Wednesday, December 7, 2016

PA Ed Policy Roundup Dec 7: Sentencing for PA Cyber Charter founder Trombetta on $8 Million Tax Conspiracy postponed until March

Daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4000 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 7, 2016
Sentencing for PA Cyber Charter founder Trombetta on $8 Million Tax Conspiracy postponed until March

Save more, live better, dismantle democratically governed American public schools.  Where are you shopping this XMAS?
From 2009 thru 2015 the .@WaltonFamilyFdn has spent over $1 billion on charter schools

AP WAS THERE: 75 years ago, the AP reported on Pearl Harbor
Delco Times By The Associated Press POSTED: 12/07/16, 5:31 AM EST
HONOLULU >> On Dec. 7, 1941, as Japanese bombs rained down on Pearl Harbor, The Associated Press’ chief of bureau in Honolulu, Eugene Burns, was unable to get out the urgent news of the historic attack that would draw the U.S. into World War II. The military had already taken control of all communication lines, so Burns was left without a line to the outside world. In Washington, AP editor William Peacock and staff got word of the attack from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s press secretary. In the language and style used by journalists of his era, including the use of a disparaging word to describe the Japanese that was in common use, Peacock dictated the details of the announcement. Seventy-five years after their original publication, the AP is making the dispatches available to its subscribers.

New school rating system to reduce emphasis on standardized tests
Michelle Merlin Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call December 6, 2016
If Liberty High School in Bethlehem were a student, its scores over the last several years would show a remarkable upward trajectory.  The state's School Performance Profile, which gives schools a score between 0 to 100 based primarily on student performance on state tests administered once a year, gave Liberty a score of 57.1 in the 2013-14 school year, a 62.4 score the next and a 74.9 in the 2015-16 year.  While Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy is happy the diverse school appears to have improved so much, he's skeptical about that number and the overall idea of the SPP, which takes other factors such as graduation rates into account but mostly relies on test scores to gauge success.  "Do we really think, in a school of 3,000 students, if we're really measuring the performance of the school, an organization that large and complex could have such a huge score swing up or down in a single year?" he asked. "No."  Skepticism from educators such as Roy helped spur the state Department of Education on Monday to announce plans to replace the SPP with Future Ready PA Index, a rating system that would include measures beyond test scores.

Pa. school scoring system could change
Staff report, York Daily Record 2:22 p.m. EST December 5, 2016
The state education department's proposal for a new school performance measurement system would add more weight to classroom factors beyond standardized test scores, according to a news release.  The "Future Ready PA Index" would replace the School Performance Profile (SPP), which gives schools a score of 0-100. The SPP scores are based on a variety of factors but rely heavily on how schools perform on the PSSA and Keystone exams.  The proposed Future Ready system would put more weight on measures that look at students' academic growth during the year and would measure English language acquisition among students whose native language is different, a news release says.  The system would offer incentives for career awareness instruction starting at the elementary level and add weight for offering more advanced courses such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual enrollment classes with colleges. The proposed system would give extra credit to schools where students graduate with an industry-recognized credential, the release says.

What will it take for Pa. to really regulate cyber-charter schools?: Lawrence A. Feinberg
PennLive Op-Ed By Lawrence A. Feinberg on December 06, 2016 at 11:00 AM, updated  December 06, 2016 at 11:02 AM
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:
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 eighty percent 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.  What does accountability look like? Tomorrow evening, I will begin my eighteenth year as a member of a locally elected, volunteer school board.  About twice a month, at public board meetings that have been advertised in advance, we review and vote upon pending disbursements of our neighbors' tax dollars. The meeting agendas are public and posted in advance.  Members of the public have an opportunity to speak on any topic of concern. Local press provides coverage. We review and vote on check registers, spending our neighbors' tax dollars.  Each year, members of the school board complete and submit detailed financial disclosure forms to the state. Our meetings are televised and stream on our website. They are run in strict accordance with the state's sunshine laws.

Cyber charter sector needs accountability
Centre Daily Times BY LAWRENCE A. FEINBERG DECEMBER 7, 2016 3:23 AM
What would persuade state lawmakers to bring greater accountability to the nation’s troubled cyber charter sector?
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 percent 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.

Blogger comment: It is a lot harder to buy a $300K airplane, a Florida condo and houses for your girlfriend and mother with public tax dollars when there are nine pairs of elected eyes watching the books.

“Mr. Trombetta, 61, became a federal felon in August when he pleaded guilty to tax conspiracy related to siphoning $8 million from the cyber school to a series of other entities he created. He faces up to five years in federal prison.  Mr. Prence, who had been set to go to trial with Mr. Trombetta, pleaded guilty in September to helping Mr. Trombetta shield the stolen money from the IRS.”
Sentencing for PA Cyber Charter founder Trombetta postponed until March
By Torsten Ove / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette December 6, 2016 1:32 PM
Sentencing for Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School founder Nick Trombetta, originally set for two weeks from today, has been pushed back until next year.  Sentencing for his accountant, Neal Prence, has also been delayed.  On agreement by his lawyers and the U.S. attorney's office, Mr. Trombetta's sentencing before U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti will now be March 3.  Mr. Prence, originally set to be sentenced Jan. 6, will now face the judge Feb. 17.  The Trombetta sentencing promises to be contentious and could last several days. Government lawyers and his attorneys said they needed more time to prepare to make the sentencing hearing more streamlined and to work out restitution issues.

PA Charters hopeful Trump's presidency will benefit them
Inquirer by Martha Woodall, STAFF WRITER DATELINE Harrisburg-- Updated: DECEMBER 6, 2016 — 8:01 PM EST
A senior official from a national charter school group told charter representatives Tuesday all signs indicate that President-elect Trump will be good for their schools, but he said it's not clear what they should expect from the new administration.  Ron Rice, senior director of government relations at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in Washington, agreed that Trump's nomination of school-choice champion Betsy DeVos to be education secretary and his statement during the campaign that he wanted to provide $20 billion in federal money for school choice were encouraging but added:  "We don't really know what that means. We don't really know where that money will come from."  Speaking at a seminar organized by the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools, Rice told charter school leaders and advocates that the national coalition is preparing a transition memo for Trump's team outlining its priorities.

“The school board hired DBM a year ago to help the district crack down on residency-rule violators after the Child Accounting Office began to suspect charter schools were billing the district for students who weren't living there.  But why would someone claim to be from Bethlehem to gain admission to a charter school?  "Allentown has some charter agreements that have enrollment caps from within Allentown, and so they try to get another address to enroll in the charter school they want to go to," Giordano said.  …But district officials also complained that the fraudulent addresses are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems charter schools present to the Child Accounting Office.  "One of the things I think that's disturbing to a certain extent is that the charter schools can bill — we found this to be true — that if the student enrolls on the 25th of the month, they'll bill from the first of the month and then it's up to us to find the mistake," said School Director Dean Donaher, who retired from Giordano's job last year.”
Bethlehem Area School District uses private eye to track non-resident students
Daryl Nerl Special to The Morning Call December 6, 2016
A private investigator found that 35 students used fraudulent addresses to gain admission to a charter school or a Bethlehem Area School District classroom, district officials said Monday. Seventeen of the students were registered in a charter school during the current or last school year, according to a report prepared by DBM Investigations and Consulting. At no less than $10,160 in tuition charged for every student who attends a charter school, the district is now saving at least $172,000 a year thanks to the work of the private eye, which the school board hired a year ago. For special education students, charter schools can charge districts more than $21,000 a year. "That's huge savings," said school board President Mike Faccinetto. To date, DBM has charged the district $6,800 for its completed work with a few outstanding investigations remaining, according to Russell Giordano, the district's chief human resources officer, who supervises the district's Child Accounting Office.

“Basically, the revenue coming from the two largest state taxes — the personal income tax and sales tax — will face constraints due to demographic changes in Pennsylvania’s population. As Baby Boomers retire and the percentage of residents 65 and older expands, a larger share of personal income will come from sources not subject to the personal income tax such as pensions and Social Security payments. “The continued transition of the large Baby Boom cohort into retirement will constrain total statewide wage growth,” the report said. “Those retirees will be replaced by lower-paid workers, and this natural ‘churning’ will restrain total wages earned to a greater extent than historical trends.”
IFO: Demographic changes will affect Pa. budget
HARRISBURG — When the state Independent Fiscal Office was created following a lengthy budget stalemate in 2009, few could have foreseen the extent to which Pennsylvania would become mired in chronic fiscal problems in the years since.  The IFO exists to solve disputes between the governor and lawmakers over state revenue estimates and provide projections about state finances and economic and demographic trends into the future.  The IFO’s newest report predicts a state revenue deficit of $500 million by the time the fiscal 2016-17 year ends June 30 and a $1.7 billion deficit in fiscal 2017-18. This comes with work on the current $31.5 billion budget unfinished due to the lack of a law authorizing new gambling revenue.

State starts review of Erie schools plan
Study to be done 'within 30 days'
GoErie By Ed Palattella December 7, 2016
The countdown has started for the Erie School District's $31.8 million state-mandated financial recovery plan.  The district emailed the plan to the state Department of Education on Tuesday morning.  The next major event in the process will occur within a month.  That is when the state Department of Education expects to finish its review of the plan. From there, the district and lawmakers hope, the plan will go to Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, as he prepares his proposed 2017-18 budget, which he will release in February.  Once financial relief for the Erie School District is in the governor's proposed budget, "we can lobby for it," said state Rep. Pat Harkins, of Erie, D-1st Dist. The school district is asking for additional state aid of $31.8 million a year to stay solvent, repair its buildings and improve educational resources.  Harkins and the two other lawmakers who represent the city of Erie - state Rep. Flo Fabrizio, of Erie, D-2nd Dist.; and state Sen.-elect Dan Laughlin, of Millcreek Township, R-49th Dist. - got a briefing on the plan at the Erie School District administration building on Monday.  The meeting, which included schools Superintendent Jay Badams and the district's chief financial officer, Brian Polito, occurred hours before the School Board unanimously voted on Monday night to approve the plan. The vote authorized the district to send the plan to the secretary of the state Department of Education, Pedro Rivera.

Easton Area teachers have three-year contract
Kevin Duffy Morning Call December 6, 2016
Teachers in the Easton Area School District have a new three-year contract that includes an increase in pay for 2016-17 and each year beyond.  The school board Monday also ratified agreements with the administrative and custodial/maintenance staff that include pay increases each year, with the exception of the first year of the four-year agreement for custodial employees. The teacher's association and custodial contracts were each approved 8-0, with Jodi Hess abstaining.  The administrative staff contract was approved 9-0.  The approximately 567 employees that make up the teachers association had been working without a contract since the end of June, and had seen no salary increase since the 2011-12 school year.

 “The board must erase a $17 million deficit in the preliminary 2017 budget and pass a balanced spending plan by the end of the month. Beyond that, the district has a general fund deficit projected to be $29 million at the end of the year. The deficit may be the largest in the state.”
After reorganization, Scranton board leaders pledge unity
Facing a deficit that could eventually force the state to take control, leaders of the Scranton School Board pledged unity during their reorganization meeting Monday night.   In an 8-1 vote, directors reappointed Bob Sheridan to another one-year term as president. Carol Oleski will serve as vice president, after a 6-3 vote.  “We have a lot of challenges, but we’re willing to face them together,” Mr. Sheridan told the room packed with directors’ families. “I have all the confidence in this world in this board and the school district. We will come out on top. I won’t let you down.” Lackawanna County Judge Thomas Munley swore in Mr. Sheridan and Mrs. Oleski. 

Spring-Ford School Board names Ciresi president, DiBello vice president
By Eric Devlin, The Mercury POSTED: 12/06/16, 9:52 PM EST | UPDATED: 5 HRS AGO
ROYERSFORD >> The two highest ranking members of the Spring-Ford Area School Board switched roles Monday night.  During its annual reorganization meeting, the school board chose Joe Ciresi as board president and Tom DiBello as vice president.  “I’m happy to lead the board, to continue moving Spring-Ford forward and represent our students, staff and community,” Ciresi said in a press release.

Blackhawk School Board hires new district chief, making superintendent sharing agreement permanent
Beaver County Times By Katherine Schaeffer
CHIPPEWA TWP. -- The Blackhawk and Western Beaver School Boards have decided to make a temporary superintendent sharing agreement permanent.  Blackhawk’s board voted during Monday’s meeting to hire Acting Superintendent Robert Postupac as the district’s chief administrator for a five-year contract, which will begin July 1, 2017 and end June 30, 2022. Postupac has also worked full-time as Western Beaver’s superintendent since 2008 and has been overseeing operations in Blackhawk since June, when the two districts entered into a temporary superintendent-sharing agreement intended to last until Blackhawk found a permanent leader.  Under the new agreement, Postupac said he will continue to split his time between the two districts, and plans to spend time at both almost every day.  The cooperative agreement is unusual among Pennsylvania’s school districts, which typically do not share administrators. “We’re setting up a model for education that I believe many people in the state are going to look at,” Postupac said.  Postupac will receive an annual total not to exceed $120,000 in salary and benefits, which Blackhawk and Western Beaver will split. The two districts will meet to iron out a final cooperative agreement, which pending the state Department of Education’s approval, will be approved at a board meeting in early 2017.

Neshaminy school board continues to fight proposed charter school
Bucks County Courier Times By Chris English, staff writer December 5, 2016
Determined to take its fight against a proposed charter school to the limit, the Neshaminy school board voted 7-2 at Monday night's meeting to ask the state Supreme Court to reconsider a Nov. 10 Commonwealth Court decision that supports MaST-Neshaminy charter school. The proposed kindergarten through 12th-grade school would focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to an application for the school filed in October of 2012. The school board voted to reject the charter school in 2013, citing a lack of sustainable support for the charter school, failure to identify a suitable facility and failure to demonstrate that MaST-Neshaminy would be a model for other public schools. A decision from the state Charter Appeal Board early this year overturned the denial and directed Neshaminy to grant the charter. The decision was upheld by Commonwealth Court. But a majority of school board members are hoping the state Supreme Court will hear the case and side with them.

Op-ed: Will demoralized teachers be more effective as collateral damage or direct targets?
Daun Kauffman lives in the Hunting Park neighborhood of North Philadelphia, serving children and families on the front line in urban, public schools for 16 years. Earlier, Kauffman earned an M.Ed. from Temple University, and an MBA from Harvard University Graduate School of Business.
The recent suggestions that Philadelphia’s professional teachers are overpaid and are expecting too many resources are damagingly misinformed.  Publicly denigrating the very professionals who are battling on the frontline is a vacant strategy. What will it improve, exactly?  Public education is in crisis mode in many urban centers, targeted for privatization by a coalition of "free-market" politicians and private profiteers. Key weapons in the battle are charter schools as one way to drain funds from already decimated public school funding. The ethical implications are horrifying. Slashed teacher headcounts on the front line, with fewer resources and larger classes, leave remaining teachers and students as collateral damage.

White House announces boost to computer science education
The Hill BY ALI BRELAND - 12/05/16 03:33 PM EST
The White House announced on Monday new initiatives to bolster computer science in K–12 education.  Citing the rapidly expanding demand for technology jobs, the Obama administration outlined new efforts by two federal agencies: The National Science Foundation plans to spend $20 million on computer science education in 2017, on top the the $25 million it spent in 2016, with an emphasis on training teachers.  And the National Science and Technology Council will create a framework to help guide federal efforts “to support the integration of computer science and computational thinking into K–12 education,” according to Monday’s release.  The two agencies' efforts, it said, will complement the Obama administration’s wider efforts to expand science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in education.

From 2009 thru 2015 the .@WaltonFamilyFdn has spent over $1 billion on charter schools; 
Walton Family Foundation Grant Reports
Walton Family Foundation Website
See complete lists of Walton Family Foundation annual grantmaking.
·         2015: Annual Report | Grant Report
·         2014: Annual Report | Grant Report
·         2013: Annual Report | Grant Report
·         2012 Grant Report
·         2011 Grant Report
          2010 Grant Report
·         2009 Grant Report

Obama Administration Releases Final Testing Regulations for ESSA
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Alyson Klein on December 7, 2016 7:22 AM
The U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday released final regulations and new guidance governing how testing is supposed to work under the Every Student Succeeds Act. It also announced $8 million in grants to states to improve science tests.  If you've read through the proposal for assessments that a group of educators and advocates negotiated last spring, these final regulations will probably look very familiar to you. Like No Child Left Behind, ESSA requires states to test students every year, but provides a bit more flexibility for states to try out new kinds of tests or use a nationally recognized college entrance test at the high school level. The regulations flesh out these and other testing provisions of the law.    And the Obama administration also said that it is giving $8 million to two state consortia—one led by the Maryland Department of Education and one led by the Nebraska Department of Education. Both groups will be working on improving and developing science tests.  The Maryland-led consortium—which includes Missouri, New York, New Jersey, and Oklahoma—will be working on new tests aligned the Next Generation Science Standards, which have been adopted by more than a dozen states. The consortium led by Nebraska includes Montana and Wyoming and aims to improve the quality of statewide science exams.

Turkey alleges US charter schools are a front for man accused in failed coup
Law firm is investigating a large chain of schools in Texas and the US amid allegations they funnel taxpayers’ dollars to dissident cleric Fethullah Gülen
The Guardian by Tom Dart in Houston Tuesday 6 December 2016 06.00 EST
With brightly coloured halls and gadget-filled classrooms where students work on science projects from sound waves to hovercrafts, the Harmony Science Academy in Houston is like any other science and technology-focused high school in the US.  But Harmony’s flagship campus in Houston has become an improbable battleground in a spat between Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and a dissident Turkish cleric.  The Turkish government has hired an international law firm to investigate a large chain of charter schools in Texas and across the country, which it alleges is connected to a dissident Turkish cleric – and one-time political ally of Erdoğan –Fethullah Gülen.  Lawyers for the Turkish government allege that the charter schools are misusing US taxpayers’ dollars and acting as a front for Gülen, a Turkish Muslim cleric who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania for the past 17 years. Harmony denies these claims.

“In my travels around North Carolina – to the state’s three largest school districts – I ask school board members, legal and education experts, and charter advocates to explain how a state that doesn’t seem to adequately fund its existing public school system can afford to add a competitive new one.  Complicating the matter is the presence of a rising new sector of for-profit charter schools, many coming to North Carolina from out of state. Few North Carolinians I talk to can explain how these schools make a profit. And if the schools do, it begs the question of whether it is ethical or legal for private interests to profit from education while many schools in the existing system can’t afford adequate learning materials and instructional staff.  These questions are not only important to North Carolinians; they are critical to the rest of the nation. President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to accelerate the growth of charters nationwide with a proposal to create a $20 billion federal block grant for states to offer families more “school choice.”
Tar Heel heist: How the charter school industry is hijacking public education
In North Carolina, public schools are getting a lot less, while charter schools aren't giving more by JEFF BRYANTALTERNET MONDAY, DEC 5, 2016 02:37 PM EST
If the American Dream is still alive – the one that includes a good job and a house with a yard, kids, and a two-car garage – you can see it taking shape in Wake County in the heart of the state of North Carolina. Signs of surging prosperity are everywhere this morning as I make my way to West Lake Middle School in Apex, NC, on the outskirts of Raleigh.  What were once sleepy two-lane country roads are now teaming with impatient commuters, school busses, and mini-vans. New housing developments, shopping centers, and office buildings are transforming the rolling Piedmont landscape.  Wake County is home to five of the fastest growing cities in the Tar Heel State, which is the state with the nation’s fastest growth in economic output in 2015 at 13.4 percent.  At West Lake Middle, cars and busses in the drop-off lane back up out to the main road, where commuter traffic pushes impatiently to get by. I angle my car to a visitor spot because I’m not here to drop off a child. I’m here for a protest rally.

NAACP moves ahead with its call for moratorium on charter schools
Washington Post Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss December 6 at 6:52 AM 
Leaders of the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the United States, took a controversial stand in October by ratifying a resolution calling for a moratorium on expanding public charter school funding until there is better oversight of these schools and more transparency from charter operators.  The move by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — which was supported by the Movement for Black Lives and the nonprofit Journey for Justice Alliance — was hailed by public education advocates but attacked by charter school supporters. Some of the critics were from other civil rights groups, underscoring a split in that community about the privatization of public education.  Charter schools — which are publicly funded by operated independently of public districts, sometimes by for-profit companies — are one key element of corporate school reform. They are praised by supporters as offering a choice to parents whose children would otherwise be trapped in bad public schools. But critics see charters as part of the movement to privatize public education, and the growth of charter schools has drained many traditional public school systems. The charter sectors in a number of states are severely troubled because of lack of sufficient oversight.

Trump Education Secretary Pick Has Indirect Stake in Student Lender
Betsy DeVos and her husband invest in a company that owns a piece of online lender Social Finance Inc.
Wall Street Journal By ANUPREETA DAS and PETER RUDEGEAIR Dec. 5, 2016 7:50 p.m. ET
Betsy DeVos, tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to run the U.S. Department of Education, is an indirect investor in online-lending company Social Finance Inc., a startup whose fortunes hinge in part on policies crafted by the department Ms. DeVos would run.  Ms. DeVos and her husband Dick DeVos are investors in RPM Ventures, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based venture-capital firm that was one of SoFi’s earliest backers, according to the firms’ websites. Founded in 2011, SoFi is worth about $4 billion and in the midst of raising a new round of money.  Much of SoFi’s business stems from refinancing student loans; the Department of Education is by far the country’s biggest student lender, with $1.3 trillion in outstanding loans.  Ms. DeVos and her husband have a family investment office, Windquest Group, that is an investor in RPM Ventures. RPM has been in touch with Windquest to “determine if any conflicts exist, with a goal of resolving them,” said Marc Weiser, the venture firm’s managing director. Mr. Weiser is a son of longtime Republican Party official Ronald Weiser, who endorsed Mr. Trump.

“Democrats are likely to require roll call votes and possibly delay the nominations of Betsy DeVos to be secretary of education and Tom Price to to be Health and Human Services secretary, in addition to Mattis, Mnuchin and Sessions.”
Democrats to give Trump Cabinet picks the Garland treatment
Delay tactics could sap momentum from the president's first 100 days. 'What goes around comes around,' one lawmaker says.
Politico By BURGESS EVERETT and ELANA SCHOR  12/05/16 05:06 AM EST
Senate Democrats are preparing to put Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks through a grinding confirmation process, weighing delay tactics that could eat up weeks of the Senate calendar and hamper his first 100 days in office.  Multiple Democratic senators told POLITICO in interviews last week that after watching Republicans sit on Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for nearly a year, they’re in no mood to fast-track Trump’s selections.  But it’s not just about exacting revenge.  Democrats argue that some of the president-elect’s more controversial Cabinet picks — such as Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary — demand a thorough public airing.  “They’ve been rewarded for stealing a Supreme Court justice. We’re going to help them confirm their nominees, many of whom are disqualified?” fumed Sen.Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “It’s not obstruction, it’s not partisan, it’s just a duty to find out what they’d do in these jobs.”  Senate Democrats can’t block Trump’s appointments, which in all but one case need only 51 votes for confirmation. But they can turn the confirmation process into a slog.  Any individual senator can force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold procedural votes on nominees. Senior Democrats said a series of such votes are likely for many of Trump’s picks.

“Her home state of Michigan has been the laboratory where DeVos and her husband have had two decades to see the effectiveness of her prescription. The results indicate that if her objective is to ensure that all children receive a quality education, her strategy will not work. On the other hand, if the goal is to convert education from a government service to a product that can be purchased in the open market, then Michigan is showing the way to teach children and make a profit. And if the plan is to sustain the barriers that separate white children from children of color and rich children from poor ones, then Michigan demonstrates that the Trump-DeVos strategy will succeed there, too.”
A Failed Policy Is Set to Become the Nation’s Direction
Non Profit Quarterly By MARTIN LEVINE | December5, 2016
Betsy DeVos, who is slated to be Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, has a very clear vision about American public education. She describes its current state as an “antiquated, top-down model of education…that originated in the 1800s in order to “educate the masses”—one that should be transformed because, in her opinion, our public schools “are not succeeding…in many cases, they are failing.”  Her goal for our children is noble: “Every child, no matter their zip code or their parents’ jobs, deserves access to a quality education.” Her idea for the public education of the future would create a fully open educational marketplace where each parent can select their child’s path from a menu that includes “vouchers and tax credits, certainly, but also virtual schools, magnet schools, homeschooling, and charter schools.” Traditional neighborhood public schools managed by community-based school boards don’t appear on her list of options.

Education Bloggers Daily Highlights 12/6/2016

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

PHLpreK Now Enrolling!
Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Education
Did you know that quality early childhood education sets our children up for success? It reduces the need for special education, raises graduation rates, and narrows the achievement gap. These benefits ripple throughout our schools, neighborhoods, and local economy.
That’s why the City of Philadelphia is expanding free, quality pre-K for 6,500 three- and four-year-olds over the next five years. In fact, the first 2,000 pre-K seats are available now. Families should act fast because classes begin on January 4th at more than 80 locations.
Please help us spread the word. Parents/caregivers can call 844-PHL-PREK (844-745-7735) to speak with a trained professional who will help them apply and locate quality pre-K programs nearby.  For more information, visit

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.

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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