Friday, March 22, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup March 22: Is this the year to reform PA’s “worst in the nation” charter school law?

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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Is this the year to reform PA’s “worst in the nation” charter school law?

Blogger note: Pennsylvania’s 20 year old charter school law has been characterized as the “worst in the nation”.  Here’s a look at what might be in the works for this year’s attempt at charter reform based upon recent co-sponsorship memoranda:
Co-Sponsorship Memorandum: Charter School Funding Advisory Commission
From: Senator Patrick M. Browne Posted: March 20, 2019 06:23 PM
In the near future I will re-introduce Senate Bill 806, legislation to establish a Charter School Funding Advisory Commission to review and make recommendations concerning charter school funding and related issues. This commission will consist of members of all four caucuses, including the majority and minority chairs of the Appropriations and Education Committees, two members appointed by the House and Senate majority leaders and one member appointed by the House and Senate minority leaders and the Secretary of Education.
The commission shall have the following powers and duties:

Co-Sponsorship Memorandum: Charter School Reforms
From: Senator James R. Brewster Posted: March 20, 2019 01:06 PM
In the near future, I will be reintroducing SB 670 from last session- charter school reform legislation. My legislation will include financial reforms, upgrading accountability to students and taxpayers, and reforms to the Charter Appeal Board.

Co-Sponsorship Memorandum: Student Driven Charter Funding Reform
From: Senator Robert M. Tomlinson Posted: March 20, 2019 12:14 PM
Please join me in sponsoring a package of pro-student bills aimed at addressing the growing discrepancies of funding charter schools through school districts. There is a long-standing debate about what charters were created to do and then how to adequately fund them. Many local districts, including my own in Bensalem have seen staggering increases in charter and special education payments. These increases have forced districts to cut programs, raise taxes and deplete fund balances. In the last nine years, payments for charter schools have quadrupled and the Bensalem School District costs for charter schools and special education have increased by $23.5 million and yet their own budget, outside of these costs, has only increased an average of 0.92% per year! The majority of every Act 1 tax increase must go straight to funding charter schools. The school district is good stewards of their resources, but continuing to follow this practice is a financial failure for students and our community. I am proposing a package of bills to provide adjustments with fair, common sense approaches that do not penalize, but right size education funding in a way that supports all public students no matter where they attend school.

Co-Sponsorship Memorandum: Charter School Reform – Ethics Requirements for Charter Trustees and Administrators
From: Representative Mike Reese Posted: March 5, 2019 08:45 AM
Please join me by cosponsoring legislation that I plan to introduce in the near future regarding strengthening ethical requirements for charter schools, regional charter schools, and cyber charter schools (“charter school entities”). The legislation will improve several provisions of the Charter School Law related to making critical ethics, transparency, governance and auditing reforms, including: Requirements related to advertising, Imposing ethical obligations on charter school entities’ board of trustees and administrators, Setting membership and quorum requirements for charter school entities’ board of trustees, Requiring annual independent financial audits for charter school entities, and Setting limits on charter school entities’ allowable unassigned fund balances. The reforms embodied in my legislation is part of a legislative package of four bills critical to improving and strengthening our Charter School Law, which was groundbreaking upon its enactment in 1997 but has become outdated over time. We must make these reforms now in order to maintain charter, regional charter and cyber charter schools as a strong, quality school choice option for the Commonwealth’s children and families.

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. Over the next several days we will continue rolling out cyber charter tuition expenses for taxpayers in education committee members, legislative leadership and various other districts.
In 2016-17, .@SenBartolotta’s school districts in Beaver, Greene and Washington Counties had to send over $14.2 million to chronically underperforming cybers that they never authorized. #SB34 (Schwank) or #HB526 (Sonney) could change that.
Links to additional bill information and several resources have been moved to the end of today’s postings
Data Source: PDE via PSBA

Aliquippa SD
Ambridge Area SD
Avella Area SD
Bentworth SD
Bethlehem-Center SD
Brownsville Area SD
Burgettstown Area SD
California Area SD
Canon-McMillan SD
Carmichaels Area SD
Central Greene SD
Charleroi SD
Chartiers-Houston SD
Fort Cherry SD
Hopewell Area SD
Jefferson-Morgan SD
McGuffey SD
Ringgold SD
South Side Area SD
Southeastern Greene SD
Trinity Area SD
Washington SD
West Greene SD


Prominent Pa. CEOs: Inadequate school funding makes it harder for us to hire locally | Opinion
Todd Carmichael and Philip Jaurigue, For the Inquirer Updated: March 21, 2019 - 11:42 AM
We are nearly 20 years into the 21st century and businesses are no closer to having the 21st century workforce. While generations of students have come of age in an era of upskilling, rapid technological and AI growth, employers, like us, remain frustrated that far too few job applicants have the skills we need for our companies to succeed. Workforce development initiatives that focus on retraining adults who are unemployed or under-employed may address a small part of the problem, that’s only a remedial solution. The common-sense way to ensure that all businesses have a better skilled labor pool is to make sure that students graduate from high school and enter the workforce prepared for today’s careers. The Greater Philadelphia region, one of the most vibrant places to work and live in the country. Generating 41 percent of the state’s economic activity and home to about a third of the state’s population and businesses, the region powers Pennsylvania’s economy. Yet, if you ask many employers what their number one concern is, the answer is overwhelmingly finding employees with skills to fill their open positions. In such a talented region, it shouldn’t really be that hard for businesses to find qualified applicants. Yet, it is.

Wolf calls for $4.5 billion to repair schools and other infrastructure
Some of the money, to be raised through a "modest" tax on frackers, would remediate toxins in city schools.
The notebook by Greg Windle March 21 — 7:42 pm, 2019
Governor Wolf Thursday proposed spending $4.5 billion over the next four years repairing school buildings, blighted areas, and storm damage, as well as expanding broadband internet into rural areas without coverage. Wolf announced the legislation at a visit of the John Taggart school in south Philadelphia. He toured classrooms where lead paint was remediated as a result of the $7.6 million the state allotted for lead paint stabilization, mold and asbestos removal. Wolf said the amount was “a nice start,” but not nearly sufficient. And Philadelphia is not alone. Wolf said the amount he proposed might seem large, but it’s far lower than what would be needed if the schools decay to the point where they must be rebuilt from scratch. For years parents have been demanding money to repair schools, and the state government has balked, saying “we don’t have it.” “So what we’re basically saying is that we’re okay with creating the conditions that allow schools to deteriorate in the heart of neighborhoods,” Wolf said. “We’re also letting those neighborhoods deteriorate.” Wolf is calling his proposed program Restore Pennsylvania, which would be paid for by a “modest” tax on natural gas. Restore Pennsylvania has its own legislation that is separate from the state budget process, during which Wolf’s has unsuccessfully proposed natural gas taxes in the past.

Gov. Wolf highlights Philly school conditions in severance tax push
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent March 21, 2019
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf visited a school in South Philadelphia Thursday to stump for his severance tax proposal. The location was strategic, giving Wolf a chance to highlight the kind of infrastructure projects he’d like to complete with the $4.5 billion his administration says the tax would produce. Unlike past years, Wolf proposed the tax as a separate item from the general budget. He wants the revenue earmarked for an initiative called “Restore Pennsylvania,” which would address things such as flooding, broadband access, public transit, and, as emphasized Thursday, school repair. By separating the money this way, Wolf said he hopes to alleviate fears that the money would disappear into the state’s general fund. “This is for specific capital projects to address the real needs of Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said Thursday. The governor appeared alongside other officials at John H. Taggart School in South Philadelphia. The state and city set aside a combined $15 million last year to remove lead paint at Taggart and 29 other public schools in Philadelphia. That emergency money came after a series of articles in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News highlighted dangerous conditions in the city’s aging schools. By the district’s own account, it would take $4.5 billion to bring all of its buildings up to code.

Gov. Tom Wolf pushes plan to eliminate lead from Philadelphia schools
Inquirer by Wendy RudermanBarbara Laker and Dylan Purcell, Updated: 1 minute ago
Gov. Tom Wolf traveled to Taggart Elementary School in South Philadelphia to tout his proposed Restore Pennsylvania, a four-year, $4.5 billion initiative to fix crumbling schools, eliminate blight, repair storm damage, and expand high-speed internet across the state. Wolf estimated it would cost $100 million to repair and remove lead paint and other perils in Philadelphia’s 200 aging district schools. He said he wants to fund the initiative with “a modest severance tax” on natural gas extraction. The Republican-led General Assembly would have to approve such a tax, which historically has been a tough sell in Pennsylvania. The governor said his push to find more money to fix Philadelphia schools came in response to The Inquirer’s 2018 Toxic City: Sick Schools investigation, which revealed how children got sick from environmental hazards, including lead paint, in their classrooms. “When we go out to schools like this one that have problems with lead paint chips falling on the desks of students, when we get the question, ‘What are we going to do about it?’ Instead of saying, ‘There’s nothing I can do about it,’ we can say, ‘Here’s what we are going to do about it.’”

Philly City Council passes resolution urging Wolf to appoint members to state Charter Appeal Board
Wolf made no new appointments to the panel during his entire first term.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa March 21 — 5:58 pm, 2019
City Council unanimously passed a resolution Thursday calling on Gov. Wolf to appoint new members to the state Charter Appeal Board, which is now made up of holdovers from the administration of Tom Corbett, and to place a moratorium on the board’s activities until this happens. All five sitting members of the board, which has the power to overturn local school districts’ decisions on the establishment, renewal and termination of charter schools, are still sitting even though their terms have expired. There is one vacancy. The Notebook reported in February that all these members have backgrounds with either charter or Catholic schools, but not with traditional public schools. “These serving Board members reflect the priorities and values of former Governor Corbett, who cut funding for public education by over $1 billion,” the resolution states. Wolf could reappoint these members if he so chooses, it notes, but in any case, he is responsible for making sure that CAB members are serving unexpired terms and “reflect the educational priorities and values of his administration.” The resolution was introduced by Council member Helen Gym and co-sponsored by Jannie Blackwell and Bill Greenlee.

Move over, 'vo-tech': 'Career and technical' is preferred school code language under bipartisan legislation
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer Mar 21, 2019
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you —unless they’re in the Pennsylvania Public School Code. The state Senate Education Committee this week unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that would change all mentions of “vocational-technical,” “vocation” and “vocational” to “career and technical” in the school code. The legislation is cosponsored by Landisville Republican Sen. Ryan Aument, who said the measure sends a strong message in support of career and technical education. “It’s very symbolic in terms of helping erase the stigma (attached to career and technical education),” he said. Aument, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, said that high-achieving students have been steered away from vocational training “for far too long.” Lower-achieving students, meanwhile, have been disproportionately pushed toward it. The word “vocational” has taken on a somewhat negative connotation, he said. “Career and technical,” he said, is considered both more respectful and accurate. “The reality is words matter,” said Tom Baldrige, president and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber.

Disparities & irrationalities: Pa.’s state school funding | Opinion
Penn Live Opinion By Colin McNickle Posted Mar 21, 8:51 AM
Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy 
The canard of the government-union educratic establishment long has been that more state dollars spent on public education yield better academic results. But an exhaustive analysis of Pennsylvania school funding data, by district and through the 2016-17 school year, shows no positive correlation between the level of combined state and local district revenue and academic achievement, says Jake Haulk, president-emeritus of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy. “Indeed, for the 49 districts receiving above $9,500 per student in state revenue (the state funds average for all districts was $6,578) and having total state and local revenues above the state average of $16,372, higher combined state and local revenue is associated with lower state academic ranking,” says Haulk (in Policy Brief Vol. 19, No. 12).

Penn Student Power and local nonprofits call on the University to fund PILOTs
The Daily Pennsylvanian By Chris Schiller 6 hours ago
More than 50 students, teachers, and community members protested in the rain against Penn’s tax-exempt status as a nonprofit and called on the University to provide voluntary funds to the city of Philadelphia, which can potentially be put toward local schools. Though Penn is a nonprofit institution, attendees said the University owes the city money for its schools and advocated for Penn to pay PILOTs, Payments in Lieu of Taxes, which can be given to cities for public services. The student group Penn Student Power organized the March 21 protest on College Green, with nonprofit groups Our City Our Schools and Philadelphia Jobs with Justice. Attendees listened to public school teachers, community leaders, and Penn students who argued that Penn is neglecting their community by refusing to contribute finances to local schools. “We think it’s unfair that Penn as a nonprofit is deciding to not pay property tax when it owns so much land in Philadelphia and is the largest property owner across Philly,” Penn Student Power member and College senior Aiden Castellanos said. “So why isn’t Penn paying up?”

Number of states using redistricting commissions growing
Inquirer by The Associated Press, Updated: March 21, 2019- 3:53 PM
In most places, state lawmakers and governors are responsible for drawing and approving maps for U.S. and state legislative districts following each U.S. Census. But a growing number of states are shifting the task to independent or bipartisan commissions, or making other changes intended to reduce the likelihood of partisan gerrymandering. Here's a look at some of the states using commissions or other nontraditional methods for the next round of redistricting, after the 2020 Census.

Philly District establishes advisory council, is seeking volunteer members
The Board of Education earlier this month appointed its own advisory council, which is mandated by the Home Rule Charter.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa March 21 — 2:33 pm, 2019
The School District’s Office of Family and Community Engagement is seeking members for an advisory council so that the District can “include parent/guardian perspectives and recommendations” in its decision-making process. The District Advisory Council (DAC) is an outgrowth of the School Advisory Councils that have been established in each school over the last two years, said Jenna Monley, director of the Office of Family and Community Engagement (FACE). Formation of this group comes in the same month that the Board of Education announced the members of its own advisory group, the existence of which is required by the city’s Home Rule Charter. “The DAC has always been a part of the big picture, our vision as we re-imagine family engagement work,” said Monley. She said this represents a “culture shift” within the central office. “Gone are days where we as administrators are sitting in rooms wondering what parents need to be beneficial to students,” she said. “This is an opportunity to give them a seat at the table in a more formalized way.” The DAC members, she said, will “serve as our boots on the ground.” They will engage with peers and people in their schools and neighborhoods, she said, “and bring back [ideas] to the District to help influence decision-making.” The group needs 32 members, two from each of the District’s 16 learning networks. To apply, a candidate must be a parent, family member, or caretaker of a student currently enrolled in a District school.

Abington Senior HS takes first place in national contest that requires endurance, smarts, and psyching out your opponent
Inquirer by Kathy Boccella, Updated: March 21, 2019- 12:36 PM
The games can last as long as four hours, and over three days come one after another, a grueling test of endurance that star player Albert Hatton — a 16-year-old sophomore at Abington Senior High School — acknowledges can be "kind of exhausting.” But this exertion was 100 percent mental, and it was worth every minute when the Abington students returned from Illinois this week with the first-place trophy in their division at the U.S. Chess Federation’s High School Nationals — the third time the Montgomery County school has won that top honor in the last eight years. “The SAT is nothing for these guys,” said Shawn Simmons, the Abington English teacher who coaches the team, describing the mental gyrations as the teens think many moves ahead. “They are in deep thought for extended periods of time.” The effort at the tournament in Schaumburg was led by Yonatan Wiese-Namir, an 18-year-old senior who won seven matches during the weekend and claimed the top individual honor. The Abington teens competed in the Under 1,200 division against 392 kids from about 70 similar-size schools from across the United States. Of Abington’s 21 team members, 12 competed at nationals.

Delco Students for Education Meeting Sat, March 30, 2019 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Location: William Penn School District - Administration Building, 100 Green Avenue – Annex, Lansdowne, PA 19050
Sponsored by Rafi Cave, Yeadon Borough Councilman, The Urban League of Philadelphia & PA Schools Work, the nonpartisan statewide campaign to support equitable public education funding in Pennsylvania.
It's no secret Delco schools are underfunded. Join your peers and education advocates to learn what you can do to work for change in your school community. Ask questions, hear from experts, and meet State Representative Joanna McClinton. Includes breakfast & giveaways!! Don't miss out.
Register here:

The League of Women Voters of Delaware County and the Delaware County Intermediate Unit present: EPLC 2019 Regional Training Workshop for PA School Board Candidates (and Incumbents) April 27th 8am – 4:30pm at DCIU
Ron Cowell of The Pennsylvania Education Policy and Leadership Center will conduct a regional full day workshop for 2019 Pennsylvania School Board Candidates.
Date & Time: Saturday, April 27, 2019, 8am to 4:30pm
Location: Delaware County Intermediate Unit, 200 Yale Ave. Morton, PA
Incumbents, non-incumbents, campaign supporters and all interested voters are invited to participate in this workshop. Registration is $75 (payable by credit card) and includes coffee and pastries, lunch, and materials. For questions contact Adriene Irving at 610-938-9000 ext. 2061.
To register, please visit

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.

PSBA: 2019 State of Education report now online
PSBA Website February 19, 2019
The 2019 State of Education report is now available on in PDF format. The report is a barometer of not only the key indicators of public school performance, but also the challenges schools face and how they are coping with them. Data reported comes from publicly available sources and from a survey to chief school administrators, which had a 66% response rate. Print copies of the report will be mailed to members soon.

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

PSBA Board Presidents’ Panel
Learn, discuss, and practice problem solving with school leader peers facing similar or applicable challenges. Workshop-style discussions will be facilitated and guided by PSBA experts. With the enormous challenges facing schools today, effective and knowledgeable board leadership is essential to your productivity and performance as a team of ten.
Locations & Dates
Due to inclement weather, some dates have been rescheduled. The updated schedule is below.

Pennsylvania schools work – for students, communities and the economy when adequate resources are available to give all students an equal opportunity to succeed.
Join A Movement that Supports our Schools & Communities
PA Schools Work website
Our students are in classrooms that are underfunded and overcrowded. Teachers are paying out of pocket and picking up the slack. And public education is suffering. Each child in Pennsylvania has a right to an excellent public education. Every child, regardless of zip code, deserves access to a full curriculum, art and music classes, technical opportunities and a safe, clean, stable environment. All children must be provided a level chance to succeed. PA Schools Work is fighting for equitable, adequate funding necessary to support educational excellence. Investing in public education excellence is the path to thriving communities, a stable economy and successful students.

Annual PenSPRA Symposium set for March 28-29, 2019
Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association Website
Once again, PenSPRA will hold its annual symposium with nationally-recognized speakers on hot topics for school communicators. The symposium, held at the Conference Center at Shippensburg University, promises to provide time for collegial sharing and networking opportunities. Mark you calendars now!
We hope you can join us. Plans are underway, so check back for more information.

2019 NSBA Annual Conference Philadelphia March 30 - April 1, 2019
Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19107

Registration Questions or Assistance: 1-800-950-6722
The NSBA Annual Conference & Exposition is the one national event that brings together education leaders at a time when domestic policies and global trends are combining to shape the future of the students. Join us in Philadelphia for a robust offering of over 250 educational programs, including three inspirational general sessions that will give you new ideas and tools to help drive your district forward.

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.