Wednesday, July 31, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 31: Taxpayers in Senate Majority Caucus Chair Bob Mensch’s school districts had to send over $12.3 million to chronically underperforming cyber charter schools for 2017-18

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
Follow us on Twitter at @lfeinberg

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 31, 2019

“For Duquesne, the reckoning started last summer with the initiation of the Bring Your Kids Home campaign. Since then, 18 students have returned to the district from charter schools. Those students brought about $340,000 in lost “tuition” payments back to Duquesne with them. In the 2017-18 school year, Duquesne spent about $3.4 million on tuition for students attending charter schools. That’s about $13,700 for each student enrolled in regular ed-ucation versus about $32,800 for each special-education student.”
Good for Duquesne: School district challenges charters for kids
Now more than ever, it’s time for public schools to market themselves
THE EDITORIAL BOARD Pittsburgh Post-Gazette JUL 30, 2019 6:30 AM
For every child who walks away from his own school district, dollar bills follow.
Pennsylvania’s system for funding public education boils down to the concept that the money follows the student. That’s why school districts must work hard to strut their stuff — to actually compete for the enrollment of their own students within their own districts. A group of educators from Duquesne City School District has taken the battle to the streets with a “Bring Your Kids Home” campaign. Launched a year ago, it has proven impactful and is being copied in concept, from Pittsburgh to Erie. The Duquesne team went to the homes of students who live within the district but who attend charter schools. Brick-and-mortar or cyber, charter schools are privately run but publicly funded schools that compete with the public school system for students and the state-funded “tuition” they bring. The Bring Your Kids Home team has a mission: to convince students and their families to leave their charter schools and to return to their neighborhood public schools. There is debate over the value of charter schools: Do they spark healthy competition with the public school system or do they siphon limited resources away from that system. The answer is yes and yes.

Trump plan failed to note that it could jeopardize free school lunches for 500,000 children, say Democrats
The administration failed to include its analysis of how many schoolkids would be affected by food stamp changes in its formal proposal, according to a lawmaker who was briefed on the figures.
NBC News By Suzy Khimm July 29, 2019, 4:33 AM EDT
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration determined that more than 500,000 children would no longer be automatically eligible for free school meals under a proposed overhaul to the food stamp program, but left that figure out of its formal proposal, according to House Democrats. The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to crack down on eligibility for food stamps, estimating that 3.1 million Americans would lose benefits under the proposed rule that the agency unveiled on Tuesday. The proposal, however, did not include the USDA’s own estimate that more than 500,000 children would lose automatic eligibility for free school meals under the proposed change, according to Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor. Under current law, children whose families receive food stamps are automatically enrolled in a federal program that offers free breakfast and lunch at school. The two benefit programs are linked to reduce paperwork and help ensure that children receive all the food assistance they qualify for. The agency declined to respond to questions about the rule’s impact, saying that it “cannot provide additional information during the public comment period,” a USDA spokesperson told NBC News.

The table below lists the school district name, total 2017-18 cyber tuition paid and the percent of the district’s budget that was spent on cyber tuition.
Data Source: PDE via PSBA.

Boyertown Area SD
Brandywine Heights Area SD
Easton Area SD
North Penn SD
Oley Valley SD
Palisades SD
Perkiomen Valley SD
Pottsgrove SD
Pottstown SD
Quakertown Community SD
Souderton Area SD
Upper Perkiomen SD


Register for Federal Focus: Fully funding IDEA at William Tennant HS Wednesday August 21st, 7-9 pm
PSBA News July 30, 2019
Join U.S. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-01) and other IDEA Act co-sponsors at this complimentary focus meeting to talk about the critical need to modernize and fully fund the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Learn about bipartisan efforts now in the U.S. Congress to ensure that special education funding is a priority in the federal budget, and how you can help bring this important legislation to the finish line. Bring your school district facts and questions. This event will be held Aug. 21 at 7:00 p.m. at Centennial School District in Bucks Co. There is no cost to attend, but you must register through Questions can be directed to Megan McDonough at (717) 506-2450, ext. 3321. This program is hosted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and the Centennial School District. 

Commentary: Testing craze is fading in U.S. schools. Good.
Morning Call By ANDREA GABOR BLOOMBERG |JUL 30, 2019 | 8:00 AM
America’s decades-long infatuation with standardized testing is finally waning, and for good reasons. Despite years of training students to do better on tests, the performance of 17-year-olds on the National Assessment of Educational Progress has flatlined. At the same time, the focus on testing produced unintended consequences, including inattention to important educational priorities and growing teacher shortages. That’s in part because test performance became a goal in many districts instead of a means to an end and, thus, a prime example of Campbell’s Law, which points to the corrupting influence of using a single measurement as a target, thus ensuring that “it ceases to be a good measure.” The federal “No Child Left Behind” initiative introduced by President George W. Bush imposed a battery of high-stakes testing mandates, which continued under President Barack Obama. If children failed to meet proficiency goals for math and English, schools faced closure, teachers were shamed and fired and children were held back. Consequently, many schools and districts focused on test prep, often sacrificing untested but important subjects such as civics and neglecting the classroom give-and-take that nurtures critical thinking and creativity. At the peak of testing mania in the 2014-2015 school year, the average U.S. student was taking 112 standardized tests in the course of a K-12 education. Now states from Arizona to Wyoming are retreating from high-stakes testing. The announcement last month that New York’s education commissioner, a testing proponent, will resign in August, signals another reversal.

New plan for Pennsylvania: School property taxes out. Retirement income taxes in
A 68-year-old certified public accountant who got elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature for the first time two years ago has an outside-the-box approach to getting rid of the school property tax: Put a new tax on retirement income. Republican state Rep. Frank Ryan said this week he soon will file a bill that would eliminate the much-despised school property tax completely through shifts to several other taxes, with a major focus on keeping the money in the same locale where it was paid. One of his ideas for raising revenue is a 4.92% tax on retirement income, which currently is not taxed in Pennsylvania. Social Security income, though, would be exempt. Ryan, a retired Marine Corps Reserve colonel who represents Lebanon County, anticipated big pushback from senior citizens ― he jokingly said he expected death threats. But he said that since he started floating the idea informally the negativity has been less than anticipated. “I am optimistic that it will get heard,” he said of his bill. “The real key to this is my fellow senior citizens.” Other aspects of Ryan’s plan include a new 1.85% local personal income tax that will go directly to school districts, and an increase of the sales tax from 6% to 8%, with the additional 2% going to school districts. Landlords would be required to pass along savings to renters from the eradication of property taxes. School districts this month began the annual ritual of issuing bills for what will amount to more than $14 billion of school property taxes across Pennsylvania.

This Pa. school suspended fewer students by using a restorative model
WHYY By Sara Schneider, WESA July 29, 2019
Suspensions among 4th-6th graders are down at Woodland Hills School District. That can be attributed, in part, to a restorative practice program created by the University of Pittsburgh, according to school district administrators. The team supporting the work recently released a report reviewing the past two years of the strategy’s implementation. School staff were trained to think of discipline differently. They were asked to find out why students are disruptive rather than remove them from school. Managing behavior relies on community building and conflict resolution instead of suspensions, they found. The approach has many names: Pittsburgh Public Schools calls it Restorative Practice. Woodland Hills uses Just Discipline, created by Pitt’s Center on Race and Social Problems. James Huguley, an assistant professor of social work, said it’s all about building and repairing relationships when there’s a conflict. That mediation often happens in meetings called “circles” that bring the offender and victim together.

How Drexel’s public school experiment could change West Philadelphia
WHYY Podcast Air Date: July 31, 2019  Listen 13:28
Listen to The Why wherever you get your podcasts:
Drexel University’s plan to build 
a new public school building on the edge of its campus is giving some West Philadelphia residents Déjà vu. Almost 20 years ago, nearby University of Pennsylvania also created a public school, Penn Alexander, that transformed the surrounding neighborhood in the process. WHYY education reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent explains why universities create public schools and what that can mean for local communities.

Schooled: Season Three Trailer
WHYY Podcast Air Date: July 31, 2019  Listen 2:10
What does it really mean to get a good education? What is educational success?
The third season of WHYY’s Schooled podcast explores these questions and more through stories of different students fighting to escape poverty in Philadelphia. The four episode season will be released weekly starting on August 7. Listen to the season trailer above.

High schoolers get paid to learn solar in Philly. It’s about to become a program of study.
Inquirer by Ellie Rushing, Updated: July 29, 2019- 5:09 AM
Eighteen high school students gathered around a makeshift utility box as Micah Gold-Markel offered a brief introduction to electricity. “This is where the meter tells the utility company how much to bill you,” he said, giving a thumbs down. “Everyone say, ‘Boooo!’" The students giggled and booed in unison. Gold-Markel, the owner of Solar States, a local company that designs, engineers, and installs solar panels, uses dad-like humor to engage the students enrolled in Find Your Power, a six-week paid training program teaching Philadelphia youths the basics of solar installation and clean energy. The program was started in 2017 by the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA), an independent city agency, to provide jobs in the growing solar workforce and bridge wage and education gaps for the city’s youth. About 14.4% of Philadelphians 16 to 24 are neither in school nor working, according to a 2018 city report. “This is a job that doesn’t require a college degree, so this could really create a pathway for people coming out of high school who don’t want to go to college," said Laura Rigell, the PEA’s solar manager. After receiving a $1.25 million award from the Department of Energy, the PEA is about to announce a clean energy program at a local technical high school starting in fall 2020. This program would be for 1,080 hours, compared with the program now, which is 120 hours. If its application for permanent funding from the state’s Department of Education is approved, more programs could pop up across the state, Rigell said.

Receiver shows there will be changes in Harrisburg schools, and it’s long overdue | PennLive Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board Updated Jul 29, 9:52 PM; Posted Jul 29, 9:58 AM
It’s no longer business as usual in the Harrisburg School District.
That message came across loud and clear as receiver Janet Samuels presided over the first meeting of the Harrisburg School Board following the dismissal of Superintendent Sybil Knight Burney, solicitor James Ellison and a slew of others deemed not up to the job. The Harrisburg School District monthly board meeting with receiver Dr. Janet Samuels was held on Monday, June 17, 2019. And if the tone set at the school board meeting is any indication of how Samuels will run the school district, we’re off to a very good start. The meeting was run professionally and efficiently, with a minimum of drama, especially when compared to the meetings over the past few months. Several board members were noticeably absent – Roy Ellis, Lola Lawson, Patricia Whitehead-Myers, Lionel Gonzalez and Joseph Brown. And those that attended sat quietly as Samuels took charge. Samuels’ buzzwords were “full disclosure” and “transparency,” as she ticked off her list of approvals and decisions since her 37 days as receiver. The list seemed exhaustive.

Scranton School District Gets Recovery Plan
SCRANTON, Pa. -- The financially struggling Scranton School District was given a recovery plan to get the district fiscally sound over the next five years. The district has been on state watch and was given a chief recovery officer after the state auditor general blasted the district's spending. The recovery plan covers everything from property tax increases to rebidding of contracts and the closings of elementary schools. The school board has 30 days to approve or deny it. If it does nothing the district could be taken over by the state. The Scranton School District has been on state watch since the state auditor general blasted the district for decades of reckless spending.
Compiled by the state-appointed Chief Recovery Officer Dr. Candis Finan and her team, the plan calls for raising school taxes, freezing salaries, rebidding vendor contracts, and closing some elementary schools which need repair.

WASD to help more preschoolers
Record Herald By Andrea Rose / Posted Jul 29, 2019 at 9:30 AM
WAYNESBORO — More good things are coming for Waynesboro-area preschoolers.
The Waynesboro Area School District was recently awarded an increase of $283,000 in Pre-K Counts grant funding for early childhood classes, bringing the district total funding to about $1.03 million over the next four years. The money will allow the district to provide seven Pre-K Counts classrooms — two at the high school, two at Mowrey Elementary and three at the Waynesboro Day Care Center — with the ability to hold 20 students per classroom, potentially serving 140 preschool students each year. “This additional grant opportunity for our district will provide two preschool classrooms to our community on top of the five the district currently provides,” said Erica Nemzek, early learning coordinator for the district. “Additionally with the funds, we are able to supply families with training opportunities that will generate a shared language, provide home resources and create a support system for families.” Nemzek said the early learning classrooms provide opportunities for families who may not otherwise be able to provide high-quality preschool education for their children.

E-cigarettes spawn a form of teen addiction that worries doctors, parents and schools
Record Herald By The Washington Post Posted Jul 26, 2019 at 8:08 PM
As e-cigarettes have skyrocketed in popularity among teenagers in the past two years, pediatricians report seeing teens who behave less like tobacco users and more like patients with substance-abuse disorders. When her son was a high school freshman, Kristin Beauparlant noticed a change. The hockey player began getting gassed more easily on the ice. Beauparlant could hear her son’s coughing and wheezing from the stands. But it was his demeanor that scared her most. Cade Beauparlant’s anxiety and mood swings worsened, his outbursts so sudden and so explosive that his mother said she came to fear him. It took more than three years - and help from a renowned pediatrician - to understand what was going on: Her son was addicted to nicotine, delivered by a Juul, a sleek e-cigarette that looks like a USB drive.
As e-cigarettes have skyrocketed in popularity among teenagers in the past two years, pediatricians report seeing teens who behave less like tobacco users and more like patients with substance-abuse disorders. Some young people have resorted to stealing from their parents or selling e-cigarette paraphernalia to support their habits, addiction treatment specialists said. And even though many teens assume e-cigarettes are safe, some turn up with signs of nicotine toxicity, a condition previously seen in young children who accidentally ingested nicotine gum. Others are reporting respiratory problems. After more than three years of vaping daily, Beauparlant was diagnosed with restrictive lung disease. His mother said she is working with an attorney to file a class-action lawsuit against Juul that would force it to set up treatment centers.

Testing Resistance & Reform News: July 24- 30, 2019
Fairtest Submitted by fairtest on July 30, 2019 - 2:26pm 
Believe it or not, a new public school year begins in less than two weeks in several states!  Fortunately, testing reformers have not been relaxing over the "summer vacation."  Parents, educators, students, and community activists are ready to promote better assessment systems and fight schemes to impose even more high-stakes standardized exams. Check out this week's news .  .  .

“From Weston, Conn., to Mercer Island, Wash., word has spread on parenting message boards and in the stands at home games: A federal disability designation known as a 504 plan can help struggling students improve their grades and test scores. But the plans are not doled out equitably across the United States. In the country’s richest enclaves, where students already have greater access to private tutors and admissions coaches, the share of high school students with the designation is double the national average. In some communities, more than one in 10 students have one — up to seven times the rate nationwide, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.”
Need Extra Time on Tests? It Helps to Have Cash
Demand for disability accommodations for schoolwork and testing has swelled. But access to them is unequal and the process is vulnerable to abuse.
New York Times By Dana Goldstein and Jugal K. Patel July 30, 2019
The boom began about five years ago, said Kathy Pelzer, a longtime high school counselor in an affluent part of Southern California. More students than ever were securing disability diagnoses, many seeking additional time on class work and tests. A junior taking three or four Advanced Placement classes, who was stressed out and sleepless. A sophomore whose grades were slipping, causing his parents angst. Efforts to transfer the children to less difficult courses, Ms. Pelzer said, were often a nonstarter for their parents, who instead turned to private practitioners to see whether a diagnosis — of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, perhaps, or anxiety or depression — could explain the problem. Such psychological assessments can cost thousands of dollars, and are often not covered by insurance. For some families, the ultimate goal was extra time — for classroom quizzes, essays, state achievement tests, A.P. exams and ultimately the SAT and ACT. “You’ll get what you’re looking for if you pay the $10,000,” Ms. Pelzer said, citing the highest-priced evaluations. “It’s a complicated mess.”

DeVos Seeks to Align Education Grants With Trump-Backed Economic Initiative
Education Week Politics K12 Blog By Andrew Ujifusa on July 29, 2019 3:11 PM
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wants to put a priority on competitive grants that square with the Trump administration's initiative to improve economic opportunities in distressed areas.  In the Federal Register, which is where the U.S. government publishes agency rules and public notices, DeVos' proposed priority is to "align the Department of Education's ... discretionary grant investments with the Administration's Opportunity Zones initiative, which aims to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities." Perhaps the best-known program to get funding through discretionary grants is the Expanding Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Program, which gets $440 million and supports new charters as well as those seeking to expand. In fact, the department announced at the start of this month in a rule that a priority for distributing these charter school grants will be to fund charters that are in Opportunity Zones, which provide tax breaks to investors in exchange for long-term investment in identified areas. (More on that below.)  But the department's proposed rule, published on Monday, could broaden the extent to which these competitive federal grants are tied to the zones. It's possible federal grants to magnet schools, arts education, and programs like TRIO and GEAR UP that help bridge gaps between K-12 and higher education could also prioritize Opportunity Zone investments in the future. 

Take the four-week PSBA advocacy challenge
Calling all public education advocates! Even though students are out for the summer, we need you to continue your efforts to share your district's story, and the needs of public schools across the state, with your legislators. Follow the four easy steps on the challenge to increase your engagement with lawmakers this summer and you'll receive some PSBA swag as a thank-you. We've also included some talking points to help inform you on the latest issues. Contact Advocacy Coordinator Jamie Zuvich at with questions. Click here to see the challenge and talking points.

In November, many boards will be preparing to welcome new directors to their governance Team of Ten. This event will help attendees create a full year on-boarding schedule based on best practices and thoughtful prioritization. Register now:
PSBA: Start Strong: Developing a District On-Boarding Plan for New Directors
SEP 11, 2019 • 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
In November, many boards will be faced with a significant transition as they prepare to welcome new directors to their governance Team of Ten. This single-day program facilitated by PSBA trainers and an experienced PA board president will guide attendees to creating a strong, full year on-boarding schedule based on best practices and thoughtful prioritization. Grounded in PSBA’s Principles for Governance and Leadership, attendees will hear best practices from their colleagues and leave with a full year’s schedule, a jump drive of resources, ideas for effective local training, and a plan to start strong.
Register online at MyPSBA: and click on “MyPSBA” in the upper right corner.

The deadline to submit a cover letter, resume and application is August 19, 2019.
Become a 2019-2020 PSBA Advocacy Ambassador
PSBA is seeking applications for two open Advocacy Ambassador positions. Candidates should have experience in day-to-day functions of a school district, on the school board, or in a school leadership position. The purpose of the PSBA Advocacy Ambassador program is to facilitate the education and engagement of local school directors and public education stakeholders through the advocacy leadership of the ambassadors. Each Advocacy Ambassador will be responsible for assisting PSBA in achieving its advocacy goals. To achieve their mission, ambassadors will be kept up to date on current legislation and PSBA positions on legislation. The current open positions will cover PSBA Sections 3 and 4, and Section 7.
PSBA Advocacy Ambassadors are independent contractors representing PSBA and serve as liaisons between PSBA and their local elected officials. Advocacy Ambassadors also commit to building strong relationships with PSBA members with the purpose of engaging the designated members to be active and committed grassroots advocates for PSBA’s legislative priorities. 

PSBA: Nominations for The Allwein Society are open!
This award program recognizes school directors who are outstanding leaders & advocates on behalf of public schools & students. Nominations are accepted year-round with selections announced early fall: 

EPLC is accepting applications for the 2019-20 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Education Policy & Leadership Center
PA's premier education policy leadership program for education, policy & community leaders with 582 alumni since 1999. Application with program schedule & agenda are at 

2019 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 16-18, 2019
WHERE: Hershey Lodge and Convention Center 325 University Drive, Hershey, PA
WHEN: Wednesday, October 16 to Friday, October 18, 201
Registration is now open!
Growth from knowledge acquired. Vision inspired by innovation. Impact created by a synergized leadership community. You are called upon to be the drivers of a thriving public education system. It’s a complex and challenging role. Expand your skillset and give yourself the tools needed for the challenge. Packed into two and a half daysꟷꟷgain access to top-notch education and insights, dynamic speakers, peer learning opportunities and the latest product and service innovations. Come to the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference to grow!

NPE Action National Conference - Save the Date - March 28-29, 2020 in Philadelphia, PA.
The window is now open for workshop proposals for the Network for Public Education conference, March 28-29, 2020, in Philadelphia. I hope you all sign on to present on a panel and certainly we want all to attend.

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.