Wednesday, October 9, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Oct. 9: Special needs, special costs: Lehigh Valley superintendents educate state panel nearing decision on ways to help

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for Oct. 9, 2019

The Roundup may be intermittent the remainder of this week and next due to travel and the PSBA/PASA Conference in Hershey. If you are in Hershey come say hello on Wednesday, Oct. 16th - I’ll be at the PSBA booth from 8:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. with the other PSBA Advocacy Ambassadors.  Find out how we can assist you with engaging your legislators, scheduling Show Them What it Takes school visits, and taking advantage of free statewide advertising to share positive news about public education via the Success Starts Here campaign.

“Southern Lehigh Superintendent Kathleen Evison, Allentown Superintendent Thomas Parker and Parkland Superintendent Richard Sniscak spoke before the special education funding commission, which originally formed in 2012 and was called upon again this year to study the special education formula it recommended in 2013.  This was the fourth meeting the commission held to hear education officials. It’s expected to issue a report by the end of November.”
Special needs, special costs: Lehigh Valley superintendents educate state panel nearing decision on ways to help
The Southern Lehigh School District spent more than $1 million on services for eight special education students last year. That expense covered the specialized transportation, medical and behavioral needs students face, Superintendent Kathleen Evison told Pennsylvania’s special education funding commission on Tuesday, and said the costs escalate yearly. Evison, Allentown Superintendent Thomas Parker and Parkland Superintendent Richard Sniscak spoke at Southern Lehigh High School before the commission, which originally formed in 2012 and is being called upon again to review the special education formula it recommended in 2013. Previously, the commission recommended Pennsylvania adopt a new funding formula based on the severity of a student’s special education needs. But Tuesday local superintendents said that while they’re grateful for those changes, it’s still not enough money to help students. Officials from the Education Law Center and Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21 and Colonial Intermediate Unit 20 also spoke. The commission, which has been traveling the state, is co-chaired by state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, and Rep. Curt Sonney, R-Erie.

Lawmakers, school and health officials discuss 'growing gap' in special education funding in Manheim Township
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer Oct 8, 2019
Pennsylvania's special education funding commission meets in Manheim Township Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, for its third public hearing.  Lancaster County school and health officials on Monday expressed concerns with the cost of special education, an underfunded mandate, they say, that is increasing at an unsustainable rate. They did so at Pennsylvania’s recently reconstituted special education funding commission’s third public hearing at the Manheim Township School District office. The commission, originally formed in 2012 and called upon again this year to study the special education formula it recommended in 2013, is co-chaired by state Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, Sen. Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) and Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Erie). Lancaster County lawmakers Sen. Scott Martin (R-Martic Township) and Rep. Michael Sturla (D-Lancaster) are members of the commission. Here are four takeaways from what panelists said at the hearing.

H.R.1878 - the IDEA Full Funding Act, which would create a 10 year flight path to full 40% promised federal funding for special ed, now has 129 bipartisan cosponsors.
At 190 they have to run the bill. Has your Congressperson cosponsored it yet?

Find your representative in Congress by entering your address
GovTrack - Info on Pennsylvania’s 18 Members of Congress

Education Law Center: Changes in special education expenditures and revenues for all 500 Pennsylvania districts are provided in the spreadsheet found at:

At the moment, the school system has 37 construction projects in progress all over the city, from the Ben Franklin/SLA building to a new K-8 school on Ryan Avenue in the Northeast, with a single construction manager overseeing all of them.”
Philly school board chair: Despite missteps, we back superintendent
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Updated: October 8, 2019- 7:31 PM
With the Philadelphia School District and its leadership facing intense heat over the indefinite closure of an asbestos-tainted building and plans to relocate 1,000 students, the school board president said Tuesday that the board backed its superintendent but will take steps to make sure such messes will not happen in the future. Speaking publicly for the first time since the discovery of damaged asbestos displaced students from Benjamin Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy, Board President Joyce Wilkerson said she directed board members not to attend two town hall meetings where parents, students, and staff expressed their anger over construction woes to superintendent William R. Hite Jr. because she wanted to send a message.  “We have a superintendent, we support our superintendent,” Wilkerson told the Inquirer Editorial Board on Tuesday. “The superintendent manages the district, and we oversee the superintendent.  The board has been monitoring the Ben Franklin/SLA situation “very, very closely" and has multiple concerns “that we will be reviewing with Dr. Hite in the coming weeks,” Wilkerson said.

School district has broken our trust, say students displaced by asbestos | Opinion
Mecca Taylor and Jade Gilliam, For the Inquirer Updated: October 8, 2019 - 4:04 PM
We are two students — one at Ben Franklin High School and one at Science Leadership Academy. Last week, Superintendent William Hite said that our schools would be closed to students indefinitely while asbestos abatement and construction continue. The School District has broken our trust and someone needs to be held accountable. Dr. Hite and other District officials did a poor job communicating with students and parents about these issues. As students, we feel have been consistently lied to about deadlines for construction and gone to school in an active construction site. For Ben Franklin students, it’s been more than a year. We believe the School District rushed this project and because of that, there are now more than 1,000 students without a safe space to learn.

In Ben Franklin/SLA asbestos crisis, the whole system is guilty | Editorial
The Inquirer Editorial Board Updated: October 8, 2019 - 5:58 PM
In a district where the average age of school buildings is 70 years old and three-quarters of those buildings are in disrepair, too many Philadelphia schools are environmental ticking time bombs. Last month, one of those bombs exploded. The Science Leadership Academy and Benjamin Franklin High School shut down abruptly on Sept. 30 after damaged asbestos was found in the North Broad Street joint premises of the schools. Parents and students were originally told that the schools will be closed temporarily, but after more than a week, they learned the schools will be closed indefinitely. Where the 1,000 students will learn is still an open question. Old infrastructure, decades of disinvestment, and lack of capacity and preparedness from the School District led us to this point. Finding a location for students to get back to class is a critical and immediate first step. But the crisis will be ongoing until the district, city, and commonwealth put in place the resources and governance structures to prevent something like this from happening again.

Asbestos has been found in alternate schools proposed for Ben Franklin and SLA students
The Philadelphia School District has spent over $100 million getting rid of the toxic substance.
WHYY/Billy Penn by Michaela Winberg Yesterday, 12:45 p.m.
Both schools proposed as alternates for the 1,000 students being relocated by the School District of Philadelphia because of asbestos have also been found to contain asbestos in the last five years. Benjamin Franklin High School and Science Leadership Academy students were supposed to start the year learning together in a renovated building at Broad and Spring Garden streets. Students missed two days of school after construction delayed its initial opening. Last week officials found exposed asbestos in the building’s boiler room, and have closed it to classes until further notice. In a heated town hall meeting on Monday, School District officials told parents their possible Plan B: the high schoolers could be relocated to Strawberry Mansion and South Philadelphia high schools until at least January, when the city expects to have the asbestos under control. But during the 2015-16 academic year, EPA-mandated inspections found asbestos on the premises of both those alternate locations, according to an Inquirer report. Asked how and when those schools had been cleared for classes after the finding, a district spokesperson declined to comment.

Sen. Iovino wants to restore arrest rights to sworn school police
Trib Live by DEB ERDLEY   | Tuesday, October 8, 2019 7:00 p.m.
A new law that stripped school police officers of the authority to make arrests and issue detention and citation orders may be on its way out the door. The law, intended to enhance school security, passed earlier this year and accidentally stripped school police officers of powers they have had for more than 20 years. Tuesday, state Sen. Pam Iovino said she plans to introduce legislation to restore those powers. Iovino, a freshman Democrat whose district includes portions of Allegheny and Washington counties, said she heard concerns from across the district about the negative impacts Act 67’s unintended consequences have had on school safety. “I am hopeful for strong bi-partisan support for this common sense school safety legislation,” she said.

Education programs slowly rebuild after schools’ budget crisis
Recovering from the budget crisis took both money and creative planning.
The notebook by Amber Denham October 8 — 1:23 pm, 2019
When the School District of Philadelphia adopted what was known as its “doomsday” budget for the 2013-14 school year, there was barely enough money to maintain general education requirements mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Schools across the city were left understaffed. The District’s Arts Department took a substantial hit, and schools were lucky if they were left with one art or music teacher. “When we had the cuts, the schools just looked like they were bare-bones,” said Jennifer Bieter, the District’s budget director. “You had a principal, you had your teachers, you had a secretary, and if you were lucky, you had a counselor.” According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, all students in grades K-12 must be provided with a form of instruction in all four arts disciplines: dance, music, theater, and the visual arts. It is the responsibility of the local districts to create written curricula in those areas, but it’s easy to skirt by and meet the state requirements in low-budget ways, especially in elementary schools. This means a 1st-grade class with only one teacher can sing songs and draw pictures with students and then be able to give them an art grade, allowing the principal to easily cut certified art and music teachers.

Philly’s Ethel Allen School revises blueprint with new initiatives
By Chanel Hill  Special to the Capital-Star October 9, 2019
Chanel Hill is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
PHILADELPHIA — When John Paul Roskos became the new principal of the Dr. Ethel Allen School at 3200 W. Leigh Ave., he had two large goals for the new school year — have every student go to a high school of their choice and change the narrative of the school itself. “My vision for this building is that every student that graduates from our building is able to get accepted into any high school of their choice throughout the District,” Roskos said. “Every high school has different kinds of offerings based off of students interests and passions and some of those schools are hard to get into. “We want to implement strategies to be able to provide additional opportunities for growth in those areas for students, but also raise the bar and expectations for students and student academics, so that they’re able to not only get into those schools, but then be successful once they get there.

EDITORIAL: Personal finance could be most important course that a student ever takes
York Dispatch Editorial Published 5:04 a.m. ET Oct. 9, 2019
  • State Senate Bill 723 recently passed unanimously.
  • The bill allows personal finance courses to count as a credit toward graduation.
  • The bill now moves on to the state House Education Committee.
The student loan crisis is an epidemic.
The horror stories of young adults leaving college with debts in excess of $100,000 have become all-too commonplace. It’s a situation that can result in a cavernous financial hole that is impossible to escape. It can become a black mark on the student’s credit that never goes away. Often, young graduates use high-interest credit cards to pay off their student loans, which just exacerbates an already bad situation. That’s why it’s absolutely imperative that high school students learn early on the critical importance of handling their personal finances. That’s also why we fully support a state Senate bill that would allow personal finance courses to count as a credit toward fulfilling graduation requirements in social studies, family and consumer science, mathematics or business education.

Each week this season, the Super Bowl-winning offensive lineman compares Philly schools to those of our on-field competitors—and celebrates a local education innovation. This week, he looks at New York City
Philadelphia Citizen BY JASON KELCE
Hey, all! As you probably know, my wife and I just welcomed our newest little baller to the family. And as any new parent will tell you, once you become a parent you appreciate the role of grandparents more than ever. So as we prepare to play New York this weekend, I’ve been thinking about how great it is that Philly has the oldest—and one of the largest—Foster Grandparent Programs in the country. The program is a part of our country’s government-funded Senior Corps, and exists nationwide; here in Philly, where it began more than 40 years ago, it’s run through the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service. It places seniors—who’ve gone through a rigorous orientation and training—in schools, Head Start, and Pre-K programs around the city. Right now, the program has about 100 seniors who work with around 350 students a year in about 50 early-education institutions citywide: School District sites, charter schools, Head Start, Pre-K locations and also nonprofit education programs. Amanda Gamble and Kenny Luu in the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service report that last year alone, the corps collectively served over 100,000 hours at schools and after-school programming citywide!

Greater Latrobe faces 2.7-mill tax-hike cap for 2020-21
Trib Live by JEFF HIMLER   | Tuesday, October 8, 2019 11:03 p.m.
Greater Latrobe School Board in December is expected to decide whether it intends to keep any potential tax increase for the 2020-21 school year within a 2.71-mill cap set by the state. District Business Administrator Dan Watson told the board Tuesday that Greater Latrobe will be limited to a 3.3% increase over its current real estate tax rate of 82.25 mills, under the provisions of Pennsylvania’s Act 1, the Taxpayer Relief Act. If the district were to increase taxes by the full 2.71 mills, it could expect to raise an additional $934,950 in revenue, Watson said. The board raised the tax rate by 1 mill last year to help support the current $57 million district budget, well within the 2.36-mill cap set a year ago.

Maryland panel focuses on helping students in poverty
Washington Post By Associated Press  Oct. 8, 2019 at 3:45 p.m. EDT
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Some members of a Maryland panel on education funding say the state should cover the costs of a proposal aimed at helping students who live in poverty. A work group considering recommendations on how the state shares costs with local jurisdictions for an updated funding formula met Tuesday. Part of what the panel is trying to decide in wide-ranging proposals to improve education is how to pay for services to help students in poverty succeed in school. Splitting those costs with local governments would put a larger burden on jurisdictions like Prince George’s County and Baltimore, where higher numbers of students in poverty live. Those jurisdictions are facing higher costs under proposed funding formula recommendations. The panel is scheduled to make decisions next week on recommendations to a state commission.

Most States Have Walked Back Tough Teacher-Evaluation Policies, Report Finds
Education Week By Madeline Will on October 8, 2019 1:35 AM
It has been a decade since researchers declared that nearly all teachers were rated satisfactory in evaluations, and advocates began pushing to toughen evaluations to try to improve student achievement. States went whole hog on teacher-evaluation reform, and many incorporated student test scores into educators' ratings.  But in recent years, the tide has shifted. Since 2015, 30 states have walked back one or more of their teacher-evaluation reforms, according to a new report by the National Council on Teacher Quality, a Washington-based group that is in favor of measuring teacher effectiveness through objective data like test scores. The most significant change involved student test scores. In 2009, only 15 states required student-growth data in teacher evaluations, but by 2015, that number increased to 43 states. However, including student-growth measures, especially standardized test scores, was controversial among educators. Teachers' unions have raised concerns that some of the factors that go into student test scores are beyond teachers' control. Now, 34 states require student-growth measures in teacher evaluations, the NCTQ analysis found. Ten states and the District of Columbia dropped the requirement, while two states (Alabama and Texas) added a student-growth requirement during the same time period.

Three School Districts Sue Juul Labs Over E-Cigarette Use
The districts allege that Juul intentionally markets its products to teens, forcing teachers to fight an e-cigarette 'epidemic.'
US News By Alexa Lardieri, Staff Writer Oct. 8, 2019, at 10:12 a.m.
THREE SCHOOL DISTRICTS are suing the popular e-cigarette company Juul, accusing the manufacturer of endangering students. The Olathe Public Schools in Johnson County Kansas, the Francis Howell School District in St. Charles County Missouri and the Three Village Central School District in New York filed suit alleging that Juul Labs intentionally markets its products to teens as "trend-setting and relatively harmless," forcing educators to divert time and resources to fight an e-cigarette "epidemic." "School districts have been uniquely and disproportionately impacted by JUUL's conduct," the New York lawsuit states. "Educators are being forced to expend significant resources to combat JUUL use by students. JUUL use by students during school presents both a danger to students and increases the resources necessary to educate the students who use JUUL. It also detracts from educators' limited time and resources to educate their student population generally." Olathe Public Schools was the first district to file suit on Sept. 27. The additional two districts filed their lawsuits on Monday.

ACT to Change How Students Retake Exam, Add 'Superscore'
Education Week By Catherine Gewertz October 8, 2019
Starting next fall, some students who take the ACT will have a new option as they try to improve their scores: They’ll be allowed to retake individual sections of the college-entrance exam, instead of having to sit for the entire test again. The new option, which ACT Inc. announced Tuesday, will be available only to students who take the test in national testing centers on Saturdays, starting in September 2020. ACT administers 62 percent of its exams this way. Students or their families pay for the exam. The rest of the students who take the ACT take it for free during the school day, as part of a contract their districts or states signed with ACT. Mary Michael Pontzer, ACT’s vice president of products, said the company is discussing the option of individual-section retakes with its contract clients, but hasn’t yet decided to extend that option to students in the school-day program. The ACT, which costs $52, has four required sections: English, math, reading, and science. Students may also opt for a fifth section, in writing, for an additional $16. Pricing for individual section retakes hasn’t been set yet, but Pontzer said it will cost less than retaking the entire test.

Top 5 Reasons You Don’t Want to Miss PCCY’s Octoberfest!
Come meet Second Lady of PA, Gisele Fetterman!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13 2019   1:00 PM — 4:00 PM
2440 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19125

Know Your Facts on Funding and Charter Performance. Then Call for Charter Change!
PSBA PA Charter Change Website September 2019

(PA) 2019 Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools Annual Conference October 9 - October 11 Harrisburg
The Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools invites charter school leaders, board members, new school developers, educators, support staff, and advocates to our second annual conference focused on educating, inspiring, and connecting the charter movement in Pennsylvania on October 9-11, 2019 in Harrisburg, PA!

Register now for PSBA’s Sleep & Student Performance Webcast OCT 31, 2019 • 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Our students face many issues today, but who would have imagined sleep deprivation could be a significant issue? The Joint State Government Commission established an advisory committee to study the issues, benefits and options related to school districts instituting later start times in secondary schools. Register now to hear from the executive director of the Commission, Glenn Pasewicz, commission staff and David Hutchinson, PSBA’s appointee to the commission, on the results of their study and work.

According to state law, all school directors must complete training. How many hours are required if you are a new school director? What about if you’re re-elected? Get the answers to these and other related questions in this episode of PSBA’s #VideoEDition

Information about the education sessions for the 2019 @PasaSupts @PSBA School Leadership Conference are now live on our website! We hope to see you there! #PASLC2019

Adolescent Health and School Start Times:  Science, Strategies, Tactics, & Logistics  Workshop Nov 13, Exton
Join school administrators and staff, including superintendents, transportation directors, principals, athletic directors, teachers, counselors, nurses, and school board members, parents, guardians, health professionals and other concerned community members for an interactive and solutions-oriented workshop on  Wednesday, November 13, 2019 9:30 am to 3:00 pm 
Clarion Hotel in Exton, PA
The science is clear. Many middle and high school days in Pennsylvania, and across the nation, start too early in the morning. The American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other major health and education leaders agree and have issued policy statements recommending that secondary schools start no earlier than 8:30 am to allow for sleep, health, and learning. Implementing these recommendations, however, can seem daunting.  Discussions will include the science of sleep and its connection to school start times, as well as proven strategies for successfully making change--how to generate optimum community support and work through implementation challenges such as bus routes, athletics, and more.   Register for the workshop here: Thanks to our generous sponsors, we are able to offer early bird registration for $25, which includes a box-lunch and coffee service. Seating is limited and early bird registration ends on Friday, September 13.
For more information visit the workshop website  or email

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!

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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