Wednesday, November 27, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Nov. 27: How to talk to your family about charter schools during the holidays

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.

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for Nov. 27 2019

Children deserve to learn with dignity in safe, healthy buildings
Increased school funding and equitable distribution are needed now.
The notebook Commentary by Vincent Hughes and Helen Gym November 26 — 10:34 am, 2019
Vincent Hughes is a state senator in the Seventh District, which comprises parts of Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties. He is the Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Helen Gym is a Philadelphia councilmember at-large.
Our children, teachers and school staff have been suffering in broken and toxic schools for far too long. A number of incidents, including school closures, heating and air quality, asthma-inducing conditions, and more, occurred before the Inquirer‘s reporting on toxic schools last year. Most notably, Christopher Trakimas, a facilities mechanic at Edmonds Elementary School in East Mount Airy, died of injuries he suffered in a boiler explosion in 2016. In 2017, 4th grader Chelsea Mungo wrote a heartbreaking letter to State Sen. Hughes saying she felt like she was in prison – or a junkyard – when she was in school at Lewis Cassidy Academics Plus School in West Philadelphia. “Why does the color of the students’ skin matter how much money we get for our school?” she asked. Both stories are tragedies in their own right. Even with the spotlight from that award-winning news coverage, we still had the Ben Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy debacle and reports of exposed asbestos at T.M. Peirce School this fall. On Good Morning America, Lea DiRusso, a teacher with 30 years of experience in Philadelphia schools, went public with her diagnosis of mesothelioma, an asbestos-related cancer. None of this should happen, and if we continue to let incidents like these occur, they will become normalized. This is wrong. We should not be sending our children into such dangerous conditions – they deserve to learn with dignity in modern buildings.

How to talk to your family about charter schools during the holidays
What you should say when someone starts dissing traditional, neighborhood public schools and hyping up charter schools. In the Public Interest by Jeremy Mohler Nov 21 · 4 min read
The holidays are a time of joy and relaxation but also uncomfortable conversations with family. Will Uncle Tommy go on another rant about windmills causing cancer? Does grandma still think Russia is the only reason Trump won? So, what should you say when someone starts dissing traditional, neighborhood public schools and hyping up charter schools?
Charter schools generally perform academically about the same as neighborhood public schools.
Study after study show that, just like there are high and low performing neighborhood public schools, there are high and low performing charter schools. In fact, because some charter schools effectively exclude special education students or expel students with perceived disciplinary issues, charter school academic success often can be overstated.
Charter schools can drain school district budgets, taking resources from neighborhood public school students.
Research is revealing that, in many states, school districts and the students they serve are undermined by policies that prioritize opening new charter schools.

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

Charter Schools; Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

Chester-Upland Fights Charter Takeover
Diane Ravitch’s Blog By dianeravitch November 26, 2019 //
Staff and parents of students in the remaining public schools of the Chester-Upland district in Pennsylvania, are planning a rally to protest the charter proposal to take over all the elementary students. The district’s big charter, owned by a for-profit corporation that belongs to a wealthy lawyer, has lower scores on state tests than the public schools it wants to close. Chester Community Charter School, owned by wealthy Republican donor Vahan Gureghian, is a low-performing charter. The charter aims to eliminate one choice: local public schools. If the supporters of the public schools had external funding, they could buy everyone a matching T-shirt, like charters do.

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

“Goodman the fourth lawmaker to announce this month that he will not be seeking re-election in 2020. So far, Reps. Steve Barrar, R-Delaware; Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, and Steve McCarter, D-Montgomery, have also announced plans to retire.”
Democratic Rep. Neal Goodman is the latest legislative retirement
PA Capital Star By  John L. Micek November 26, 2019
State Rep. Neal P. Goodman, a nine-term Democrat from Schuylkill County’s coal country, is the latest lawmaker to announce they won’t be seeking re-election in 2020. Speaking exclusively to his hometown Pottsville Republican-Herald on Monday, Goodman, 62, said the decision to step away from the House didn’t come easily. “Now is the time to announce because, shortly after Thanksgiving, people start thinking about nominating petitions and things like that,” he said. “So I think this is the best time to make an announcement like this,” Goodman told the newspaper.

Dush announces retirement in 2020; third lawmaker to call it quits this November
PA Capital Star By  Stephen Caruso November 26, 2019
Yet another Harrisburg lawmaker has announced their retirement, the third this November, as preparations for the next election heat up. Rep. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, said in a statement Nov. 18 that he would not seek a fourth term, keeping a campaign promise he made when he won office in 2014. Quoting from the Bible, Dush — one of the House’s most ardent conservatives — said despite pleas for him to run again from constituents, he would not go back on his word. “While I’m flattered and honored by [my constituents] trust in me, I must point out several things beginning with Deuteronomy 23:23, which clearly says, ‘Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth,’” Dush said in a statement. “In short, I must honor my commitment as made unto God.”

“More than 15,000 properties currently have the abatement. The total value that is exempt from taxes under the abatement is $11.6 billion, according to property records. The city and School District would net about $162 million in annual revenue if those properties were taxed in full.”
Philadelphia’s controversial 10-year tax abatement soon could change for the first time. Here’s what you need to know.
Inquirer by Laura McCrystal, Updated: 17 minutes ago
A major Philadelphia real estate tax break is close to seeing its first changes in the almost 20 years since it became law. City Council is considering changes to the controversial 10-year tax abatement. A flurry of negotiations and lobbying is underway in City Hall to influence legislation that could pass before the end of 2019. Council President Darrell L. Clarke hopes to see enacted a bill that would effectively halve the exemption for new construction of residential properties. The abatement has long had vocal supporters and critics. But the legislation introduced in November marks the first time a reform measure has had a good chance of passing.
Here’s what you need to know about the abatement.

Teaching at a Philly school left me so ‘utterly broken’ I had to quit | Perspective
Brian Gallagher, For the Inquirer Updated: November 26, 2019 - 12:40 PM
Brian Gallagher joined the School District of Philadelphia three years ago as a teacher at McDaniel Elementary. This piece was adapted from a speech he gave at a School Board meeting on November 21, 2019.
During my first year as a teacher in the School District of Philadelphia, I was nominated to be featured on the District website’s “Inspiration Corner.” I helped facilitate the Writer’s Matter program for my students, helping one win an award. I ran for, and won, our school’s election for building representative. When the district did walkthroughs, my principal consistently told me that I was the “shining star.” When deciding if I would come back this year, she joked that she wouldn’t be a good reference for me because she wanted me to stay. I don’t say any of this to brag but to show that I have been committed, dedicated, and respected. I also say this because this week, I handed in my resignation. During my first two years at McDaniel Elementary, I have witnessed some terrible and tragic things — countless staff leaving, violence between students, toward staff, and from outside adults attacking students. All of this, and I still decided to come back because I wanted to be part of helping to change the culture of the school. The staff who returned this year were strong and incredibly dedicated. Every adult in that building cares immensely for the wellbeing of our students.

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

What Happens If SAT Scores Consider Adversity? Find Your School
The Wall Street Journal obtained the list, and it offers a glimpse of the effects on test scores
Wall Street Journal By  Douglas Belkin | Graphics by  Elbert Wang Updated Nov. 26, 2019 10:07 am ET
What if SAT scores could take into account whether a student went to an elite boarding school in New England or a struggling public school in Chicago’s poorest neighborhood? The College Board, which administers the SAT, asked this question and developed an adversity score for every U.S. high school, measuring about 15 factors such as income level and crime rate in a school’s neighborhood. It abandoned the single-number measurement over the summer after a public outcry from educators and parents. Instead, it plans to give colleges a range of socioeconomic data on high schools and their neighborhoods. The Wall Street Journal obtained the College Board school-adversity scores, which ranked schools from 1 to 100 in degree of adversity. It then asked a Georgetown University data scientist to use those scores to adjust the average SAT results of 10,353 high schools where at least 30 students took the SAT.

Minority Voters Chafe as Democratic Candidates Abandon Charter Schools
The front-runners for the presidential nomination are moving away from the charter school movement, and black and Latino families ask why their concerns are lost.
New York Times By Erica L. Green and Eliza Shapiro Nov. 26, 2019Updated 9:50 a.m. ET
ATLANTA — The night before Democratic presidential candidates took to a debate stage here last week, black and Latino charter school parents and supporters gathered in a bland hotel conference room nearby to make signs they hoped would get the politicians’ attention. “Charter schools = self-determination,” one sign read. “Black Democrats want charters!” another blared. At issue is the delicate politics of race and education. For more than two decades, Democrats have largely backed public charter schools as part of a compromise to deliver black and Latino families a way out of failing district schools. Charters were embraced as an alternative to the taxpayer-funded vouchers for private-school tuition supported by Republicans, who were using the issue to woo minority voters. But this year, in a major shift, the leading Democratic candidates are backing away from charter schools, and siding with the teachers’ unions that oppose their expansion. And that has left some black and Latino families feeling betrayed.

Deep Dive: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren on Charter Schools
Education Week November 18, 2019
Perhaps no education issue has been as divisive among Democrats in recent years as charter schools. Support for charters in the national Democratic Party has diminished in recent years, although many Democratic voters still support them. And in the 2020 campaign, no two candidates for president have criticized charters as sharply as front-runners Sens. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts. Their stated plans would cause a dramatic upheaval in the charter school community, which includes more than 7,000 schools and roughly 3.2 million students. But how many of their aggressive goals are realistic, and do they accurately describe what happens in charter schools today? You might have noticed by now that you can interact with sections of this article that have been highlighted in yellow. Click on those sections to see our annotations about the parts of the Sanders and Warren platforms that deal with charters to address how (or if) their plans would work, and to share background information about funding, oversight, and more.

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

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

Save the Date: PSBA/PASA/PAIU Advocacy Day at the Capitol-- March 23, 2020
Registration will open on December 2, 2019

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

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

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

Any comments contained herein are my comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.