Wednesday, July 3, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup July 3: “Statewide, basic education funding increased 2.6%, or $160 million, to $6.7 billion; however, less than $700 million will flow through the fair funding formula enacted in 2016 to help historically underfunded districts catch up to their peers.”

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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Lancaster County schools still struggle with unfunded mandates despite state budget's 2.5% basic education funding boost
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer July 3, 2019
The good news: Lancaster County school districts will get a slight funding increase under the 2019-20 state budget signed by the governor last week. The bad news: School officials say it's not enough to cover increasing pension and charter school tuition costs, among other unfunded mandates, leaving them no choice but to ask taxpayers to fork over the rest.
"While we welcome the slight increase in the basic education subsidy for 19/20, it unfortunately continues to do little to address the mandated costs that drive a school district's budget," Manheim Township Superintendent Robin Felty said in an email. "As a result," Felty added, "there continues to be a significant reliance on local funding, which makes up 78% (about $78 million) of MTSD's 19/20 revenue budget." This year's basic education funding appropriation is 2.5% more for Lancaster County school districts than in 2018-19, data from the state Department of Education shows. Increases range from 1.8% in Solanco to 6.4% in Conestoga Valley. Statewide, basic education funding increased 2.6%, or $160 million, to $6.7 billion; however, less than $700 million will flow through the fair funding formula enacted in 2016 to help historically underfunded districts catch up to their peers. One such underfunded district is Conestoga Valley, which, according to district Superintendent Dave Zuilkoski, has consistently been in the bottom 1% of adequately funded districts in the state. If all money was distributed through the formula, Zuilkoski said, Conestoga Valley would receive an additional $9 million annually. "Until that time when, and if, we hit the equitably funded threshold, we will continue to do our due diligence and practice fiscal responsibility to ensure that all students continue to be provided with outstanding, positive learning opportunities," he said.

Wolf says school security bill won’t allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison July 2, 2019
Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Tuesday creating new training requirements for armed school security personnel, despite fears by gun-control activists and his fellow Democrats that it could allow teachers and untrained professionals to carry firearms. Wolf signed the proposal from Sen. Mike Regan, R-York, five days after the Republican-controlled Senate approved it by a vote of 30-20. Democrats cast all negative votes. Wolf issued a statement to accompany his signature, saying the bill “removes any ambiguity about whether teachers may be designated as ‘security personnel.’” “The students, parents, and educators in this Commonwealth can now be secure in the knowledge that teachers can dedicate themselves to teaching our children, and that the security of school facilities rests in the hands of trained, professional security personnel,” the statement reads. The bill amends Pennsylvania’s school code to allow schools to hire independent contractors and third-party vendors to perform security duties. It also eliminates a provision in current law that prohibits school security guards from engaging in programs with students.

Op-ed by BASD Superintendent Dr. Joseph J. Roy: “BASD Doesn’t Benefit From Charter Schools”
Bethlehem Area School District Blog July 2, 2019
In an op-ed in the Morning Call, Ana Meyers (a paid political advocate for charter schools) made several misleading or flat out wrong assertions that are contradicted by the facts. I want to respond to just one of those assertions because it is so intentionally misleading that the general public deserves to know the truth.  BASD pays out nearly $30 million a year to charter schools.  Yet, Ms. Meyers amazingly claims that somehow the district benefits financially from charter schools!! Her actual comment:
“What they (Superintendents Roy and Parker) also failed to mention is that school districts actually benefit financially from every student who chooses a charter school because they get to pocket 25% of a student’s per-pupil allocation…These are taxpayer dollars that a district gets to keep even though they don’t have any responsibility for educating these students.
 This is simply untrue. With charter school tuition costs driving up property taxes in school districts across the state, it’s frankly shocking to me that Ms. Meyer would claim districts benefit financially from charters. 
Here are the numbers – For the 2018-2019 school year, BASD received just shy of $73.8 million ($4,500 per student) from the state as reimbursement for basic education costs, transportation, facilities, and special education, among other things.
To be clear, in 2018-2019 BASD received $4,500 per student from the state and paid a per student tuition to charter schools of roughly $11,000 per student for a regular education student and $23,000 per student for special education students. 
The assertion that BASD benefits financially from students attending charter schools is blatantly untrue. 

“This isn't a new problem. There is a better way to fund charter schools, and it's not rocket science.
·         If school districts could deduct their charter school tuition from the tuition calculation to ensure that it didn't unfairly ratchet up the tuition rate from year to year, it would save them $450 million.
·         If school districts could use their actual percentage of special education students in the special education charter school tuition calculation instead of a fictitious number, it would save them $65 million.
·         If school districts could cap the annual charter school tuition rate growth at their Act 1 index to mitigate annual cost increases, it would save them $96 million.
·         If the state would take on the cost of cyber charter school tuition since the state is responsible for authorizing and overseeing cyber charter schools, it would save school districts $520 million.
We need an honest conversation that leads to a real, meaningful and immediate solution, and we need it this fall. We all have to be at the table and agree that the charter school funding status quo can't continue. Failing to address this critical issue cancels out the education increases in the newly enacted state budget and ensures that the burden on school districts and taxpayers gets worse.”
Pennsylvania Association of School Business Managers Website By: PASBO On: 07/01/2019
School districts across the state will usher in a new fiscal year with much-needed boosts for state basic education funding, special education funding and school safety as a result of the newly enacted state budget. The PA Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) applauds Governor Wolf and the General Assembly for their efforts in providing additional education resources in the new budget.  However, our work is not done. PASBO remains committed to addressing charter school tuition costs when the General Assembly returns this fall. Without remedying charter school funding policy, the positive impact of the increases for education in the 2019-20 budget will be negated, and the $160 million increase in basic education funding for school districts will go directly to charter schools.
PASBO does not debate the existence of charter schools nor the important role they play in providing an alternative public education option for Pennsylvania students. However, charter school reforms are long overdue, and there is no reform need greater than the 22 year-old charter school tuition calculation.  

House GOP boss Cutler, on first six months, ‘We got north of 50 bills’ to Gov. Wolf | Wednesday Morning Coffee
PA Capital Star By  John L. Micek July 3, 2019
Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
With final approval — and one gubernatorial signature — on Pennsylvania’s $34 billion state budget last week, House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler officially put a cap on his first six months as GOP floor leader in the 203-member chamber. On Tuesday, Cutler, R-Lancaster, joined Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, for a signing ceremony for a new state law allowing Pennsylvania to replace the current federal Healthcare Exchange with one run exclusively the state. For Cutler, a former X-Ray technician, the signing ceremony combined two of what he says are his legislative priorities: Improving access to healthcare while increasing government efficiency and saving the taxpayers’ money. On Wednesday afternoon, with his children around him, Cutler sat down for brief chat about his first six months as The Guy in Charge, and what the next six months of the year hold for the GOP-controlled House. The conversation below has been lightly edited for clarity and content.

Scathing state audit of Harrisburg School District reveals more than $5 million in questionable costs
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | Updated 6:12 AM; Today 5:30 AM
State auditors have completed their audit of the Harrisburg School District, where they found more than $5 million in potentially questionable costs over three years, including overpayments to employees, contracted vendors and the superintendent, among other problems. The audit documented $2.6 million in “potential questioned costs,” and an additional $2.5 million in unsupported expenditures. The report confirmed 132 terminated employees were getting free continuous health benefits, which is more than double the amount previously thought and represented a loss of more than $800,000. The district also potentially paid more than $900,000 to substitute service agencies for work that wasn’t performed. “Our engagement identified significant deficiencies in internal control, instances of financial waste and abuse, noncompliance with relevant requirements and a lack of effective leadership,” auditors wrote. Auditors noted that two of the most helpful employees during the audit were removed from the district in the middle of the audit. One employee was placed on paid leave and the other saw her contract abruptly terminated, which prevented further cooperation with auditors.

So long, snow days: Gov. Wolf signs law enabling schools to schedule days for kids to work at home
By Ron Southwick | Updated Jul 2, 5:35 PM; Posted Jul 2, 4:43 PM
Some children expecting snow days free from school work could be disappointed. Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill Tuesday that would allow schools to have “flexible instruction days” due to snow or other events. Lawmakers gave final approval to the measure last week. Under the bill, schools could use the flexible days for closures due to weather, building repairs or threats made to schools. The bill could allow school districts to avoid delaying the end of the school year to make up for snow days. For families planning vacations or graduation parties, that could be a welcome prospect. The state Department of Education has conducted a pilot program over the last three years with several school districts, including Central York and Red Lion. School districts wouldn’t be required to offer flexible instruction days, so some students may well be able to use snowy days for sledding and making snowmen. The bill would allow schools to apply for permits from the education department to have flexible instruction days. The permits would be valid for three years. Charter schools and parochial schools would also be allowed to offer “cyber snow days," under the new law.

Sappey's trauma-informed education signed into law
Pottstown Mercury by MediaNews Group Jul 2, 2019 Updated 15 hrs ago
KENNETT SQUARE— Legislation to implement trauma-informed education in Pennsylvania schools has been signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf, largely thanks to a bill authored by state Rep. Christina Sappey, (D-158th Dist.). Earlier this year H.B. 1415 and S.B. 200, which would implement approaches to student learning that recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma and integrates that knowledge into education-based policies, learning, procedures and practices, was introduced by state Reps. Christina Sappey, D-Chester, and prime co-sponsor Ryan Mackenzie, R-Lehigh/Berks, with state Sens. Vincent Hughes, D-Phila./Montgomery, and Patrick Browne, R-Lehigh. During the budget process, H.B. 1415 and S.B. 200 were incorporated into S.B. 144 and ultimately passed the legislature. “This is all a part of the legislative process in Harrisburg. The important thing is that the policy is being implemented,” Sappey said. “This bill will better equip teachers and other school employees to help children who have experienced trauma, or Adverse Childhood Experiences, succeed by implementing mandatory training. The training will cover how to identify the signs of trauma among students, how to utilize multi-tiered support systems, and recognizing schoolwide policies related to positive behavior supports, restorative justice and resiliency.”

 “Last spring, I-LEAD Inc. lost a court case in which it had tried to avoid paying $2.8 million in overdue property taxes. Ruling in that case, the judge said the large salaries paid to I-LEAD executives appear “more in line with a profit making institution than a truly charitable organization.”
Auditor General DePasquale to Conduct Performance Audit of I-LEAD Charter School in Berks County
HARRISBURG (June 28, 2019) – Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today said he will conduct a performance audit of the I-LEAD charter school in Reading, Berks County. “My goal is to ensure full accountability for the substantial public funding the charter school receives,” DePasquale said. “My audit will make certain that I-LEAD is in compliance with state laws, regulations, contracts and administrative procedures.” The I-LEAD charter school, which serves students in grades 9 to 12, receives about $5 million in taxpayer funding annually from the Reading School District. Last spring, I-LEAD Inc. lost a court case in which it had tried to avoid paying $2.8 million in overdue property taxes. Ruling in that case, the judge said the large salaries paid to I-LEAD executives appear “more in line with a profit making institution than a truly charitable organization.”
DePasquale said his audit will focus on issues including:
  • The school’s financial position;
  • Budgeting practices;
  • School safety;
  • Governance;
  • Contract management and monitoring;
  • Sunshine Act compliance;
  • Lease reimbursements;
  • Teacher and administrator certification; and
  • Hiring practices.

Monroe County schools finalize budgets
Pocono Record By Staff Reports Posted Jul 1, 2019 at 11:31 PM
As Pennsylvania’s Fiscal Year 2018-2019 comes to a close, Monroe County school districts have been busy finalizing their budgets. Here’s a closer look at who’s raising property tax rates, where funding is going and other key features of area school budgets:
Pleasant Valley School District - 150.016 mills, +1.4%
East Stroudsburg Area School District (Monroe) - 176.81 mills, -0.59%
East Stroudsburg Area School District (Pike) - 123.66 mills, no change
Stroudsburg Area School District - 163.30 mills, no change
Pocono Mountain School District - 135.29 mills, no change

Charter school advocates didn’t like this report. A co-author explains where they are right — and very wrong.
WashingtonPPost Answer Sheet Blog By Valerie Strauss Reporter July 2 at 1:25 PM
I have published some posts recently about a report issued by a public education advocacy group about waste in the U.S. Education Department’s Charter Schools Program, which has provided funding for charters to open and expand since the mid-1990s. Charter supporters have taken issue with the report’s findings. The report, titled “Asleep at the Wheel,” detailed how up to $1 billion in federal funds have been wasted on charter schools that never opened, or opened and then closed because of mismanagement and other reasons. Published by the Network for Public Education, the report said the department — in both Republican and Democratic administrations — has not adequately monitored the use of its grants to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated. In March I published a post about the report, which was then cited by Democratic legislators in Congress during a hearing where Education Secretary Betsy DeVos gave testimony about her department’s 2020 budget proposal. In June, one of the co-authors of the report, Carol Burris, wrote another piece on this blog with new findings, saying that the estimate of up to $1 billion of waste in the program may have been too low.
A few days after that piece appeared on this blog, a pro-charter education journal called EducationNext, published by Harvard University’s Kennedy School, published on its website a critique of “Asleep at the Wheel” and a defense of the federal Charter Schools Program.
That critique questioned the findings of the Network for Public Education report, saying, among other things, that there was not enough documentation, that the data sources were a “hodgepodge” and that the data was “misused to support a conclusion that is then advanced unwittingly by credulous media outlets.” In the post below, Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education and a former award-winning principal in New York, addresses that criticism. She points out what she says are omissions and inaccuracies in the critique, while agreeing that the report should have provided more documentation of its findings. She said her organization is posting new documentation and other data on its website.

Government Watchdog Finds Squalid Conditions in Border Centers
New York Times By Zolan Kanno-Youngs July 2, 2019
WASHINGTON — Overcrowded, squalid conditions are more widespread at migrant centers along the southern border than initially revealed, the Department of Homeland Security’s independent watchdog said Tuesday. Its report describes standing-room-only cells, children without showers and hot meals, and detainees clamoring desperately for release. The findings by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General were released as House Democrats detailed their own findings at migrant holding centers and pressed the agency to answer for the mistreatment not only of migrants but also of their own colleagues, who have been threatened on social media. In June, inspectors from the department visited five facilities in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and found children had few spare clothes and no laundry facilities. Many migrants were given only wet wipes to clean themselves and bologna sandwiches to eat, causing constipation and other health problems, according to the report. Children at two of the five facilities in the area were not given hot meals until inspectors arrived.

Cummings Announces Hearing Next Week With Acting DHS and CBP Heads on Separation and Treatment of Immigrant Children
House Committee on Oversight and Reform Jul 2, 2019 Press Release
Committee Also Launches Investigation of Offensive Posts on Secret Facebook Group
Washington, D.C. (July 2, 2019)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, announced that the Committee has invited Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan from U.S. Customs and Border protection (CBP) to testify on July 12, 2019,  regarding troubling new revelations about the Trump Administration’s family separation policy and harsh conditions at detention centers on the border. 

PSBA Members: State Budget Webcast JUL 9, 2019 • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Join PSBA government affairs experts for an in-depth look at the 2019-20 state budget and related School Code bills. What do the new numbers and policy changes mean for your school district, teachers and students? Bring your questions to this complimentary webcast for members!
Presenters: PSBA Chief Advocacy Officer John Callahan, Director of Government Affairs Jonathan Berger and Director of Research Andy Christ. This webcast is for PSBA members only. Members may register at no cost online through PSBA’s webconferencing host:

The deadline to submit a cover letter, resume and application is August 19, 2019.
Become a 2019-2020 PSBA Advocacy Ambassador
PSBA is seeking applications for two open Advocacy Ambassador positions. Candidates should have experience in day-to-day functions of a school district, on the school board, or in a school leadership position. The purpose of the PSBA Advocacy Ambassador program is to facilitate the education and engagement of local school directors and public education stakeholders through the advocacy leadership of the ambassadors. Each Advocacy Ambassador will be responsible for assisting PSBA in achieving its advocacy goals. To achieve their mission, ambassadors will be kept up to date on current legislation and PSBA positions on legislation. The current open positions will cover PSBA Sections 3 and 4, and Section 7.
PSBA Advocacy Ambassadors are independent contractors representing PSBA and serve as liaisons between PSBA and their local elected officials. Advocacy Ambassadors also commit to building strong relationships with PSBA members with the purpose of engaging the designated members to be active and committed grassroots advocates for PSBA’s legislative priorities. 

PSBA: Nominations for The Allwein Society are open!
This award program recognizes school directors who are outstanding leaders & advocates on behalf of public schools & students. Nominations are accepted year-round with selections announced early fall: 

EPLC is accepting applications for the 2019-20 PA Education Policy Fellowship Program
Education Policy & Leadership Center
PA's premier education policy leadership program for education, policy & community leaders with 582 alumni since 1999. Application with program schedule & agenda are at 

2019 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference Oct. 16-18, 2019
WHERE: Hershey Lodge and Convention Center 325 University Drive, Hershey, PA
WHEN: Wednesday, October 16 to Friday, October 18, 201
Registration is now open!
Growth from knowledge acquired. Vision inspired by innovation. Impact created by a synergized leadership community. You are called upon to be the drivers of a thriving public education system. It’s a complex and challenging role. Expand your skillset and give yourself the tools needed for the challenge. Packed into two and a half daysꟷꟷgain access to top-notch education and insights, dynamic speakers, peer learning opportunities and the latest product and service innovations. Come to the PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference to grow!

NPE Action National Conference - Save the Date - March 28-29, 2020 in Philadelphia, PA.
The window is now open for workshop proposals for the Network for Public Education conference, March 28-29, 2020, in Philadelphia. I hope you all sign on to present on a panel and certainly we want all to attend.

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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