Friday, October 16, 2020

PA Ed Policy Roundup for October 16: If you have concerns regarding the proposed authorization of two additional cyber charter schools please consider submitting written testimony to PDE on or before Oct. 30

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, 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 October 16, 2020

If you have concerns regarding the proposed authorization of two additional cyber charter schools please consider submitting written testimony to PDE on or before Oct. 30


 Why are cyber charter tuition rates the same as brick and mortar tuition?

Taxpayers in House Ed Committee Member Patty Kim’s school district paid over $13.1 million in 2018-2019 cyber charter tuition. Statewide, PA taxpayers paid over $600 million for cyber charter tuition in 2018-2019.


Central Dauphin SD


Harrisburg City SD


Steelton-Highspire SD




Source: PDE via PSBA


State to consider two new cyber charter schools amidst enrollment boom

PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison October 14, 2020

This story was updated on Thursday, Oct. 15 with additional comment from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. 

As thousands of new students flock to online education during a historically difficult academic year, state officials are being asked to grant charters to two new cyber charter schools.  The Allentown-based Executive Action Charter School and Harrisburg-based Virtual Preparatory Academy aim to open their doors next year and enroll a combined 3,100 students by 2025, according to charter applications they submitted to the Department of Education last month.   The schools first must receive approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which is the sole authorizer of charters for cyber schools in the state. Pennsylvania hasn’t granted a new cyber charter since 2012. And while it accepts cyber charter applications annually until Oct. 1, this is the first time since 2015 that it’s been asked to consider more than one in a single year.


Blogger note: If you have concerns regarding the proposed authorization of two additional cyber charter schools please consider writing, submitting, and presenting at the (virtual) hearing evidence-based testimony that speaks to why you/your organization believes these applications should be rejected. The deadline for submitting written testimony to PDE is Oct. 30.


“Individuals who wish to provide comments on an application during the hearings must provide a copy of their written comments to the Department and the applicant on or before October 30, 2020”

Cyber Charter School Application; Virtual Hearing Nov. 4, 5, 10,11
Pennsylvania Bulletin [50 Pa.B. 5489] [Saturday, October 3, 2020]

 The Department of Education (Department) will conduct virtual public hearings regarding cyber charter school applications received on or before October 1, 2020. The hearings will be held on November 4, 2020, November 5, 2020, November 10, 2020, and November 12, 2020.  The hearings will take place virtually, beginning at 9 a.m.

 Login information to access the hearings will be posted to the Department's Division of Charter School's Applications webpage at


PA Dept. of Education Cyber Charter School Applications 2020


Students First PAC: As Democrats aim to flip the House, a top lawmaker took $600K from school choice donor trying to stop them

PA Capital Star By  Stephen Caruso October 14, 2020

The No. 2 Democrat in the Pennsylvania House has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations from a group that’s funded at least $3.5 million in ads targeting vulnerable Democratic colleagues in an election in which control of the chamber is seen as up for grabs.

House Minority Whip Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, raked in $600,000 over the past two years from Students First, a political action committee that supports candidates for office who back school choice. Those donations are an anomaly this cycle, as Students First, which has backed Democrats in the past, has instead given more than 90 percent of its dollars to conservative groups to protect Republican incumbents and attack Democrats in red-tinged districts.


Allentown School District gets grant to purchase thousands of internet hot spots for students


The Allentown School District has received a state grant to purchase 3,517 Wi-Fi hot spots for students. The $844,000 grant was funded through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. In a news release, the district said the grant was made possible through the work of Allentown state representatives Peter Schweyer and Mike Schlossberg, both Democrats, and Lehigh County Republican state Sen. Pat Browne. In a statement, Superintendent Thomas Parker said the grant will help the district narrow the digital divide among its students. “As we work to provide a high-quality virtual education experience for ASD students, a computer and Wi-Fi access have become just as essential as a pencil and paper,” Parker said. Allentown’s more than 16,000 students started the school year virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. Every student has received a computer to do lessons on. The hot spots purchased through the grant will mean that the district has acquired more than 4,000 hot spots since March to give students access to the internet. Earlier this year, Allentown received 1,000 hot spots through a partnership with the Allentown School District Foundation and Century Fund.


Student-run Penn yearbook wants to donate some profit to Philadelphia public schools, hopes others do the same

Inquirer by Susan Snyder, Updated: October 15, 2020- 6:15 PM

For years, some students and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania have urged the school to make payments in lieu of taxes to help the city’s financially strapped public schools. Student, alumni, and faculty groups have been ratcheting up the pressure in recent months as the coronavirus takes an even further financial toll. Now, a student group has another idea: Donate some of its profits. “We know anything we give can’t compare at all with the magnitude that Penn paying PILOTs [payments in lieu of taxes] would have,” said Keri Zhang, editor and chief of the student-run Penn yearbook. “Hopefully, we can make some small steps that build toward real impact.” Any donation would not come until after sales of the 2021 yearbook are complete. And the group still has to get approval for the donation from Penn. Zhang said the group isn’t sure how much it will donate but hopes it will be in the hundreds. The money would go to the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, an independent nonprofit. The yearbook group also hopes the gesture will spur other student groups to do the same and persuade Penn to begin making payments. Penn did not respond to a request for comment but has insisted it contributes to the city and district in other ways, including educational programming, neighborhood upgrades, services, and expertise. And the school has said that while it is largely exempt from property taxes, it contributes business, sales, and wage taxes.


Blogger note: According to her LinkedIn profile, as of August 2020 former Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools Ana (Puig) Meyers is now the Associate Vice President of Community & Board Relations at Commonwealth Charter Academy Cyber Charter School based in Harrisburg.


“He joins PCPCS after serving as western Pennsylvania director for the Commonwealth Foundation”

PCPCS Appoints Executive Director

Lenny McAllister to lead public charter school organization

HARRISBURG (October 15, 2020) – The Board of Trustees for the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools (PCPCS) is pleased to announce the hiring of Lenny McAllister to lead the organization, which represents the majority of the state’s public brick-and-mortar and cyber charter schools. “After months of a thorough search process, the Board of Trustees for PCPCS has chosen Lenny McAllister to lead our schools and the charter school movement in Pennsylvania,” said Bob Lysek, PCPCS Board President and CEO of Executive Education Academy Charter School. “We trust that he will build on the momentum and success that our Coalition has built over the past few years.” Born and raised in Pennsylvania, McAllister has been a champion of educational equity, civil rights and policy reforms as a leading voice on local, statewide and national platforms for years. He joins PCPCS after serving as western Pennsylvania director for the Commonwealth Foundation.


Dunmore School District has two confirmed cases of COVID-19

Times Tribune BY KATHLEEN BOLUS STAFF WRITER Oct 15, 2020 Updated 6 hrs ago

A Dunmore Elementary Center student and a Dunmore Junior/Senior High School student have both tested positive for COVID-19, according to the district. The elementary school student was last in school Oct. 1, and was out of school before the contagious period according to the state Department of Health’s guidelines, a post on the district’s website from Superintendent John Marichak says. No students or staff members were exposed and further communication will be made to those directly affected. The high school student was last in school on Oct. 8 and interacted with other students on Oct. 9. During the interactions, face coverings were used and proper social distancing was observed. The student had no contact during the contagious period, according to Health Department guidelines and no students or staff were exposed from this case, a second post on the district’s website says.


North Hills Elementary School Student Tests Positive For COVID-19

The student developed coronavirus symptoms last week, the district said.

By Eric Heyl, Patch Staff Oct 15, 2020 1:01 pm ET

ROSS TOWNSHIP, PA — A student at Ross Elementary School has tested positive for COVID-19, the North Hills School District announced Thursday The student has not been in school since Oct. 6 and did not develop symptoms until days later. As such, no one from Ross Elementary was in close contact with the student and there is no additional district impact. While no further action is necessary, we are sharing this information with families for transparency as we stated we would in our health and safety plan.


Keystone High School Closed Due to COVID-19 Case

Explore Vanango by Aly Delp | October 15, 2020

KNOX, Pa. (EYT) – Keystone High School is closed today after an individual associated with the school tested positive for COVID-19. The school received notification on Wednesday evening that a member of the Keystone Junior-Senior High School community tested positive for the virus.

The district then made the decision to cancel classes and activities at the high school on Thursday, to allow time for cleaning and contact tracing.


Wyoming Valley West High School closed Friday due to probable COVID-19 case

Citizens Voice BY MICHAEL P. BUFFER STAFF WRITER October 15, 2020

Wyoming Valley West High School will be closed Friday due to a probable COVID-19 case, and teachers will work remotely to provide online instruction to students “out of an abundance of caution,” school district Superintendent David Tosh said. Other Wyoming Valley West School District schools are not affected. The high school has been been clean and sanitized, and cleaning procedures and protocols were completed there, Tosh said. Wyoming Valley West School District students returned to school for in-person classes Tuesday for the first time since March with a hybrid schedule that mixes in-person days and online days for two groups of students. Wyoming Valley West began the current school year with remote instruction.


Lake-Lehman student tests positive for COVID-19

Citizens voice BY JAMES HALPIN STAFF WRITER Oct 14, 2020 Updated 7 hrs ago

A student at Lehman-Jackson Elementary School has tested positive for COVID-19, the Lake-Lehman School District announced Wednesday. In a letter sent to parents, Superintendent James McGovern said the district was informed of the diagnosis Wednesday but that the student has not been on campus since Oct. 5. As a result of the test result, health authorities have begun contact tracing and will notify any close contacts of the affected student, he said.


Phillipsburg schools to remain open after 2 students test positive for COVID-19, superintendent says

By Kurt Bresswein | For Updated Oct 15, 2020; Posted Oct 15, 2020

The Phillipsburg School District on Thursday learned of two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in students, one at the high school and one at the middle school. Superintendent Gregory Troxell announced the test results in a message to the Phillipsburg school community that he shared with “Due to the date of both tests, the students' last day of school was BEFORE their infectious period,” Troxell wrote. “Therefore, the Warren County Health Department, in conjunction with the Phillipsburg School District COVID Response Team, has determined that no action is needed at this time.”


Hollidaysburg School District reports COVID-19 case in elementary school

WTAJ by: Bill Shannon Posted: Oct 15, 2020 / 09:55 AM EDT / Updated: Oct 15, 2020 / 05:16 PM EDT

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — The Hollidaysburg Area School District has alerted parents that an individual at Frankstown Elementary School has tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, Oct. 14. School officials say that the person has not been within close contact with any students or teachers. They have also contacted the Pennsylvania Dept. of Health and are working closely with them to ensure the safety of everyone. Superintendent Robert J. Gildea stated that the school schedule will continue as normal.


South Butler School District teacher tests positive for COVID-19

Butler Eagle by Steve Ferris Eagle Staff Writer October 15, 2020 News Extra

A South Butler County School District teacher tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday afternoon.

In a notification sent to parents, Superintendent David Foley said the teacher worked in the primary school and intermediate elementary school. The employee was tested and received results Thursday and the district immediately notified the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Foley said.


MCSD: Another bus driver tests positive for virus

District hasn’t closed any buildings

The Sentinel From staff reports OCT 16, 2020

LEWISTOWN — Mifflin County School District has reported another of its bus drivers has tested positive for COVID-19. The district posted a letter from MCSD Chief Operations Officer Vance Varner on the district website Thursday and sent it to parents via MCSD’s Skylert messaging system. In the letter, Varner explained district administration learned of the positive result at around 11 a.m. Thursday. Varner said the driver normally transports students to Lewistown Elementary School, Lewistown Intermediate School, Mifflin County Middle School, Mifflin County Junior High School and Mifflin County High School during the morning bus runs.


How State College Area High School sports returned this fall

The State College Little Lions defeated Cumberland Valley last Friday, but just having the game was an achievement.

WITF By Andrew Destin/WPSU OCTOBER 16, 2020 | 5:25 AM

(State College) — On Sept. 17, the State College Area School District Board of Directors voted to allow sports to take place this fall, despite coronavirus concerns. State College Area High School hosted its first home football game last Friday at Memorial Field. The State College Little Lions defeated Cumberland Valley 31-0 last Friday, but just having the game was an achievement. COVID-19 safety concerns postponed the start of the season until October 2. Harris Township resident Greg Edwards was worried his son, Jackson, wouldn’t have his senior season. Edwards spoke up at September’s school board meeting about the importance of sports and letting his son play. “We all know this is much more than just touchdowns and interceptions and fumble recoveries,” Edwards said. “These student-athletes learn so many life skills from playing competitive team sports.”


What's the connection between reading early and high school dropout rates? Learn with us at the Education First Compact on 11/5.

Philadelphia Education Fund Free Virtual Event Thursday November 5, 2020 9:00 am - 10:30 am

From Pre-K to Fifth Grade: Early Literacy as Dropout Prevention

It’s long been understood that literacy is the gateway to learning. No doubt you’ve heard the maxim: In grades K-3, a student must learn to read, so that in grades 4-12 they can read to learn.

In the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2014 report, “Double Jeopardy,” researchers also found a link between 4th grade reading proficiency and high school completion rates. Astonishingly, they discovered that students with low levels of proficiency were four times as likely to drop out of high school. In Philadelphia, the struggle to improve upon rates of early literacy is a collaborative one. At the center of these local efforts are the School District of Philadelphia, the Children’s Literacy Initiative, and various community partners engaged through Philadelphia’s Read By 4th Campaign. Join us for the November Education First Compact to probe such questions as: What lessons has been learned prior to and during COVID? What adjustments are being made during this period of distance learning? What challenges remain? And, most importantly, what role can the larger Philadelphia community play in the effort?


  • Caryn Henning, Children’s Literacy Initiative
  • Jenny Bogoni, Read By 4th Campaign
  • Nyshawana Francis-Thompson, School District Office of Instruction and Curriculum

Host: Farah Jimenez, President and CEO of Philadelphia Education Fund

Schedule: 9:00 – 9:45am    Presentation
9:45 – 10:15am   Q & A

Attendance is free, but registration is required.


A PHILadelphia Education: An Evening with Bill Marimow and Phil Goldsmith

Monday, October 19 -- 7:00 pm

Join us Monday, October 19 at 7:00pm for a special interactive virtual interview presentation. Bill Marimow, two-time Pulitzer Prize recipient, former Executive Editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and former Haverford Township resident will interview Phil Goldsmith about his new book, A PHILadelphia Education: Tales, Trials, and Tribulations of a Serial Careerist.

Goldsmith, current Haverford Township Free Library Board President, has held several prominent public positions including deputy mayor of Philadelphia, chief executive of the School District of Philadelphia and chief operating officer of the City of Philadelphia.

Goldsmith will also interview Marimow about his lengthy career in journalism and the future of journalism, and both will talk about the challenges facing Philadelphia. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions to both Marimow and Goldsmith after the interviews.

This program will take place live virtually on the Zoom platform.

To register, click here or email Amy Moskovitz at and you will be sent the Zoom link for the event.


Tell your legislators that school districts need their support


If you missed Advocacy Day, it's not too late to reach out to your legislators and ask for their support for public schools during this challenging school year. Take Action to send a letter to your members of the Senate and House of Representatives. The letter addresses the need to support our schools and help to control our costs so that districts may better serve their students. Among the most important areas of concern are limited liability protections; broad mandate relief; delay in new state graduation requirements delay; the need for broadband expansion; and charter school funding reform. Now, more than ever, it is vital that legislators hear from school districts.


Adopt the resolution against racial inequity!

School boards are asked to adopt this resolution supporting the development of an anti-racist climate. Once adopted, share your resolution with your local community and submit a copy to PSBA. Learn more:


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.

Resolution for charter funding reform (pdf)

Link to submit your adopted resolution to PSBA


301 PA school boards have adopted charter reform resolutions

Charter school funding reform continues to be a concern as over 300 school boards across the state have adopted a resolution calling for legislators to enact significant reforms to the Charter School Law to provide funding relief and ensure all schools are held to the same quality and ethics standards. Now more than ever, there is a growing momentum from school officials across the state to call for charter school funding reform. Legislators are hearing loud and clear that school districts need relief from the unfair funding system that results in school districts overpaying millions of dollars to charter schools.

The school boards from the following districts have adopted resolutions calling for charter funding reform.


Know Your Facts on Funding and Charter Performance. Then Call for Charter Change!

PSBA Charter Change Website:


The Network for Public Education Action Conference has been rescheduled to April 24-25, 2021 at the Philadelphia Doubletree Hotel


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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