Thursday, March 26, 2020

PA Ed Policy Roundup for March 26: SB751 passes unanimously in both PA House & Senate; U.S. Senate Passes Coronavirus Bill With $13.5 Billion for Schools

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 March 26, 2020

The measure will soon be on its way to the governor’s desk for his signature after the House passed it on Wednesday by a 198-0 vote and shortly thereafter, by the Senate on a 50-0 vote.”
SB751: Bill to shorten the school year, ensure school employees get paid goes to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Updated Mar 25, 2020; Posted Mar 25, 2020
Pennsylvania lawmakers have passed emergency legislation that shortens the school year and provides financial guarantees to schools and their employees as part of the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak that led to Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision to close schools now for at least three weeks. The measure will soon be on its way to the governor’s desk for his signature after the House passed it on Wednesday by a 198-0 vote and shortly thereafter, by the Senate on a 50-0 vote. On March 13, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all K-12 schools to close for two weeks over COVID-19 concerns. On Monday, he extended that closure order until at least through April 6, and said that could be extended longer if it considered necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Cyber charter schools shut out of tuition for new students during coronavirus shutdown
Penn Live By Christine Vendel | Today 5:30 AM
The coronavirus shutdown did not knock down cyber charter schools the same way it has brick and mortar schools because the bulk of instruction already was being delivered to cyber students online. But state officials have warned cyber charters against trying to take advantage of the crisis to recruit new students during the shutdown, while school districts across the state grapple with how to provide instruction remotely. Brick-and-mortar school advocates say students jumping ship for cyber charters could further financially destabilize traditional school districts at an already vulnerable time. An emergency school bill unanimously approved by the Pa. House and Senate Wednesday, however, put that issue to rest. The bill, which Gov. Tom Wolf is expected to sign, included language that freezes payments to school districts based on enrollments March 13, the day Wolf announced the shutdown. That means cyber charter schools could accept new students during the shutdown, but they would not get compensated for those students until the shutdown is lifted. As it stands, the shutdown could get lifted April 9. That’s the date Wolf set for schools to possibly reopen, but it depends on the spread of the coronavirus and many experts believe schools will be shuttered longer. The Commonwealth Charter Academy, which provides virtual instruction to students across the state, had applications from 50 families pending on Monday, a spokesman told public news station WHYY. The applications were put on hold while CCA awaits direction from the state.

In new normal, Pa. House and Senate lawmakers vote remotely to send COVID-19 relief bills to Wolf’s desk
PA Capital Star By  Stephen CarusoElizabeth Hardison  -March 25, 2020
Calling out votes via video chat and swapping bills all afternoon, Pennsylvania state lawmakers on Wednesday sent four pieces of legislation to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk that will provide financial and regulatory relief to schools, election officials and workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. All the measures passed unanimously in the Republican-controlled House and Senate. The majority of lawmakers cast votes and deliberated on bills remotely to avoid overcrowding the state Capitol in Harrisburg. At least 114 lawmakers  — 66 Democrats, and 48 Republicans — applied to vote remotely in the Pennsylvania House, according to caucus’ spokespeople for both parties. Ten members of the Senate — including leaders of the Republican and Democratic caucuses and a handful of Republican senators — attended the session in Harrisburg, while the remainder cast votes and debated legislation remotely. Wolf, a Democrat, has already indicated that he will sign most of the measures, which move Pennsylvania’s primary to June 2; provide $50 million in aid to hospitals; waive instructional requirements for schools, and prepare the state’s unemployment system for a potential influx of federal dollars.

State legislators pass bill to assist schools during COVID-19 shutdown
ANDREW GOLDSTEIN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette MAR 25, 2020 5:45 PM
State lawmakers Wednesday passed a bill that includes directives for Pennsylvania schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all K-12 schools to shut down earlier this month to help slow the spread of the virus.  The legislation, wrapped into SB 751, guarantees that school employees continue to be paid and receive retirement credit through the shutdown. It also ensures that staff members who deep clean school facilities are given equipment and supplies recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The coronavirus pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge for our schools, students and staff,” Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said in a statement. “This legislation reflects a shared commitment among education stakeholders, lawmakers, and the Wolf administration to keep students safe and healthy, while ensuring their educational needs are met.” The bill also addresses some issues that the state Department of Education has already tackled.

Pa. Department of Education preparing for learning continuity
ANDREW GOLDSTEIN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette MAR 25, 2020 4:06 PM
The Pennsylvania secretary of education said Wednesday that the state will follow guidance from the Department of Health to determine whether the statewide school closure will be extended.  While no decision has been made to keep K-12 schools closed beyond April 6 — which Gov. Tom Wolf ordered this week — Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera said he could not rule out a longer shutdown. Meanwhile, the state Department of Education said it is working with intermediate units and other agencies across Pennsylvania to make sure students can continue learning for however long the COVID-19 closure lasts. “We’re not waiting to see what ultimately happens week to week or month to month around school closures,” Mr. Rivera said in a conference call with reporters. “What we’re actually doing right now is engaging our intermediate units to create and support schools with plans that ensure ... a portfolio of options. Mr. Rivera said the state’s 29 intermediate units will provide the support and services that schools need to implement education continuity for their students during the shutdown. Those plans may include online learning, paper and pencil assignments or other models.

Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa on March 25, 2020 11:49 PM
Senators has passed a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that includes $13.5 billion in dedicated funding to shore up K-12 education budgets, as well as additional aid for student nutrition and child-care services. It also gives U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos new waiver power to grant states and schools flexibility under the main federal K-12 law.  The $13.5 billion earmarked for K-12 schools is included in the bill's Education Stabilization Fund, which also contains $14.25 billion for higher education, and $3 billion for governors to use at their discretion to assist K-12 and higher education as they deal with the fallout from the virus. The legislation also states that any state or school district getting money from the stabilization fund "shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to coronavirus." In addition, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, passed by the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 96-0, would provide the following funding:

Pa. education secretary Pedro Rivera to schools: Don't wait to offer remote instruction
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer March 25, 2020
The state's chief education official is urging school districts to develop plans for instruction as schools remain closed to students until at least April 9 because of the coronavirus.  "We are strongly urging school districts to not wait, to not stand on the periphery, to really engage students," Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania's secretary of education, said in a call with reporters late Wednesday morning.  While schools aren't required to offer educational services to students during the shutdown, Rivera said he hopes schools are moving forward with alternate modes of instruction or, at least, optional enrichment activities to keep students engaged at home.  On the call, Rivera and other state education officials discussed the challenges schools face ensuring equity for all students in those educational plans and what the state is doing to support their efforts.  Federal law states schools must provide a free and accessible education to every child, no matter the child's needs. That might be a struggle for schools offering online instruction, but Matt Stem, deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education, said that shouldn't be a reason to offer nothing. He said schools should make decisions "in good faith."  The U.S. Department of Education shared similar guidance Saturday, offering flexibility when serving students with special needs.

PA districts told to make a “good faith effort” to provide remote instruction
Superintendent Hite will ask for Board of Education approval to buy 50,000 devices for Philly families that lack computers.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa and Bill Hangley Jr. March 25 — 7:48 pm, 2020
Pennsylvania education officials confirmed today that when it comes to “distance learning,” school districts can expect little guidance from the state, and instead will be left to develop standards and practices on their own. Since the sudden shutdown of the state’s schools in the face of the fast-moving coronavirus crisis, issues of online access and instructional equity have taken center stage among educators. Today, the Pennsylvania Department of Education – backed by legislation approved Wednesday in the General Assembly – clarified that it is up to individual school districts to determine how to solve the puzzle.  Rather than follow any state guidelines or standards, they say, districts must make a “good faith effort” to provide remote instruction to students and submit a plan to the state for doing so.  This means that the task of determining what is equitable and effective will fall to a group of school districts whose approaches and resource bases already vary widely, with some offering comprehensive online learning to their full range of students, and others just beginning to survey their families to find out who has laptops and internet access. Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera, in a conference call with reporters Wednesday, emphasized that PDE and the state’s 29 Intermediate Units – regional educational service  agencies – are ready and willing to offer assistance to districts, charter schools, and career and technical schools. 

Despite coronavirus closures, no school past June 30 for Pa. students; Philly may buy 50,000 Chromebooks
Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham and Maddie Hanna, Updated: March 25, 2020- 3:45 PM
No matter how long the coronavirus-caused school shutdown lasts, Pennsylvania students will not attend school past June 30, the state’s education secretary said Wednesday. “By statute, we can’t extend school past June 30,” Pedro Rivera said during a media conference call. “That’s actually when schools fiscally close, then we go into the next year’s fiscal cycle.” Rivera reiterated a warning he gave when he ordered all Pennsylvania schools closed until at least April 6: The shutdown could last much longer. “We possibly could be looking at extending the timeline under the direction of the governor and the secretary of health,” he said. The Education Department issued updated guidance to school districts this week, “strongly encouraging” them to begin offering some form of instruction to students. Its earlier communication to districts said that if they could not offer instruction to all students, they could not offer it to any — a directive that left a number of districts unclear on how to proceed. Rivera said the state’s intermediate units, countywide educational organizations, are offering guidance in distance learning and other types of remote instruction. But “by law, schools are not required to offer instruction during these extended closures,” Rivera said. Advocates this week pushed state officials to require all districts to provide instruction to students, including children living in poverty, English language learners, and children with special needs. Matthew Stern, the department’s deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education, said the state has “taken the strong position that every district should be planning and moving into continuity of education. When it comes to access and equity, we are asking the districts to make reasonable and appropriate efforts in good faith.”

Philly school board to meet Thursday amid concerns on public participation
The board is looking into technology that will allow for real-time public participation for future meetings, but is not changing the procedure for this one.
The notebook by Dale Mezzacappa March 25 — 12:33 pm, 2020
The Philadelphia Board of Education plans to meet as scheduled at 5 p.m. Thursday for its March action meeting, but members will do so via phone and live-stream the session. It is calling for members of the public to submit testimony in writing 24 hours before the scheduled meeting. However, board watchdogs Lisa Haver and Karel Kilimnik of Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools say that this is insufficient. Haver and Kilimnik sent a letter to the board saying that, under this plan, the session would not be a public meeting but “a live TV show.” Although they said they understood the need to forgo an in-person meeting, “the alternative is to hold a virtual meeting that the public can both observe and participate in. Current technology allows for both of these.” Board President Joyce Wilkerson responded that Thursday’s meeting – crucial to “move student learning forward” – will go on as planned, but the board will look to upgrading its capacity for virtual participation in the future. “We have received a number of helpful suggestions from our Philadelphia community about how to do this in a way that continues to allow for the vital participation of the Philadelphia community in our meetings,” Wilkerson said.  “We know we are not there yet, but we believe this meeting is a critical first step in accomplishing the work of the District in this new remote reality. We look forward to learning from these meetings and continuing to grow our technological capacity at future meetings.”

At a glance: Distance learning in your school district; when classes could resume
TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Wednesday, March 25, 2020 5:51 p.m.
Many school districts are conducting or have plans to begin distance learning for students while schools are closed. Below is information released by districts about when distance learning will begin and when, eventually, students might return to classrooms. This list will be updated and school districts added as information becomes available. Parents are urged to check with their school district directly for the most up-to-date information.
*Subject to change by the districts or orders from Gov. Tom Wolf.

Bill delaying Pa. primary to June 2 heads to Gov. Wolf’s desk
Penn Live By Jan Murphy | Updated Mar 25, 2020; Posted Mar 25, 2020
Pennsylvania is about to join the nine other states and a territory that have postponed their primary election in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Both the House and Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that would delay the April 28 primary by five weeks to June 2.
The bill now goes to Gov. Tom Wolf who said that he would sign it into law. He offered his support during Wednesday’s news conference updating the state’s coronavirus outbreak and response.

PSBA FAQ Sheet Regarding Closure of School Due to Coronavirus
PSBA has compiled answers to your most pressing questions surrounding school closures due to the #coronavirus outbreak. View this resource here:

PSBA establishes channel to answer COVID-19 questions
In light of statewide school closings and as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve, PSBA is here to provide support to members and answer questions regarding how schools will operate, meet instructional requirements and provide services both now and in the future. Please send your questions to with your name, district and contact information. A member of PSBA staff will respond directly or will funnel your inquires to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. PSBA will act as your voice and ensure you receive the answers and information you need to make decisions at this crucial time.

PSBA: Coronavirus Preparedness Guidance
In the last few weeks, the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19, has become a topic of concern nationwide. Although the virus is not widespread in Pennsylvania at this time, that status could change. Being proactive is key to prevention and mitigation. Below, you will find a list of resources on all aspects of preparedness, including guidance on communication planning, policy, emergency management and disease control. Use these resources to help you make decisions regarding the safety and health of those in your school district.

The former Sectional Meetings have been converted to a webinar format. PSBA will be hosting six webinars (starting today), presented by an expert on critical and timely topics related to #Coronavirus (COVID-19).
PSBA: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance for Schools: Webinar Series
As PSBA announced in an email on March 12, the former Sectional Meetings have been converted to a webinar format to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Each of the six upcoming virtual sessions will be offered as a one-hour webinar: a 45-minute presentation by an expert on critical and timely topics; communication practices during the coronavirus pandemic; the business of boards during shutdown; facilities restoration and clean-up, and other essential topics. Each session will include 15 minutes of direct Q&A at the conclusion of the 45-minute content presentation.
Members are welcome to register for any of the six complimentary webinars.
All webinar sessions are 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020 Prepare. Don’t Panic. Responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Medical Guidance for Schools
 Raghavendra Tirupathi, MD, FACP – Medical Director, Keystone Infectious Diseases; Chair, Infection Prevention, Wellspan Chambersburg & Waynesboro Hospital and member of the Pennsylvania Medical Society
Tuesday, March 24, 2020 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Legislative Updates
John Callahan, PSBA Chief Advocacy Officer
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 Topic 1: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Communication Practices: How to Address Your School Community and the Media
 Annette Stevenson PSBA Chief Communications Officer & Liam Goldrick, Donovan Group
Topic 2: The Business of School Boards: Operations & Meetings During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Shutdown
Stuart L. Knade, PSBA Senior Director of Legal Services & Heather Masshardt, Director of Policy Services
Thursday, March 26, 2020 An Update from PIAA: Addressing Coronavirus (COVID-19) Concerns
 Dr. Robert A. Lombardi, PIAA Executive Director
Monday, March 30, 2020 Facilities Restoration: Coronavirus Clean-up
 SERVPRO, expert presenter
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 Risk Mitigation: Strategy for Operational Continuity and Reducing Adverse Impacts
 CM Regent Insurance, expert presenter

Blogger note: support Governor Wolf’s proposed charter reforms:
Reprise: PA Ed Policy Roundup for Feb 10, 2020
1. Adopt resolution for charter funding reform
2. Ask your legislators to cosponsor HB2261 or SB1024
3. Register for Advocacy Day on May 11th

Adopt: the 2020 PSBA resolution for charter school funding reform
In this legislative session, PSBA has been leading the charge with the Senate, House of Representatives and the Governor’s Administration to push for positive charter reform. We’re now asking you to join the campaign: Adopt the resolution: We’re asking all school boards to adopt the 2020 resolution for charter school funding reform at your next board meeting and submit it to your legislators and to PSBA.

Cosponsor: A 120-page charter reform proposal is being introduced as House Bill 2261 by Rep. Joseph Ciresi (D-Montgomery), and Senate Bill 1024, introduced by Senators Lindsey Williams (D-Allegheny) and James Brewster (D-Allegheny). Ask your legislator to sign on as a cosponsor to House Bill 2261 or Senate Bill 1024.

Register: Five compelling reasons for .@PSBA .@PASA .@PAIU school leaders to come to the Capitol for Advocacy Day on May 11th:
Charter Reform
Cyber Charter Reform
Basic Ed Funding
Special Ed Funding

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

PSBA Board Presidents Panel April 27, 28 and 29; Multiple Locations
Offered at 10 locations across the state, this annual event supports current and aspiring school board leaders through roundtable conversations with colleagues as well as a facilitated panel of experienced regional and statewide board presidents and superintendents. Board Presidents Panel is designed to equip new and veteran board presidents and vice presidents as well as superintendents and other school directors who may pursue a leadership position in the future.

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.

Register today for the 2020 PASA/PA Principals Association PA Educational Leadership Summit, August 2-4, at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square 
(hosted by the PA Principals Association and the PA Association of School Administrators). Participants can earn up to 80 PIL hours (40 hours for the Summit and - for an additional cost of $50 - 40 hours for EdCamp) for attending the conference and completing program requirements. Register early to reserve your seat! The deadline to take advantage of the Early Bird Discount is April 24, 2020.   
Click here to register today!

Network for Public Education 2020 Conference in Philly Rescheduled to November 21-22
NPE Website March 10, 2020 7:10 pm
We so wanted to see you in March, but we need to wait until November!
Our conference will now take place on November 21 and 22 at the same location in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Please read the important information below.
Registration: We will be rolling over our registration information, so there is no reason to register again. You will be automatically registered for the November dates. If you cannot attend in November, we ask that you consider donating your registration to absorb some of the costs associated with rescheduling the conference. If you feel you cannot make such a donation, please contact:

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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