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Education Update

Below is the current Education Update.  Click here for a list of other recent updates.

April 16, 2018

School Safety...
 
School Safety Data -  U.S. schools have significantly increased security measures and preparation for events like school shootings in the last 20 years, the newest federal data show. Meanwhile, rates of student victimization at school have continued to decline, fewer students have brought weapons to school, and fewer students report fear of harm in school, according to a federal report released late last month. Fewer students report having access to an unlocked gun in the most recent data, and, contrary to popular perception, rates of violent deaths at school have not trended significantly upward in recent years. The newly released data take on particular relevance as local, state, and federal policymakers seek to improve school safety following the Feb. 14 shooting in a Parkland, Fla., high school where 17 students and educators were killed. Read the rest of the story: “Data: Schools Have Gotten Safer Over Time” (from Education Week, 4/10/18).
 
In Legislative News…
 
Session Schedule – With both chambers at the Capitol this week, things are kicking into high gear. Next week only the Senate will be in session and the following week only the House. Then both chambers will be in a two-week recess for the May primary.
 
After moving several bills last week, the House Education Committee is preparing to move a whopping nine bills out of their committee this week, all geared to career and technical education and generally stemming from the report from the Select Committee on Career and Technical Education.
 
While we’re still waiting for the Senate Education Committee to hold a voting meeting to call up Senate Bill 2 (the tuition voucher proposal), possibly the week of April 23, the committee is holding two hearings this week on collective bargaining under Act 88 and alternatives to that process.
 
On top of this activity, school safety, PlanCon and budget issues are swirling around behind the scenes, and charter school reform continues to be a major topic of discussion.
 
Last Week’s House Action –
 
* PDE Tech Audit: House Resolution 431; approved by the House Education Committee. The resolution urges the Auditor General to audit PDE’s Education Technology Program and the E-Fund to examine the use of the funds in the programs and to report to the House by December 31, 2018.
 
* Civics Education Graduation Requirement: HB 564; amended and approved by the House Education Committee. As amended, the bill requires school entities to administer at least once to students during grades 7-12 a locally developed assessment of U.S. History, government and civics. LEAs could use the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Test for this purpose. In addition, the LEA must issue a certificate of recognition to students to pass the assessment. At the end of the 2020-21 school year, the PDE would be required to conduct a survey of LEAs concerning compliance with these requirements, and LEAs would be required to respond no later than November 30, 2021. The PDE would need to make that data public by the following January.
 
* Sunscreen Applications at School: HB 1228; amended and approved by the House Education Committee. The bill allows students to apply a non-aerosol, topical sunscreen without a physician’s note or prescription if the student’s parent/guardian has provided documentation that the student can apply the product.
 
* Mandate Reports: HB 1527; passed by the House, sent to the Senate. The bill amends the Child Protective Services Law to require mandated reporters of child abuse to report all witnessed acts of suspected abuse, including those witnessed outside their scope of professional responsibilities.
 
* Calculating Post-Employment Liabilities: HB 2064; re-referred to the House Finance Committee. The bill requires school districts to calculate the amount of unfunded pension liability and other postemployment benefit obligations per $100,000 of assessed residential property within the district.
 
This Week’s Committee Meetings –
 
MONDAY, APRIL 16
 
House Education Committee, to consider the following bills:
 
* Vocational Instructional Certificates: HB 2155. The bill reduces the credit requirements for awarding vocational instructional certificates.
 
* EITC Funds for C-T: HB 2156. The bill creates and implements a Career and Technical Education Partnership Tax Credit Program, in which business firms can make donations to public schools, CTCs and institutions of higher education via career and technical education partnership organizations in exchange for a tax credit.
 
* Agriculture Education: HB 2157. The bill codifies an existing pilot program to expedite the classification of instructional programs (CIPs) and requires the Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence and PDE to issues guidelines and develop a standard form.
 
* Career Information & Recruitment: HB 2158. The bill requires school districts to consider all career presenters in the same manner and to provide at least one opportunity during the year to provide career information to all students in grades 4-12 individually or in a group setting.
 
* Articulation Agreements: HB 2159. The bill would require all public schools — including school districts, intermediate units, area vocational-technical schools, charter schools, regional charter schools, and cyber charter schools — as well as the Rural Regional College, state-related institutions, and Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology to submit their articulation agreements to PDE to be included in the database of online articulation agreements.
 
* C-T Career Resources: HB 2203. The bill requires PDE, Labor and Industry and Agriculture to create an online career resource center to provide information on the value and impact of CTE, career pathways, data and statistics on employment opportunities and compensation, postsecondary options and statewide and regional articulation agreements. 
 
* Workforce Development Clearinghouse: HB 2204. The bill requires the PDE and the Department of Labor & Industry to conduct a complete inventory of existing workforce development programs at both the secondary and postsecondary levels, with particular emphasis on opportunities for business-education partnerships, with the goal being to share those best practices learned with the various entities to help improve the delivery of career focused opportunities.
 
* CTE Advisory Committees: HB 2205. The bill would allow CTE programs or a cluster of programs to establish occupational advisory committees at the Intermediate Unit level to serve multiple school districts or Career and Technical Centers. 
 
* Workforce Development Board: HB 2206. The bill would require each Workforce Development Board to include in its membership at least one administrator of a career and technical center whose attendance area is covered by the service area of the WDB.
 
Senate Appropriations Committee, to consider the following bill:
 
* EIT Credits and Deductions: HB 866. The bill amends the Local Tax Enabling Act to do several things, including expanding the provision related to credits for payments to other states, allowing any other EIT assessed or any change in EIT rates made by other state law to be credited and allowed as a deduction from EIT liabilities.
 
TUESDAY, APRIL 17
 
House Finance Committee, to consider the following bill:  
 
* Property Tax Credit: HB 2040. The bill creates a Senior Tax Reduction Incentive Volunteer Exchange Program to allow school districts to establish programs to provide property tax credits to individuals 60 years or older who volunteer in the school district.
 
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18
 
The Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing at the Capitol on the issues and potential alternatives to the current Act 88 collective bargaining process and teacher strikes.
 
FRIDAY, APRIL 20
 
The Senate Education Committee will hold a second public hearing in Bedford on the issues and potential alternatives to the current Act 88 collective bargaining process and teacher strikes.
 
This Week’s House Floor Calendar – The following bills are on the House voting schedule for possible consideration this week:
 
* PDE Tech Audit: House Resolution 431; approved by the House Education Committee. The resolution urges the Auditor General to audit PDE’s Education Technology Program and the E-Fund to examine the use of the funds in the programs and to report to the House by December 31, 2018.
 
*Repealing Regulations: HB 209. The bill would establish the Independent Office of the Repealer to undertake an ongoing review of existing state regulations, receive and process recommendations, evaluate the merits of recommendations in accordance with decision rules and quantitative and qualitative criteria, and make recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor and Executive agencies for repeal, modification or revision.
 
* Civics Education Graduation Requirement: HB 564; amended and approved by the House Education Committee. As amended, the bill requires school entities to administer at least once to students during grades 7-12 a locally developed assessment of U.S. History, government and civics. LEAs could use the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Test for this purpose. In addition, the LEA must issue a certificate of recognition to students to pass the assessment. At the end of the 2020-21 school year, the PDE would be required to conduct a survey of LEAs concerning compliance with these requirements, and LEAs would be required to respond no later than November 30, 2021. The PDE would need to make that data public by the following January.
 
* Sunscreen Applications at School: HB 1228; amended and approved by the House Education Committee. The bill allows students to apply a non-aerosol, topical sunscreen without a physician’s note or prescription if the student’s parent/guardian has provided documentation that the student can apply the product.
 
In National News…
 
The Nation’s Report Card –
 
* A Widening Gap: Across the board, struggling American students are falling behind, while top performers are rising higher on the test dubbed the "Nation's Report Card." A nationally representative group of nearly 585,000 4th- and 8th-graders took the National Assessment of Educational Progress in 2017, the first time the tests were administered digitally. The results, released Tuesday, show no change at all for 4th grade in either subject or for 8th graders in math since the tests were last given in 2015. Eighth graders on average made only a 1-point gain in reading, to 267 on the NAEP's 500-point scale. That meager gain in reading was driven entirely by the top 25 percent of students. During the last decade, 8th grade reading was the only test in which the average score for both high and low performers rose. By contrast, in math, the percentage of students performing below basic (30 percent) and those performing at the advanced level (10 percent) both increased significantly since 2007. The same pattern emerged in 4th grade math and reading. Those changes were all statistically significant, and they point to what NCES Deputy Commissioner Peggy Carr called a "bifurcation" of student performance. American students' performance on international assessments such as the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and the Trends in International Math and Science Study show the same spreading gaps. Read the rest of the story: “Nation's Report Card: Achievement Flattens as Gaps Widen Between High and Low Performers” (from Education Week, 4/10/18).
 
* The Great Recession and Test Scores: For Education Next, C. Kirabo Jackson writes, “The disappointing 2017 NAEP scores will likely be used, by some, as evidence of the failure of some recent education policy reform such as Race to the Top, the Common Core, or ‘Choose Your Pet-Peeve Policy.’ However, I argue that the low scores may have been caused, in large part, by events that happened almost a decade ago. While 2017 scores are all well below those from 2013 (the last year of consistent test score growth), they are largely a continuation of the already-declining scores observed in 2015. Since the NAEP was originally administered 25 years ago, 2015 was the first time that math test scores had fallen in both 4th and 8th grade, and the first time that NAEP scores declined in three of the four key groups tested. Some had hoped that the 2015 results were a momentary blip, but the 2017 scores reveal that this is not the case. Thus, to understand the relatively low 2017 scores, we need to answer the question, What could have led to this change in national trends in 2015? Some compelling evidence points to a decline in public school spending caused by the Great Recession.” Read the rest of the story: “Could the Disappointing 2017 NAEP Scores Be Due to the Great Recession?” (from educationnext.org, 4/10/18).
 
* Pennsylvania Results: Pennsylvania again scored “significantly higher” the national average on the NAEP in Grades 4 and 8 reading and math as follows:
 
Grade 4 Math – PA Avg. Score: 242    National Avg. Score: 239   
one of 16 states higher than the national average
 
Grade 8 Math – PA Avg. Score: 286    National Avg. Score: 282
one of 23 states higher than the national average
 
Grade 4 Reading – PA Avg. Score: 226   National Avg. Score: 221
one of 26 states higher than the national average
 
Grade 8 Reading – PA Avg. Score: 272   National Avg. Score: 266
one of 23 states higher than the national average
 
Opposition to Federal ‘Voucher’ Bill A consortium of groups representing military veterans and branches of the armed forces have a message for Congress: Don't turn a popular federal education program into vouchers. In an April 5 letter to lawmakers, the Military Coalition said converting Impact Aid, a line item in the U.S. Department of Education's budget designed to mitigate the impact of federal activities on school districts, into funding for education savings accounts "would be financially devastating for many school districts, critically compromising the quality of the education they could provide to military children and their civilian classmates." The coalition is pushing back on the Education Savings Accounts for Military Families Act, which was introduced last month by Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind. Banks' bill would convert a "small portion" of Impact Aid's $1.3 billion to ESAs, which families could use on private school tuition, tutoring, and other education costs—the exact amount of Impact Aid funding that would be directed to ESAs would depend on how many families choose to sign up for the accounts. Read the rest of the story: “Military Coalition Tells Congress Not to Raid Federal Budget for School Choice” (from Education Week, 4/10/18).
 
Study: The Real Impact of Principals – The nation's more than 90,000 principals are key to the long-term success of their schools—but maybe not in the way they might think, according to a new analysis by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. Principals are the linchpin of the Windy City's efforts to overhaul schools, according to Chicago's Schools Chief Janice Jackson, who has highlighted efforts to give school leaders more say in district policies. The study suggests the most effective leaders in the district are those who focus more on culture than curriculum. Read the rest of the story: “A Look at How Principals Really Drive School Improvement” (from Education Week, 3/16/18).
 
Across the Nation…
 
Arizona: Teacher Pay – After mounting threats of a teachers' strike and with a midterm election looming, Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey reversed course Thursday and said he will urge the state's legislature to provide the state's teachers a combined 20 percent pay raise by 2020. "It's amazing what a threatened teachers strike in an election year can get the Republicans to do," Democratic state Rep. Rebecca Rios told the Associated Press. "I'm impressed." The promised 20 percent raise is a far cry from the 1 percent raise Ducey just days earlier said would be the most teachers could expect this fall. Teachers in the state remain skeptical. As of Friday, it was still unclear where Ducey would find the money to sustain the raise in the coming years without increasing taxes or closing tax loopholes. And the proposal still must go through the state's Republican-dominated legislature. The state's legislative session officially ends April 17. Read the rest of the story: “Arizona Governor Reverses Course, Says 20 Percent Teacher Pay Raise Possible” (from Education Week, 4/13/18).
 
California: Unionizing in a Cyber Charter School – Inspired by walkouts in West Virginia and Oklahoma, teachers in California's largest online charter school were prepared to strike if their new union could not reach an agreement with their school's management. But California Virtual Academies, which includes nine schools and contracts with K12 Inc., the biggest for-profit charter school operator in the country, and the fledgling union of California Virtual Educators United have settled on their first contract, union representatives announced Wednesday. Among the teacher demands the school has agreed to: some limits on the number of students they oversee, more flexibility in interacting with students and parents, and a whopping 17.8 percent increase in pay. Read the rest of the story: “After Threatened Walkout, Teachers Win Contract at Online Charter School” (from Education Week, 4/11/18).
 
Kentucky: Public School Funding – In a move that further outraged the state's teachers already upset over budget cuts and their pay, Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin last week vetoed the state budget and a series of tax increases, and signed a controversial pension bill into law. Reaction in the state to those actions was swift. Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning in order to block the pension bill from going into effect. And the state's teachers said this Friday that members will converge on the state Capitol in order to urge the legislature to override Bevin's veto of the budget, which would have resulted in more spending for the state's schools. The rally will likely cause a series of school closures in the state. Read the rest of the story: “Kentucky Governor Vetoes Education Budget, Signs Pension Changes” (from Education Week, 4/11/18).
 
On the Calendar…
 
April 17             PLUS Caucus of PASA meeting (PASA office)
April 18             Professional Dev. Committee meeting (virtual)
April 19             Board of Governors’ meeting (PASA office)
April 24             Strategic Plan Advisory Team meeting (virtual)
April 28             Test Prep Sessions (Shippensburg University)
May 6-8            Women’s Caucus Annual Conference (Hershey) 

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