Thursday, April 25, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 25, 2019 Letter: Pa. should be doing right by all her students

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
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Blogger Commentary: Scholarship organizations that distribute diverted tax dollars to private and religious schools under Florida's Tax Credit Scholarship Program get to keep just 3% for administrative expenses. Under Pennsylvania’s EITC/OSTC programs they get to keep 20%. This is not chump change. Total diverted tax dollars under the EITC and OSTC programs this year amounted to $210 million; that 20% is $42 million for administrative expenses; with zero transparency.

“Half of Pennsylvania’s students live in underfunded districts. These districts are disproportionately poor and even more disproportionately non-white. The current system is truly unjust. We need to support legislation that will phase out hold harmless and fully enact the Fair Funding Formula so all our kids get a fair chance.”
Pa. should be doing right by all her students | PennLive letters
PennLive Letters to the Editor Posted Apr 24, 2:09 PM by Laura Johnson, Pottstown, Montgomery County and Raymond Rose, Pottstown, Montgomery County
We are writing to you because Pennsylvania should be doing right by all her students, not just half of them. Unfortunately, half of our public school children are being shortchanged. In Pottstown our property taxes are among the highest in the state and still our schools are underfunded by more than $13 million per year. Despite our best efforts we struggle with overcrowding and high teacher turnover. Why is this? There are two main reasons:
One, “Hold Harmless.” This is a rule that the state legislature created that says you can never give a district less than they got the year before. If a school district was getting a lot of money when it had a higher student population, it gets the same amount even if the population drops. This benefits shrinking districts at the expense of growing districts. It’s morally troubling, yet it’s politically easier for the state legislators from these shrinking districts to ignore the problem.
Two, Fair Funding. Even though we have a fair funding formula to help allocate funding based on need, that formula is only applied to new money introduced into the education budget. In 2018 this was only 7.5 percent of the education budget.

Blogger note: Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 was over $1.6 billion; $393.5 million, $398.8 million, $436.1 million and $454.7 million respectively. We will continue rolling out cyber charter tuition expenses for taxpayers in education committee members, legislative leadership and various other districts.
In 2016-17, taxpayers in House Minority Caucus Administrator .@RepNealGoodman’s school districts in Schuylkill County had to send over $2.2 million to chronically underperforming cybers that they never authorized. #SB34 (Schwank) or #HB526 (Sonney) could change that.
Data source: PDE via .@PSBA
Links to additional bill information and several resources have been moved to the end of today’s postings

Mahanoy Area SD
Minersville Area SD
North Schuylkill SD
Pottsville Area SD
Shenandoah Valley SD
Saint Clair Area SD


Has your state senator cosponsored SB34?

Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

Philly’s East Falls neighborhood rises to protest proposed relocation of Lab Charter
Neighbors say they weren't fully informed. And they are working hard to revitalize their local District school.
The notebook Dale Mezzacappa April 24 — 8:20 pm, 2019
East Falls is a gracious community — Grace Kelly grew up there, former mayor and governor Ed Rendell lives there — with elegant stone and brick homes lining wide and rolling streets. On Midvale Avenue, a steep hill that rises from the Schuylkill River through the heart of the neighborhood, its Colonial-revival style public elementary school comes into view just after the soaring towers of St. Bridget’s Catholic Church. The school is Thomas Mifflin Elementary, built in 1936, that now houses 300 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. According to recent census data for the East Falls zip code, just over half its population is white and a third is black, with small but growing contingents of Asians and Latinos. Its residents are primarily middle- to upper-middle class. However, as in many Philadelphia locales, the school’s demographics do not match that of its neighborhood. Mifflin’s enrollment is about 90 percent black, a good chunk of those students drawn from Abbottsford Homes, public housing located just across Henry Avenue. A majority of its students are from low-income families. The more affluent parents of East Falls, most of them white, traditionally have chosen private schools (William Penn Charter, a centuries-old Quaker school, is in the neighborhood). More recently, they’ve opted for public charter schools, including Wissahickon and Green Woods, both located in the vicinity. But over the last several years, there has been a renewed push to make Mifflin the school of choice for residents of East Falls.  Its white student population has been inching up in the lower grades. Parents like Bonnie Emilius and Carla Lewandowski send their children there, a Friends of Mifflin group has been formed, and there is a drive to build a playground at the school.

Another charter school in East Falls? Some parents say: No thanks.
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: 9 minutes ago
At first, Carla Lewandowski thought she’d move to the Main Line when it was time to send her children to school. The East Falls mother of three also contemplated private and charter schools. “My husband said, ‘We haven’t even looked at Mifflin,'" Lewandowski recalled last week. They toured the neighborhood public school and saw a “nurturing environment," with a principal who “knows literally every student’s name." Their oldest child now attends kindergarten at Thomas Mifflin School, and Lewandowski is president of the school’s Friends group. She and other East Falls parents who have embraced Mifflin are pushing back on a proposal for Laboratory Charter School to move to and expand in their community — a prospect they’re angry they learned about only two weeks ago by chance. The Philadelphia school board is scheduled to vote on the charter’s relocation Thursday night. “I think we all fear that a charter moving in would impede our progress, especially because I think there’s still a stigma around public schools,” Lewandowski said. Charters are publicly funded but independently run. In Philadelphia they educate about 70,000, or one-third of, public-school students. While charters remain a desired option for many families, they have faced backlash from supporters of traditional public schools, who see them as a drain on school districts.

Nation’s First Apprenticeship for Public School Teachers debuts with Norristown School District
Pottstown Mercury By Gary Puleo @MustangMan48 on Twitter Apr 25, 2019
WEST NORRITON — Norristown Area School District is fully on board with the first-of-its-kind registered apprenticeship program to train K-12 public school teachers to further develop their skills that was recently unveiled by Governor Tom Wolf. The Apprenticeship to Mastery Program for Public School Teachers (AMP), a two-year non-traditional apprenticeship program for K-12 public school educators, has been approved by the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Apprenticeship and Training Office (ATO). Sponsored by Choice Careers LLC, the program will provide structured on-the-job training with Norristown Area School District, as well as summer rotations at local businesses, a release noted. Related technical instruction will be provided through accelerated online courses toward a Master of Science degree in Education from Gwynedd Mercy University (GMercyU), online training from Educational Impact, and workshops from Choice Careers LLC. “The Norristown Area School District is excited to partner with Choice Careers LLC and Gwynedd Mercy University to implement the first of its kind apprenticeship program for teachers,” noted Chris Dormer, Superintendent of Schools, Norristown Area School District. “This innovative apprenticeship program will allow Norristown Area School District to better recruit, attract, hire, and retain high quality instructors. This was a great opportunity to work with Choice Careers and Gwynedd Mercy. It puts something in place to allow us to ultimately take recruitment to another level.

Pa. education secretary discusses proposals with Reading SD leaders
By: 69 News Posted: Apr 24, 2019 02:58 PM EDT
READING, Pa. - Reading school leaders are learning how the city's district may benefit from some of the Wolf administration's education proposals. Pedro Rivera, the state's secretary of education, met with Superintendent Khalid Mumin and other district leaders at Northeast Middle School on Wednesday. Rivera discussed the benefits he said the administration sees in its proposals to lower the compulsory age for school attendance from 8 to 6 years and to raise the mandatory age at which a student can drop out of high school from 17 to 18. "Expanding the age limits is just one part of the equation," Rivera said. "We also have to put the systems in place and the supports in place to ensure kids are successful and schools are successful in serving their students." Rivera also discussed a proposal to increase the minimum annual salary for the state's teachers to $45,000, up from where it currently currently stands at $18,500. Rivera said Reading and three other public school districts in Berks County would benefit from such an increase, something that state Sen. Judy Schwank, a Berks County Democrat, also supports by way of a Senate bill she is sponsoring. The proposal calls for the state to provide $13.8 million in additional basic education funding to fully cover salary increases as well as associated pension, Social Security, and Medicare costs, officials said.

Harrisburg lawmakers back mayor’s request for state takeover of city schools
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | Updated Apr 24, 9:15 PM; Posted Apr 24, 9:14 PM
Both state lawmakers who represent the city of Harrisburg support a state takeover of the city school district after a series of scandals, investigations and consistent lack of transparency. The state senator and representative who represent Harrisburg issued statements to PennLive Wednesday agreeing with Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse’s call earlier in the day for Education Secretary Pedro Rivera to petition the courts for receivership. Pennsylvania State Rep. Patty Kim (D-Harrisburg) told PennLive Wednesday night that the school board and district cannot continue in this way. She indicated that she had called for a state takeover of the troubled district several months ago. “I have watched to see if things would get better but the opposite has occurred,” Kim said. “The Department of Education has received my request for receivership several months ago. They have been open and helpful throughout. Students need their schools to be stable and nurturing. But the constant chaos with leadership is too much of a distraction for teachers and faculty. We have to go in a totally different direction.”

Harrisburg mayor urges state takeover of city schools
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | Updated Apr 24, 5:10 PM; Posted Apr 24, 2:20 PM
Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse on Wednesday publicly called for a receiver to take over the Harrisburg School District after a series of financial scandals, an investigation into grading anomalies and a standoff over access to financial records. Even though the school district has been under state oversight since late 2012, the district’s poor academic record has declined and the dysfunction has reached an unprecedented level, Papenfuse said. That’s because the state-appointed Chief Recovery Officer Janet Samuels only can advise the district, and her advice is being ignored, the mayor said. The district stopped complying with priorities of its financial recovery plan in 2018, according to some board members. The school board on Monday hired a controversial attorney, James Ellison, for school board solicitor after Samuels expressed concerns about how the application process was handled. “A receiver would have power the chief recovery officer does not,” Papenfuse said. “A recovery officer can suggest that the school board conduct a fair search for a solicitor, open their books to state auditors and hire a qualified business manager, but she can’t force them. A receiver could do all those things.”

State senator asks education secretary to consider takeover of Harrisburg School District
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | Updated Apr 24, 6:40 PM; Posted Apr 24, 5:43 PM
A state senator on Wednesday asked Pennsylvania’s education secretary to consider receivership for the Harrisburg School District, the same day the city’s mayor urged the state to take over the troubled district. “I am becoming increasingly concerned by the actions of the Harrisburg School District with regard to transparency, personnel and fiscal management, academic achievement and the apparent lack of compliance with Department of Education directives,” Sen. John DiSanto, who represents Harrisburg, wrote in his letter to Secretary Pedro Rivera. DiSanto indicated in his letter that he had previously asked Rivera about receivership for the city district in June 2018 but that Rivera said the department at that time was not in a position to petition for receivership. “On behalf of my constituents who live in the city and the thousands of children who attend its schools, I would ask that you reevaluate receivership as an option to put the District on the right path,” DiSanto wrote.

Appointment of James Ellison fuels public distrust of Harrisburg School Board | PennLive Editorial
By PennLive Editorial Board Updated Apr 24, 10:33 AM; Posted Apr 24, 9:04 AM
The second try did it. Monday night, the Harrisburg School Board hired controversial attorney James Ellison as their solicitor. The vote was 5-4 amid significant public opposition. Ellison has a long and checkered past as a key character in several controversies, most recently with the Coatesville Area School District. There he was accused of over-billing and questionable legal judgment. That cost the law firms associated with Ellison $420,000 in settlement payments. But there’s more. In 2012, the State Ethics Commission investigated Ellison‘s practices and ordered him to pay a fine of $2,297 fine, concluding he improperly steered work toward Rhoads & Sinon law firm where he worked when he was chair of the Harrisburg Authority. Person after person alluded to these controversies during Monday night’s meeting, but their concerns were dismissed as mere accusations.  “In terms of the controversy that’s all around him, I take that to heart and I think that’s important, but I did not let that be my deciding factor,” said board member Lola Lawson. “I’ve seen too many witch hunts in this community.” Board member Ellis Roy, a former detective with Harrisburg Police, said that while Ellison has been accused over the years of bad legal judgment and billing practices, he has been thoroughly investigated and has not been convicted of anything.

Two more districts hit the snooze button on school start times
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Updated: April 24, 2019- 12:23 PM
The movement to hit the snooze button and let sleep-deprived teenagers get a later start on their school days is catching fire in Philadelphia’s western suburbs. This week, school boards in two Main Line school districts — Radnor and Tredyffrin/Easttown — approved schedules for the 2019-20 academic year that start the school day as much as 55 minutes later for some kids, in response to medical research that early start times are out of sync with teen body clocks.  “It came down to logistics, but went back to research as well. When does adolescent circadian rhythm [a change in biological sleep patterns] kick in and when does it have an impact?” Radnor superintendent Kenneth Bachelor said, adding that this fall’s 8:30 a.m. high school start time will become the latest in the region.
What’s happening:
  • The Tredyffrin/Easttown school board voted by 7-2 Monday night, after months of studying the issue, to push back the school day for all students starting this fall. The new times will be 7:50 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. for high schoolers (currently 7:20 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.); 8:27 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. for middle schoolers (now 7:50 a.m. to 2:33); and 9:10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. for grade schoolers (8:45 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.)
  • On Tuesday, the Radnor school board voted, also 7-2, for its 2019-20 schedule, with a big move back for high schools and a minor one for middle schoolers. Its new start and end times are 8:30 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. at Radnor High School (currently 7:35 a.m. to 2:27 p.m.), 7:50 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. at the middle school (now 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and 9:07 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. at its three elementary schools (now 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.)
In both school districts, the later start times were widely supported by school officials, parents, students, and experts on sleep and psychology such as Judith Owens, an internationally known pediatric sleep expert who was brought to Radnor twice to speak on the topic.

ACLU urges Elanco to reverse course on controversial bathroom, locker room policy
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer Apr 23, 2019
The American Civil Liberties Union is urging the Eastern Lancaster County school board to reverse course on a new bathroom and locker room policy that critics say illegally singles out transgender students. “It is profoundly stigmatizing to be told that your very presence in a restroom is unacceptable simply because you are transgender,” Ria Tabacco Mar, an attorney for the national ACLU, told LNP. “It is also illegal, as numerous federal courts have recognized.” An addendum in the district’s Physical Privacy policy, approved by the board last week, states students are to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their biological sex, rather than gender identity, until private, single-user facilities are available districtwide. That’s despite the district’s previous decision to allow a transgender student who identifies as male to use the boys’ facilities at Garden Spot High School. Reversing those accommodations, board President Glenn Yoder has said, would be a “gamble with very high stakes.” Yet critics say that’s precisely what the board did by adding the controversial addendum.

Turnstile teaching
At 26 Philly schools, teachers churn through jobs at an alarming rate, hindering some of the city’s most vulnerable children.
Inquirer by Jessica Calefati, Dylan Purcell and Kristen A. Graham, Updated: 10 minutes ago
Jaclyn Fabbri knew that Jay Cooke Elementary School had a rough reputation when she agreed to teach middle-school English there. But the young teacher had high hopes as she walked through the North Philadelphia school’s bright red double doors for the first time. That feeling didn’t last long. After her first year at Cooke, almost half the faculty left. Last summer, after only two years, she left, too — along with almost a third of her fellow teachers. “I thought this was a school that believed in working for the kids,” Fabbri said. Cooke employs about 30 teachers. Since 2012, however, at least 131 educators have cycled through the century-old brick school building — on average, more than four teachers for each position. Experts say a stable teaching staff is crucial to a school’s academic success, and turnover of 25 percent in a year is cause for alarm. Twenty-six district schools, including Cooke, experience turnover far beyond that measure, an Inquirer investigation has found. These schools lost at least 25 percent of their teachers for four years straight or lost more than one-third in each of the last two school years. Located mostly in North and Southwest Philadelphia, the schools serve about 12,000 of the district’s most vulnerable students, nearly all of them minorities.

Should Philly school nurses be able to send home unvaccinated students? District says no.
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Updated: 17 minutes ago
For years, Lincoln High School nurse Peg Devine had the authority to bar students from school until they had received the vaccines children are required to have under state law. In 26 years, she estimates, she kept 15 students out of school. Exclusion proved powerful; no students missed more than two days before returning with proof they had been immunized, she said. But for the last several years, the Philadelphia School District has prohibited school nurses from excluding unvaccinated students, a move that worries Devine and others given the recent local outbreak of mumps and other infectious diseases cropping up across the country. Across the district, 12,405 pupils lack either all of the state-mandated vaccinations or have an exemption from them because of medical, religious, or philosophical reasons. That’s roughly 10 percent of the district’s student population. “It’s very dangerous that you’ve got kids who are not immunized, and you have medically fragile kids,” said Devine. “It’s unprecedented.”

777 West Harrisburg Pike, Harrisburg, PA
Mukund S. Kulkarni Theatre, Student Enrichment Center
Join Diane Ravitch as she presents "The End of the Faux Reform Movement." Ravitch is the author of the national bestseller "Reign of Error The Hoax of the Privatization Movement" and the "Danger to America’s Public Schools." There will be a book signing opportunity after the event.
For more information, contact Dr. Hannah Spector at

Electing PSBA Officers – Application Deadline is May 31st
Do you have strong communication and leadership skills and a vision for PSBA? Members interested in becoming the next leaders of PSBA are encouraged to submit an Application for Nomination no later than May 31 to PSBA's Leadership Development Committee (LDC).
The nomination process: All persons seeking nomination for elected positions of the Association shall file with the Leadership Development Committee chairperson an Application for Nomination (.PDFon a form to be provided by the Association expressing interest in the office sought. The Application for nomination shall be marked received at PSBA Headquarters or mailed first class and postmarked no later than the application deadline specified in the timeline established by the Governing Board to be considered timely-filed.” (PSBA Bylaws, Article IV, Section 6.E.). Application Deadline: May 31, 2019
Open positions are:

PSBA: Nominations for the Allwein Society are welcome!
The Allwein Society is an award program recognizing school directors who are outstanding leaders and advocates on behalf of public schools and students. This prestigious honor was created in 2011 in memory of Timothy M. Allwein, a former PSBA staff member who exemplified the integrity and commitment to advance political action for the benefit of public education. Nominations are accepted year-round and inductees will be recognized at the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference, among other honors.

All PSBA-members are invited to attend Advocacy Day on Monday, April 29, 2019 at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. In addition, this year PSBA will be partnering with the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) and Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) to strengthen our advocacy impact. The focus for the day will be meetings with legislators to discuss critical issues affecting public education. There is no cost to attend, and PSBA will assist in scheduling appointments with legislators once your registration is received. The day will begin with a continental breakfast and issue briefings prior to the legislator visits. Registrants will receive talking points, materials and leave-behinds to use with their meetings. PSBA staff will be stationed at a table in the main Rotunda during the day to answer questions and provide assistance. The day’s agenda and other details will be available soon. If you have questions about Advocacy Day, legislative appointments or need additional information, contact  Register for Advocacy Day now at
PSBA members can register online now by logging in to myPSBA. If you need assistance logging in and registering contact Alysha Newingham, Member Data System Administrator at or call her at (717) 506-2450, ext. 3420
Save the Date:  PARSS Annual Conference May 1-3, 2019
Wyndham Garden Hotel, Mountainview Country Club
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools

PSBA Tweet March 12, 2019 Video Runtime: 6:40
In this installment of #VideoEDition, learn about legislation introduced in the PA Senate & House of Representatives that would save millions of dollars for school districts that make tuition payments for their students to attend cyber charter schools. 

PSBA Summaries of Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 526

PSBA Sample Board Resolution in Support of Statewide Cyber Charter School Funding Reform

PSBA Sample Board Resolution in Support of Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 256

How much could your school district and taxpayers save if there were statewide flat tuition rates of $5000 for regular ed students and $8865 for special ed.? See the estimated savings by school district here.
Education Voters PA Website February 14, 2019

Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

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.