Thursday, May 9, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup May 9: Here comes PA charter reform 2019

Started in November 2010, daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, Wolf education transition team members, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, charter school leaders, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

These daily emails are archived and searchable at
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Blogger note: we’re hearing that House Ed Committee Chairman Sonney will drop 4 charter reform bills next week. Here are links to the cosponsorship memos for each of them.

Here is info on the Democratic package of charter reform bills announced last week:
Roebuck and colleagues announce charter school reform package
Rep. James R. Roebuck Jr. Website    May 3, 2019 | 10:22 AM
HARRISBURG, May 3 – Today, Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., alongside other House Democrats, unveiled a package of eight charter school reform bills designed to treat all Pennsylvania public schools – both traditional and charter – and their students equally under law. "I believe we can get bipartisan support for these bills and improve accountability in the charter school system,” Roebuck said. “Our goal is to treat these schools equally under the law, so that we can make sure tax dollars are being used efficiently.” Roebuck, Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee, introduced H.B. 1330 that would end conflicts of interest in tax-funded payments for charter school leases.

School funding inequity: House bill 800 | PennLive letters
By Cordell Affeldt, Harrisburg, PennLive Letters to the Editor Posted May 8, 11:24 AM
Short-term gain for a few: long-term loss for Pennsylvania. House Bill 800 directs tax money that could have gone to public schools to go instead to private and religious schools. How appealing to cut one’s $38,000 tuition bill for a private suburban Philly school, or any private or religious school. Do it under the banner of “CHOICE” and it sounds noble. Cut private cost with public tax money and the personal appeal can go up even more--your private choice will be paid for in part of everybody else. Meanwhile, most of Pennsylvania’s public schools continue to steadily starve. We rank 47th in school funding from state sources, depending dramatically on local property taxes. The burden is constructed to be worst for the poorest districts, who already tax their local property at proportionately higher rates than do the richest districts. We rank 8th in school spending as a share of state economy. We just don’t distribute the money equitably--and the gap is growing. The answer HB 800 offers? Yell CHOICE to distract us from the current school funding inequity. Shift more money to non-public options; even assure automatic increases in future years. HB bakes in accepting poor resources for the public at-large while year-after-year increasing resources for a few.

Level of state education funding keeps families in poverty
We should not elect representatives who put little effort into giving children an equitable education.
The notebook Commentary by Carly King May 8 — 6:24 am, 2019
I will always remember the first time a teenager told me they didn’t have dreams and aspirations. As one young lady put it, “What’s the point?” Discouraged by the state of their public schools, they saw minimal opportunities for their futures. As a social worker, I see daily how poverty blurs the lines of child abuse and neglect for families and disproportionately affects black and brown communities. I have seen more families enter the child welfare system from truancy or education-based referrals than from any other point of entry. Pennsylvania schools need a fair funding formula that will address economic and educational inequality across districts. Instead, our elected officials find ways to dance around addressing any true marginalization of black and Latino students in our public schools. The City of Brotherly Love doesn’t seem to have unconditional love for all its children, which is shown by the poor conditions many endure daily. Philadelphia students are being shortchanged from the chance to break economic barriers in their communities by receiving an adequate education. The evidence includes deplorable building conditions, lack of tangible learning resources, digital divides between and among district schools, issues with school safety, low graduation rates, poorly executed special education services, and the overall lack of preparedness for higher education and the workforce. To break cycles of intergenerational poverty in Philadelphia, we must invest in education and prioritize those most in need.

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 Ed Committee member @JasonOrtitay‏’s school districts in  Allegheny and Washington Counties had to send over $4.4 million to chronically underperforming cybers that they never authorized. #SB34 (Schwank) or #HB526 (Sonney) could change that.
Data source: PDE via 

Burgettstown Area SD
Canon-McMillan SD
Chartiers Valley SD
Fort Cherry SD
South Fayette Township SD
Trinity Area SD
West Allegheny SD


Has your state representative cosponsored HB526?

Has your state senator cosponsored SB34?

‘We need to stop it before it happens:’ Bipartisan House coalition rolls out new school safety measures
PA Capital Star by  John L. Micek May 8, 2019
Barely a day after America’s latest school shooting, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives introduced a package of bills that they say could help stop future acts of violence before they happen.  The measures call for more school nurses; increased firearms and CPR training for school police and security officers; efforts to get school guidance counselors, social workers, and psychologists to meet national standards; improved reporting and data collection for students who attempt or commit suicide on school grounds; and a mandatory mental health and anti-bullying curriculum for students. At a Capitol news conference Wednesday, backers of the proposed “Beyond Safe Schools” package say the bills are designed to build on legislative authorization last year of a $60 million grant fund that districts can use to enhance physical safety and security in school buildings. But as lawmakers reviewed the initial grant proposals, “we [recognized] that there needs to be a more comprehensive approach to dealing with school safety that involves focusing on the overall behavioral health of students,” said Rep. Dan Miller, D-Allegheny, who’s among the sponsors of the more than a dozen bills included in the package. The bills are “intended to address problems before they occur,” he added.

School safety bill package seeks to go beyond locking doors and security cameras
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Posted May 8, 1:51 PM
Locking doors and installing security cameras to make schools safer to prevent tragedies like the latest one that happened in Colorado on Tuesday are important but some lawmakers say school building modifications alone are not enough. Addressing student wellness issues to improve student learning and address students’ social and emotional problems early on are just as critical. In a 14-bill “Beyond Safe Schools” package spearheaded by a group of Democratic lawmakers, they are calling for funding for schools to hire more school nurses, counselors, social workers, and librarians and a myriad of other initiatives aimed at creating a safer and healthier school environment. The bills were unveiled at a Capitol news conference on Wednesday that also brought out Pennsylvania State Education Association President Rich Askey who threw the union’s backing behind them.

Why Allentown and Bethlehem’s school budgets are night and day
The Allentown School District avoided financial collapse this school year by taking out a $10 million loan to fill a $7.6 million budgetary hole. But Allentown, the region’s largest school district, still faces an $18 million deficit for 2019-20. While Allentown searches for a way to close that gap by a June 30 deadline, neighboring Bethlehem Area School District, the Valley’s second largest, is poised to pass its first budget in 25 years with no tax increase. The district faced a $7 million deficit in February, but through savings and increases in revenue, that has dwindled to $1.6 million. That hole will be closed with borrowing from a reserve account. Here’s how the area’s largest districts are different: Allentown has a weak tax base The Allentown School District, educating about 17,000 students, is the one in the Lehigh Valley solely within a city. Bethlehem Area, enrolling about 14,000 students, extends beyond the city to Bethlehem and Hanover townships, and to the boroughs of Fountain Hill and Freemansburg. In Pennsylvania, public schools have three funding streams. The largest comes from local property taxes, with state and federal taxpayers covering the rest. So the more affluent a district is, the more local money it has. Allentown’s homes, mostly twins and row homes, have a $124,000 median value, according to the U.S. Census. As a result, Allentown is only able to cover 30 percent of its $318 million budget with local revenue. Bethlehem Area is a different story. While the city’s median home value is $168,600, the district includes 4-bedroom houses with lush lawns and in-ground pools in Hanover and Bethlehem townships with median values of $283,700 and $243,200, respectively, according to census numbers.

Mars Area school board approves preliminary budget with no tax increase
Post-Gazette by SANDY TROZZO MAY 9, 2019 12:00 AM
The 2019-20 budget for the Mars Area School District adds 16 positions but does not raise taxes. The proposed final budget was approved Tuesday by an 8-1 vote. Superintendent Wesley Shipley said that the $52.2 million spending plan addresses the need for low class sizes, growth in the special education department and increased safety. The budget adds one elementary classroom teacher to help keep class sizes low, five special education teachers, five paraprofessionals for special education, one district-wide social worker, one school psychologist and three district police officers. The three officers will work with two Adams Township officers to have one armed police officer in every building, Mr. Shipley said.

Penn Hills students to receive free lunches, breakfasts next school year
Trib Live by MICHAEL DIVITTORIO   | Wednesday, May 8, 2019 10:53 p.m.
Penn Hills School District students will not have to worry about paying for breakfasts and lunches next school year. District officials recently approved the high school’s participation in the National School Lunch Program’s Community Eligibility Provision. It’s being administered by the state Department of Education’s Division of Food and Nutrition. CEP provides free breakfasts and lunches in districts or schools in which at least 40% of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunches, meaning their families receive food stamps, medical assistance or other government aid. There are about 1,150 students at the high school and about 3,820 in the district. The current cost of a high school lunch is $3.75 and $2 for breakfast. The elementary school qualified for the program since the 2017-18 school year. Linton Middle School and the district’s K-8 cyber academy qualified this school year. The programs last for five years.

“Unlike other states, Oregon teachers are not seeking pay raises or other union demands. They say they’re walking out to highlight classroom conditions and how years of low funding has affected learning opportunities.”
Oregon teachers walk out in red to press for school funding
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Tens of thousands of teachers across Oregon walked off the job Wednesday to demand more money for schools, holding signs and wearing red shirts that have become synonymous with a nationwide movement pushing lawmakers to better fund education.
Schools around the state, including Oregon’s largest district, Portland Public Schools, closed for at least part of the day. Most offered day care and free lunch programs. An estimated 25,000 people massed in a downtown Portland park for a rally before marching through the city. The mix of teachers, parents and students wore red to support the “Red for Ed” campaign that’s taken hold nationwide and chanted that slogan. It was one of many protests statewide that called on lawmakers to expand school funding in Oregon, which has some of the largest class sizes and lowest graduation rates in the United States. Kathy Paxton-Williams, who attended public school in Oregon and has been teaching in Portland for more than 20 years, said she has seen dramatic changes. “Every year, for the last 21 years, there’s been cuts and cuts and cuts,” she said.
The walkout follows a wave of teacher activism that began in West Virginia in 2018 and was followed by Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and elsewhere. Teachers in North Carolina and South Carolina rallied at their respective state capitols last week seeking more money.

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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