Tuesday, January 8, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Jan. 8: Time to end Pa.'s Hunger Games for education funding

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

These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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Time to end Pa.'s Hunger Games for education funding

Letter to the Editor: It's time to end Pa.'s Hunger Games for education funding
Delco Times Letter by Rachel Mitchell, Upper Darby School Board President January 8, 2019
The Upper Darby School District is underfunded by $16.3 million dollars in recurring state revenue every year. The children of the Upper Darby School District deserve to learn in updated facilities within our community, with fairly compensated and well trained teachers, 21st century technology and classrooms that are not overcrowded. If you want high-quality schools and higher property values I implore you to advocate for our schools and children. The underfunded school districts are asking for the money they are due. Every year that our Republican majority Legislature fails to drive enough money through the formula a school board is forced to raise your property taxes. This is simply not fair and not sustainable. The underfunded school districts throughout the state are districts with high poverty and low tax bases. Why does the Republican majority state Legislature refuse to address this civil rights issue? Last year Erie School District, with a student population of 11,000, received their fair funding on a recurring basis in the amount of $15.2 million included in the state budget. “State Approves $14 million payment for Erie School District”, goerie.com. While Upper Darby School District, student population 12,500 did receive a one-time restricted grant for upgrading curriculum of $3.5 million, this does not address our capital improvement needs, recurring facility needs or the increase in state-mandated expenses year to year. The school funding hunger games need to come to an end, where all districts throughout the Commonwealth are funded fairly, and handouts to one school district over others is not the case. If we want to see change we must let our representatives know that we are paying attention and we need to see results. I hope that students, parents, teachers and all members of our community will take action and contact our elected state officials and demand that more of our state tax dollars are invested in our public schools. The future of our commonwealth is at stake.

Luzerne County Intermediate Unit Wednesday, January 30th at 6:00
368 Tioga Ave, Kingston, PA 18704
Classrooms are underfunded and overcrowded and public education is suffering. We can't afford to stand by while students miss out on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to gain the skills and knowledge they will need to succeed after graduation. Join parents, community members, teachers, school board members, and others as we discuss our regional strategy and plans to secure significant increases in state funding for public schools in the 2019-2020 state budget.
Please plan to attend this event and share this with your networks!
Email Susan Spicka from Education Voters of PA with questions. Sspicka@educationvoterspa.org

Line-up of participants in Gov. Tom Wolf’s swearing-in ceremony announced
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com jmurphy@pennlive.com Updated Jan 7, 3:50 PM; Posted Jan 7, 3:50 PM
The line-up of participants who will take part in the second inauguration of Gov. Tom Wolf on Jan. 15 includes a rabbi from the Pittsburgh synagogue that was the scene of a mass killing last year and a young tenor who gained national notice during performances in Philadelphia. The Wolf Inaugural 2019 committee announced on Monday the schedule for the swearing-in ceremony that will take place outside the state Capitol’s East Wing at noon. Tickets for the event are free but are available on a first-come, first served basis by accessing the committee’s website.

“Charter school costs are a major concern for the Erie School District and other school systems that are trying to preserve revenue. Sonney has shown he is willing to change the charter school system even if the General Assembly has been reluctant to overhaul the 21-year-old Pennsylvania Charter School Law.
Sonney has proposed legislation that would require parents and guardians of cyber charter students to pay for the students’ educations — rather than having the local school district foot the bill — if the local district provides a cyber program of its own. In January 2017, the proposal went to the House Education Committee, where it stayed. But the proposal at least illustrates that Sonney, as Harkins said and as Sonney’s vote for the Erie School District proves, can be open-minded on education issues.”
Ed Palattella: Sonney brings much to education panel
GoErie.com By Ed Palattella  Posted at 2:00 AM Updated at 6:15 AM
State representative from Harborcreek Township was instrumental in securing additional state funding for the Erie School District.
State Rep. Curt Sonney made local political history this past week when he was named the chairman of the majority on the state House Education Committee, one of the most powerful legislative panels in Harrisburg. The records are hard to come by, but Sonney, a Republican who represents Harborcreek Township and other areas in eastern and southeastern Erie County, is believed to be among the few, if not the only, representative from Erie County to be appointed to lead the House Education Committee. Sonney has plenty of experience to bring to the chairmanship, which he will hold for the 2019-20 legislative session. In the fall of 2017, he helped corral the votes in the state House needed for the General Assembly to approve $14 million in additional annual state funding for the Erie School District. Sonney’s bipartisan effort — he worked closely on the funding issue with state Rep. Pat Harkins, a Democrat whose district includes the city of Erie — is unlikely to be forgotten. Erie schools Superintendent Brian Polito certainly remembers what Sonney did. Polito did not hesitate to respond last week when I asked him what he thought about state Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, of Allegheny County, naming Sonney to the lead the House Education Committee. Polito said he was glad.

“Roebuck has been serving as the Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee since 2001.”
Roebuck reappointed as Democratic chairman of Education Committee
Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr. Website    January 7, 2019 | 1:31 PM
HARRISBURG, Jan. 7 – State Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., has been reappointed as the Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee for the 2019-20 session. “What a wonderful honor it is to have the privilege of chairing this committee once again. I always look forward to shaping our educational environment into one that helps foster growth and positive learning,” Roebuck said. “Over the years as chairman, I have established a good working relationship with the Republican House and Senate Education chairmen, and I believe that we will continue to work together in order to achieve more for our students and their futures. Specifically, I want to work on safety in our classrooms, ensuring that our students can focus on their studies and our teachers on teaching, rather than outside risks. Bullying is an increasing concern for parents and their children. We need progressive, student focused legislation that supports our children and their continued success in this fast-paced, technologically advanced market.” During the past year as the chairman of the Pennsylvania House Education Committee, Roebuck has fought for fair basic education funding; called for major investments in public schools; advanced legislation out of committee to improve access to career and technical education programs; hosted policy committee hearings on college affordability; introduced legislation pushing for free and affordable college options and charter school reform; and honored local students with leadership awards.

“Changes have also come to the Education Committee.
Former chair John Eichelberger, of Blair County, left the chamber last year after an unsuccessful congressional bid. He was known for his support of charter schools and aversion to funding boosts. His replacement is Lancaster County's Ryan Aument who, in a press release, highlighted a commitment to post-graduate readiness.”
Some top Senate committees see turnover after many years
WITF Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jan 7, 2019 8:37 PM
 (Harrisburg) -- Senate Republicans have announced their slate of committee chairs for the coming two-year legislative session. These powerful positions give lawmakers in the majority party a lot of leeway to decide which bills come up for debate. One of the biggest changes to the slate of chairpeople is in the powerful Judiciary Committee. For 30 years it has been helmed by Montgomery County Republican Stewart Greenleaf, who retired last year. Greenleaf was known as a moderate who pushed to depart from the state's tough-on-crime criminal justice approach. His replacement is Luzerne County's Lisa Baker, who indicated she'll carry on reform efforts. "The quality of justice, the fairness of our laws and policies, and fundamental access to the judicial system--those are issues of intense public interest and spirited legislative debate," she said.

Senator Ryan Aument (R-36, Lancaster) has been appointed Chairman of the Senate Education Committee; he replaces Senator Eichelberger who resigned to run for Congress
Scarnati Announces Senate Standing Committee Chairs for 2019-2020
Senator Scarnati’s Website Posted on Jan 07, 2019
(HARRISBURG) – Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25) today announced the Republican Chairs for each of the 22 Senate Standing Committees for the 2019-2020 legislative session. “I am pleased to announce today the Chairs of each of the 22 Senate Standing Committees,” Scarnati said.  “The Senate Republican Caucus is comprised of members with extensive knowledge of various issue areas, many of whom will provide committee direction this session.  I am confident these Committee Chairs will ensure that legislation receives close examination before advancing to the full Senate.”

Landisville Republican Ryan Aument to chair Senate Education Committee
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer January 7, 2019
State Sen. Ryan Aument, a Landisville Republican beginning his second four-year term, announced Monday that he’ll become chair of the Senate Education Committee. Aument, who spent the previous legislative session as the committee’s vice chair, will be the gatekeeper of key education legislation as the General Assembly likely works toward boosting career and technical education, enhancing STEM programs, adopting cyber charter school reform and rethinking higher education funding. “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity,” Aument said in a phone interview Monday. “Obviously, education is critically important in Pennsylvania.” Aument said he hopes to work collaboratively with Republicans and Democrats to “advance good public policy.”

A local dance legend is pitching a new charter school for West Philly: Here’s why
Inquirer by Ellen Dunkel, Updated: January 7, 2019- 12:00 PM
Philadanco founder Joan Myers Brown, known for training and presenting some of finest modern dancers in the United States, is collaborating with String Theory Schools on a proposed charter school that would be named after her. The Joan Myers Brown Academy would be a K-8 school near Brown’s home in West Philadelphia modeled after String Theory’s three other performing arts charter schools, with a special focus on dance. There will be a public hearing Jan. 22 for the academy and two other proposed charter schools, and the school board has until March 2 to make a decision on approvals. Charter proposals have not always been approved, and with a new school board, it is even less clear how members will vote. If approved, it would open in September at 3905 Ford Rd.

“The new state assessment dashboard, known as the Future Ready PA Index, can show if a school is on track for improvement. But for Innovative Arts Academy, those scores were similarly dismal. Each subject was tagged with a growth score of 50 — the lowest score established by the state.”
Innovative Arts Academy applying to Catasauqua Area School Board for charter renewal
Sarah M. Wojcik Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call January 8, 2019
A Catasauqua charter school that experienced controversy even before opening in 2016 is applying to the Catasauqua Area School Board for a charter renewal. The Innovative Arts Academy Charter School status report and request for charter renewal is listed on the agenda for Tuesday’s 7 p.m. school board meeting. Charter schools must rely the school districts where they are physically located for the approval of their charter and its subsequent renewal every three to five years.  Innovative Arts Academy, a career-oriented school serving grades 6 through 12, opened in the fall of 2016, forming just as Medical Academy Charter School was shuttering in the same building.  The co-founder of Medical Academy, Dr. Craig Haytmanek, was among those forming the new charter school venture, but he stepped aside when the connection came under scrutiny.

Lincoln Charter's blame of EdisonLearning points to complicated history with former manager
Lindsay C. VanAsdalan, York Dispatch Published 2:08 p.m. ET Jan. 7, 2019 | Updated 2:51 p.m. ET Jan. 7, 2019
When York City School District's attorney announced last month that Lincoln Charter School would get a second chance after multiple overdue audits, officials from both the district and the charter blamed the school's former management company for some of its troubles. But a spokesman for EdisonLearning disputes the connection, saying the company wasn't even involved with the charter after 2013. At a district school board committee meeting in December, Lincoln Charter School Principal and CEO Leonard Hart gave several reasons for the delayed paperwork — which came down to one incomplete audit from 2013-14 — including a change of board leadership and a redo of the audit by a new firm. But he also pointed a finger at EdisonLearning. "They left us high and dry," Hart said

“Bethlehem Area employs 113 special education teachers, 12 school psychologist, 107 para-educators and 13 speech/language therapists among its 22 schools. The district also has numerous contracts with community partners to provide additional services for students and their families.”
Audit: Bethlehem Area needs to continue increasing graduation rate for special education students
Monday night, the school board heard a presentation from district administrators about a state compiled audit into the district’s special education department. About 2,500 of Bethlehem Area’s 14,000 students are identified as special education.
The Bethlehem Area School District needs to continue to make strides in decreasing its dropout rate and increasing its graduation rate among special education students, according to the findings of a state audit. Monday night, the school board heard a presentation from district administrators about a state compiled audit into the district’s special education department. About 2,500 of Bethlehem Area’s 14,000 students are identified as special education. At Liberty High, where the graduation rate is slightly below the state average at 82 percent, special education students have a graduation rate of 64 percent, according to state numbers. The graduation rate at Freedom High is one percentage point above the state average at 87 percent, but for special education students, that number drops to 80 percent. The audit also said the district should continue to increase the number of special education students in general education. Auditors commended Bethlehem Area for decreasing its dropout rate with special education students, for providing emotional support for students and for planning to develop a parent support group.
The audit of the special education department is a federal requirement of every school district and is conducted by the state’s bureau of special education. An audit is compiled every five years; Bethlehem’s last one was in 2012-13.

Defense expert: Neshaminy School District mascot reflects ‘living tradition’
WHYY By Aaron Moselle January 7, 2019
That word sits at the center of a public hearing unfolding in Bucks County this week that could cost the Neshaminy School District its decades-old mascot. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which sued the district, argues the term is discriminatory — a racial epithet of Native Americans that creates a “hostile educational environment” for Neshaminy students. The district no longer has a physical mascot, but the word and Native American imagery are used to represent its athletic teams. The logo for the high school’s basketball team is a profile of a Native American man wearing a feathered headdress. The football team’s helmets say “Skins” on them. And baseball players wear hats with a tomahawk on the front. “Instead of promoting an atmosphere of inclusiveness and learning, Neshaminy continues to use this racial slur for their mascot name,” said Lisa Knight, who is representing the commission, which is both arguing and ruling on the case. The school district, which has more than 8,700 students, says the commission’s allegations are “unfounded.” “The district is full of decent human beings,” countered attorney Craig Ginsburg, who is representing the district. “It’s really unfortunate in this case that they’re being disparaged as racists.” Monday’s testimony was part court case, part history lesson.

Philly youth making their own way in the classical world
WHYY By Peter Crimmins January 4, 2019
In Philadelphia, a young person determined to play classical music is not without opportunities. There is the All City Orchestra run by the school district; the 79-year old Philadelphia Youth Orchestra with its three ensembles and a teaching program called Tune Up Philadelphia; an independent teaching ensemble called Play On! Philly created by a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music; and various performance groups overseen by Settlement Music school. It was only a matter of time before students themselves jumped the nest and started their own thing. The Center City Chamber Orchestra was launched last year by four high school students who wanted more than what is offered by youth orchestras created by adults.

South Middleton School District considers later start time for secondary students
Joseph Cress The Sentinel January 7, 2019
The South Middleton School Board may consider changing the start times for the district’s four schools beginning in 2019-20. Under the proposal, the school day for grade K-5 students in the W.G. Rice and Iron Forge buildings would run from 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. The school day for grade 6-12 students would run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. for the Yellow Breeches Middle School and Boiling Springs High School. Melanie Shaver-Durham, director of curriculum and instruction, briefed board members on the proposal during a meeting Monday. She has meetings scheduled with teachers, support staff and parents at all four buildings to gather their input to pass on to the board. The proposal could come up again at the next board meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 21 in the board room of the administrative wing of the Iron Forge building, 4 Academy St., Boiling Springs. The changes are designed to support student achievement by making sure the teenagers are getting the recommended amount of sleep they need to achieve their full potential and stay alert in class, Shaver-Durham said. She said the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended middle and high school students start at 8:30 a.m. or later to meet a target of 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night.

Why Pennsylvania is trying a new solution for the school scoring equation
WHYY Air Date: January 8, 2019 Audio Runtime 15:10
What makes a school great? Parents have traditionally relied on websites like GreatSchools, Niche.com, and SchoolDigger to chose the best schools for their children — the higher the score, the better. But what exactly do those scores measure?  Should schools be rated and reviewed like restaurants, movies, and Uber rides? Or are the stakes higher? On this episode of The Why, WHYY education reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent tells us why Pennsylvania is taking a new approach.

Miscounting Poor Students
Billions of dollars in federal aid and virtually every metric for assessing achievement gaps rely on an accurate system for counting students from low-income families.
US News By Lauren Camera Education Reporter Jan. 7, 2019, at 2:56 p.m.
THE NUMBER OF POOR students enrolled in a particular school or living in a certain school district is one of the most important education data points that exists, and the stakes are high for getting the count right. The figures are used to direct billions of dollars in federal and state aid, and they're a pillar of K-12 accountability systems that ensure disadvantaged students are keeping up with their wealthier peers. But the method that's traditionally used to track them – how many students qualify for free and reduced-priced lunch – is no longer a reliable proxy for poverty as eligibility for the school lunch program has expanded in recent years. And getting an accurate count is becoming more difficult in part due to increasing numbers of students in the country illegally and students from immigrant families, both of whom are wary of enrolling in government benefit programs amid the Trump administration's crackdown on illegal immigration. "This is a prime example of a really wonky, not-sexy problem that is extremely important," Ary Amerikaner, vice president for P-12 policy, practice, and research at The Education Trust, says. "These data underlie a huge number of critical decisions in the education world."

This Indiana virtual charter school graduated just 2 percent of its students in 2018
Chalkbeat BY SHAINA CAVAZOS  -  JANUARY 2, 2019
One of the state’s largest and most controversial virtual charter schools graduated a smaller percentage of students than nearly every other public school in the state in 2018, new state data shows. About 2 percent of Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy’s 1,009 seniors graduated, putting the school’s graduation rate below just two others — a school that caters to students with significant intellectual and behavioral disabilities and an adult high school that enrolls only a couple dozen students each and graduated no students last year. Across the state, the vast majority of schools graduate at least three-quarters of their senior students. The graduation data, released Wednesday by the Indiana Department of Education, comes as Indiana education officials are considering ways to curb growth and add oversight for online charter schools, which tend to receive low grades from the state and have few students pass state tests. Leaders from Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy have said previously that the school was designed to serve students who are far behind their peers academically. The school did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the graduation data.

New York City offers some unpleasant truths about school improvement
Washington Post Answer Sheet By Valerie Strauss Reporter January 7 at 12:39 PM
In 2014, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he was starting the Renewal Program aimed at improving the city’s lowest-performing schools. He promised to plow millions of dollars into these schools to provide a variety of supports for students rather than closing the campuses down, as the previous administration of Michael Bloomberg had done. At a cost of $600 million to $750 million, the results were not what de Blasio had hoped. Fourteen of the original 94 schools in the program have closed and some dropped out, with about 70 still participating, and Chalkbeat reports that more closings are expected. The future of the program is unclear; de Blasio recently spoke about the program’s “natural conclusion” without talking about what that might be. To think that seriously low-performing schools can be turned around in a few years with an infusion of money — even a big one — is wishful thinking. It’s not that money doesn’t matter — it does. But real change takes time, and how the money is spent is as important as the amount. This post looks at the Renewal Program and what happens when good school improvement meets unrealistic expectations. It was co-written by Kevin Welner and Julia Daniel. Welner is director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and a professor specializing in educational policy and law. Daniel is a PhD candidate in education policy at the University of Colorado at Boulder who is studying New York City’s community school reform as part of her dissertation research.

Pennsylvania schools work – for students, communities and the economy when adequate resources are available to give all students an equal opportunity to succeed.
Join A Movement that Supports our Schools & Communities
PA Schools Work website
Our students are in classrooms that are underfunded and overcrowded. Teachers are paying out of pocket and picking up the slack. And public education is suffering. Each child in Pennsylvania has a right to an excellent public education. Every child, regardless of zip code, deserves access to a full curriculum, art and music classes, technical opportunities and a safe, clean, stable environment. All children must be provided a level chance to succeed. PA Schools Work is fighting for equitable, adequate funding necessary to support educational excellence. Investing in public education excellence is the path to thriving communities, a stable economy and successful students.

Build on finance, policy, board culture skills at PSBA’s Applied School Director Training
Four convenient locations in December and January
Take the next step in your professional development with Applied School Director Training. Building upon topics broadly covered in New School Director Training, this new, interactive evening event asks district leaders to dive deeper into three areas of school governance: school finance, board policy and working collaboratively as a governance team. Prepare for future leadership positions and committee work in this workshop-style training led by experts and practitioners. Learn how to:
·         Evaluate key finance documents such as budget and audit materials
·         Review and analyze board policies and administrative regulations
·         Build positive board culture by developing strong collaboration skills
Locations and Dates:
Dec.11, 2018 — Seneca Valley SD
Dec. 12, 2018 — Selinsgrove, Selinsgrove Area Middle School
Jan. 10, 2019 — Bethlehem, Nitschmann Middle School
Jan. 17, 2019 — State College

Cost: This event is complimentary for All-Access members or $75 per person with standard membership and $150 per person for nonmembers. Register online by logging in to myPSBA.

NSBA 2019 Advocacy Institute January 27-29 Washington Hilton, Washington D.C.
Register now
The upcoming midterm elections will usher in the 116th Congress at a critical time in public education. Join us at the 2019 NSBA Advocacy Institute for insight into what the new Congress will mean for your school district. And, of course, learn about techniques and tools to sharpen your advocacy skills, and prepare for effective meetings with your representatives. Save the date to join school board members from across the country on Capitol Hill to influence the new legislative agenda and shape the decisions made inside the Beltway that directly impact our students. For more information contact federaladvocacy@nsba.org

PSBA Board Presidents’ Panel
Nine locations around the state running Jan 29, 30 and 31st.
Share your leadership experience and learn from others in your area at this event designed for board presidents, superintendents and board members with interest in pursuing leadership roles. Workshop real solutions to the specific challenges you face with a PSBA-moderated panel of school leaders. Discussion will address the most pressing challenges facing PA public schools.

Annual PenSPRA Symposium set for March 28-29, 2019
Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association Website
Once again, PenSPRA will hold its annual symposium with nationally-recognized speakers on hot topics for school communicators. The symposium, held at the Conference Center at Shippensburg University, promises to provide time for collegial sharing and networking opportunities. Mark you calendars now!
We hope you can join us. Plans are underway, so check back for more information.

2019 NSBA Annual Conference Philadelphia March 30 - April 1, 2019
Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19107

Registration Questions or Assistance: 1-800-950-6722
The NSBA Annual Conference & Exposition is the one national event that brings together education leaders at a time when domestic policies and global trends are combining to shape the future of the students. Join us in Philadelphia for a robust offering of over 250 educational programs, including three inspirational general sessions that will give you new ideas and tools to help drive your district forward.

Save the date: PSBA Advocacy Day at the Capitol in Harrisburg has been scheduled for Monday April 29, 2019

Save the Date:  PARSS Annual Conference May 1-3, 2019
Wyndham Garden Hotel, Mountainview Country Club
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools

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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