Tuesday, December 3, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Dec. 3: On December 5th at noon - 20 school districts across the state, including Norristown, Pottstown & Upper Darby are holding rallies for charter law reform and better school funding.

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for Dec. 3, 2019

Upper Darby, Norristown and Pottstown school districts join 20 Pennsylvania urban schools in simultaneous statewide effort for charter reform and equitable funding
Upper Darby School District hosts a fair-funding press conference on December 5th Upper Darby, PA - As the anniversary of the beginning of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott sparked by Rosa Parks in 1955 nears, the Upper Darby School District joins PA League of Urban Schools in the statewide fight for fair funding of public schools for students across Pennsylvania. The PA League of Urban Schools will hold a simultaneous statewide press conference to call attention to the need for charter reform and funding inequities that are dramatically impacting urban schools and placing the heavy financial burden of funding public education on taxpayers.
On December 5th at noon - 20 school districts across the state, including Norristown, Pottstown and Upper Darby are holding rallies for charter law reform and better school funding.
Pick the district closest to you and go with other education advocates to support our schools!
  • Norristown – December 5th at Noon. Location: Norristown School District Administration Building, 401 North Whitehall Road, Norristown, PA 19403. For more information and to RSVP contact: Kathy DiMaio at 610-630-5012 or Kdimaio@nasd.k12.pa.us
  • Pottstown – December 5th at Noon. Location: Pottstown High School, Audion Room in the Main Lobby, 750 N. Washington Street, Pottstown, PA 19464. For more information and to RSVP contact: Diane Nash, 610-323-8200 or dnash@pottstownk12.org 
  • Upper Darby – December 5th at Noon. Location: Upper Darby High School, Board Room, 601 N. Lansdowne Ave, Drexel Hill, PA 19026. For more information and to RSVP contact: Aaronda Q. Beauford at (610) 789-7200, ext. 3232 or abeauford@upperdarbysd.org

Charter Schools; Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

Since 1970, voters have rejected the creation or expansion of private school vouchers every time they have been proposed.
National Coalition for Public Education Website

According to the PA Association of School Administrators, the speaker is pulling GOP representatives in for some arm-twisting. The bill is not dead yet. If you want to stop the push of vouchers into Pennsylvania, keep calling and emailing your favorite legislator.”
PA: Voucher Bill HB1800 Still A Threat
Curmuducation Blog by Peter Greene Monday, December 2, 2019
Pennsylvania House Speaker and Betsy DeVos fanboy Mike Turzai has suffered a momentary setback in his drive to use Harrisburg schools as a launching pad for a PA voucher program, but he reportedly has not given up. HB 1800 targets the ailing school district at a point where it has only recently been placed in financial receivership under the control of a state-appointed overseer. One might think that the legislature might take a minute or two to see if their Plan A is going to work, but Turzai smells an opportunity, and he's willing to be the guy who runs into the operating room five minutes after the start of a critical operation and hollers, "She's gonna die anyway-- let me have some of those organs." The PA Auditor General has weighed in, pointing out that the bill would "bleed out" the district. This is particularly true because the bill would actually award vouchers to students who live in the Harrisburg district, but have never actually attended public school. For those families, the vouchers would be a tasty little windfall. For the district, the vouchers would mean that the district would lose a mountain of money before their enrollment dropped by a single student.

Vouchers: House bill 1800 would save Harrisburg’s children and their schools | Opinion
Penn Live Opinion By Rep. Mike Turzai Posted Dec 02, 2019
Rep. Mike Turzai is speaker of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives.
Every child deserves access to a quality education that is right for his or her individual gifts and needs. When school districts cannot provide an adequate education, many families move away; others scrape and save to afford a private school. Those who can afford neither suffer most, watching their children fail to reach their full potential at a poorly performing school. The community suffers, too, and struggles to attract new residents or to maintain a sufficient tax base. All of this has been occurring in our capital city, Harrisburg, for many years, despite sustained efforts at reform. From 2000 through 2010, the state gave Harrisburg’s Mayor control of the district through the Education Empowerment Act. In 2012, the state placed the district in financial recovery status. This past June, the district entered state receivership. Still, Harrisburg remains one of the worst-performing and most poorly managed schools in Pennsylvania. Just 7.1 percent of students tested proficient or advanced in algebra, 9.3 percent in biology, and 13.6 percent in English, down from 18.1 percent 10.9 percent, and 23 percent a few years ago. Only 65 percent of students graduate in four years, the fourth-lowest rate in the state and far below Pennsylvania’s average of 87 percent. While the appointment of the receiver has encouraged optimism among some, everyone involved agrees that recovery will be a very lengthy process. Harrisburg’s children and families don’t have time to wait for a better education.

Ohio: Increase in private school tuition vouchers is costing districts - and soon you
By Patrick O'Donnell, The Plain Dealer Cleveland.com Updated 6:07 AM; December 2, 2019
CLEVELAND, Ohio – A year ago, no students in the Parma school district used Ohio’s main tuition voucher program to attend private schools. This year, thanks to changes in state law, 359 students are using vouchers. For families paying tuition to send their kids to Parma-area private Catholic schools like Padua or Holy Name, a $6,000 tax-funded voucher toward tuition is a huge help. For the district, it’s a $2.1 million hit to the budget that impacts teachers, books and supplies for its schools. Parma isn’t alone in facing new or increased costs to help students attend private schools. Changes to state law, have more than tripled the number of districts declared part of the voucher program, from 40 in 2018-19 to 139 this school year. Next year, the program meant to help students escape being stuck in failing schools will grow further, to more than 400 districts, which represents more than two-thirds of the districts in the state. Even Solon, always at the top of state test score rankings, has a school considered failing and whose students are now eligible for vouchers. Next year, add a school in each of the high-scoring Brecksville-Broadview Heights and Mayfield districts.

After 50 years in education, Parkland school board member Bob Bold retires
After half a century in education, Robert Bold retired this month from the unpaid post he held for the last 20 years on the Parkland School Board. His parting advice to the district’s school officials was a paraphrase of a quote from the late British prime minister and celebrated orator Winston Churchill. “A good presentation is like a woman’s skirt,” Bold said at the board meeting. “Long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to keep interest.” When you’re 84 and have dedicated your life to a good cause, you can get away with lines like that. Bold began his career in education in 1967 as a teacher at what was then Harrison-Morton Junior High in Allentown and later moved to Allen High School, where he taught industrial arts — or what was then called “shop” — for most of his career. He retired in 1997, did some substitute teaching and joined the Parkland School Board in 1999. Over the last two decades, Bold served as board president five times and vice president three times and as president of the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit since 2009. He is credited with advocating for the creation of the Parkland Education Foundation, which since 2011 has raised more than $1 million for special projects and needs in the district’s schools. In 2018, the Parkland teachers union gave him its first Friend of Education Award for his advocacy for children, education and educators.

PSEA Flyer November 22, 2019
This rally will occur on the eve of an important court hearing on the future of the district’s public schools. The Chester Community Charter School has filed a petition with the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas asking a judge to convert all Chester Upland public schools for prekindergarten through eighth-grade students to charter schools under the district’s Financial Recovery Plan.

Blogger note: Maurice G. Eldridge’s LinkedIn profile lists him as Vide President at Swarthmore College and Vice Chair, The Chester Fund for Education and the Arts
Letter to the Editor: Cooperation urged among schools
Delco Times Letter by Maurice G. Eldridge Dec 1, 2019
I always find myself moved to respond to an article that paints charter schools with one brush as if there were no differences between them. What these schools have in common with each other and the regular public schools is their common status as public schools and, as importantly, their service to resident children of the same community and school district. They are not taking money out of the district. On the other hand, in some cases, they are raising private money to allow them to enrich the student experience. For example, creating an intensive individualized program to bring the youngest children on grade level in reading and mathematics. If teaching some arts disciplines not supported by the district money is provided to support that. All of this has the potential to model good practices to the regular schools. If there were open and receptive relationships between schools there could even be collaboration in areas like teacher development and enrichment, curricular enhancements and other effective innovations. We need to find a way to work together on behalf of all of the children. Charters should be able to share openly with their sister schools in the district the successes that freedom to experiment have produced. I repeat, as communities, nations and individuals, we need to cross over divides and learn and grow together and model that for our children, in and out of school.

Philly’s new school police chief pledges less law-and-order, more mentoring of students
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Updated: December 2, 2019- 9:15 AM
Kevin Bethel built a 30-year career locking people up, rising to become a respected deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department. But that’s not who he is anymore. Last month, Philadelphia School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. named him special adviser for school safety — essentially the chief of the 300-officer-plus school police force.  “You don’t get your respect from barking and screaming and hollering and cuffing,” said Bethel, who has attracted national attention for his work with young people. “We’re going to encourage mentoring and engaging with young people, and giving these officers the space to be able to work outside what has been the traditional boundary of, ‘You’re here as the enforcer, and that’s all.'" Under Bethel, the school police force — whose officers do not carry guns — will be given tools to understand adolescent development, trauma, and de-escalation, he said. Officers will stay away from code-of-conduct issues and focus on a safe school environment, and on having positive interactions with students.

New Pa. law restores school police arrest powers
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com Posted Dec 02, 2019
School police officers in Pennsylvania have had their powers to make arrests restored after being inadvertently taken away earlier this year. In the recent flurry of bills that Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law was one that addresses a couple of issues related to school safety officers. Aside from returning arrest powers to school police officers, it extends the deadline for certain school police, resource and unarmed school security officers to complete required training to the start of the next school year rather than the middle of this school year. It also sets the deadline for armed school security officers to obtain their training by Feb. 28 unless that creates a hardship. In that case, the school’s governing body can extend the deadline up to the start of the 2020-21 school year. Returning arrest powers to law enforcement officers employed by a public or private school prior to Sept. 2 and who have court approval was important to the 80 school districts across the state that have their own district police force.

Residents: Pittsburgh city schools should spend more on counseling, less on security
People who spoke at a Pittsburgh Public Schools budget hearing Monday seemed more concerned about the district’s proposed funding for counseling and mental health services than the proposed 2.3% tax increase. About 15 people addressed district officials, including many who said they represented advocacy groups and urged reallocation of funding away from security and toward social services.  The 2020 budget would fund 92 employees for security, about 45 counselors and about 40 social workers. Advocates recommended that the district increase its in-school mental health providers by lowering the number of security personnel.  “If we actually had that many service providers, instead of security guards and police officers, I think our students would be better served,” said Angel Gober, the Western Pennsylvania director of the social justice group OnePA, and a resident of the North Side.

How this mom turned near-tragedy into a win for Philly’s most vulnerable kids
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent December 2, 2019
Kathleen Connolly’s autistic daughter Olivia fled her elementary school without supervision in 2014. Olivia was found safe that day, but her mother used the potential tragedy to fight for systemic changes to special-ed in Philadelphia
Kathleen Connolly tries not to think about March 7, 2014. But when she does, her mind drifts to Torresdale Avenue. “I think about what happened there — what happened at Torresdale,” she said in a recent interview. “Only the drivers and Livvy know.” Connolly’s daughter, Olivia, was eight years old on that chilly March afternoon. Some time around 1:30 p.m., Olivia — who has a form of autism that severely limits her ability to communicate or reason — bolted out the doors of Lawton Elementary. The special education aide assigned to watch Olivia was only scheduled to work a half-day on March 7. It’s still unclear why. Connolly and her lawyers believe the School District of Philadelphia had been slashing hours for aides to save money during lean budget years. After escaping, Olivia ran toward Torresdale Avenue, a busy thoroughfare about two blocks from her school in the Wissinoming section of Northeast Philadelphia. Olivia, now 13, requires near-constant supervision. She would never cross a street like Torresdale Avenue alone. And yet on the afternoon of March 7, Olivia did.

Suburban Pa. school districts see green in propane buses
WHYY By Dana Bate December 3, 2019
The first thing you notice when riding one of North Penn School District’s new propane buses is how quiet it is. There’s no rhythmic idling, no percussive acceleration — just a low hum from the propane-powered engine. “Our drivers don’t even need their intercom systems anymore because it’s so quiet on the bus,” said Nicholas Kraynak, North Penn’s transportation coordinator. Children come to school calmer, he said, because they don’t have to shout to their friends on the bus, and drivers have said the rides to and from school are more pleasant. But the climate inside the bus isn’t what drove Kraynak to pursue propane buses for the district. It was the climate outside — and the financial climate — that prompted him to make the switch. Propane costs half the price of diesel, the current fuel of choice for most school bus fleets, and has lower nitrogen oxides, or NOx, emissions and greenhouse-gas emissions than diesel.

With no deal in place for Bangor teachers, strike remains ‘a possibility’
By Rudy Miller | For lehighvalleylive.com Updated Nov 28, 2019;Posted Nov 26, 2019
Bangor Area School District’s teachers and school board representatives came away from Monday’s sit-down without any tentative contract in place. The teachers presented a proposal and now the school board needs to review it prior to the next scheduled meeting Dec. 5, according to Bangor Area Education Association President Ed Ziegenfuss. Asked whether a strike is likely, Ziegenfuss said, “It’s a possibility but we are hopeful the board will accept our proposal or counter with something reasonable. If that doesn’t happen then a strike is realistic.” School board President Mike Goffredo said the full board will review the counter proposal, then decide what to do next. The teachers have been working without a contract since June. A fact finder was brought in to try to negotiate a deal, but the school board rejected that compromise in October.

‘It Just Isn’t Working’: Test Scores Cast Doubt on U.S. Education Reform
An international exam shows that American 15-year-olds are stagnant in reading and math even though the country has spent billions to close gaps with the rest of the world.
New York Times By Dana Goldstein Dec. 3, 2019, 3:00 a.m. ET
The performance of American teenagers in reading and math has been stagnant since 2000, according to the latest results of a rigorous international exam, despite a decades-long effort to raise standards and help students compete with peers across the globe. And the achievement gap in reading between high and low performers is widening. Although the top quarter of American students have improved their performance on the exam since 2012, the bottom 10th percentile lost ground, according to an analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal agency. The disappointing results from the exam, the Program for International Student Assessment, were announced on Tuesday and follow those from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, an American test that recently showed that two-thirds of children were not proficient readers. Over all, American 15-year-olds who took the PISA test scored slightly above students from peer nations in reading but below the middle of the pack in math.

Pittsburgh will host leading Democratic presidential candidates for education forum
Local teachers, parents and students will have an opportunity next week to grill at least seven Democratic presidential candidates on education issues during a forum in Pittsburgh. The “Public Education Forum 2020” will be held Dec. 14 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. Candidates confirmed to appear include Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer, according to Suzanne South of One Pennsylvania. Two other candidates may also attend. “I’m extremely proud of our union membership, community leaders, education activists and public schools all coming together to be a part of this forum,” Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, said in a news release. “In Pittsburgh, we try to solve tough education challenges with innovative solutions in a pragmatic, collaborative manner. We won’t shy away from asking tough, fair, probing questions of these candidates.” The day-long event will be moderated by MSNBC journalists. Questions will come from representatives from an 11-member coalition that includes the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers and One Pennsylvania.

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Gun-Rights Case That Resonates in Education Circles
Education Week School law Blog By Mark Walsh on December 2, 2019 2:33 PM
Washington - In a gun-rights case being watched closely in education circles, some conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court seemed inclined on Monday to expand the scope of the Second Amendment to protect gun rights outside the home, but it was unclear whether there was a majority ready to go that far. At least two members of the court—Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch—suggested they were likely to rule on the merits of the case even though New York City had eliminated a challenged restriction on transporting firearms outside the city. More-liberal members of the court suggested the case before them was moot because the city had changed its regulation. Meanwhile, the court's newest member, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, whose views on the Second Amendment drew considerable attention during his confirmation hearings last year, said nothing during the hourlong argument in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York (Case No. 18-280).

Governor Baker Signs Ambitious Education Law That Will Send Billions Of Dollars To Mass. Public Schools
WBUR by Max Larkin November 26, 2019 Updated Nov 26, 2019 3:01 PM
With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Charlie Baker made it official: Massachusetts will send billions more in aid to its public schools over the course of the next seven years. On Tuesday afternoon, Baker signed the Student Opportunities Act, the first major overhaul of school funding in this state since 1993. The law is projected to add about $1.5 billion in annual state aid to schools by 2026, when it is fully phased in. The increase will reach most of the state, but it will be particularly targeted at urban districts with high concentrations of low-income students and English learners, and where many district funds now flow to charter schools. At a signing ceremony at The English High School in Jamaica Plain, Baker praised lawmakers and advocates from very different backgrounds for working together on the bill: "that every kid in the commonwealth ... regardless of where they live or where they go to school, has the opportunity to get the education they need to be great."

Charlie Dent says his former GOP colleagues in Congress are ‘disgusted and exhausted’ by Trump
What are his Republican former colleagues on Capitol Hill telling ex-U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent these days about the president as Congress speeds toward a likely impeachment vote? Asked in a recent CNN interview about the GOP response to the allegations against the president, Dent said he believes House Republicans are standing with the president publicly due to political pressures from their base. Privately, Dent says, he hears a much different response. “There’s no question, having spoken to many of them privately, they’re absolutely disgusted and exhausted by the president’s behavior,” Dent said. “They resent being put in this position all the time.” He added that those lawmakers can be more concerned about “their election or their legacies, and I would argue to many of them, your legacy is more important than the next election.” Dent, who retired from Congress in 2018 after representing the Lehigh Valley for nearly 14 years, has been a frequent critic of Trump. He said last month that early testimony in the impeachment probe had “connected many dots” outlining a quid pro quo involving the president.

The Full 2019 PA Society List of Events
PoliticsPA Written by John Cole, Managing Editor December 2nd, 2019
Before we say good-bye to 2019, it’s time to say hello to Pennsylvania Society! 
Here’s a rundown of the events at the weekend-long marathon of dinners and cocktails in New York City. The Waldorf Astoria is still undergoing renovations, so the main action will be at the Midtown Hilton. This year’s honoree is University of Pennsylvania President Dr. Amy Gutmann.
Unfortunately, the PoliticsPA Governor Mifflin Society Reception will not be held this year while renovations proceed. The chatter this weekend is expected to revolve around the recent elections last month, while also looking forward to the abundant crucial races in the state in 2020. 
Here is the list of events for the weekend. All events should be considered by invitation only unless otherwise noted. If I missed any, please email me at John@PoliticsPA.com.

The award winning documentary Backpack Full of Cash that explores the siphoning of funds from traditional public schools by charters and vouchers will be shown in three locations in the Philadelphia suburbs in the upcoming weeks.
The film is narrated by Matt Damon, and some of the footage was shot in Philadelphia. 
Members of the public who are interested in becoming better informed about some of the challenges to public education posed by privatization are invited to attend.
At all locations, the film will start promptly at 7 pm, so it is suggested that members of the audience arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the start of the screening.   
Backpack Full of Cash hosted by State Senator Maria Collett, and State Representatives Liz Hanbidge and Steve Malagari
Monday, December 2, 2019
Wissahickon Valley Public Library, Blue Bell 650 Skippack Pike Blue Bell, PA 19422
Backpack Full of Cash hosted by Montgomery County Democracy for America (Montco DFA)
Thursday, December 5, 2019
Jenkintown Library (Park and enter at rear.)
460 York Road (across from IHOP) Jenkintown, PA 19046
Backpack Full of Cash hosted by State Representatives Mary Jo Daley, Tim Briggs, and Matt Bradford
Monday, January 6, 2020
Ludington Library 5 S. Bryn Mawr Avenue Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

A Networking and Supportive Event for K-12 Educators of Color (teachers, school counselors, and administrators)! Thursday, December 12, 7:00-8:30 pm Villanova University, Dougherty Hall, West Lounge
You are cordially invited to this gathering, with the goal of networking and lending support and sustenance to our K-12 Educators of Color and their allies. This is your chance to make requests, share resources, and build up our community. Please feel free to bring a school counselor, teacher, or administrator friend! Light refreshments provided.
Where: Villanova University, Dougherty Hall, West Lounge (first floor, back of building)
Directions, campus and parking map found here
Parking: Free parking in lot L2. Turn on St. Thomas Way, off of Lancaster Avenue. You will need to print a parking pass that will be emailed shortly before the event to all who register.
Questions? Contact an event organizer: Dr. Krista Malott (krista.malott@villanova.edu), Dr. Jerusha Conner (Jerusha.conner@villanova.edu), Department of Education & Counseling, and Dr. Anthony Stevenson, Administrator, Radnor School District (Anthony.Stevenson@rtsd.org)

PSBA Alumni Forum: Leaving school board service?
Continue your connection and commitment to public education by joining PSBA Alumni Forum. Benefits of the complimentary membership includes:
  • electronic access to PSBA Bulletin
  • legislative information via email
  • Daily EDition e-newsletter
  • Special access to one dedicated annual briefing
Register today online. Contact Crista Degregorio at Crista.Degregorio@psba.org with questions.

Save the Date: PSBA/PASA/PAIU Advocacy Day at the Capitol-- March 23, 2020
PSBA Advocacy Day 2020 MAR 23, 2020 • 8:00 AM - 2:30 PM
Join us in Harrisburg to support public education!
All school leaders are invited to attend Advocacy Day at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) are partnering together to strengthen our advocacy impact. The day will center around meetings with legislators to discuss critical issues affecting public education.
Registration: As a membership benefit, there is no cost to register. Your legislator appointments will be coordinated with the completion of your registration. The day will begin with a continental breakfast and issue briefing prior to the legislator visits. Registrants will receive talking points, materials and leave-behinds to use with their meetings. Staff will be stationed at a table in the Main Rotunda during the day to answer questions and provide assistance.
Sign up today at myPSBA.org.

PSBA New and Advanced School Director Training in Dec & Jan
Do you want high-impact, engaging training that newly elected and reseated school directors can attend to be certified in new and advanced required training? PSBA has been supporting new school directors for more than 50 years by enlisting statewide experts in school law, finance and governance to deliver a one-day foundational training. This year, we are adding a parallel track of sessions for those who need advanced school director training to meet their compliance requirements. These sessions will be delivered by the same experts but with advanced content. Look for a compact evening training or a longer Saturday session at a location near you. All sites will include one hour of trauma-informed training required by Act 18 of 2019. Weekend sites will include an extra hour for a legislative update from PSBA’s government affairs team.
New School Director Training
Week Nights: Registration opens 3:00 p.m., program starts 3:30 p.m. -9:00 p.m., dinner with break included
Saturdays: Registration opens at 8:00 a.m., program starts at 9:00 a.m. -3:30 p.m., lunch with break included
Advanced School Director Training
Week Nights: Registration with dinner provided opens at 4:30 p.m., program starts 5:30 p.m. -9:00 p.m.
Saturdays: Registration opens at 10:00 a.m., program starts at 11:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m., lunch with break included
Locations and dates

Congress, Courts, and a National Election: 50 Million Children’s Futures Are at Stake. Be their champion at the 2020 Advocacy Institute.
NSBA Advocacy Institute Feb. 2-4, 2020 Marriot Marquis, Washington, D.C.
Join school leaders from across the country on Capitol Hill, Feb. 2-4, 2020 to influence the legislative agenda & shape decisions that impact public schools. Check out the schedule & more at https://nsba.org/Events/Advocacy-Institute

Register now for Network for Public Education Action National Conference in Philadelphia March 28-29, 2020
Registration, hotel information, keynote speakers and panels:

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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