- well, that never seems to work out well-- or even consistent.  At a minimum, I find some of these conclusions puzzling. Let's take the new Libby talking point on school vouchers, as articulated in many venues by CATO Institute's Education Guy Neal McCluskey.  The argument that to have "equality under the law," religious folks need to be able to fully exercise their beliefs, including sending their children to a private religious school, and so taxpayers should fund vouchers for just that purpose.  This is a close cousin of the argument that this administration has put forth in a variety of forms, which boils down to this: if your personal faith says you should discriminate against certain classes of people, but federal law says you can't, then federal law should step aside for your personal beliefs.

Register now for PSBA’s Sleep & Student Performance Webcast OCT 31, 2019 • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Our students face many issues today, but who would have imagined sleep deprivation could be a significant issue? The Joint State Government Commission established an advisory committee to study the issues, benefits and options related to school districts instituting later start times in secondary schools. Register now to hear from the executive director of the Commission, Glenn Pasewicz, commission staff and David Hutchinson, PSBA’s appointee to the commission, on the results of their study and work.

According to state law, all school directors must complete training. How many hours are required if you are a new school director? What about if you’re re-elected? Get the answers to these and other related questions in this episode of PSBA’s #VideoEDition

Information about the education sessions for the 2019 @PasaSupts @PSBA School Leadership Conference are now live on our website! We hope to see you there! #PASLC2019

What: Informal discussion on cyber charter schools
When: 9 a.m. refreshments, 9:30 a.m. panel, Oct. 7
Where: Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, 800 E. Park Ave., State College
AAUW State College Branch invites you to attend an informational panel discussion to learn more about background and issues connected with cyber charter schools. Join us on Oct. 7, at the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800 E. Park Ave., State College (visitor center off Porter Road). Refreshments, 9 a.m.; panel discussion, 9:30 a.m.
The American Association of University Women State College Branch is part of a nationwide network of about 1,000 branches that are dedicated to advancing equity for women and girls.

Adolescent Health and School Start Times:  Science, Strategies, Tactics, & Logistics  Workshop Nov 13, Exton
Join school administrators and staff, including superintendents, transportation directors, principals, athletic directors, teachers, counselors, nurses, and school board members, parents, guardians, health professionals and other concerned community members for an interactive and solutions-oriented workshop on  Wednesday, November 13, 2019 9:30 am to 3:00 pm 
Clarion Hotel in Exton, PA
The science is clear. Many middle and high school days in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, start too early in the morning. The American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other major health and education leaders agree and have issued policy statements recommending that secondary schools start no earlier than 8:30 am to allow for sleep, health, and learning. Implementing these recommendations, however, can seem daunting.  Discussions will include the science of sleep and its connection to school start times, as well as proven strategies for successfully making change--how to generate optimum community support and work through implementation challenges such as bus routes, athletics, and more.   Register for the workshop here: 
https://ssl-workshop-pa.eventbrite.com Thanks to our generous sponsors, we are able to offer early bird registration for $25, which includes a box-lunch and coffee service. Seating is limited and early bird registration ends on Friday, September 13.
For more information visit the workshop website 
www.startschoollater.net/workshop---pa  or email contact@startschoollater.net

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!

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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