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.
These daily emails are archived and searchable at http://keystonestateeducationcoalition.org
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Goodbye Betsy Devos
Blogger note: The daily PA Ed Policy Roundup is ten years old this month. Thanks for your ongoing interest and support. Thanks also to Kappan Online, Avi Wolfman Arent, Alexander Russo for this shout out:
“Beat reporters can also benefit from finding the hyper-local or niche newsletters in the communities they cover. Here are a few examples:
- WHYY education reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent recommends a Pennsylvania-specific newsletter by school board member Larry Feinberg called PA Ed Policy Roundup. “Larry has a clear ideological slant,” Wolfman-Arent told me. “But he tracks all the small-town newspapers in Pa., which is helpful.”
Newsletters you should read right now
The humble newsletter is all the rage, and the education beat has a slew of good ones to choose from.
Kappan Online by By Colleen Connolly November 18, 2020
Email newsletters first became popular during the dinosaur age of the internet, but today they are arguably more popular than ever before. Outside the chaos of social media, newsletters offer sleek, highly curated, and digestible round-ups of news and personal dispatches from trusted reporters delivered straight to your inbox. This year, in particular, has seen some notable expansions of the medium as more journalists strike out on their own with the newsletter platform Substack and publications launch niche pop-up newsletters in response to news events like the New York Times’ Coronavirus Schools Briefing, recently profiled here. To help you sort through which newsletters you should follow, I’ve rounded up some of the most interesting and useful education-related newsletters you can use right now. The list is not comprehensive but includes some under-the-radar newsletters as well as some of the essential ones. Some may be familiar. A few might be new to you and worth adding to your media diet.
Pennsylvania lawmakers begin advancing $11B budget package
WITF by Marc Levy/The Associated Press NOVEMBER 19, 2020 | 5:56 PM UPDATED: NOVEMBER 19, 2020 | 8:04 PM
(Harrisburg) — Pennsylvania’s state Legislature was set to begin voting Thursday on a roughly $11 billion no-new-taxes spending package to carry state government through the rest of the fiscal year and fill, for the moment, a multibillion-dollar deficit inflicted by the pandemic.
The legislation emerged from closed-door talks as lawmakers rush to wrap up their two-year session. The main spending bill passed the House Appropriations Committee on a party-line basis, in part reflecting Democrats’ unhappiness with how federal coronavirus relief aid is being used. House and Senate floor votes on the legislation were possible Friday.
Blogger note: While it is not being labelled a “school code” bill, this pending legislation sure looks one.
Regular Session 2019-2020 Senate Bill 1216
Short Title: An Act amending the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, in preliminary provisions, further providing for Keystone Exams and graduation requirements, for special provisions applicable to the Keystone Exams, graduation requirements and alternative competency assessment and for Special Education Funding Commission; in certification of teachers, further providing for instructional certificate grade spans and age levels and duties of department and providing for special provisions applicable to 2020-2021 school year; in pupils and attendance, providing for nonpublic school transportation for 2020-2021 school year; in terms and courses of study, further providing for pandemic of 2020; and, in educational tax credits, further providing for limitations.
Prime Sponsor: Senator LANGERHOLC
Last Action: Referred to RULES, Nov. 19, 2020 [House]
Senate Dems reshuffle leadership ranks, promoting two progressive women from the Philly ’burbs
PA Capital Star By Elizabeth Hardison November 19, 2020
(*This post was updated shortly after publication on Thursday, 11/19/20 with comments from state Sens. Katie Muth and Maria Collett.)
Two progressive freshman lawmakers broke into leadership ranks in the state Senate Democrats on Thursday, beating out moderate colleagues with many more years of Capitol experience.
Sens. Katie Muth and Maria Collett, who both hail from the Philadelphia suburbs and were among a wave of Democratic women elected to office in 2018, were chosen by their colleagues to serve as policy chair and caucus secretary, respectively, when the General Assembly starts its new legislative session in 2021. Both women are former healthcare professionals, and will join the Senate’s minority leadership slate as the General Assembly confronts the worsening COVID-19 pandemic.
Panther Valley looks at costs of cyber charters
Times News Online BY CHRIS REBER CREBER@TNONLINE.COM Published November 19. 2020 12:15PM
Cyber charter schools are free for families, but they cost their local school districts a lot of money. In Panther Valley, officials say the growing number of families choosing cyber charters during the pandemic is making a difficult budget situation even worse. “The commercials are misleading. Cyber charter schools are not free,” school board member Renee DeMelfi said. Panther Valley officials say that the district will have to pay about $3.5 million in cyber charter tuition this year, 30 percent more than the $2.45 million it cost the district in 2019-20. Under state law, when a student chooses cyber charter education, their local district must pay the tuition. The rates are set by the state. This year, Panther Valley must pay $8,505 per cyber charter school student. If the student needs special education, that cost climbs to $32,306. “Our taxes are going up every year because we’re losing money to charter schools,” said Daniel Matika, President of the Panther Valley school board.
The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the value of cyber charter schools | Opinion
Penn Live By David Taylor and Gail Hawkins Bush Updated 3:24 PM; Today 2:50 PM
David Taylor and Gail Hawkins Bush are members of the Board of Trustees of Reach Cyber Charter School.
Earlier this year, every school district in Pennsylvania shifted to emergency online learning as part of the fight against a global pandemic. School districts across the state continue to work tirelessly in helping children in Pennsylvania learn effectively online through fully-virtual or hybrid learning models. However, many families continue to have mixed feelings for these temporary models, leading them to seek out the option of cyber charter schools. Students from kindergarten through high school have been learning and excelling in public cyber charter schools for almost 20 years, and there is quite a distinction between cyber charters and the emergency online learning that brick-and-mortar schools have been adapting to since the spring. Cyber charter schools are full-time online schools that are designed to educate virtually, which means teachers, students, and parents connect in ways that don’t look like in-person classrooms simply moved online.
‘We consider this a first victory’: Penn professors see university gift as important step for funding Philadelphia schools
Chalkbeat Philly By Johann Calhoun Updated Nov 19, 2020, 6:30pm EST
Professor Ann Farnsworth-Alvear hopes a $100 million donation over 10 years from the University of Pennsylvania to the city’s school district will only be the beginning of a longer conversation about how to properly fund schools. She along with other Penn professors and staff had pushed for months for their university to pay up to $40 million annually to the district. The money, known as payments-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOTS, represents 40% of what the university would owe in property taxes if not for its nonprofit status. “As a faculty member and a parent, I am glad to see Penn recognizing its responsibility to the city’s children, and I am optimistic that we will emerge from this 10-year window that with new clarity about what is possible going forward,” said Farnsworth-Alvear, an associate professor of history and Latin American and Latino studies. Penn’s gift is the largest single private donation to the district ever. Amy C. Offner, an associate professor in the department of history, said the money is “evidence that mobilization by students, teachers, parents, city officials, and the Penn community are moving our university in the right direction. We consider this a first victory — but just a first step.”
Not all remote learning is created equal
WHYY Keystone Crossroads Air Date: November 19, 2020 Listen 16:37
In this pandemic, every student is in a different situation. Some schools have kept in-person classes, while others have used a hybrid virtual model. Some districts, including Philadelphia, have taken a look at rising COVID numbers and decided to stay fully online at least through winter break. Education advocates worry about the effects of virtual learning, especially on socialization and early literacy. But what your child has access to depends on where you live, what you have time for, and how much money is in your wallet. Keystone Crossroads reporters Miles Bryan and Emily Rizzo have been spending time with families across the economic spectrum who have been striving to help their kids get the most out of remote learning. They say parents have been doing everything from creating learning pods lead by private tutors to utilizing city-provided programs housed in recreation centers — all evidence the pandemic is further exposing the opportunity gaps between rich and poor students that have long existed.
Over $1 million in Career and Technical Education equipment grants awarded to centers across state
NorthCentralPA.com by NCPA Staff November 20, 2020
Harrisburg, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) awarded nearly $1.2 million in competitive grants to 32 Career and Technical Centers (CTC) and Area Vocational Technical Education Schools and two school districts, including multiple local locations. The grants will be used to purchase of new equipment aligned to training students in high-demand occupations. “The importance of industry-standard technology to enhance career readiness is still a priority we at PDE continue to highlight given the recent shift to learning models communities have had to endure,” said Acting Secretary of Education Noe Ortega. “The Career and Technical Education Equipment grants assist institutions in preparing their students to excel so they can advance and prepare for the technical careers that await them.” Under the program, the maximum grant is $50,000, and each grant must be matched dollar-for-dollar from a local source which could include local school funds or contributions from business and industry partners.
Montgomery County residents raise $10,000 to sue over virtual school order
Miles Bryan/Keystone Crossroads NOVEMBER 19, 2020 | 4:20 PM
(Philadelphia) — Three Montgomery County residents are suing to stop county officials from forcing all schools there to move entirely online for two weeks. The county’s Board of Health voted Nov. 13 to require all K-12 public and private school students to learn virtually from Nov. 23 to Dec. 6, in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The vote followed a contentious meeting a day earlier when dozens of parents and residents spoke out against the idea. “What you are proposing is causing irreparable damage to countless children and their families,” Elizabeth Weir, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said at the Nov. 12 meeting. “ And the callousness with which you are talking about it makes it seem so simple to return to virtual learning … it is astounding in its arrogance.” The plaintiffs also include Kaitlin Derstine and John Niehls, head of the Coventry Christian Schools in Pottstown. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, hopes to have the decision invalidated by claiming that county officials violated Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Act by failing to provide 24 hours notice of the Nov. 13 meeting.
PIAA supports state's new mask order, seeks more information; OKs winter practice
Beaver County Times by Tom Reisenweber Erie Times-News November 19, 2020
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association voted to reaffirm the new mask order by the Pennsylvania Department of Health on Wednesday, but the board did so while still seeking clarity about the order. PIAA Executive Director Bob Lombardi said on Wednesday that the PIAA reached out to Gov. Tom Wolf's office for clarification on the COVID-19 mitigation order regarding sports, but he received no feedback from the office. The department of health announced the mask order Tuesday in response to soaring cases of COVID statewide. The motion that was passed by the board said that schools should consult with their respective solicitors when making decisions on the mask mandate and if athletes are exempt. The mitigation order says that athletes, coaches and officials must wear a mask while competing as well as off the fields and courts. The order goes into effect Friday, which means among the affected sports would be football teams competing in the PIAA semifinals and soccer teams in the PIAA championships this weekend. There is a list of exemptions to the rule, including safety and health issues regarding the athletes.
Staff shortages, COVID-19 increases push State College schools to remote classes
"Our team is predicting that our current situation will only become worse during the two weeks after the Thanksgiving break."
WITF by Anne Danahy/StateImpact Pennsylvania NOVEMBER 20, 2020 | 5:28 AM
(State College) — The State College Area School District is switching to entirely remote learning after Thanksgiving through Dec. 14, as it faces staff absences due to COVID-19 and the expectation of an increase in cases after Thanksgiving. The school district made the announcement Thursday, saying it has reached a “tipping point.” “For weeks, we have been struggling with staffing due to absences related to COVID-19 in addition to usual illnesses,” the message from Superintendent Bob O’Donnell reads.
Outbreaks, staffing shortages: How are Centre County schools faring with COVID-19?
Centre Daily Times BY MARLEY PARISH NOVEMBER 19, 2020 07:00 AM, UPDATED NOVEMBER 19, 2020 10:58 AM
It’s been three months since Centre County schools reopened and put their health and safety plans to the test. Some districts have modified plans; others have temporarily closed, and all are encouraging caution as they try to stay open and maintain safety. Despite record-setting daily increases in cases, Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said there are no plans to implement a second statewide shutdown like the one that closed schools statewide this spring. But during a press conference Tuesday, she said the state will be watching schools and COVID-19 data “really closely.” “We have very specific guidance for K-12 schools in terms of whether they should be having classes in the classroom, whether they should have maybe a hybrid model or if they should be in virtual mode,” she said. State guidelines recommend that schools in counties with a “substantial” amount of community transmission — 10% or higher COVID-19 positivity rates — should consider teaching under a fully remote educational model. Centre County’s most recent weekly positivity rate is 8.4%. In order to continue in-person instruction, Pennsylvania schools must adhere to strict health guidelines and work to prevent in-school transmission. Although cases in Centre County K-12 districts have been lower than originally anticipated, they have not proven immune to the virus, and some are concerned about their ability to keep students and teachers in classrooms.
Franklin County, Lebanon County, York….
School districts shutter buildings until after Thanksgiving break as COVID runs rampant
Teresa Boeckel York Daily Record November 19, 2020
School districts across central Pennsylvania have been forced to temporarily close buildings as the number of coronavirus cases continues to climb. For now, many students will be learning virtually until in-person classes resume after the Thanksgiving break. "Pennsylvania is experiencing our highest numbers of cases since the pandemic began," said Kendall Alexander, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. It is essential that the public follow the mitigation efforts and that school districts follow the instructional models recommended by the state Department of Health and the state Department of Education, she said. Some districts, including Central York, Southern York and York Suburban, now have dashboards posted online, sharing how many individuals have tested positive for the virus and the number who are in quarantine. Supt. Stacey Sidle of Northeastern School District in York County said the number of positive and probable cases have fluctuated since school began. "As cases rise in the community, it is inevitable that we will see increases within the schools," she wrote in an email. "We have not seen transmission within the school community — the cases we are seeing are the result of outside exposures."
Manheim Twp. school board rejects plan to shift students online through Jan. 18; administration proposes alternate schedule through Jan. 31
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer November 20, 2020
The Manheim Township school board on Thursday shot down a proposal that would have shifted all students online from Nov. 30 to Jan. 19 as a precaution against COVID-19. Instead, it handed authority back over to the administration to decide how to handle instruction following the Thanksgiving break. The administration, meanwhile, presented a plan that would utilize a combination of in-person and remote instruction for the time between Nov. 30 and Feb. 1. It all happened during a nearly six-hour meeting Thursday night as residents, parents, teachers and students weighed in and school board members argued whether in-person instruction was worth it with COVID-19 surging across Lancaster County and within the district. The county shattered another record for daily new COVID-19 cases Thursday with 368.
As of Thursday night, Manheim Township had reported 71 total cases at its schools. That includes 34 active cases, 18 of which are at the high school. There are also three active probable cases at the district. As a result, all of the district’s schools were closed this week, and students learned online. The district’s middle and high schools have been closed since Nov. 11. The intermediate school closed Nov. 13.
More than 460 COVID-19 cases have been reported at Lancaster County schools. Here's where they are [update]
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer November 19, 2020
More than 460 cases of COVID-19 have been reported at Lancaster County schools so far into the 2020-21 school year. The cases come from 16 school districts, plus a brick-and-mortar charter school in Lancaster city and the county's career and technology center. And that might not be all.
Dallas, Northwest Area stick with hybrid plans
Citizen’s Voice BY MICHAEL P. BUFFER STAFF WRITER Nov 18, 2020
While most school districts in the area are providing remote instruction due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in Luzerne County, Dallas and Northwest Area are sticking with their hybrid plans that mix online and remote instruction days for students. The Dallas and Northwest Area school boards had meetings Wednesday, and the boards did not adjust their instruction plans. The Dallas School Board also appointed a new member to fill a vacant seat. “We’re all cognizant of the rise in cases,” Dallas Superintendent Thomas Duffy said at Wednesday’s meeting. “This is something that is discussed and analyzed hour by hour and even every day, and we have from time to time shifted to an online format. ... But we agree we are concerned, as is the community, about the increase in numbers. For now, we’re going to remain in hybrid.”
New Kensington-Arnold immediately closing schools, cites rise in covid-19
Trib Live BRIAN C. RITTMEYER | Thursday, November 19, 2020 7:10 p.m.
New Kensington-Arnold School District announced Thursday it is immediately closing all district schools because of an increase in local incidents of covid-19 transmission. All students will be moved to fully remote instruction from Friday through next Wednesday, according to acting Superintendent Jon Banko. The district’s Thanksgiving break runs from Thursday through Nov. 30, according to the district calendar.
Lake-Lehman School District reports two more cases of COVID-19
Wilkes Barre Times Leader By Mark Guydish firstname.lastname@example.org November 19, 2020
LEHMAN TWP. — Lake-Lehman School District reported two more cases of COVID-19 Thursday, one student from Ross Elementary and another from the Junior/Senior High School. The text alert sent to parents notes, as in previous cases, that the district is following state guidelines and assisting with contact tracing, adding “we will advise if further action is needed.” The district also announced an early dismissal Friday for Parent Teacher conferences. The high school will dismiss at 12:15 p.m. and the elementary schools will dismiss at 1 p.m. The district had sent out a text Wednesday announcing a student from Lake-Noxen elementary had tested positive, but noted the student “attends one of the virtual platforms.” The district has been offering three options for students: Full in-person learning at the schools, live online learning at home via the internet, or asynchronous learning through the district’s cyber charter program.
Riverside, Abington Heights to shift to virtual instruction after positive COVID-19 cases
Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL STAFF WRITER Nov 19, 2020 Updated 48 min ago
The Riverside and Abington Heights school districts will move to virtual instruction today after learning of additional coronavirus cases Thursday. A staff member at Riverside Junior-Senior High School reported a positive COVID-19 test Thursday. The district had originally reported a fourth grade student at Riverside Elementary East had tested positive, but later learned the test was negative. Earlier this week, about 15 students began quarantining after a staff member at Riverside Elementary West tested positive. Two additional employees must also quarantine.
East Penn’s Eyer Middle School closing after COVID cases
By MICHELLE MERLIN THE MORNING CALL | NOV 19, 2020 AT 6:41 PM
Eyer Middle School is closed through mid-December after district officials reported the fourth coronavirus case associated with the school this month. Students will begin remote learning on Nov. 20 and continue through Dec. 11. The East Penn School District this week announced all schools would be closed after Thanksgiving break and reopen on Dec. 14. In an email to the community, Superintendent Kristen Campbell said the pre-preemptive closure was intended to avoid a surge in coronavirus community transmission and to ensure that in-person learning remains an option.
Fairview School District to transition to remote learning beginning Monday
Erie Times-News November 19, 2020
The Fairview School District will transition to remote learning beginning Monday because of increasing COVID-19 cases in Erie County, Fairview School District Superintendent Erik Kincade announced Thursday. The decision to move to remote learning affects about 1,800 students among Fairview High School, Fairview Middle School and Fairview Elementary School.
Cumberland Valley High School going remote, sports shut down
ABC27 by: Kayla Brown Posted: Nov 19, 2020 / 09:00 PM EST / Updated: Nov 20, 2020 / 07:02 AM EST
CUMBERLAND VALLEY, Pa. (WHTM) — On Thursday Cumberland Valley High School (CVHS) announced they will be transitioning to remote learning beginning Friday, Nov. 20 through Nov. 30. A student at CVHS tested positive for COVID-19 and was last present in the school on Nov. 13. This closure will allow for adequate contact tracing of any and all close contacts pertaining to this case, as well as a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the building.
School sports will be shut down until Dec. 1 for the school.
Shikellamy High School going virtual after new positive COVID-19 case
SUNBURY — The Shikellamy High School will close its doors until Dec. 1 after Superintendent Jason Bendle said the district was informed of another COVID-19 case at the school. Bendle said since the district has had four cases in the building over a 14-day period, the state Department of Health has advised the district to close the high school.
Shamokin Area latest district to shift to remote learning
The Daily Item November 19, 2020
Superintendent Chris Venna announced today that Shamokin Area School District will temporarily shift to remote instruction districtwide for two weeks beginning Monday. All district students receive remote instruction from Monday through Dec. 4. Venna cited a rise in confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 within the district and community at large.
Jersey Shore Area School District goes remote due to COVID-19, lack of staff
NorthCentralPA.com by NCPA Staff November 19,, 2020
Jersey Shore, Pa. – The Jersey Shore Area School District announced it would be moving all schools to remote learning starting tomorrow. The decision was not because of a large exposure of COVID-19, but due to a lack of staff, according to the statement by Superintendent of the Jersery Shore School District Brian Ulmer.
Charter school closed through Thanksgiving break
Times Observer by JOSH COTTON Staff Reporter email@example.com NOV 20, 2020
Tidioute Community Charter School will remain closed for in-person instruction through the Thanksgiving holiday. Last week, school officials announced a three day closure in response to a positive COVID-19 test. Students have shifted to a remote learning model.
Goodbye, Betsy: Speculation Increases Over The Next Education Secretary
The appointee would take over during a time of unprecedented upheaval in schools.
HuffPost By Rebecca Klein November 19, 2020
Democrats in the education world are ready to say goodbye to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, but divides within the party about who should replace her fall along familiar lines. On one side, labor leaders like Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen García are garnering attention. On the other, leaders and stakeholders who have historically clashed with labor are pushing district superintendents with experience overseeing major systems containing both traditional public schools and nonunionized charter schools. Tim Shriver, chairman of the board of the Special Olympics and a member of the Kennedy family, has also made clear to the Biden team that he is interested in the role, a source close to him tells HuffPost. While most education groups stood united against DeVos, the current fault lines are a reminder of existing divisions in the Democratic Party around issues of education reform and school accountability.
How Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Will Be Remembered
NPR by CORY TURNER November 19, 20205:00 AM ET
What to make of the tenure of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos depends, like Beauty itself, on the eye of the beholder. To the president who asked her to run the Department of Education, she was a loyal lieutenant who argued for her department's irrelevance in a nation where control of schools is a local affair — that is, until she argued the opposite, at the president's urging, and threatened schools with a loss of federal funding if they refused to reopen mid-pandemic. To Christian conservatives, she was a hero who once proclaimed, "I fight against anyone who would have government be the parent to everyone." DeVos used her bully pulpit to champion religious education, push for school choice and help private schools in financial turmoil. To her critics, including the nation's teachers unions, she was a stone-cold villain who famously suggested guns belong in some schools (to fend off bears), who needed the vice president's vote to survive confirmation and who spent four years disparaging American public education. Whatever view you take of Secretary DeVos, here's a look back at the facts of her achievements and how likely they are to survive the next secretary.
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.
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.
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.