Friday, May 10, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 10: Don’t Blink: House Ed Committee Slated to Vote on Package of 4 Charter Reform Bills on Monday

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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Monday, May 13, 2019 11:30 AM Room 205 Ryan Office
Voting meeting on HB 355, HB 356, HB 357, HB 358 and any other business that may come before the committee.

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.

Data source: PDE via 
Eastern Lancaster County SD
Exeter Township SD
Governor Mifflin SD
Twin Valley SD
Wilson  SD
Wyomissing Area SD


Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

Has your state senator cosponsored SB34?

HB800: Pa. private school tax credit may get boost after two-day debate
WHYY By Katie Meyer, WITF May 8, 2019
The state House has passed a contentious proposal that would boost scholarships for private school students. The amount of money up for debate wasn’t huge by the Capitol’s standards. But lawmakers saw the bill as a symbol of the tension between funding public and private schools. The measure would increase funds for the Education Improvement Tax Credit by $100 million — nearly doubling the amount available —and include an automatic 10% increase if it’s all used. The money goes to businesses that donate to scholarships and similar programs for private school students. Floor debate stretched over two days. Opponents, like Luzerne County Democratic Representative Jim Carroll, said it’s unfair to put so much money toward private schools when the proposed increase for public schools is relatively small. “I’m hopeful the supporters of this proposal are equally supportive of additional funds beyond $200 million for basic education,” he said. “How about special ed?” The proposal would also increase the salary cap for recipients’ parents, from $85,000 to $95,000 annually. It’s sponsored by Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, who argued it’s about school choice. “There’s only one monopolistic school system that should be allowed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?” he asked sarcastically. “Oh, there’s freedom.” The plan passed on a mostly party-line vote and now goes to the Senate.

Letter: ELC Opposes PA House Bill 800, Funding Private School Vouchers
Education Law Center Website
April 26, 2019 Democratic Chairman James R. Roebuck, Jr. House Education Committee 209 Irvis Office Building Harrisburg, PA 17120
Dear Chairman Roebuck: As advocates for high-quality public education for all children in Pennsylvania, we write with grave concerns about House Bill 800, an ill-conceived funding plan for private school vouchers that would also benefit religious schools. The bill would provide a massive funding increase for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) this year, nearly doubling the current allocation for the program and automatically increasing annual funding by 10% each year thereafter. By increasing the business tax reductions that can be diverted to private/religious schools and lowering General Fund revenue available to support public education, the bill would take the Legislature further from its constitutional obligation to support and fund the Commonwealth’s public schools.
We advocate on behalf of the students most in need of quality educational options in their communities – children living in poverty, children of color, children in the foster care and juvenile justice systems, children with disabilities, English learners, LGBTQ students, and children experiencing homelessness. These students are the most harmed by the inadequate state funding of our public schools. Existing tax credit programs provide millions of dollars in tuition assistance for families whose children attend elite, expensive private schools and private religious schools, and HB 800 would increase the income limit for families to qualify to as high as $125,000 for a family with two children. In addition, Pennsylvania law allows private schools to discriminate against students, including for their disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and gender identity/expression, leaving marginalized students shut out with limited protections should they attend these schools.
With public schools so inadequately and inequitably funded that rich districts with their own resources have a third more funding per student than poor districts, we urge the Legislature to focus attention on fixing our public education funding, rather than further devastating it through tax credit vouchers. We strongly urge you to oppose HB 800.
Respectfully submitted, Deborah Gordon Klehr, Executive Director Reynelle Brown Staley, Policy Director

Who should pay for Pa. students to attend cyber charter schools? SCASD board weighs in
Centre Daily Times BY DAVID KAPLAN May 7, 2019
The State College Area School District wants to stop paying money to cyber charter schools within the district’s borders, but some local parents say that will hurt more students than it will help. On Monday, SCASD’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution to support Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 526, which would end public school district payments to cyber charter schools. 

Parents of students at cyber charter schools concerned they'll have to pay
WTAJ By: David Kaplan Posted: May 07, 2019 12:02 AM EDT
Monday night, the State College Area School District voted on a resolution that will go to state legislature. The State College Area School District wants to stop paying money to cyber charter schools within the district's borders, but some local parents say that will hurt more students than it will help. Monday night, the State College Area school district unanimously approved a resolution to support senate bill 34 and house bill 526, which would end public school district payments to cyber charter schools. The district says right now they're required to pay 14,000 per student to cyber charter schools to cover costs for students that live in the district, but don't attend public school. They also have to pay 29,000 per year for special needs students attending cyber charter schools. In all, that's costing the public schools about $800,000 every year. Randy Brown, Finance and Operations Manager, for the State College Area School District, says if the bills pass and they don't have to pay cyber charter schools, they could use that money for needed areas in their schools. "Additional psychologists, some counselors, some social workers, as well as expanding some additional technology opportunities," Brown said.

The struggles in Harrisburg’s public schools are a symptom of Pa.’s neglect for education |
Opinion By  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor Jill Sunday Bartoli May 10, 2019
Jill Sunday Bartoli, a longtime substitute teacher in the Harrisburg schools, is a former professor at Elizabethtown College. She writes from Carlisle, Pa.
It’s been with great sadness recently that I’ve read arguments that the Harrisburg School District is dragging down the rest of Pennsylvania’s capital city. I’ve spent the last six years as a substitute teacher at Harrisburg High School. And I have had the opportunity to meet so many excellent, dedicated teachers and talented, creative students at both the John Harris and SciTech campus. Their successes and achievement have been in spite of our legislators’ refusal to fully fund their schools, and in spite of the racially tinged negative portrayals of their schools by the media and the public. The research is clear that economic factors affect student achievement on standardized tests. It is equally clear that that poverty and homelessness drive failure rates and produce lower grades. The quality and existence of affordable housing, family sustaining jobs, transportation, good healthcare, healthy food, opportunities for high quality early childhood education and after school programs, mental health supports for children and parents all affect school achievement.

Letter: Poorer school districts are underfunded in Pennsylvania
Pottstown Mercury Letter May 8, 2019
Signed by The Spiritual and Faith Leaders in and around Pottstown: Laura Johnson, Proximity Church; Tim Doering, Netzer; Bishop Michael Anthony, Heart of God Family Worship Center; Rev. Dr. Vernon Ross Jr., Bethel Community Church of Pottstown; Rev. Patricia Gosher, First United Methodist Church; Rev. Dr. Marcia B. Bailey, First Baptist Church; Julia Katz, president, Congregation Hesed Shel Emet, Pottstown; Rev. Mary Etta Mest, Visitation Pastor with First Baptist, Pottstown and Falkner Swamp UCC, Gilbertsville; Sharon L. Smith, St. James Lutheran Church; Rev. Frances Chester, Falkner Swamp Reformed United Church of Christ, Gilbertsville; David Hakes, Daybreak Community Church; Jessica Clemmer, Proximity Church; Rev. Garrison R. Lockley, Bethel AME Church, Pottstown; Pastor Kork Moyer, Still Waters Grace Brethren Church and The Ministries at Main Street Homeless Ministries; Rev. Joshua M. Caler, Christ Episcopal Church; Josh Detweiler, Morning Star Pottstown; Rev. David Castro Jr., Casa de Oracion A/G (House of Prayer Church); Pastor Joseph J. Terreri, Connection Church; Lisa Heverly, Operation Backpack; Pastor Joseph L. Maloney, Saint Aloysius Roman Catholic Parish; Pastor Reggie Brooks, Victory Christian Life Center.
This is a letter to be sent to Pennsylvania Legislators.
As faith leaders in the Pottstown borough and surrounding area, we care deeply about the well-being of our community. We recognize that while all people have been created equal, they don’t all receive equal opportunities to succeed. Often, issues of multi-generational poverty, systemic racism and political indifference toward these communities mean that some children grow up with a significant lack of opportunities. This has certainly been the case for the children in Pottstown, which has struggled for years with a number of socio-economic challenges. Notably among these challenges has been the issue of school funding. Recognizing that while Pennsylvania has a formula to direct state education funds to local school districts in an equitable way, the formula is only applied to a small fraction of the education budget. This has resulted in the Pottstown School District being underfunded by over $13 million  every year. To add insult to injury, the way in which the non-formula funds are dispersed significantly favors majority white schools over schools with a greater minority population such as Pottstown. This is deeply troubling and we believe it must be addressed. With this in mind, we call on our state leaders to apply the Fair Funding Formula to the entire basic education budget. The children of Pottstown, along with the rest of the 52 percent of Pennsylvania children who live in underfunded districts, deserve to be supported with an equitable investment that accounts for their needs. When we invest in kids’ lives and their education, the payoff is tremendous for decades to come. We will see more hopeful communities, spiritually and physically healthier individuals, a prepared workforce and reduced crime and incarceration.

State ed board backs changes to school start, dropout ages
Penn Live By The Associated Press Posted May 9, 4:06 PM
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s State Board of Education is giving its support to proposals by Gov. Tom Wolf to require students start schooling by age 6 and continue until they’re at least 18. The board voted unanimously Wednesday for the Democratic governor's proposals that he unveiled in February. The Republican-controlled Legislature still must approve the proposals for them to take effect. The Wolf administration says lowering the mandatory start age from 8 to 6 would affect about 3,300 children. Officials say only one other state allows parents to keep children out of school until age 8, a policy Pennsylvania adopted in the late 19th century. Pennsylvania’s minimum age to drop out of school is currently 17. The administration says nearly 14,000 students drop out without graduating every year in Pennsylvania.

“The audit began with a check of each school’s website, DePasquale said. None had their child abuse reporting policies posted online, not even the cyber schools, he said. Auditors then called each school, DePasquale said, to determine how they could contact each CEO or school board president. Some schools were reluctant to provide auditors with email addresses for top officials and some administrative staff members refused to provide their names to auditors, DePasquale said, noting the stark difference between the difficulty of reaching those officials and public school district officials.”
Majority of cyber and charter schools lacked updated child abuse reporting policies: Auditor General
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | Updated May 9, 3:05 PM; Posted May 9, 11:01 AM
A review of 179 cyber and charter schools found most of them did not have updated policies on reporting child abuse, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced Thursday. “Protecting children from abuse is among the highest priorities and a critical function of state government,” DePasquale said at a 10 a.m. news conference at the Capitol. “I want to make sure every school does their part to stop abuse when and where they can.” The audit found the majority of public charter and cyber schools did not have updated policies until DePasquale’s team contacted the schools. Many of those schools then updated their policies but 26 schools had not by the Auditor General’s timeline. Nine schools flatly ignored the auditor general, DePasquale said. Cyber and charter schools educate 140,000 students each year. The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools greatly assisted with the audit, DePasquale said. Ana Meyers, executive director of the coalition, said the group encourages charter schools to follow the law and “most of them are doing a great job at it.” Meyers said most schools responded to auditors and 80 percent eventually showed they had the appropriate policies in place. “I also believe this audit has been an important reminder for 100 percent compliance, which is what our schools always strive to reach,” she said.

Pottstown schools looking at music cuts to balance budget
POTTSTOWN — The state's chronic under-funding of the Pottstown School District may soon force some unpopular decisions by the school board. According to Pennsylvania's Fair Funding Formula, Pennsylvania should be providing $13 million more than it currently does each year to the Pottstown School District. The reasons state lawmakers do not have more to do with politics than policy. As a result of that, and the pledge the school board made in December to stay within the 3.3 percent tax hike allowed this year under state law, the district administration has been struggling to close a projected $244,000 deficit. Until now, according to Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez, the district has used every trick it can think of to avoid making cuts to programs. But this may be the year it can no longer be avoided as the district tries to balance a $63 million proposed budget. And the cuts may include the district's award-winning music program.

Ways to combat Philly’s punishing teacher turnover
Teachers and readers send solutions after The Inquirer’s “turnstile teaching” investigation
Inquirer by Jessica CalefatiKristen A. Graham and Dylan Purcell,  May 10, 2019- 5:00 AM
Our recent investigation, Turnstile Teaching, found 26 Philadelphia district schools where teachers churned through jobs at an alarming rate, hindering some of the city’s most vulnerable children. The story touched a nerve, and teachers and readers shared their experiences as well as ways to fix this chronic problem. Their comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Long held up as a model, N.J. school funding system facing legal challenge
Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Updated: May 9, 2019
New Jersey’s school-funding formula is held up as a model by education advocates. But the state is confronting a new legal challenge from a district that says the Garden State isn’t sending it enough money. In this case, the Jersey City school board has sued the state over its plan to cut $27 million in aid to the district in the next fiscal year. Eight other districts, including one in Atlantic County and another in Ocean County, previously filed suit over cuts. The suits take aim at a complicated system, and beyond the details, they underscore the messy realities of paying for public education: How should the state balance the need to fund school districts with unequal tax burdens among communities? While the specifics vary, school funding has been contentious across the country, including in Pennsylvania, where a landmark suit is scheduled to go to trial next year. In New Jersey’s case, the legal challenges stem from a recent update to the school funding law, which was adopted a decade ago but never fully enacted. It was aimed at funding districts based on their needs, but the state stipulated that no district would lose money. As a result, some are receiving aid above what the formula intended. Other districts haven’t received the additional money they were supposed to get.

Paul Muschick on Allentown School District: When you’re in a financial hole, stop digging!
It’s time for Allentown school officials to stop blaming the district’s financial problems on the past and on factors outside of their control. Tuesday night’s decision to borrow $10 million — through a bond that will cost taxpayers $14 million to pay off — just digs the hole deeper. Borrowing money to pay routine expenses — in this case pension obligations — shouldn’t be done by anyone, whether a school district, a business or a household. If this was a one-time blip, perhaps an exception could be made. But it’s no blip. The Allentown School District repeatedly scrounges and begs for money. Last year, the state bailed it out with a $10 million, no-strings-attached handout. What is the district going to do next year if it finds itself in the same position? Borrow more? It may not have other options. The projected deficit for the 2019-20 fiscal year is $18 million, even after Tuesday’s borrowing.

Greensburg Salem School Board mulls another tax increase
Trib Live by JACOB TIERNEY   | Wednesday, May 8, 2019 10:22 p.m.
There’s a lot yet to be determined about the Greensburg Salem School District’s 2019-20 budget, but most of the school board agrees on one point: “I think we’re going to have some sort of tax increase,” board member Nicholas Rullo said. The board will vote next week on a proposed budget with a 1.5-mill tax increase, which will be subject to change until a final vote in June. Board members Jeff Metrosky and Robin Savage opposed the increase, saying the district should do more to cut costs and protect taxpayers. “It’s going to make a difference to (residents),” Savage said. “If they can’t afford it, they are going to leave the district.” Most board members, however, said a tax increase is necessary to pay for repairs and renovations at district buildings.

‘Threatening the Future’: The High Stakes of Deepening School Segregation
The New York Times By Dana Goldstein May 10, 2019
The 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education approaches on May 17, but fights over school segregation, rather than decreasing, are becoming more common. Cities like New York and San Francisco are debating how to assign students to schools in ways that foster classroom diversity, and school secession movements — in which parents seek to form their own, majority-white districts — are accelerating. A new report from U.C.L.A. and Penn State outlines the changes in school segregation since the landmark Supreme Court ruling named after Oliver Brown, a black father who sued to enroll his daughter, Linda, in an all-white elementary school blocks from their home in Topeka, Kan. The court’s unanimous 1954 ruling declared separate educational facilities “inherently unequal.” But the case is one of several major civil rights rulings, alongside those on voting rights and housing discrimination, that have been substantially weakened by more recent decisions. Today, the decreasing white share of the public school population across the country may lead some to believe that schools are becoming more integrated. But the reverse is true, according to the report. The percentage of intensely segregated schools, defined as those where less than 10 percent of the student body is white, tripled between 1988 and 2016, from 6 to 18 percent.

More states moving toward teaching Scripture in public schools
Inquirer by Julie Zauzmer, Washington Post, Updated: May 8, 2019
GLASGOW, Ky. — Todd Steenbergen leads worship services in church sometimes, but today he was preaching in a different venue: the public-school classroom where he teaches. "A lot of people will look at the Beatitudes and glean some wisdom from them," he told the roomful of students, pointing toward the famous blessings he had posted on the board, some of the best-known verses in the Bible. "I want you to think about what kind of wisdom we can get from these today."While Steenbergen was urging students to draw lessons from the Bible here in southern Kentucky, students in Paducah — halfway across the state — were reading from the Gospels as well, in a classroom where they drew pictures of the cross and of Adam and Eve walking with dinosaurs, hanging them on the walls. Scenes of Bible classes in public school could become increasingly common across the United States if other states follow Kentucky's lead in passing legislation that encourages high schools to teach the Bible.

PA Schools Work Capitol Caravan Days Wed. June 5th and Tues. June 18th
If you couldn’t make it to Harrisburg last week, it’s not too late. We are getting down to the wire. In a few short weeks, the budget will likely be passed. Collectively, our voices have a larger impact to get more funding for Pennsylvania’s students. Legislators need to hear from you!  
Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) will be at the Capitol on Wednesday, June 5th and Tuesday, June 18th  for our next PA Schools Work caravan days. We’d love to have you join us on these legislative visits. For more details about the caravans and to sign up, go to: . Please call Tomea Sippio-Smith at (O) 215-563-5848, ext. 36 or (C) 215-667-9421 or Shirlee Howe at (O) 215-563-5848, ext. 34 or (C) 215-888-8297 with any questions or specific requests for legislative meetings. 

PCCY Annual Celebration Wednesday, May 15 at Franklin Institute in Philly
PCCY would also love to have you join us at our annual celebration on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. PCCY’s Celebration is a fun way to network with colleagues, make new friends and learn more about the important role PCCY plays in the lives of children in our region. Tickets are on sale NOW for the 2019 Celebration of the Public Citizens Of The Year honoring Chuck Pennoni and the Penonni team and our regional Advocates of the Year. Come out for a phenomenal evening of food, drinks, entertainment, auction and a spirited celebration.  Buy tickets and learn more at:

School Funding Briefing Thursday, May 23, 2019 6:30 – 8:00 PM
Drexel Hill Middle School, 3001 State Road, Drexel Hill, PA 19026
In 2019, the Public Interest Law Center is celebrating 50 years of fighting for justice, and preparing for 50 more, through a series of 50th anniversary events.
As part of this series, the Upper Darby School Board is pleased to host the Public Interest Law Center at Drexel Hill Middle School on Thursday, May 23rd, for a School Funding Briefing.
Pennsylvania has the largest funding gap in the country between low-wealth and high-wealth school districts. Pennsylvania is also ranked 46th in the share of funding that comes from the state, leaving local taxpayers to take on rising costs. How did we get here? At the briefing, you will learn the basics of education funding and how it works in Pennsylvania, as well as ways you can get involved in advocacy for fully funded public education. You will also learn about the latest developments in the Law Center's school funding lawsuit.
Afterward, you will have a chance to meet Law Center attorneys working on this landmark case, as well as mingle with other interested in Pennsylvania education.

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 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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