Friday, April 12, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 12: 12 PA urban school superintendents: Harrisburg should do more to help our 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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“It’s also time to stop kicking the can down the road on charter funding reform. Pennsylvania’s charter law needs an overhaul, including setting the bar higher for charter operators. It’s not about district schools versus charter schools. It’s about high-quality schools, period. The Commonwealth’s charter funding model needs to reflect that. One example is the chronic underperformance of cyber charter schools, which are costly to taxpayers and fail to deliver for students. Thirteen of the Commonwealth’s 14 cyber charter schools are on the list of the lowest performing schools in Pennsylvania. School district-operated cyber charters perform better and operate at a fraction of the cost.
Another example is the special education funding model for charters which does not differentiate based on the needs of the students served. Even more alarming is the fact that it does not require that those funds be used for their intended purpose. Something is fundamentally wrong when monies designated to support some of our highest-need students can be diverted without accountability.  The General Assembly should right this wrong when the special education formula is updated this year.”
A call to action from Pennsylvania’s urban school superintendents
York Daily Record Opinion by Eric Holmes Published 1:17 p.m. ET April 11, 2019
This op-ed was co-authored by 12 of Pennsylvania’s large, urban school superintendents: Dr. William R. Hite, The School District of Philadelphia; Thomas Parker, Allentown School District; Dr. Samuel Lee, Bensalem Township School District; Dr. Joseph Roy, Bethlehem Area School District; Dr. Juan R. Baughn, Chester Upland School District; Amy Arcurio, Greater Johnstown School District; Dr. Sybil Knight-Burney, Harrisburg School District; Dr. Damaris Rau, School District of Lancaster; Dr. Anthony Hamlet, Pittsburgh Public Schools; Steven Rodriquez, Pottstown School District; Dr. Khalid Mumin, Reading School District; and Dr. Eric Holmes, School District of the City of York.
There is a lot of talk in Harrisburg, from Republicans and Democrats, about growing Pennsylvania’s economy. They agree on some approaches such as infrastructure investment and workforce development, and diverge on others such as college affordability and higher wages. The end game is largely the same -- bringing jobs and investments to the Commonwealth and building wealth for Pennsylvania citizens.  Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, one thing is clear:  For Pennsylvania to prosper, its largest cities must thrive. As school superintendents from the Commonwealth’s largest urban areas, our 12 school districts are responsible for educating one in every seven children in Pennsylvania’s public schools. That means one of every seven future workers, business owners and entrepreneurs who graduate from Pennsylvania’s public schools is in one of our classrooms today. The success of Pennsylvania’s pro-growth strategy - and its future - will be determined by the quality of education we provide, and the quality of education that Harrisburg is willing to invest in.

·         “The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” Pa. Const. art. 3, § 14.
·         “No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.” Pa. Const. art. 3, § 15.
·         “[T]he General Assembly shall not pass any local or special law: 1. Regulating the affairs of counties, cities, townships, wards, boroughs or school districts.” Pa. Const. art. 3, § 32.

Blogger Commentary: The legislature did a great job developing a basic education funding formula a couple years back.  However, the formula only applies to new appropriations. It may take 20 years for students in our high poverty districts to receive the funding they need as prescribed in the legislature’s own formula.  Instead of helping to fund the formula, the state’s EITC and OSTC programs currently divert up to $210 million in tax dollars annually to private and religious schools, including prestigious Main Line private schools.  There are virtually no fiscal or student performance accountability reporting requirements under the EITC and OSTC programs, which are run by the PA Department of Community and Economic Development.
EITC/OSTC: Guest Column: Bill would deliver education help for those who need it most
Delco Times Opinion by By Rev. Charles Chaput Times Guest Columnist April 10, 2019
The Rev. Charles J. Chaput is archbishop of Philadelphia.
The lack of a quality education is a chronic problem for persons in poverty, severely limiting their future. Once stuck in poverty, it’s very hard for anyone to escape due to the lack of skills needed to secure and hold employment. This makes education a vital issue for Pennsylvania politics, including our metropolitan region. While Philadelphia has some of the best performing schools in the Commonwealth, unfortunately, we also have some of the most troubled. Despite the efforts of many excellent teachers and administrators, many Philadelphia District public schools are on the Commonwealth’s list of most challenged learning environments. The children who attend these schools are overwhelmingly poor and from minority backgrounds. Their chances of finding a way out of poverty as they mature are slim. Catholic social teaching is built on a commitment to the poor. Few things are more important to people in poverty than ensuring their children’s education as a path to a better life. If the future of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania depends on an educated, productive public – and it obviously does – then providing every means to ensure a good education system becomes a matter of justice. Prudent lawmakers from both major parties have understood this for years. They need to feel our support in the voting booth and throughout their public service. The point is this: Proper funding for public schools is clearly important. But experience has already shown that this can’t be the only strategy because it doesn’t work for many of the students who most urgently need a good education. It’s therefore vital that our elected officials serve the education needs of the poor by also supporting school choice.

EITC/OSTC: Reprise February 2019: Boon or ‘black hole’? Pa. private school scholarship program considered for major expansion
WHYY/Keystone Crossroads By Avi Wolfman-Arent February 21, 2019
A tax-break program that routes millions to Pennsylvania private schools could grow much larger if a new bill becomes law. The proposal has powerful support in the State Senate, but Governor Tom Wolf’s spokesman calls it an “unfunded mandate.” At issue is one of the state’s signature school choice programs, one that already provides nearly 50,000 students with scholarships to attend private schools. Through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program and the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) program, Pennsylvania offers a maximum of $210 million in tax credits.

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 Senate Majority Leader .@JakeCorman’s school districts in Blair, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin & Perry Counties had to send over $6.3 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

Bald Eagle Area SD
Bellefonte Area SD
Greenwood SD
Huntingdon Area SD
Juniata County SD
Juniata Valley SD
Keystone Central SD
Mifflin County SD
Mount Union Area SD
Penns Valley Area SD
Philipsburg-Osceola Area SD
State College Area SD
Tyrone Area SD


Has your state senator cosponsored SB34?

Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

Allentown second grader to Gov. Tom Wolf: ‘When can you start fixing our school?’
When Dodd Elementary in south Allentown opened its doors in 1956, it was considered one of the district’s most modern schools because it was handicap accessible and included an elevator. But more than 60 years later, little has changed. A number of classrooms, some that haven’t seen a coat of fresh paint in more than 30 years, remain the industrial blue or green familiar to many baby boomers. Superintendent Thomas Parker said the building has a “number of needs.” Second grader Ashley Cabral-Taveras learns in a classroom that needs its windows and paint upgraded. As she sat on the floor of a classroom with flaking paint on Thursday afternoon with her classmates, she had a question for Gov. Tom Wolf as he toured her school building. “When can you start fixing our school?” Ashley, 7, asked the governor. Wolf told Ashley he’s working on it by seeking statewide support for his Restore Pennsylvania initiative, a four-year $4.5 billion infrastructure plan that would be funded by projected future tax revenues on natural gas companies and would fix schools like Dodd. Wolf toured Dodd on Thursday afternoon to outline his plan.

Pa. colleges given a grim forecast for future enrollments
BILL SCHACKNER Pittsburgh Post-Gazette APR 11, 2019
Pennsylvania, no stranger to dire demographic news, received more of it Wednesday in a forecast about future college-going rates in this state and nationally that could be summarized in two words: Buckle Up. That said, an impending drop approaching 15 percent over five years starting in 2026 will be felt differently by different types of institutions, said Nathan Grawe, a labor economist and expert on demographic trends. He told a legislative hearing in Harrisburg that a birth rate decline following the Great Recession of 2008 will begin to affect campuses that year, exacerbating other population trends that already are a drag on enrollment in the Northeast and Midwest. Mr. Grawe specializes in effects that population trends including migration have on colleges. His 2018 book, “Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education,” may well keep some admissions directors up at night.

Butler County state House district sees rare two-party election contest
JULIAN ROUTH Pittsburgh Post-Gazette APR 11, 2019
For the first time in more than a decade, voters in the state House district encompassing the city of Butler will see candidates from both major parties on their ballots this May. That's because — as with many political opportunities across Pennsylvania that were once considered out of reach for anyone but a Republican — Democrats are throwing their hats in the ring. As a result, the special election May 21 for the 11th state House District will pit a longtime Republican committeewoman, Marci Mustello, against a pro-union, pro-gun Democrat, Sam Doctor, in a race to replace Republican Brian Ellis, who resigned the seat in March following accusations of sexual assault.

Indiana paid for thousands of students who never earned credits at virtual charter schools
Last year nearly 2,000 students never earned a single credit across Indiana’s six virtual charter schools, according to new data — even though most of them were enrolled nearly all year and the schools received funding to educate them. That works out to almost $10 million in state funding paid to the online schools for students who didn’t complete any work or got failing grades in their classes. The majority of those students attended Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy, two schools at risk of losing their charters amid allegations raised in February by their authorizer that they enrolled thousands of students who did not complete or sign up for courses, among other issues with test administration and serving students with disabilities. But the course completion data, self-reported by schools and provided to Chalkbeat by the state education department, shows that other Indiana virtual charter schools also enroll hundreds of students who never earn credits. With online schools, it’s easy for students to sign up and fall through the cracks, possibly losing semesters of their education or not graduating.
“It is alarming that this many students are literally earning zero credits,” said Brandon Brown, CEO of The Mind Trust, a nonprofit that advocates for charter schools but has been critical of virtual schools. “It raises very serious questions, in particular around how these schools are being held accountable.

“Pennsylvania: William Penn et al. v. PA Dept. of Ed
Six families and six school districts filed a lawsuit that charges that state funding for education is inadequate and not equitable. Trial is set to begin in 2020.”
Do lawsuits have a good track record in forcing education reforms?
Around the country, educational advocates are taking the fight for decent schools to court.
Such suits can make a difference, said Michael Rebell, co-founder of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. In 2006, this nonprofit organization won the landmark CFE v. New York lawsuit, resulting in a state commitment to spend billions more on education statewide. The state has not fully fulfilled its CFE commitment and Rebell has returned to court with another lawsuit. "We are trying to keep the pressure on," he said.   Though litigation can be a long road, it can lead to lasting change. Rebell points to the Abbott v. Burke lawsuit filed in 1981, on behalf of children in 28 poorer school districts in New Jersey. It charged that the state's school funding law was unconstitutional because it caused major disparities between poor and wealthy districts. As a result of the suit, New Jersey's high-needs districts, on average, get more resources per capita than its wealthy districts. "I can't think of any other state in the country where that is true," Rebell said. 

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:

Success Starts Here is a multi-year public awareness campaign sharing positive news in PA public education.

Calling all Norristown parents, educators, leaders & stakeholders! Join us for Norristown Parents & Students for Education on Saturday, April 20 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Norristown Public Library.
Together we can harness the power of all to make a difference in our schools and communities! Hear from the experts and learn how to advocate! Free breakfast & givewaways. Don't miss out!
Sponsored by Norristown Men of Excellence, The Urban League of Philadelphia & PA Schools Work.

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

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.

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.

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