Friday, January 17, 2020

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Jan. 17, 2020 PARSS calls for single, statewide cyber charter tuition rate and matching special education tuition rates with actual cost of services for students with disabilities

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 for Jan. 17, 2020

“The wasteful spending and harm experienced by students and communities would be curbed by setting a single, statewide tuition rate for cyber charter schools and matching special education tuition rates with the actual cost of services for students with disabilities in charter schools. Speakers are calling on parents, staff, and community members to contact local legislators and ask them to enact funding reforms to Pennsylvania’s charter school law that include matching payments school districts make to charter schools with the actual cost of educating these students.”
Local school districts seek reform to Pa. charter school laws
Lewistown Sentinel JAN 17, 2020
McVEYTOWN — Superintendents from Fulton, Huntingdon, Mifflin and Juniata County School Districts will join the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools in calling for reforms to Pennsylvania’s charter school law. Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11 will host a public meeting at 11 a.m. Jan. 27 in which administrators from more than a half-dozen area school districts will be present. They will join members of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools in 152 school districts encompassing 34 counties and 16 intermediate units in holding press conferences during the week of January 27 to 31. The press conference will call attention to the urgent need of reforms to Pennsylvania’s charter school law and to share the adverse impact that inflated charter and cyber charter school tuition payments have on students and taxpayers in their communities. According to a press release, charter schools are primarily funded by local tax dollars paid to them as tuition by school districts. Charter and cyber charter school tuition payments have an adverse fiscal impact on school districts, often causing them to cut services and/or to raise tax rates. Under current law, state-mandated tuition rates for cyber charter students and for special education students in both brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools are not based on actual costs, but instead are based on a broken formula that creates inflated tuition payments to charter and cyber charter schools and wastes taxpayer money.

“Crider said Pennsylvania used to issue licenses to more than 14,000 new teachers annually, but in 2016-17, the state issued 4,412. He added that the number of Pennsylvania residents seeking teaching certificates has dropped 62% in the past three years. Nearly half of the school districts in the Keystone State were reporting a “severe or somewhat severe” shortage of substitutes as far back as 2013.”
Lack of substitute teachers straining Pa. districts
GREENCASTLE, Pa. — The Greencastle-Antrim School District still is facing concerns in filling substitute teacher positions. The Franklin County district is not alone in the problem that has been recognized at the national and state levels. In February 2019, the school board increased the daily pay for substitute teachers from $90 to $100 per day in hopes of helping with a shortage of the classroom subs that Superintendent Kendra Trail first reported in December 2018. Trail said the district has found itself having to use counselors and administrators to cover classes in the absence of substitute teachers. The United States, including Pennsylvania, is dealing with a teacher shortage, according to Bob Crider, chief educational officer for the Greencastle-Antrim School District. He noted that since 1996, the number of undergraduate education majors has declined 55%.

‘Positive’ progress in talks on Sugar Valley charter renewal
KCSD, SVRCS officials to continue dialogue
Lock Haven Express by CHRIS MORELLI JAN 17, 2020
MILL HALL — Prior to Thursday night’s Keystone Central school board meeting, representatives from the Keystone Central School District and Sugar Valley Rural Charter School reported a positive initial dialogue regarding a charter extension for SVRCS. In an email sent to media outlets early Thursday morning, a news release stated that there was a Wednesday meeting between the two parties. Although the email was sent from a KCSD address, it stated that it was sent on behalf of KCSD superintendent Jacquelyn Martin and SVRCS CEO Tracie Kennedy. The news release read: “Last evening representatives from SVRCS and KCSD met to discuss revisions to the 20-year-old charter. The conversation between the two has been positive and productive thus far. Further meetings have been scheduled to meet the common goal of charter revisions that could be approved by both the KCSD Board of Directors and SVRCS Board of Trustees.” At last week’s KCSD school board meeting, there was a special voting session that took place following the work session. During the voting session, the board unanimously approved an agreement with SVRCS for talks to proceed in an effort to resolve differences so a new five-year agreement between the schools can be negotiated.

PSERS: Pa.’s $57 billion pension fund chooses a history teacher as new chair
Inquirer by Joseph N. DiStefano, Updated: January 16, 2020- 3:54 PM
Christopher Santa Maria, former head of the Lower Merion teachers union and a history teacher in that wealthy township’s public schools, is the new chairman of the $57 billion-asset Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS). Santa Maria replaces Melva Vogler, a retired teacher from the Wallenpaupack Area School District who had chaired the board since 2007 and served as a trustee since 1994. She remains on the board, which is a mix of teacher and school board reps, elected officials, and members of Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration. Vogler was reelected to a seat representing school retirees with two-thirds of the vote in mail balloting in the last two elections, 2019 and 2016. In both years, more than 60,000 retirees voted, out of more than 200,000 eligible. Members are unpaid; they go to bimonthly meetings and travel to industry seminars, where they attend presentations by investors who seek state business. Vogler has been a reliable vote to endorse investments by PSERS staff, who have generally favored hedge funds, private equity, and other private investments in recent years, betting that the long bull market in U.S. stocks will soon slip behind private returns.

PSERS: At Harrisburg pensions panel, private equity firms pitch their soundness as investments
PA Capital Star By Stephen Caruso January 16, 2020
Jack Glover has a simple explanation for the rise in criticisms of his industry — private equity. The industry “has had a lot of success,” Glover, a Pittsburgh-based private equity executive with Incline Partners, said Thursday at a Harrisburg panel hosted by the Pennsylvania School Employees Retirement System. “And when you’ve had a lot of success, you’re going to have a target on your back.” The industry has been spotlighted by politicians nationally and in Pennsylvania as a factor in rising inequality, even as public pensions invest in the firms to ensure retirees checks don’t bounce. Thursday’s panel featured four private equity executives from firms that PSERS is currently invested in, including two firms based in Pennsylvania. The panelists explained the industry, answered audience questions, and addressed criticism that the industry is too opaque or that its profits come at the expense of workers.

Philly District “pausing” asbestos inspections to make sure they are effective
Board of Education members closely question officials at facilities committee meeting
The notebook by Bill Hangley Jr. January 16 — 10:56 pm, 2020
Parent advocate Dana Carter: "We need to make sure our children and staff members are safe." Philadelphia School District officials say they are taking a “pause” in their asbestos inspections to make sure that they’re effective, and an internal investigation is underway to discover exactly how the Ben Franklin High reconstruction project went so badly wrong. Those were two highlights from a handful of updates provided by District officials at the Board of Education’s Facilities and Finance Committee on Thursday evening. Board members used the meeting to say they’re trying to hold the District officials accountable for implementing the “environmental safety plan” announced last November by Superintendent William Hite. “The board will continue to hold the District accountable for meeting the necessary and ambitious goals,” said committee chair Lee Huang. “We share your concerns. We are also upset, and we stand with everyone who wants to help us.” Advocates, teachers and parents in the audience responded with frustration and distrust, urging the board to take a harder line with the Hite administration and District staff, and to make sure everyone makes good on their promises.

‘It’s not only a school; it’s a family’: Building 21 students and teachers defend their school despite its low test scores
A week after Allentown school directors grilled Building 21 leaders about students’ performance on standardized tests, Building 21 parents, teachers and students presented a different picture of the innovative high school where they say teenagers are succeeding and creating positive, close relationships with teachers. At a town hall meeting Thursday night that lasted more than two hours, Building 21 teachers, students and parents spoke positively about the school, which opened its doors almost five years ago. Multiple students said they do not perform well on standardized tests and the exam results do not show the tight-knight relationships that students are creating. The meeting was held so district officials and school directors could hear from those at Building 21 before making decisions about the school’s future. In June, the contract with the Building 21 consulting group in Philadelphia expires. “We do not want to make any decisions about Building 21 in a bubble,” School Board President Sara Brace said. The tone of the meeting was more supportive of Building 21 than a recent review of the school to the school board. Last week, school directors blasted Building 21 leaders over students’ dismal results on the Keystones, the standardized state tests that high school students take.

“One program you did enact that has proven to be exceedingly popular is the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program. It rewards businesses with state tax credits for donations they make to private school scholarship organizations and innovative public programs. But that wasn’t the school voucher program you wanted. Were you satisfied with that as a substitute?
“Wasn’t that Frank Sinatra who sang ‘Regrets. I’ve had a few. But too few to mention.’ This one is one of them. I’m just disappointed we couldn’t get the school choice measure across the line,” he said. “I thought we made great progress with charter schools and digital school districts and that EITC program has been, as you said appropriately, more successful than we could imagine. But frankly, I wish I could have achieved my goal on school choice.”
Former Gov. Tom Ridge reflects on becoming Pa.'s chief executive 25 years ago: ‘I loved being the guv’
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Today 5:00 AM
On this day 25 years ago, Boyz II Men, the R&B supergroup from Philly, topped the charts with “On Bended Knee.” The Los Angeles Rams announced they were moving their professional football team to St. Louis. And in Pennsylvania, a former congressman from Erie named Tom Ridge raised his right hand in a ceremony outside the Capitol’s East Wing and was sworn in for the first time as the state’s 43rd governor. Ridge vividly recalls the gratitude and eagerness he felt that day to have the opportunity to hold the title of governor “in a state that I love” and to work with the team he assembled to collaborate and “make Pennsylvania a better place to live and work and play.” "I was very excited, very excited,” Ridge said. He spoke with PennLive on Thursday to discuss the silver anniversary of his first inauguration and his time as governor that he said lasted six years, nine months and five days. As much as he enjoyed being the man in the front office at the Capitol, his second term was cut short when he resigned to become the nation’s first homeland security director in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Adams County school director launches campaign for state 33rd Senatorial seat
Carlisle Sentinel Staff January 16, 2020
A school board member in Adams County announced he run for the 33rd Senatorial District seat. Rich Sterner, a Democrat and current vice president of the Bermudian Springs School Board, said this week that he will host a campaign launch from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Thirsty Farmer on Cashtown Road in Biglerville, Adams County. He seeks the Democratic nomination for the 33rd Senatorial District, which covers Southampton Township, Shippensburg Township and Shippensburg Borough in Cumberland County, as well as parts of Franklin County and York County and all of Adams County. The current state senator of the district, Republican Sen. Doug Mastriano, previously announced his intention to seek re-election.

Campaign 2020: How an old debate over religion in school is opening up again | Opinion
PA Capital Star By David Mislin  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor January 17, 2020
As the 2020 election approaches in the United States, President Donald Trump is adding school prayer to the list of contentious issues up for debate. At a rally in early January he announced plans to “safeguard students’ and teachers’ First Amendment rights to pray in our schools.” On the schedule of the White House later this week is a plan to issue new “guidance on constitutional prayer in school.” This announcement comes after a year in which officials in six states, including the populous swing state of Florida, considered bills permitting the study of the Bible in classrooms. Last January, President Trump tweeted his support for these laws. The evangelical proponents of the legislation insist that the Bible would be treated as a historical and literary source, not as a means of religious guidance. Critics oppose them for fear that their real intent is to teach Christianity. Efforts to return religion to public schools threaten to reignite one of the oldest debates about the separation of church and state.

Trump moves to protect prayer in public schools and funds for religious organizations
Post Gazette by THE WASHINGTON POST / JAN 16, 2020 7:26 PM
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is moving to strengthen protections for students who want to pray or worship in public schools and proposing changes that would make it easier for religious groups that provide social services to access federal funds, a development that comes as the president seeks to shore up support among evangelicals. Nine federal agencies — including the Education Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department — are advancing rules that would reduce requirements for those religious organizations. The rules would lift an Obama-era executive order that compelled religious organizations to tell the people they serve that they can receive the same service from a secular provider. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said her department plans to remind schools that students and teachers have a constitutional right to pray in public schools, and that student-led religious organizations should get to access to public facilities just as secular groups do.
The guidance also clarifies that teachers, administrators and coaches are not permitted to lead school prayers or devotional readings of the Bible, “nor may school officials use their authority to attempt to persuade or compel students to participate in prayer or other religious activities.”

What Trump's Action on School Prayer Means (and Doesn't Mean) for Students and Educators
Education Week By Evie Blad on January 16, 2020 9:39 AM
President Donald Trump will promote new guidance on prayer in schools in an Oval Office event Thursday afternoon, part of several steps the administration will take to mark National Religious Freedom Day, administration officials said. That guidance—which comes as the president continues election-year outreach to Evangelical Christians—does not introduce any new legal requirements, but it does outline existing legal precedents. Courts have held that students may pray at school alone or in groups, but that prayer may not be organized or sanctioned by the school. And, as with other forms of expression protected by the First Amendment, schools may only intervene if the prayer is disruptive to the learning environment. That means a student can silently pray at her desk before taking a test or in the cafeteria before eating lunch or with a group of friends around the flagpole before school, as many students do. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, in its current and past versions, requires the U.S. Department of Education to provide guidance on prayer in schools every two years, but that guidance hasn't been updated since 2003, a senior administration official said.

PARSS Annual Conference April 29 – May 1, 2020 in State College
The 2020 PARSS Conference is April 29 through May 1, 2020, at Wyndham Garden Hotel at Mountain View Country Club in State College. Please register as a member or a vendor by accessing the links below.

Allegheny County Legislative Forum on Education March 12
by Allegheny Intermediate Unit Thu, March 12, 2020 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM EDT
Join us on March 12 at 7:00 pm for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's annual Allegheny County Legislative Forum. The event will feature a discussion with state lawmakers on a variety of issues impacting public schools. We hope you will join us and be part of the conversation about education in Allegheny County.

Five compelling reasons for .@PSBA .@PASA .@PAIU school leaders to come to the Capitol for Advocacy Day on March 23rd:
Charter Reform
Cyber Charter Reform
Basic Ed Funding
Special Ed Funding
Register at

School Leaders: Register today for @PSBA @PASA @PAIU Advocacy Day at the Capitol on March 23rd and you could be the lucky winner of my school board salary for the entire year. Register now at

Charter Schools; Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

PSBA New and Advanced School Director Training in Dec & Jan
Additional sessions now being offered in Bucks and Beaver Counties
Do you want high-impact, engaging training that newly elected and reseated school directors can attend to be certified in new and advanced required training? PSBA has been supporting new school directors for more than 50 years by enlisting statewide experts in school law, finance and governance to deliver a one-day foundational training. This year, we are adding a parallel track of sessions for those who need advanced school director training to meet their compliance requirements. These sessions will be delivered by the same experts but with advanced content. Look for a compact evening training or a longer Saturday session at a location near you. All sites will include one hour of trauma-informed training required by Act 18 of 2019. Weekend sites will include an extra hour for a legislative update from PSBA’s government affairs team.
New School Director Training
Week Nights: Registration opens 3:00 p.m., program starts 3:30 p.m. -9:00 p.m., dinner with break included
Saturdays: Registration opens at 8:00 a.m., program starts at 9:00 a.m. -3:30 p.m., lunch with break included
Advanced School Director Training
Week Nights: Registration with dinner provided opens at 4:30 p.m., program starts 5:30 p.m. -9:00 p.m.
Saturdays: Registration opens at 10:00 a.m., program starts at 11:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m., lunch with break included
Locations and dates

Congress, Courts, and a National Election: 50 Million Children’s Futures Are at Stake. Be their champion at the 2020 Advocacy Institute.
NSBA Advocacy Institute Feb. 2-4, 2020 Marriot Marquis, Washington, D.C.
Join school leaders from across the country on Capitol Hill, Feb. 2-4, 2020 to influence the legislative agenda & shape decisions that impact public schools. Check out the schedule & more at

All school leaders are invited to attend Advocacy Day at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) are partnering together to strengthen our advocacy impact. The day will center around meetings with legislators to discuss critical issues affecting public education. Click here for more information or register at
School directors can register online now by logging in to myPSBA. If you need assistance logging in and registering contact Alysha Newingham, Member Data System Administrator at

Register now for Network for Public Education Action National Conference in Philadelphia March 28-29, 2020
Registration, hotel information, keynote speakers and panels:

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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