Monday, December 5, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 5: Arbitrator: With $37M Fund Balance, @PACyber Charter Must Give Teachers Jobs Back

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 3950 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, 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 and LinkedIn

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Keystone State Education Coalition
PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 5, 2016:
Arbitrator: With $37M Fund Balance, @PACyber Charter Must Give Teachers Jobs Back

If you are a school leader in southeastern PA, I look forward to seeing you at this workshop tomorrow evening at the Chester County Intermediate Unit
Southeastern PA Regional Basic Education Funding Formula Workshop
Tuesday, December 6, 2016 @ 6:00 pm: Chester County IU 24
(455 Boot Road, Downingtown, PA 19335)

“The arbitrator ruled the teachers were wrongly let go, given that Pa. Cyber is carrying a $37 million fund balance and pays millions more to as many as 10 companies for support services.”
Arbitrator: Pa. Cyber Charter School Must Give Teachers Jobs Back
December 2, 2016 5:22 PM By Andy Sheehan
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Citing declining enrollment, the Pa. Cyber Charter School laid off several teachers last year.  “We put in our time and having a little bit of decency, and not being obligated, but to treat people, by choice, like humans when you have the money to do it,” said teacher Andrea Cook.  Now, after 15 months an arbitrator agrees, ordering Pa. Cyber to re-instate seven furloughed teachers.  “They just want to get back in the classroom and teach these students,” said Lon Valentine, with the Teachers Association.

PlanCon: Problems with Pa. financing of school projects addressed
State Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161 of Swarthmore, hosted a panel discussion at Coebourn Elementary School in Brookhaven to discuss the need for an update to the PlanCon system, which allocates state monies to school construction projects. 
Delco Times  By Rick Kauffman, on Twitter POSTED: 12/01/16, 8:45 PM EST
BROOKHAVEN >> Legislators, local school district business managers and members of planning and construction commissions gathered at Coebourn Elementary School recently to discuss the antiquated ways the state reimburses school districts for building costs.  Unanimously, they agreed something must change.  State Reps. Leanne Krueger-Braneky, D-161 of Swarthmore, and Bill Adolph, R-165 of Springfield, sit on the PlanCon Advisory Commission, tasked with bringing the antiqued system of subsidizing the costs of new school construction as well as renovation on existing structures.  PlanCon, short for the Planning and Construction Workbook, is an 11-step procedure in which schools apply to the state to offset the costs of construction. However, the commonwealth has fallen behind on payments to many of the 500-plus projects in the state — an annual $300 million payment. The fiscal year budget for 2016-17 hinged on borrowing $5.4 billion to pay off the remained of the debt owed.

Did you catch our weekend posting?
PA Ed Policy Roundup Special Edition Dec 3, 2016
Cyber Charters: The Crack Cocaine of #SchoolChoice?
Keystone State Education Coalition December 3, 2016
What would persuade state lawmakers to bring greater accountability to the nation’s troubled cyber charter sector?”
Blogger Commentary (the opinions expressed herein are my own and are not necessarily representative of any organization I may be affiliated with):
In reading several news and commentary pieces covering the policy positions of the Trump Administration’s choice for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, my impression is this: That parental choice is paramount regardless of resulting academic performance or fiscal transparency, and that taxpayers who are footing the bill should have virtually no say, via their locally elected school boards, in how their tax dollars are spent.  I was particularly struck by the fact that 80% of charters in Michigan are run by for-profit organizations, in no small part due to lobbying and contributions by the DeVos family.  In Pennsylvania, for-profit charters have been a wellspring of fraud, waste and abuse of tax dollars.

Shhh! It’s pay-raise time
HARRISBURG — It’s one of the best-kept secrets in Harrisburg.
That’s the automatic legislative pay raise for 2017 that went into effect last Thursday.
The base pay of 253 state lawmakers will increase to $86,478 from $85,339, a 1.3 percent increase.  Fifteen legislative leaders will be paid between $98,609 and $134,998, based on a sliding scale reflecting the 1.3 percent hike.  To find this nugget of information, you have to look up the Pennsylvania Bulletin Issue of Saturday, Nov. 26, at  This is the weekly legal journal for state government.  Under the General Assembly, there is a link to Cost-of-Living Factor under the Public Official Compensation Law.

Gov. Wolf: Pennsylvanians can count on me to fight for them
Centre Daily Times Opinion BY GOV. TOM WOLF DECEMBER 4, 2016 2:39 AM
For years, Harrisburg has defended the status quo, and too often, special interests and the well-connected are put before Pennsylvania families and the middle class. For years, massive state budget cuts devastated communities — slashing funding to schools, job training programs, and fighting the drug addiction epidemic. All the while, big corporations and Harrisburg insiders did just fine.  I’ve traveled to every corner of Pennsylvania to listen to you and your neighbors about how state government can get back on track and make real progress on the issues facing our communities. And I have heard your voice loud and clear: We need to reform state government, make schools better for our kids, and create good-paying jobs that support our families.  Despite the opposing party’s huge majorities in the state House and state Senate, my administration has been able to begin reforming the way Harrisburg and state government works.  By not backing down when our kids’ futures are at stake, I’ve secured an additional $640 million in funding for education to restore the cuts made in 2011-12 and implemented a fair funding formula to make sure all schools are getting their fair share. We’re finally investing in our kids instead of trying to balance budgets on their backs.

Wolf evaluates second year: Progress on schools, jobs and reform
Times Leader By Bill O'Boyle - Click for more information on Bill @TLBillOBoyle 570-991-6118 DECEMBER 3RD, 2016 - 10:51 AM - UPDATED: DECEMBER 3RD, 2016 11:23 AM.
As Gov. Tom Wolf ends his second year in office, he has released his self-evaluation of his performance, listing “a slew of accomplishments” on his key priorities, including funding schools, creating middle-class jobs, fighting the opioid epidemic, reforming state government and working with the legislature to move Pennsylvania forward.  According to an emailed news release from the governor’s office: Fixing schools: Prior to taking office, Pennsylvania’s poorest schools endured the worst of state budget cuts, so Wolf prioritized restoring funding and enacting a fair funding formula. Working with the legislature, the governor has secured historic increases in his first two years: $465 million more for classrooms to ensure our children have the resources they need to learn, $74.6 million more for early childhood education and intervention, and nearly $100 million more for state-funded universities and community colleges. Wolf also announced the launch of It’s On Us PA – the first statewide campaign to address the crisis of sexual assault in schools and on college campuses.

“Under Pennsylvania law, the state can deem a school district distressed for a variety of reasons, including when employees go unpaid, the district defaults in payments on bonds or when a district accumulates a large deficit for successive years.  Depending on the level of distress, the state may appoint a receiver to help run the district, or a chief recovery officer to come up with a plan to improve finances. Duquesne City and Chester Upland now have receivers, and chief recovery officers work with districts in York and Harrisburg.  Districts in financial watch status include Aliquippa, Reading, Steelton-Highspire and Wilkinsburg Borough.  York entered financial recovery status in 2012, after projecting a deficit of $4.3 million and asking for an advance on its state funding. Harrisburg also entered into recovery in 2012 after asking for multiple advances of funding. Recovery officers may close schools, renegotiate contracts or eliminate positions to find solvency.”
Scranton School Board faces record deficit as budget deadline looms
Scranton School District officials need $17 million to balance their 2017 budget, and they still must find $29 million the district will owe at the end of the year.  The $29 million general fund shortfall, likely the largest in Pennsylvania, could eventually force the state to take control.
Districts with deficits much smaller than Scranton closed schools, eliminated arts and music programs and laid off hundreds of teachers. The state forced some of those districts into financial recovery, appointing officers to make tough financial decisions and come up with plans to restore solvency.  Scranton could be next.

Erie recovery plan goes to vote
Erie School District to ask for $28.8 million in state aid
GoErie By Ed Palattella December 5, 2016
The Erie School District on Monday night is expected to end a period of planning and start a period of waiting.  The district's financial survival depends on what happens in the end.
The School Board meets at 6 p.m. to vote on the district's $28.8 million state-mandated financial recovery plan, which the administration of Superintendent Jay Badams has been developing since September.  The state at that time gave the district six months to formulate the plan, but Badams has pushed for it to be done by early December. He said he wants the plan to get to Harrisburg before Gov. Tom Wolf assembles his proposed 2017-18 budget, which he will release in February.  "Even though it was a quick process, it was really comprehensive," said Brian Polito, the Erie School District's chief financial officer. "It really helped us identify our needs for the district and quantify them with a price tag."  The state's financial adviser, Public Financial Management Inc., of Philadelphia, has been working with the district to develop the financial recovery plan. The district agreed to come up with the plan in exchange for receiving $4 million in emergency state funding this fiscal year to stay solvent.

Readers: Startlingly rich Milton Hershey School should expand mission with $12B
Inquirer by Bob Fernandez, Staff Writer  @bobfernandez1 Updated: DECEMBER 2, 2016 10:06 AM EST
Tears came to the eyes of a retired Pennsylvania college president thinking about what could be done with Milton Hershey’s untapped billions of dollars.  A New Hope woman’s “blood boiled.”  A Center City real estate agent observed: “The money keeps going up in an upward funnel and doesn't seem to get out to do more public good.”  Online reactions and suggestions ran the gamut after a recent Inquirer and story on the surprisingly rich Milton Hershey School, which spent only 1.9 percent of its assets on its programs and overhead.

Editorial: Students’ success measured many ways
York Dispatch Editorial 6:57 p.m. EST December 4, 2016
Educators and students continue to navigate the world of standardized performance tests for subjects including math and English language arts.  Anecdotally speaking, most believe that we must ensure our children are leaving high school prepared for further training, whether in tech and vocational fields or in a four-year university.  We want our students to be avid, passionate learners who become workers who compete nationally and internationally. And the digital and technological advances over the past two decades have accelerated the necessity for students to be proficient in science, technology, engineering and math.  Truth is, many so-called heavy-lifting manufacturing jobs that have gone away have been replaced by high-tech machinery that now requires certified technicians and computer-science professionals to operate.  Today’s educators, such as the ones education reporter Alyssa Pressler spoke to for our Friday report on student and school performance measures, “As exams shift, students struggle,” are trying to navigate the rapidly shifting educational landscape.

Lancaster County school leaders hope Trump's education secretary pick would limit federal role
Lancaster Online by KARA NEWHOUSE | Staff Writer December 4, 2016
Not all Lancaster County public education leaders share Betsy DeVos’ view that more charter schools would solve the country’s school-education problems.  But they hope the Michigan billionaire, who President-elect Donald Trump nominated to be his Secretary of Education, would limit the federal government’s role in school education, as Trump promised during his popular campaign.  DeVos, who has not worked as a teacher or school administrator, is a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman.  Along with her husband — Dick DeVos, heir to the Amway fortune — she been Michigan’s biggest financial and political supporter of charter school expansion.  Under her leadership, Trump said, “We will break the bureaucracy that is holding our children back so that we can deliver world-class education and school choice to all families.”  Promoting school choice  DeVos leads the American Federation for Children, which, along with its state-affiliated PACs, contributed to 121 races in 12 states in the general election to support pro-school-choice candidates, according to its website.  School choice refers to a swath of policies that direct public money toward alternatives to traditional public schools under the argument that government schools are “failing.” Such policies include charter school expansion, vouchers to attend private schools and tax credits for private and parochial school scholarships.

Appeals court to hear testimony Monday in Lancaster school district refugee lawsuit
Lancaster Online by TIM STUHLDREHER | Staff Writer December 4, 2016
A federal appeals court will hear arguments Monday on whether the School District of Lancaster violated refugee students' rights by placing them in Phoenix Academy, a privately run alternative school.  Phoenix focuses on students with behavior problems and remedial education needs. A group of refugees aged 17 to 20 sued the district this summer, alleging the academy lacks the support they need to learn English and subjects them to “unchecked, persistent bullying in a severe, authoritarian environment.”  In August, following five days of testimony, federal district Judge Edward S. Smith issued a preliminary injunction ordering the district to enroll the students at its regular J.P. McCaskey High School.  The district appealed to the U.S. Third Circuit Court, arguing the injunction was “lightly and improperly granted.” The appeal was expedited, and on Monday, Dec. 5, the court will hear arguments beginning at 1:30 p.m.  District spokeswoman Kelly Burkholder said the appeal is being pursued in order to prevent “trial judges from substituting their judgment for that of the school board when placing children in educational settings.”

School librarians have a profound impact on students’ futures
Lancaster Online Opinion by CATHI FUHRMAN | Special to LNP Dec 3, 2016
Cathi Fuhrman, Ed.D., is  library department supervisor for the Hempfield School District. This article was originally presented at a hearing before the state House Education Committee.
As a school district library department supervisor, I would love to say that, after 17 years in this position, my district has the perfect school library program. The reality is that our idea of perfection evolves. The needs of our students are constantly changing. So, too, our district’s mission and vision must change to meet the future-ready needs of our students.
School librarians, when they have adequate staffing and resources, are the best equipped members of our teaching staff to provide students with collaborative learning experiences, programs and spaces. I make that assertion because throughout my career I have seen school librarians consistently play an intricate role in the life and development of those students.  School librarians interact with students and prepare them to be “future ready” from the time they enter the school building until they leave that building to go to the next grade level or to graduate. The school librarian is one of the few educators who moves with students through every grade level as each one develops into a reader, an explorer, a thinker, a tinkerer, a collaborator, a digital citizen and a learner.  School librarians select, integrate, organize and share the print and digital resources that can truly transform teaching and learning in a school district. They understand how to leverage the needs of the school community with the available resources.

“With so little clout, the delegation must band together as a metropolitan coalition whose votes can put key legislation over the top or kill it. They must create their own powerful caucus that looks past party, racial, and city lines. If they don't know how to become a voting bloc, they should crack open a history book.  … The metropolitan area doesn't need the same old weak-kneed politicians siloed in their parties. It requires strong, focused advocates able to execute a plan that protects and advances the region's interests.”
Inquirer Editorial: State lawmakers representing the Philadelphia region lack clout needed in Harrisburg
Inquirer Editorial Updated: DECEMBER 4, 2016 — 3:01 AM EST
The Philadelphia region is the state's most densely populated and economically productive, yet it is a lightweight in the statehouse because its delegation lacks unity, vision, and leadership.  That must change as the federal government shirks responsibility and dumps programs on the states. Those that can't make up the inevitable loss of federal aid will suffer the most.  Health care for the elderly, low- to moderate-wage workers, and the poor is about to come under attack by President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-dominated Congress, which has long tried to unspool the Affordable Care Act, as well as repackage Medicare and Medicaid to hide cuts. Cuts will reverberate throughout the state, but hit more people in this region.  That puts tremendous pressure on legislators from Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, and Chester Counties. But they cannot rise to the challenge unless they change their stature in Harrisburg. The leadership lineup for the legislature's next session proves they've got a lot of work ahead of them.

Councilman: Philly should reimburse teachers who pay for school supplies
It's a familiar tale in city classrooms — teachers spending hundreds or thousands out of pocket to provide basic supplies.  Philadelphia Councilman David Oh wants to change the narrative.  In a bill introduced last week, Oh proposed that the city create a fund for teachers who have paid for school supplies to apply for reimbursement.  The fund, as Oh sees it, would serve two purpose. The obvious first goal would be to throw financially strapped teachers a lifeline. Oh also said the fund could provide Council with a more accurate snapshot of what it takes to stock a city classroom.  "We in city government, we don't exactly know how much it costs to operate our schools because we don't have any way of tracking how much personal contribution is being made for necessary items," Oh said.  Oh modeled the reimbursement setup on the city's cultural fund, which grants money to arts organizations. The city puts just over $3 million in the cultural fund each year.  Oh envisions the city allotting $1 million for his proposed teacher reimbursement fund, but he said that estimate isn't based on any credible estimate. That's again, he said, because there's no dependable way of calculating what teachers spend.

Upper Merion district considers privatizing school bus service
School bus drivers in Upper Merion are hoping a recent fatal school bus crash in Tennessee will give school board members second thoughts about contracting with a private company for busing services.  Upper Merion Area School District board members are scheduled to vote on a proposed contract with First Student, North America's largest private busing company, Monday evening.  Another provider, Durham School Services, holds the contract with the Tennessee district where the crash occurred.  School bus driver Matthew Beasley is circulating a petition, highlighting the accident in Chattanooga and calling on the school board to keep its existing arrangement.  The Upper Merion district has been "very hush-hush about this and it's time the taxpayers and parents know what is going on," he wrote in petition explanation.  "The district has only offered the drivers two options so far. Either take a 25 percent pay cut  or take a 1-year bridge contract so they can sell the fleet and allow First Student to take over," he wrote. "This is after the drivers have already had a 5-year pay freeze and are now on year 6 and working without a contract."

The top 10 books most challenged in schools and libraries
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 3 at 1:27 PM 
Here we go again.  The Accomack County Public Schools in Virginia has temporarily pulled copies of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” from classrooms and libraries after a parent complained about racial slurs in both classics, and has formed a committee to recommend a permanent policy.  [Virginia school district pulls classic American novels after complaint about racial slursA parent told the school board in November that her biracial son at Nandua High School on Virginia’s Eastern Shore was disturbed by racial slurs he read in the books. She was quoted as saying:  “I’m not disputing this is great literature. But there is so much racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can’t get past that, and right now we are a nation divided as it is.”  There’s no arguing that the nation is currently witnessing division. But Peter Greene, a veteran teacher of English in a small town in Pennsylvania, noted on his blog, Curmudgucation, that while Huck Finn is indeed “a problematic text for many reasons,” books should not be banned.  American literature is a field full of land mines because American culture is a field full of land mines; as I tell my students every year, it is impossible to talk about American literature without talking about issues of race, gender and religion, and that means dealing with issues to which people are sensitive.  He also said there is a new reason not to ban books: to ensure that America’s history is not whitewashed. 

Ten things to Know about the Charter School Debate
The Progressive by Julian Vasquez Heilig December 2016
At separate conventions this summer, the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter Movement—the nation’s oldest and the youngest civil rights organizations—passed resolutions critical of charter schools and the privatization of education. We may have reached a watershed moment for market-based school choice.
Here are 10 things to consider about the market-based charter schools debate:
·         Where did market-based school choice come from? Writing in the 1960s, the libertarian economist Milton Friedman, followed by John Chubb and Terry Moe in the 1990s, argued for a profit-based education system where resources are controlled by private entities rather than by democratically elected governments. They recommended a system of public education built around parent-student choice, school competition, and school autonomy as a solution to what they saw as the problem of direct democratic control of public schools.

Fox News interviews Devos ally Kevin Chavous  - video runtime 6:02
What will education in America look like under Betsy DeVos?
Dec. 03, 2016 - 6:02 - Trump's pick for education secretary under fire from the left

2013 Interview with Betsy DeVos, the Reformer
For years now, she has been at the forefront of the educational-reform movement.
Interview from Spring 2013 issue of Philanthropy magazine
Betsy DeVos is a reformer. At Calvin College, the young Elisabeth Prince undertook her vocation, becoming involved with campus politics and remaining politically active ever since. For more than 30 years, Mrs. DeVos has led a variety of campaigns, party organizations, and political action committees, including six years as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. The reforming tendency runs in her family—in 2006 her husband, Dick DeVos, was the Republican nominee for Governor of Michigan.  In business as in politics, the DeVoses look for innovative solutions to social problems. Betsy serves as chairman of the Windquest Group, a privately held, multi-company operating group that invests in technology, manufacturing, and clean energy. She founded the firm with her husband in 1989. Dick DeVos is also the former president of Amway, and former president of the Orlando Magic NBA franchise.
Perhaps most importantly, Mrs. DeVos pursues reform through a variety of nonprofit roles. She is chairman of the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, and her charitable interests range widely. She is a member of several national and local boards, including the DeVos Institute for Arts Management at the Kennedy Center, Mars Hill Bible Church, Kids Hope USA, and the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She is perhaps best known as a leading advocate for the educational-choice movement. To that end, she serves as chairman of the American Federation for Children (AFC) and the Alliance for School Choice.  Philanthropy recently spoke with Mrs. DeVos about her work in educational reform generally, and school choice specifically.

“This deeply dysfunctional educational landscape — where failure is rewarded with opportunities for expansion and "choice" means the opposite for tens of thousands of children — is no accident. It was created by an ideological lobby that has zealously championed free-market education reform for decades, with little regard for the outcome.  And at the center of that lobby is Betsy DeVos, the west Michigan advocate whose family has contributed millions of dollars to the cause of school choice and unregulated charter expansion throughout Michigan.”
Betsy DeVos and the twilight of public education
Stephen Henderson , Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor11:36 p.m. EST December 3, 2016
In Detroit, parents of school-age children have plenty of choices, thanks to the nation's largest urban network of charter schools.  What remains in short supply is quality.
In Brightmoor, the only high school left is Detroit Community Schools, a charter boasting more than a decade of abysmal test scores and, until recently, a superintendent who earned $130,000 a year despite a dearth of educational experience or credentials.  On the west side, another charter school, Hope Academy, has been serving the community around Grand River and Livernois for 20 years. Its test scores have been among the lowest in the state throughout those two decades; in 2013 the school ranked in the first percentile, the absolute bottom for academic performance. Two years later, its charter was renewed.

WaPo Editorial: Trump’s choice for education secretary doesn’t fit into easy categories
Washington Post By Editorial Board December 2, 2016
NO MATTER who won the White House, it was clear that the federal role in education — so muscular during the two previous administrations — would be dialed back. Congress made sure of that when it replaced No Child Left Behind with a law that returns much authority to the states. But the federal government still has a responsibility, especially to students who are most vulnerable and in need. How vigorously President-electDonald Trump wants to take on that responsibility remains to be seen (his campaign was short on substance), and so his choice of education secretary becomes all the more critical.  After publicly toying with the possible appointment of former D.C. Schools c hancellor Michelle Rhee or charter-school leader Eva Moskowitz for head of the Education Department , Mr. Trump tapped Betsy DeVos, a Michigan philanthropist and school choice activist. Adversaries in the debate over education reform quickly weighed in with praise (a savior and visionary) and condemnation (the end of public education). In fact, Ms. DeVos cannot be easily categorized, which makes her an intriguing choice.
She is not a Trump loyalist, having supported Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and cast her vote as party delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich even after Mr. Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee. She traces her 30-year involvement in school reform to wanting other children to have access to the advantages and opportunities her children enjoyed. Hence her support for choice and competition, including by means of charter schools and private-school vouchers. Her commitment to empowering parents, thinking innovatively and taking on entrenched interests is admirable.

“The audio from the private gathering, though 15 years old, offers a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of DeVos’ personal views — views that may guide her decision-making as the nation’s top education official. DeVos has repeatedly said she wants policies that give families choices about their children’s education — the choice of public schools included — but her critics fear that her goal is to shift public funding from already beleaguered traditional public schools to private and religious schools.”
Trump's education pick says reform can 'advance God's Kingdom'
Politico By BENJAMIN WERMUND 12/02/16 06:42 PM EST
The billionaire philanthropist whom Donald Trump has tapped to lead the Education Department once compared her work in education reform to a biblical battleground where she wants to "advance God's Kingdom."  Trump’s pick, Betsy DeVos, a national leader of the school choice movement, has pursued that work in large part by spending millions to promote the use of taxpayer dollars on private and religious schools.  Her comments came during a 2001 meeting of “The Gathering,” an annual conference of some of the country’s wealthiest Christians. DeVos and her husband, Dick, were interviewed a year after voters rejected a Michigan ballot initiative to change the state’s constitution to allow public money to be spent on private and religious schools, which the DeVoses had backed.  In the interview, an audio recording, which was obtained by POLITICO, the couple is candid about how their Christian faith drives their efforts to reform American education.  School choice, they say, leads to “greater Kingdom gain.” The two also lament that public schools have “displaced” the Church as the center of communities, and they cite school choice as a way to reverse that troubling trend.

Betsy DeVos May Complete The Big Money Takeover Of Our Nation’s Schools by Jeff Bryant DECEMBER 1, 2016
Reactions to President-Elect Donald Trump’s announcement of Michigan philanthropist Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education have ranged from high praise, to wary acceptance, toimmediate condemnation.  What few have noticed is how much her nomination represents business as usual in national education policy-making.  This is not to normalize extremism in politics and government because DeVos certainly has extreme views on a range of issues, as explained below.  But what DeVos represents in a very great sense is how rich people’s grip on the nation’s public education system has reached a choking point.  No doubt, education policy led by Trump and DeVos will differ from the previous administration, but what’s staying the same is how wealthy private interests will strongly influence policies.  Grasping this essential truth matters a lot in the “nasty” politics of education today, where the real debate is not so much about charters and choice as it is about who is in control.

“But the focus is likely to be on reauthorizing the "D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program," the only federally funded school choice program in the country that allows low-income children to use federal funds to help pay for private schools in the district. More than 1,200 students used the scholarship in the 2015-16 school year, but the program can't provide a scholarship for every eligible child. Of the 2,349 students who applied for open scholarships, 234 were awarded by lottery, according to data from the program.”
Republicans gear up for school choice legislation under DeVos
Republican-backed legislation to give parents more control over their children's education is expected to get a boost in the next Congress if school choice advocate Betsy DeVos is confirmed as President-elect Donald Trump's education secretary.
Holland Sentinel By Emily WilkinsCQ-Roll Call Posted Dec 3, 2016 at 2:16 PM
WASHINGTON — Republican-backed legislation to give parents more control over their children's education is expected to get a boost in the next Congress if school choice advocate Betsy DeVos is confirmed as President-elect Donald Trump's education secretary.  Some proposals are expected to easily pass next year, such as the reauthorization of Washington, D.C.'s scholarship program, which allows students to use federal money to attend private and charter schools.  But plans to expand school choice nationwide have in the past run into strong opposition from Democrats and some Republicans who see it as a threat to public schools, and hesitation by Republicans to push a federal school policy onto local and school officials, a concept many decry.

Will “school choice on steroids” get a boost under a Trump administration?
A policy that Betsy DeVos, a voucher and charter advocate, might favor as education secretary
Hechinger Report by RACHEL MONAHAN November 28, 2016
The signature issue for Betsy DeVos, nominated to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education, is giving parents freedom of choice, either to choose charter schools or to use vouchers to buy an education at any school they like, public or private.  The logical extension of such policies – permitting students to take individual courses wherever they wish, by using online options – has already begun to take root in about a dozen states.  It’s called “Course Access” or “Course Choice.” Under such plans, the funding for a course taken by an individual student goes to the school or online company offering the course, often away from the student’s local district. In Nevada, in fact, parents can spend state education dollars any way they please — on private, public, online, part-time and full-time schools, on tutoring and extra books — through education savings accounts, which an advocate for them calls “the purest form of educational freedom.”
As they have emerged in some states, these programs have been assisted by conservative groups such as Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change and the Koch Industries-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It remains to be seen whether a Trump Administration will boost them further, using federal policy.  The growth of “Course Choice” initiatives in various states was chronicled in depth by The Hechinger Report last year, in this story from our archives.

Blogger note: Have an opinion about the appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education?  Call these three senators today.
1. Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Washington, D.C. Phone:(202) 224-4944
2. Senator Toomey's Offices
Washington, D.C. Phone: (202) 224-4254
Senator Casey is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
3. Senator Casey’s Offices
Washington, D.C. Phone: (202) 224-6324
Toll Free: (866) 802-2833

Pennsylvania Every Student Succeeds Act Public Tour
The Department of Education (PDE) is holding a series of public events to engage the public on important education topics in Pennsylvania.  The primary focus of these events will be the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law signed by President Barack Obama in late 2015. A senior leader from the department will provide background on the law, and discuss the ongoing
development of Pennsylvania’s State Plan for its implementation, which will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education in 2017.  Feedback is important to PDE; to provide the best avenue for public comment as well as provide an opportunity for those who cannot attend an event, members of the community are encouraged to review materials and offer comments at
Upcoming Public Events:
Thursday, December 8- Erie- 2:30 pm- Tom Ridge Environmental Center (room TBA)
Friday, December 9- Lock Haven- 1 pm- Lock Haven University
Time and specific locations for the following events, TBA
Friday, December 16- Philadelphia
Wednesday, January 4- Quakertown
Tuesday, January 10- Scranton

“The “Success Starts Here” campaign is a multi-year statewide effort to share the positive news about public education through advertising, web, social media, traditional media and word-of-mouth with the goal of raising understanding of the value of public education in Pennsylvania. The campaign is led by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, but relies on the support of a wide variety of participating organizations.”
Share Your School’s Story: Success Starts Here Needs You!
Success Starts Here needs you! Show your support by sharing stories, using social media and applying window clings to all of your school buildings. Below are some links to resources to help you help us.
Not sure where to start? This simple tool kit will provide to you everything you need to get involved in the campaign, including ways to work with the media, social media tips, a campaign article to post, downloadable campaign logos, and photo release forms.
We know you have great stories, and it’s easy to share them! Just use our simple form to send your success story to be featured on our website. Help spread the word about how Success Starts Here in today’s public schools.
All school entities have been sent a supply of window clings for school building entrances. Need more? No problem! Just complete the online order form and more will quickly be on their way to you.

Webinar: PSBA Board President’s Forum DEC 7, 2016 • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Join fellow board presidents and superintendents for the latest topics affecting public education in this new webinar series hosted by 2016 President Kathy Swope.  After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

PASBO is seeking eager leaders! Ready to serve on the board? Deadline for intent letter is 12/31.
PASBO members who desire to seek election as Director or Vice President should send a letter of intent with a current resume and picture to the Immediate Past President Wanda M. Erb, PRSBA, who is chair of the PASBO Nominations and Elections Committee.

Regional Basic Education Funding Formula Workshop
PASA, PSBA, PAIU, PARSS, the PA Principals Association and PASBO are traveling around the state to conduct regional workshops for school leaders to provide them with more information on the new basic education funding formula. Register below to attend one of 8 regional workshops to learn more about the new formula and what it means for your school district and for the state. Please note that capacity is limited at each location and registration is required. A webcast option is also available. These regional workshops are being supported by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016 @ 6:00 pm: Chester County IU 24
(455 Boot Road, Downingtown, PA 19335)

Public Forum: Who should run Philadelphia's schools? Thursday, Dec. 8, 6-7:30 p.m. Drexel University - Behrakis Grand Hall
Join us for a public forum featuring state, city and civic leaders sponsored by Philadelphia Media Network, the Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Drexel University's School of Education.
Creese Student Center 3210 Chestnut St. Philadelphia, PA 19104
It's been 15 years since the state took control of Philadelphia's schools and created the School Reform Commission. Since then, the SRC has been a polarizing presence in the city.
With the recent resignation of two members of the commission and the term of a third expiring soon, the future of the SRC and the issue of school governance is once again at the forefront of the civic dialogue. Is the SRC the only model to consider?  Should Philadelphia create an elected school board, or should the governing body be controlled by the Mayor? Are there models in other cities that could help us rethink our own school governance?   The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, Philadelphia Media Network -- owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and, and Drexel University's School of Education are hosting a public forum on this critical issue.
RSVP - Admission is free, but you must register in advance. Register now, and find out more about the panelists and other details at our registration page.

PSBA Virtual New School Director Training, Part 1
JAN 4, 2017 • 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM
The job of a school board director is challenging.  Changing laws, policies, and pressures from your community make serving on your school board demanding, yet rewarding at the same time.  Most school directors – even those with many years of experience – say that PSBA training is one of the most important and valuable things they have done in order to understand their roles and responsibilities.  If you are a new school board director and didn’t have the opportunity to attend one of PSBA’s live New School Director Training events, you can now attend via your computer, either by yourself from your home or office, or with a group of other school directors.
This is the same New School Director Training content we offer in a live classroom format, but adjusted for virtual training.
Part 1
·         Role and responsibilities of the school board director.
·         How to work with PSBA’s member services team.
·         Your role as an advocate for public education.
·         The school board’s role in policy.
(See also: Part 2, Jan. 11Part 3, Jan. 18)
Fee: $149 per person includes all three programs. Materials may be downloaded free, or $25 for materials to be mailed to your home (log in to the Members Area and purchase through the Store/Registration link).
Register online:

PSBA Third Annual Board Presidents Day
JAN 28, 2017 • 8:00 AM - 3:00 PM Nine Locations Statewide
Jan. 28, 2017 (Snow date: Feb. 11, 2017)
Calling all school board presidents, vice-presidents, and superintendents — Join us for the 3rd Annual PSBA Board Presidents Day held at nine convenient locations around the state.
This is a day of meeting fellow board members from your area and taking part in thought-provoking dialogue about the issues every board faces.  PSBA Past President Kathy Swope will start things off with an engaging presentation based on her years as board president at the Lewistown Area School District.  Bring your own scenarios to this event to gain perspective from other districts.  Cost: $109 per person – includes registration, lunch and materials. All-Access Package applies.  Register online by logging in to the Members Area (see the Store/Registration link to view open event registrations,

NSBA Advocacy Institute 2017 -- Jan. 29-31, Washington, D.C.
Join school directors around the country at the conference designed to give you the tools to advocate successfully on behalf of public education.
  • NSBA will help you develop a winning advocacy strategy to help you in Washington, D.C. and at home.
  • Attend timely and topical breakout sessions lead by NSBA’s knowledgeable staff and outside experts.
  • Expand your advocacy network by swapping best practices, challenges, and successes with other school board members from across the country.
This event is open to members of the Federal Relations Network. To find out how you can join, contact Learn more about the Advocacy Institute at

Register now for the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference 
Plan to join public education leaders for networking and learning at the 2017 NSBA Annual Conference, March 25-27 in Denver, CO. General registration is now open at A conference schedule, including pre-conference workshops, is available on the NSBA website.

SAVE THE DATE LWVPA Convention 2017 June 1-4, 2017
Join the League of Women Voters of PA for our 2017 Biennial Convention at the beautiful Inn at Pocono Manor!

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