Thursday, August 1, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup August 1: Taxpayers in Senate Majority Caucus Secretary Ryan Aument’s school districts had to send over $9.1 million to chronically underperforming cyber charter schools for 2017-18.

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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PA Ed Policy Roundup August 1, 2019

The table below lists the school district name, total 2017-18 cyber tuition paid and the percent of the district’s budget that was spent on cyber tuition.
Data Source: PDE via PSBA.

Cocalico SD
Columbia Borough SD
Conestoga Valley SD
Conrad Weiser Area SD
Donegal SD
Eastern Lancaster County SD
Elizabethtown Area SD
Ephrata Area SD
Hempfield  SD
Manheim Central SD
Warwick SD


On the farm, spotty internet means trouble selling milk, slow downloads, constant frustration
Post-Gazette by Kris B. Mamula KMAMULA@POST-GAZETTE.COM and  Jessie Wardarski
Spring Mills, Pa. - A passing storm can be enough to knock out the credit card processor at Martin’s Feed Mill in Coburn, population 236, in eastern Centre County. Still, the store’s owner, Eliza Walton, wasn’t prepared for what happened when she went to update the business accounting software for her store, which carries a line of feed and other products for cattle, chickens and other animals. “I actually thought we had high-speed internet, but it took three days to download the latest QuickBooks update,” said Ms. Walton, 33. It turns out that online connection speeds are like garden hoses: The bigger the hose, the faster data flows and webpages load. And in Centre County — home to a thriving Amish community in the center of Pennsylvania — the garden hose is pinched off, or missing entirely, according to a new study. The study by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania found median broadband speeds in Pennsylvania’s urban centers were slower than the FCC standard. Yet they were much faster than rural parts of the state: 17.1 megabits per second of data in Allegheny County versus 6.8 megabits per second in Centre County, for example.

“We have no quarrel with the president disagreeing with his critics. It's been done by every resident of the White House. It is the invective he uses, and the target he invariably chooses – women, minorities, those of color.”
Editorial: The infestation is in the White House
Delco Times Editorial August 1, 2019
It would be easy to simply ignore the divisive bile that consistently spews from the White House and its current resident, President Donald Trump. It also would be wrong. We tried. We tried really hard. It's been awhile since we wrote about President Trump. And there are those who would ask why a local newspaper in Delaware County is writing about the antics emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Our critics – and they are legion – will say we are merely holding true to our Democratic leanings, and taking one more opportunity to knock the president. The truth is this is not about politics; it’s about decency. We made the decision awhile back to avoid writing about the president in this space. It brings back that old saying: “Never wrestle with a pig. You get all dirty and the pig likes it.” This is what Donald Trump wants; it’s what he thrives on. It feeds his narcissism and his No. 1 craving: Attention. But there comes a time when voices need to be raised. This is one of those times.  We cringed when the president attacked four new Democratic congresswomen who have been critical of his policies, urging them to go "back where they came from." The president said that if these lawmakers "hate our country," they can go back to their "broken and crime-infested" countries. A few nights later an adoring crowd chanted "Send Them Back," while Trump stood smugly at the podium, never once offering an opposing point of view or possibly a teaching moment, informing the crowd that in America this is not what we do. He simply smiled and soaked in the adulation, feeding his enormous ego.

Should Pennsylvania trade the Keystone Exams for the SAT? Pro/Con | Opinion
Inquirer Staff Reports Updated: July 19, 2019 - 7:30 AM
A decade has passed since Pennsylvania first pitched the Keystone Exams as one more hurdle students must clear to graduate. The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act required states to administer standardized tests, which students had to pass to prove that schools were teaching fundamental skills. Pennsylvania’s answer was the Keystones, and the state announced that a passing grade on these assessments would become a graduation requirement for the class of 2015. That never happened. Amid criticism that strict testing pushed educators to “teach to the test" and unfairly branded underfunded or otherwise struggling schools as “failing," the federal government replaced No Child Left Behind in 2015 with a new law that rolled back the requirement for state-specific tests. Even so, Pennsylvania has stuck with the Keystones — and with the state government funding them. On July 10, the Office of the Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a report noting that the state has paid a Minnesota company $425 million over the last decade for the Keystones, as well as a separate test for third through eighth graders, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment Exams (PSSA). DePasquale, who is planning a run for Congress, has a new pitch: Ditch the Keystones in favor of the SAT and ACT, tests commonly used for college admission. Funding high school students to take those tests, his report argues, will be cheaper than keeping the Keystones. But some state educators have reservations — including that the SATs, unlike the Keystones, skip science testing, and evidence that SAT performance is closely tied to wealth, a concern the College Board recently tried to address by proposing an “adversity score” component for the SAT. To hear from both sides of the debate, The Inquirer reached out to DePasquale and public school educators to hear their takes on what the future of standardized testing should look like in Pennsylvania.

Gov. Wolf announces millions in funding to fix environmental hazards in Philly schools
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Updated: July 31, 2019- 5:49 PM
Standing in the library of an Overbrook elementary school, Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday announced the state would spend $4.3 million to help remove lead paint from Philadelphia public schools. Including the millions the state paid last year to complete such projects, that means Pennsylvania has allocated almost $12 million to fixing environmental hazards in the Philadelphia School District.  “No parent should have to worry about the health risk of sending their child to school, and no student should be at risk from lead paint,” said Wolf, who was flanked by city and state lawmakers. The governor said the spending was spurred by Toxic City, The Inquirer series that detailed health threats posed to children by lead paint, asbestos, and other issues present inside many Philadelphia schools. Toxic City “shone a spotlight on conditions that exist in many of the public schools right here in Philadelphia. We feel an even greater sense of urgency than we did last year,” Wolf said, calling The Inquirer’s work “a remarkable series” and “a call to action.” To date, the school system has invested $18.6 million on lead-paint stabilization projects, said chief operating officer Danielle Floyd. The new state funds would be in addition to that spending. By the time school starts on Sept. 3, 32 elementary schools will have had lead-paint stabilization projects completed, Floyd said. That’s a fraction of the 200 schools that must be remediated. The new state money will pay for lead abatement at an additional four to five schools, Floyd said.

Pa. again pledges extra help to remove lead paint from Philly schools
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent July 31, 2019
For the second time in as many summers, Pennsylvania will pitch in extra money to remove lead paint from Philadelphia schools. The state will set aside $4.3 million for lead paint stabilization in Philly, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday. A year ago, Pennsylvania pledged $7.6 million to remove lead paint, with the city adding $7.9 million to make other emergency repairs. So far, the district says, its remediated 32 elementary schools serving about 18,000 students. “This is a good start, but we need to make sure we give the city of Philadelphia’s school district all the resources they need to make sure every single child and every single teacher in every single school in the school district can come to school free of any concerns over their health,” said Wolf during a press conference at Edward Heston School in West Philadelphia. Local lawmakers and advocates continue to press for more money, citing an investigation from The Philadelphia Inquirer that showed serious environmental hazards in the city’s aging school buildings. A coalition of legislators and union officials estimate it would cost $170 million to make all “urgent” repairs. State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) and State Rep. Elizabeth Fielder (D-Philadelphia) introduced legislation earlier this year that would have sent $85 million to Philadelphia for school repairs, but that proposal did not make it into the final state budget.

Gov. Tom Wolf orders state overhaul after abuses at Glen Mills Schools
Inquirer by Lisa Gartner, Updated: July 31, 2019- 3:51 PM
Citing revelations of violence against children at the Glen Mills Schools, Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday ordered the state to overhaul its oversight of Pennsylvania’s juvenile residential programs. Wolf signed an executive order creating an Office of Advocacy and Reform, with a new Child Advocate position. The advocate will act as an ombudsman for youth in the state’s facilities. The order also establishes a Council on Reform to provide recommendations for further action. Additionally, the governor directed state agencies to reduce the number of children in institutional placements; strengthen oversight of the programs in their purview; and increase accountability for these institutions. “Today is a day of reckoning,” Wolf said shortly before signing the executive order. “Today, we are being honest that the decades-in-making, outdated, rigid, convoluted system is not working for too many Pennsylvanians.”

Blogger opinion: Senator Folmer has run this or similar pieces periodically in other press outlets around the state. And while his emphasis is on how much money is being spent, he does not consider the distribution of those funds. Pennsylvania continues to have the most inequitable funding between wealthy and poor districts of any state in the country, and our legislative leadership seems comfortable with that despite the findings of their own basic education funding commission.
Yes, Pa. can afford to spend that money. The bigger question: Should it? | Opinion
By Mike Folmer  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor August 1, 2019
State Sen. Mike Folmer, a Republican, represents the 48th Senate District, which includes parts of Dauphin, Lebanon, and York counties. He writes from Harrisburg. 
Snap your fingers.  Snap them again, again, and again. Now, imagine having a fistful of $1,000 bills in your other hand.  Under the 2019–2020 General Fund budget, Pennsylvania will spend over $1,000 ($1,078.05 to be exact) each second.  Imagine spending those $1,000 bills you’re holding each and every second for the next year. Total, approved General Fund spending for the new fiscal year that began July 1 is $33,997,395,000, or $93,143,547.95 a day; $3,880,981.16 an hour; $64,683.02 each minute, and $1,078.05 every second. However, General Fund expenditures are just one piece of overall state spending.  When you add federal and specially designated funding, total spending tops $80 Billion. These additional outlays are covered by a host of special funds, including:  Motor License Fund, Lottery, Horse Racing Fund, Capital Budget, debt service funds, and various other stewardship and singular-purpose funds. Education remains the largest element of the General Fund budget:  $13,127,581,000, or 38.6 percent of the total state budget. This is in addition to federal and local tax moneys (mostly school property taxes – another big issue for another time). Under the state’s current basic education funding formula (yet another big issue for another time), appropriations to school districts total $6,255,078,997, or an average of $12,510,158 per each of the 500 school districts.

Harrisburg School District expects to lose up to $1.5 million because of missing financial records
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | Updated 5:56 AM; Today 5:35 AM
The Harrisburg School District is facing the loss of up to $1.5 million from federal grants because of poor record-keeping and financial records that vanished amid a mass firing of top administrators. The loss of funding comes after the district raised local property taxes and while it already has a nearly $5 million hole in its $150 million budget for 2019-20. While the district is prepared to lose up to $1.5 million in federal reimbursements, it could potentially reduce its losses, depending on how many records administrators can piece together, said John George, the district’s new Financial Recovery Plan Service Director. He and his team from the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit were brought in by the recently appointed receiver to take over operations of the troubled school district.

America’s New School Lunch Policy: Punishing Hungry Students for Their Parents’ Poverty
Gadfly  on the Wall Blog by Steven M. Singer July 24, 2019 stevenmsinger 
There are few things as bad as a hungry child. Hunched over an aching stomach as the school day creeps toward its end, one in six children go hungry in America today. It’s harder to learn when you’re malnourished and in pain – especially for children. It should be harder for adults to let them go hungry. Yet for many policymakers, nothing is as bad as feeding children and letting their parents avoid the bill. About 75% of US school districts report students who end the year owing large sums for lunches, according to the School Nutrition Association. And of those districts, 40.2% said the number of students without adequate funds increased last school year. In fact, that has become the central issue – not child hunger but lunch debt. Policymakers at the federal, state and school district level are finding new ways to force impoverished parents to pay for their children’s meals even if doing so means penalizing the children. Just yesterday the Trump administration announced a plan to tighten eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that could result in hundreds of thousands of the poorest children losing automatic eligibility for free school lunches. In my home state of Pennsylvania, a district made headlines by threatening to send kids to foster care if their parents didn’t pay up.

Kristen DeGregorio prepares her special ed students for life after school
She teaches high school students with disabilities. “I can improve the reading level, but what is the purpose if they cannot use it in a real-world context?”
The notebook by Makoto Manheim July 31 — 11:55 am, 2019
Each week, Kristen DeGregorio tries to teach her students a new skill, such as teamwork and positive body language. She calls them “employability skills,” and this is how she prepares them for the real world. DeGregorio teaches 18- to 21-year old students with intellectual disabilities at Frankford High School and is one of the 60 people to win Lindback Awards this year for distinguished teaching.  When she was a student herself, DeGregorio struggled in Souderton Area High School in Montgomery County. But one class that she really connected with during high school was an elective course in which students could earn credits by working in special education. She did much better in college, attending Montgomery County Community College before transferring to Temple and earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education.  DeGregorio taught middle school for three years at James R. Ludlow Elementary, a K-8 school, where she worked with Need in Deed, a nonprofit organization that helps teachers use service learning in their curriculum. “Service learning is life-changing for me in the classroom,” she said. She has worked at Frankford High for the last seven years. In her current assignment, DeGregorio helps her students transition out of high school. About 70% of adults with intellectual disabilities are unemployed, and registering for available support services, such as recreational activities and day programs, is very difficult.  

Delay in tax bills due to cyber attack leads to WVW taking out short term loan
Times Leader By Mark Guydish - July 31, 2019
KINGSTON — The school district impact from delays in sending out property tax bills— caused by a cyber attack on Luzerne County computers — continues to grow. Wyoming Valley West School Board President Joe Mazur said the board will hold a brief special meeting Tuesday for the sole agenda item of borrowing money through a short term loan known as a tax anticipation note, or TAN. “In order for us to operate for the remainder of the year, we need to float a tax note,” Mazur said Wednesday. “This is going to be an extra burden for the Wyoming Valley West School District and for every other district.” The county suffered a cyber attack Memorial Day Weekend that infected the real estate assessment database and prompted officials to shut down the county courthouse network May 28 to prevent the virus from spreading. The county has been struggling to unlock the database backup since, so it can assemble a real estate file that can be used to generate school tax bills. The county initially said the delay would take until Aug. 1, but on Tuesday county Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz sent letters to school district officials pushing the date to Aug. 19.

Segregation, 'School-to-Prison Pipeline' Fire Up Democratic Debate
Education Week By Evie Blad on July 31, 2019 11:30 PM
School segregation and educational disparities for students of color aren't issues of the past, Democratic presidential candidates stressed in a primary debate in Detroit Wednesday that also touched on the the intersection of education and criminal justice issues. The sometimes emotional exchanges renewed the spotlight on former Vice President Joe Biden's support of bills that restricted "busing" for purposes of desegregation in the 1970s. California Sen. Kamala Harris, citing her own childhood experience under a voluntary school integration plan in Berkeley, had pressed him on the issue in a Miami debate last month. When CNN moderators asked about the issue again Wednesday, other candidates were quick to highlight the problems that still exist in education: disproportionately high rates of discipline for black students, poor academic outcomes for students from poor neighborhoods, and yawning differences between adequately and inadequately funded schools. "Our schools are as segregated today as they were 50 years ago," Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said in a portion of the debate that focused on race, education, and criminal justice. "We need a conversation about what's happening now."

Register for Federal Focus: Fully funding IDEA at William Tennant HS Wednesday August 21st, 7-9 pm
PSBA News July 30, 2019
Join U.S. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-01) and other IDEA Act co-sponsors at this complimentary focus meeting to talk about the critical need to modernize and fully fund the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Learn about bipartisan efforts now in the U.S. Congress to ensure that special education funding is a priority in the federal budget, and how you can help bring this important legislation to the finish line. Bring your school district facts and questions. This event will be held Aug. 21 at 7:00 p.m. at Centennial School District in Bucks Co. There is no cost to attend, but you must register through Questions can be directed to Megan McDonough at (717) 506-2450, ext. 3321. This program is hosted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) and the Centennial School District. 

“Each member entity will have one vote for each officer. This will require boards of the various school entities to come to a consensus on each candidate and cast their vote electronically during the open voting period (Aug. 23 – Oct. 11, 2019).”
PSBA Officer Elections: Slate of Candidates
PSBA members seeking election to office for the association were required to submit a nomination form no later than June 1, 2019, to be considered. All candidates who properly completed applications by the deadline are included on the slate of candidates below. In addition, the Leadership Development Committee met on June 15th at PSBA headquarters in Mechanicsburg to interview candidates. According to bylaws, the Leadership Development Committee may determine candidates highly qualified for the office they seek. This is noted next to each person’s name with an asterisk (*).

Take the four-week PSBA advocacy challenge
Calling all public education advocates! Even though students are out for the summer, we need you to continue your efforts to share your district's story, and the needs of public schools across the state, with your legislators. Follow the four easy steps on the challenge to increase your engagement with lawmakers this summer and you'll receive some PSBA swag as a thank-you. We've also included some talking points to help inform you on the latest issues. Contact Advocacy Coordinator Jamie Zuvich at with questions. Click here to see the challenge and talking points.

In November, many boards will be preparing to welcome new directors to their governance Team of Ten. This event will help attendees create a full year on-boarding schedule based on best practices and thoughtful prioritization. Register now:
PSBA: Start Strong: Developing a District On-Boarding Plan for New Directors
SEP 11, 2019 • 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
In November, many boards will be faced with a significant transition as they prepare to welcome new directors to their governance Team of Ten. This single-day program facilitated by PSBA trainers and an experienced PA board president will guide attendees to creating a strong, full year on-boarding schedule based on best practices and thoughtful prioritization. Grounded in PSBA’s Principles for Governance and Leadership, attendees will hear best practices from their colleagues and leave with a full year’s schedule, a jump drive of resources, ideas for effective local training, and a plan to start strong.
Register online at MyPSBA: and click on “MyPSBA” in the upper right corner.

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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