March 2019
Proposed PA Budget Needs Bigger, Bolder Investment in Education
In February, Governor Wolf proposed his 2019-20 budget, which included increases in funds for basic education, special education, career and technical education, and early childhood. While these increases are welcome, the proposed funding falls short of the level of bold investments that we and our partners in the statewide PA Schools Work campaign have called for.

In an op-ed in last Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, executive director Deborah Gordon Klehr highlighted the critical need to direct substantially more state funds to closing the widening gap between low-wealth and high-wealth districts in Pennsylvania. You can help us amplify this message by sharing her op-ed on social media and by contacting your legislators to tell them that Gov. Wolf’s proposal is a good step, but we need them to do much more.
Gordon Klehr's op-ed ran in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Feb. 24.
Investigative Report Reaffirms ELC's Findings on Abuses Suffered at PA Residential Institution
Last week, a powerful investigative report from the Philadelphia Inquirer exposed 20 years of violence and abuse by staff at Glen Mills Schools, a Delaware County residential institution for boys adjudicated delinquent. As Maura McInerney, legal director at the Education Law Center, stated in a subsequent press release, “These heart-wrenching and harrowing stories expose the reality of relentless physical and emotional abuse, terror, and trauma."

Glen Mills is a horrific example of a larger pattern of residential placements causing harm to children across Pennsylvania, as was detailed in ELC’s recent report Unsafe and Uneducated , produced with Children’s Rights. The report cited Glen Mills for its abusive conditions, which averaged one incident of child maltreatment every other month from December 2013 to January 2017 alone. The report also highlighted the pattern of inferior education at residential placements, which often fail to provide qualified teachers and appropriate curricula and instead rely on worksheets and online credit recovery programs that leave children far behind academically and more likely to drop out.

Following the Inquirer reporting, Philadelphia DHS, which had previously closed its intake to Glen Mills, announced its plan to remove all children from the facility. Other jurisdictions across the country are following suit. ELC has joined other advocates and policymakers at the local, state, and national levels calling for an investigation and closing of Glen Mills. ELC has also called for broader systemic reform for all residential placements to end the practice of sending children to such facilities and impose greater state agency accountability and oversight on placements that remain open. ELC also continues its work as a member of the Philadelphia Taskforce on Residential Placements for Youth to recommend alternatives to the current institutions that fail our children.
Our New Report Highlights Civil Rights Concerns in Philadelphia Charter Schools
A new  Education Law Center report , highlighting a wide range of equity issues in Philadelphia charter schools, urges Philadelphia’s Board of Education to monitor the city’s charter sector more closely and guard against discriminatory enrollment and practices. The study, “ Safeguarding Educational Equity: Protecting Philadelphia Students’ Civil Rights Through Charter Oversight,”  focuses on the city’s “traditional charters” – excluding cyber schools and charter schools that are converted former district neighborhood schools. It finds that the demographic makeup of students in these traditional charters is strikingly different from the population in District schools. For instance, the population of economically disadvantaged students is 14 percentage points lower in the traditional charter sector than the district sector and the percentage of English learners in District schools is nearly three times higher than in traditional charters. 
 
The report urges the Board, in its charter oversight role, to look beyond academic and financial performance to also focus on issues of equity, change the performance framework used to evaluate charters so that equity issues are prioritized, and expand the capacity of the district’s Charter School Office.
ELC Advocates for Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Student Rights in Elanco
Eastern Lancaster School District (Elanco) recently adopted practices that affirm the identities of transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) students, including permitting them to access facilities that align with their gender identities. In response to concerns from some community members, Elanco’s school board is reviewing its policies and the rights of transgender students. ELC wrote an open letter to the board February 12, explaining that transgender students have a right to be affirmed in their gender identities under state and federal law and that positive school climates are necessary to give TGNC students what they need to thrive in school. Lancaster Online’s editorial board also published an editorial explaining gender identity and the importance of affirming TGNC students, which ELC applauded in a letter to the editor .

To address any confusion about the rights of TGNC students going forward, ELC is calling on the Pennsylvania Department of Education to issue guidance that clarifies to school administrators and board members that TGNC students are protected under state and federal civil rights laws. 
Tune in TODAY to Learn How Schools Should Address Needs of Parents with Limited English Proficiency
Tune in to Pittsburgh’s NPR Station, WESA 90.5, at 9 a.m. on Friday, March 1 for a special feature on how schools are and should be addressing the needs of parents with limited English proficiency. The one-hour special will highlight a case ELC brought against the Pittsburgh Public Schools on behalf of an English learner with a disability, and the working group and district policies that resulted from this legal action. The program will also be available on WESA 90.5’s website . For WESA’s previous reporting on ELC’s advocacy on behalf of English learners, check out their Education Forum on “Schools & Immigration,” available here .
Welcome to ELC's New Finance and Operations Director... and a Fond Farewell
ELC is pleased to announce that Michael D. McClary is now ELC’s new director of finance and operations. McClary serves as an essential member of ELC’s leadership team, overseeing financial management, operations, and human resources. He has extensive experience in operations, management, and finance at businesses and organizations in the Philadelphia region. He was a senior loan officer at the Reinvestment Fund before spending a decade as the deputy director of operations at Acelero Learning Camden/Philadelphia, Inc., an organization that runs Head Start facilities.

We said farewell to associate director Christine Gaffney in February. Chris brought a rare mix of talents to ELC -- in management, finance, fundraising, planning, politics and policy, and most of all, in supporting and caring for all of her colleagues. ELC could not have become the organization it is today without Chris’s dedication and hard work. We wish her a happy retirement and salute her 20 years of incredible service at ELC. We’ll miss you, Chris!
ELC Solicits Responses for Survey on Needs of Pregnant and Parenting Students
Philadelphia’s teen pregnancy rate hovers at 35.2 per 1,000 teens. Data shows that teen pregnancy and parenting accounts for 30% of student drop outs annually, and 70% of teen parents in Philadelphia dropped out of school in 2010 alone. Teen mothers are also more likely to repeat a grade, score lower on standardized tests, and are less likely to have stable housing. Low educational attainment among teen mothers also affects their earning potential in later years. By ensuring that pregnant and parenting students overcome barriers to accessing a quality public education, schools play a critical role in breaking the cycle of poverty for two generations of students. ELC has been studying this issue through a variety of strategies and making recommendations on ways to improve educational outcomes.

ELC is currently conducting a brief survey  to learn more about the educational needs of pregnant and parenting students in Philadelphia. If you work with pregnant and parenting students in Philadelphia, please take a few minutes to complete our online survey and provide your input on this important topic.
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