Monday, April 15, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup April 15: “School districts statewide could save a stunning $250 million every year if cyber charter schools were paid according to their costs”

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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Join @PAIU @PasaSupts & @PSBA for Advocacy Day on April 29th at the state Capitol! The focus for the day will be meetings with legislators to discuss critical issues affecting public education.
For more information and registration:

“According to a February report by Education Voters of Pennsylvania, a public education advocacy group, school districts statewide could save a stunning $250 million every year if cyber charter schools were paid according to their costs, rather than the district cost-per-student. In the 2017-2018 school year, the report stated, public school districts in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Wayne, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties could have saved $24.5 million in charter school tuition for 2,799 students if cyber charters had been paid according to costs.”
Editorial: Pay charters based on actual costs
Cyber school tuition should reflect actual costs.
Scranton Times Tribune April 14, 2019
Taxpayers justly would be outraged if the state government paid public school districts hundreds of millions of dollars more than their actual costs. Yet state law continues to funnel money to internet-based charter schools at rates far above their costs, at the expense of public school districts and, therefore, local taxpayers. Charter schools are privately operated public schools. The home public school districts of students who attend charters pay tuition for each student from public funds. Under state law, that tuition is based on the cost-per-student in each student’s home district, rather than each charter school’s actual, demonstrable costs. That is particularly problematic regarding “cyber” charter schools, which provide instruction by internet and do not bear the costs of facilities, transportation and other matters that factor into the costs of physical public schools. So, if two students from two different local school districts attend the same charter school, the school will be paid two different tuitions even though its cost is the same for each. Based on the home district’s cost-per student, for example, the Old Forge School District would pay the charter school $8,119, whereas the Scranton School District would pay $10,439.

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 Majority Leader .@RepBryanCutler’s school districts in Lancaster County had to send over $4.7 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

Lampeter-Strasburg SD
Penn Manor SD
Pequea Valley SD
Solanco SD
Lancaster SD


Has your state senator cosponsored SB34?

Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

The growing resolve to fix our schools
Delco’s got the momentum
PCCY –April 12, 2019
Across Southeastern PA, the fight to end the funding crisis for public schools is a galvanizing force uniting Republican and Democratic voters, especially those with school-aged children, business leaders, and, as we saw last week, realtors concerned, not only with student success, but also with depressed property values due to underperforming schools. In fact, districts are rallying around a shared resolution to demand adequate state funding for public schools. Districts in Delaware County, in particular, are making great headway with eight of its fifteen districts already passing the resolution. (Between you and us, four more districts have indicated that passage of the resolution is imminent.) The resolution was a key takeaway from the PA Schools Work summit we organized in November  which gathered teachers, parents, and advocates like you to take the campaign for adequate funding for public schools in Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, and Philadelphia counties to the next level. In these Southeastern counties, the pain of inadequately funded schools is growing, as is the concern. 

100 Days into the new Congress, we’re bringing change to Washington | Opinion
By  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor April 13, 2019
By Madeleine Dean, Chrissy Houlahan, Mary Gay Scanlon, and Susan Wild
Last November, Pennsylvanians from Philadelphia to Erie held a referendum on the type of government they want. With fairly drawn, constitutionally legitimate Congressional districts, voters ushered in a new, more diverse era of representation. Only a year ago, our Commonwealth was represented solely by men. Today, we four women are proud to embody the change Pennsylvania wanted in Congress. We know the voters of Southeastern Pennsylvania did not send us to Washington to join the partisan fray or perpetuate the status quo of putting special interests before people. Pennsylvanians voted for change, and we have both the honor and responsibility to serve the families and communities of this region first. We will not forget the overwhelming demands for change in Congress, and in our country, that we heard while running. We came to Washington to restore ethics and civility to our government, protect access to quality, affordable healthcare, and take on tough fights, like reducing gun violence and combating climate change.

A record-setting number of women are serving in the Pa. House. They make up just a quarter of the body | Analysis
PA Capital Star By  Sarah Anne Hughes April 11, 2019
On Monday, special election winner Bridget Kosierowski was sworn in as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. The Democrat is now one of 53 women serving in the body — the most female members to serve at one time in the state’s history. It should be noted that in the 203-member chamber, women still hold just over a quarter of seats. Representation is about the same in the Pa. Senate, where women control 12 seats out of 50. To be fair, it used to be a lot worse. To illustrate that point, the Capital-Star counted the female members in the House and Senate — both returning and newly elected — over the past 20 years. When you consider the past two decades, the 2018 Year of the Woman looks all the more remarkable.

Innovative Arts Academy Charter School’s non-disparagement agreements keeping faculty quiet
A public hearing that will help determine the fate of the Innovative Arts Academy Charter School will be missing the voices of some former faculty members who want to share their experiences at the embattled charter school ― but can’t. The former employees told The Morning Call that as part of their severance agreements, they were forced to sign paperwork that includes a non-disparagement clause preventing them from speaking freely about the school. If it weren’t for the agreement, the former employees say they would share their concerns, triumphs and suggestions about the future of the school with Catasauqua Area School Board members during an upcoming hearing, now scheduled for May, to determine whether the school’s charter is renewed. The Morning Call reviewed multiple non-disparagement clauses in the severance agreements, which provided compensation for the staff members after their employment ended. The Morning Call is withholding the ex-employees’ names because they feared losing their severance. Language in the agreements differs, but ― with a few exceptions ― prevents both former employees and school employees from making negative remarks about one another. Violating the agreement could result in termination of severance.

Proposed Council Rock budget has 2.3 percent tax hike
Bocks County Courier Times By Chris English Posted at 5:00 AM
The spending plan maintains staffing and educational programs at current levels.
A proposed final Council Rock School District budget for 2019-20 maintains staffing and educational programs at current levels, allocates about $2 million for technology and continues to fund extensive improvements at schools around the district. The $246.26 million spending plan will be considered by the school board at its April 25 meeting and a vote on a final budget is scheduled for the May 30 meeting, school district Business Administration Director William Stone said. The proposed final budget has a 2.3 percent property tax increase and recommends taking $4.12 million from the district’s $21.4 million fund balance, or savings account, to close the current gap of $242.14 million in projected revenue and $246.26 million in projected expenses for next school year, he added. A 2.3 percent tax increase equates to 2.843 mills, or $110 more in taxes for a landowner with a property assessed at the school district average of $38,520. The tax hike would increase total millage in the district to 126.45, or $4,871 in annual taxes for a landowner with a property assessed at the school district average. Many working residents also pay a 1 percent earned income tax that is split with the district’s five municipalities of Newtown Borough, Newtown Township, Northampton, Upper Makefield and Wrightstown. Stone said the district has received exceptions from the state for special education and pension expenses that would allow a tax hike of more than 2.3 percent, the normal maximum tax increase allowed the district for next school year under the state’s Act I Index. “We haven’t discussed the option in two months,” Stone said. “That option (using the exceptions) is still there should the board choose to accept it, but the administration is not recommending it.”

Kiski Area might provide free after-school meals for students
Trib Live by MARY ANN THOMAS   | Thursday, April 11, 2019 2:23 p.m.
The Kiski Area School District wants to add dinner to the meals it serves students. The school board is expected within the next two months to approve applying for a federal program that pays for dinners or snacks for students who stay for after-school activities, according to Superintendent Tim Scott. Kelly Patterson, manager for the Nutrition Group of Irwin, brought the idea to the school board Wednesday. The company manages the district’s food services. Under the program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Child and Adult Care Food Program, after-school meals and snacks would be served in group settings at no cost to students. The program is offered after the regular school day ends or on weekends and holidays during the school year. There is no application form for parents or guardians to fill out. Kiski Area meets the criteria for the program because it has at least one school with at least half of the students meeting income limits to qualify for free or reduced cost lunches, according to Patterson.

Gompers Elementary School focuses on mental health
The Student Council at the K-8 school initiated the activities.
The notebook by Maya Wernick April 12 — 12:02 pm, 2019
Mora-Lee Moore, an 8th-grade class representative at Gompers Elementary School in Wynnefield, put it succinctly: Mental health is the “most deeply cared-about issue in our community,” she said. Student Council member Roger Stone added his own take. At Gompers, he said, “Everyone’s always on edge and can’t let loose because they’re afraid that people won’t like what they have to say or won’t listen to them.” Because of this, the Student Council, advised by counselor Akeesha Washington, hosted a Youth Mental Health Week dedicated to supporting students and raising awareness of this crucial issue. Besides daily special events, teachers implemented mental health exercises into their everyday rituals. For instance, they began each day during the week with a lesson from Second Step, which “provides instruction in social and emotional learning with units on skills for learning, empathy, emotion management, friendship skills, and problem-solving,” according to its website. At the end of each day, teachers chose a closing reflection; the options included journal writing, group discussion, or practicing a coping skill.

School officials and resource officers need to guard against criminalizing student behavior [opinion]
Lancaster Online by THE LNP EDITORIAL BOARD April 14, 2019
THE ISSUE - “Since the start of the 2017-18 school year, police have issued at least 370 summary citations — often referred to as student tickets — across Lancaster County’s public schools,” LNP correspondent Kimberly Marselas reported in last week’s Sunday LNP. “Summary offenses range from consumption of alcohol to disorderly conduct and fall below the misdemeanor level. Fines typically range from $25 to $300. Though local police and school administrators say they use police intervention as a last resort, citations have become a hot-button issue in many districts that routinely rely on law enforcement.”
We all want schools to be safe. So we’re in no way suggesting that a fight among a group of high school students is just a matter of boys being boys — or girls being girls. We understand why a teacher or administrator might be reluctant to get in the middle of a fight in which punches are being thrown. It helps, in those circumstances, for a trained police officer to be on the scene, restoring peace. School resource officers do all of that and more — they handle incidents of drug and alcohol use among students, threats of violence and vandalism. The best of them also serve as mentors to students, offering words of caution and encouragement. And in this era when the specter of school shootings hangs like a dark cloud overhead, parents and students alike may be reassured by the presence of a school resource officer. Which may be a reason why all the county school districts — save for Octorara Area and Pequea Valley — have at least one. But as a study published in 2009 in the Journal of Criminal Justice noted, there “is concern that an increasing police presence at schools will ‘criminalize’ student behavior by moving problematic students to the juvenile justice system rather than disciplining them at school.”

Radon in schools? Bill would begin to mandate testing in radon-dense Pa.
WHYY/Keystone Crossroads By Kaity Kline April 15, 2019
A new bill in the Statehouse would require every school district in Pennsylvania to test for radon and inform parents of the results. Blamed for 20,000 deaths per year, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for nonsmokers in the United States. Levels in Pennsylvania are considered especially high nationally. An estimated 40 percent of homes in the state have radon levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s action guideline of 4 picocuries per liter of air.  A naturally occurring odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas, radon enters buildings through foundation cracks and becomes concentrated indoors, where people are most at risk. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection encourages all homeowners, school officials and public and private building owners in Pennsylvania to test for radon, but schools are not legally required to do so.

Harrisburg School District refuses to provide financial information to state auditors, education department says
Penn Live By Christine Vendel |  Posted Apr 12, 2019
The Harrisburg School District is blocking efforts by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to audit the district’s finances by refusing to provide access to financial information, according to a letter from the department obtained Friday by PennLive. The state department announced the audit in October, after a series of financial scandals at the district. Those financial issues include a transportation supervisor accused of embezzling $180,000, the over-hiring of 37 teachers for unbudgeted positions and the continuation of health care coverage for 54 employees who had resigned from the district in recent years. The audit was supposed to examine the district's accounting practices, budget projections and internal controls, among other things. The district is considered by the state to be in financial distress. In a March 27 letter to Harrisburg Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney, Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera wrote that the district must provide all information needed “to investigate the District’s financial records without further delay.”

“Now Maine has taken a step away from this with LD 92 (to see the full affect, look also at the amendments). The bill removes any requirement to base teacher evaluation on test results. Maybe even more importantly, it requires districts to form a committee to regularly review and revise their evaluation process. This may seem like common sense, but teacher evaluation systems are historically taken out of the box and used without any subsequent discussion of how well they are actually working.”
Maine Takes A Huge Step Forward In Teacher Evaluation
Forbes by Peter Greene  Apr 13, 2019, 11:16am
Maine has broken with the status quo of test-centered accountability for teachers.
Beginning with No Child Left Behind, public schools have committed to test-centered accountability, using student results on a single standardized math and reading test to drive assessment of districts, schools and ultimately teachers. For years, the prevailing definition of a good teacher in this country has been one whose students score well on that standardized test. The problems with this approach are legion. Schools have narrowed their focus and their curriculum to focus on tested subjects. States have developed bizarre assessment systems in which teachers of non-tested subjects might be evaluated based on the test scores of students they never taughtNor has any convincing evidence ever emerged that raising a student's test scores improves her lot later in life. After a generation, the promised improvement in US education that test-centered accountability was supposed to drive simply hasn't arrived; NAEP scores ("the nation's report card") have not budged significantly in all this time, nor have colleges announced that their freshman classes are now the best they've ever seen. Using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers has not fixed anything, and it has made things worse in many cases by pushing schools to focus on test taking skills instead of a broad and deep education for all students.

Cursive Seemed to Go the Way of Quills and Parchment. Now It’s Coming Back.
Nearly two dozen states have reintroduced cursive instruction since 2010, when the Common Core standards dropped a requirement that it be taught in elementary schools.
New York Times By Emily S. Rueb April 13, 2019
While cursive has been relegated to nearly extinct tasks like writing thank-you cards and signing checks, rumors of its death may be exaggerated. he Common Core standards seemed to spell the end of the writing style in 2010 when they dropped requirements that the skill be taught in public elementary schools, but about two dozen states have reintroduced the practice since then. Last year, elementary schools in Illinois were required to offer at least one class on cursive. Last month, a law went into effect in Ohio providing funding for materials to help students learn cursive by fifth grade. And beginning this fall, second graders in Texas will learn cursive, and will be required to know how to write it legibly by third grade. Even as keyboards and screens have supplanted pencil and paper in schools, lawmakers and defenders of cursive have lobbied to re-establish this old-school writing pedagogy across the country, igniting a debate about American values and identity and exposing intergenerational fault lines.

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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