Friday, February 15, 2019

PA Ed Policy Roundup Feb. 15: How much could taxpayers in your school district save if there were statewide flat cyber tuition rates of $5000 for regular ed students and $8865 for special ed?

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How much could taxpayers in your school district save if there were statewide flat cyber tuition rates of $5000 for regular ed students and $8865 for special ed?

Join PA Schools Work For a Webinar at Noon on Feb. 26!
Do you know how the Governor's proposed budget will impact your school? Do you know how you can effectively advocate for as much funding as possible? Grab a sandwich and join PA Schools Work on February 26 at noon as we unpack the Governor's budget and learn how to be an effective advocate for our schools and students.
What You Need to Know to be an Effective Advocate
During this hour, PA Schools Work's seasoned experts will walk you through the Governor's proposed budget allocation for education and what it means to you and your school. During this hour, we will also hone in on the tools and tips you need to ensure that you are making the biggest impact with your advocacy efforts. Join us to make sure you are equipped with all you need to know. Knowledge is power!

See the estimated savings by school district if there were statewide flat tuition rates of $5000 for regular ed students and $8865 for special ed.
Education Voters PA Website February 14, 2019

“The report proposes static cyber charter tuition rates of $5,000 per student and $8,865 per special education student, basing it off of the average amount school districts pay to provide their own cyber program. It also points out how poorly cyber charter schools have performed over the years: Not one of the state’s cyber charters achieved a passing score in any of the five years the School Performance Profile, which was replaced by the Future Ready PA Index last year, was in effect.”
Report: Lancaster County school districts could save $8M a year under charter school reform
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer February 15, 2019
The annual debate over cyber charter school funding is already at full-speed.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group Education Voters of PA this week released a report that contends lowering annual tuition rates for Pennsylvania’s publicly funded but privately run charter schools could save school districts more than $8 million in Lancaster County and upwards of $250 million statewide. The current method for funding cyber charter schools, which have historically offered mixed student results, is fundamentally flawed, the report states, and puts an undue burden on more reputable brick-and-mortar schools already struggling to make ends meet. “The relief would be greatly received by our taxpayers,” Eastern Lancaster County Superintendent Bob Hollister said of the proposal, “but it still isn’t reflective of what our actual costs are to operate our own cyber school.” Elanco is one local school district that provides its own cyber program. Hollister said in a phone interview Thursday that it costs about $3,500 per student. That’s less than one-third of what it pays for cyber charter tuition for nonspecial education students. “This is unacceptable,” Susan Spicka, executive director of Education Voters of PA, said in a statement. “… The time has come for lawmakers (to) reform Pennsylvania’s charter school law so that school district payments to cyber charter schools match the actual cost of educating a child at home on a computer.”

“…wasteful spending could be curbed by setting a single, statewide tuition for both regular and special education students in cyber charter schools that is tied to the actual costs of cyber education”.
NEW REPORT: Commonsense Cyber Charter School Funding Reform
Real reform will eliminate wasteful spending and save $250 million in taxpayer money
Education Voters PA Report February 13, 2019
In 2015, the Pennsylvania legislature enacted a new school funding formula that based funding on actual student enrollment and other cost factors. The legislature has not yet addressed similar flaws in Pennsylvania’s system for funding cyber charter schools. With a nearly $500 million annual price tag, funding of cyber charter schools remains just as flawed as the old system of funding basic education was, and has created ever worsening problems for our state’s school districts and wasted tax monies.

Blogger note: over the next several days we will continue rolling out cyber charter tuition expenses for taxpayers in education committee members and legislative leadership districts.
In 2016-17, taxpayers in Senate Majority Leader .@JakeCorman’s districts had to send over $6.3 million to chronically underperforming cybers that their locally elected school boards never authorized. SB34 (Schwank) could change that.
Data source: PDE via PSBA

Bald Eagle Area SD
Bellefonte Area SD
Greenwood SD
Huntingdon Area SD
Juniata County SD
Juniata Valley SD
Keystone Central SD
Mifflin County SD
Mount Union Area SD
Penns Valley Area SD
Philipsburg-Osceola Area SD
State College Area SD
Tyrone Area SD


Blogger note: Total cyber charter tuition paid by PA taxpayers from 500 school districts for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 was over $1.6 billion; $393.5 million, $398.8 million,  $436.1 million and $454.7 million respectively.
Bipartisan, bicameral interest in saving our 500 PA school districts up to $450M/year. 
SB34 @SenJudySchwank, (D-11 Berks) referred to Senate Education Committee January 11, 2019:
“Under my legislation, a district that offers a cyber program equal in scope and content to the cyber charter school will not be responsible for the tuition costs. Instead, tuition costs will be treated in cyber situations the same as they are when resident students attend non-district brick-and-mortar schools.” …
House Education Committee Chairman Curtis Sonney (R-4, Erie) co-sponsorship memo dated Feb. 5, 2019:: 
“I am preparing to introduce legislation that will require a student or the student’s parent/guardian to pay for the student’s education in a cyber school if the student’s school district of residence offers a full-time cyber education program” …

Your View by Sen. Bob Casey: One year after Parkland shootings, it's time to pass gun reforms
Morning Call Opinion by Senator Bob CaseyFebruary 14, 2019
One year ago today, on Feb. 14, 2018, a gunman armed with an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle took the lives of 17 individuals at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. One year later, while the families and community of Parkland still mourn, the outlook for gun violence in America has not improved. Gun deaths are trending upward, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recently announced that there were 39,773 gun deaths in 2017, an increase of 1,000 from 2016. About 2,700 children and teenagers are killed with guns each year, and about 14,500 more are injured. Since the tragedy at Parkland, gun reform advocates — including our nation’s children and young people — are more engaged than ever: organizing, marching and pushing for common-sense reforms like universal background checks, a ban on military style weapons and funding for the CDC to study gun violence. Their dedication to change, however, highlights the shameful inaction of the U.S. Congress, inaction that allowed gun violence to reach these crisis levels in the first place.

Schuylkill County teachers will continue legal fight against arming school staff
PA Capital Star By  Elizabeth Hardison February 14, 2019
A Schuylkill County judge says she needs more information from a local teachers union before ruling on a policy that would allow employees to carry firearms in schools. The Tamaqua Education Association said Thursday it will file an amended complaint in the coming days against the Tamaqua School District, which adopted a policy last year permitting some school employees to carry concealed firearms. Tamaqua’s School Board approved the policy unanimously in September, amid growing concerns about school safety in the wake of high-profile mass shootings. The teachers filed their suit against the district in November. On Tuesday, a Court of Common Pleas judge told the union it needed to provide additional facts to support their legal “standing” — that is, a sufficient reason to bring a case in court. A plaintiff can claim standing if they show that a law causes them undue harm or limits their protected freedoms. The teachers now have 20 days to file an amended complaint. “We intend to address the court’s concern by filing an amended complaint within the next few days to support our belief that the possession of firearms by insufficiently trained school personnel poses a danger to our members at school,” Frank Wenzel, president of the Tamaqua Education Association, said in a statement. The Tamaqua policy, which not yet been enacted, is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania.

Philly students, teachers say more counselors needed to deal with trauma from gun violence
One year ago, the Parkland, Florida, shooting brought more attention to the issue.
The notebook by Darryl C. Murphy  WHYY NEWS February 14 — 12:26 pm, 2019
Thursday marks one year since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people and set off a wave of activism across the country. Students called for more gun control and safer schools. Young people in Philadelphia and other urban areas seized the opportunity to bring long-awaited attention to gun violence and trauma that affects them on a regular basis. But some activists, students, and teachers say that one year later, not much has changed in the way of investments to fully address students’ needs. Ismael Jimenez, a teacher at Kensington CAPA High School, was one of six panelists at a discussion forum on gun violence and trauma in schools and communities. The forum, on Sunday evening, was hosted by the Caucus of Working Educators at Church of the Advocate in North Philadelphia. “The hope is that we can really start a real conversation that can be extended into future activities and collaboration with folks that are really into changing the circumstances that produce so much trauma in our society,” said Jimenez, a member of the group. The number of people shot in Philadelphia rose 10 percent in 2018 to 1,376, according to data from The Philadelphia Inquirer. About 10 percent of victims were under age 18, and almost 40 percent were between 18 and 25.

DePasquale: Districts lack updated child abuse policies
More than 240,000 students across Pennsylvania attend school districts that lacked updated policies on reporting child abuse as of Feb. 1, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Thursday, citing a review by his staff. In 2014, the state responded to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State with new requirements to prevent local school officials from concealing suspected child abuse, DePasquale said in a news release. About 79 percent of school districts have updated policies that outline the required steps staff must take to report suspected child abuse and neglect, he said. “That leaves 21 percent of districts without an updated policy that requires staff to report child abuse and neglect concerns directly to ChildLine, the state’s child-abuse hotline,” DePasquale said in the news release. “This is important because it means their teachers and support staff might not be properly trained to act as the first line of defense against abuse and neglect.”

New Philly Charter Application from String Theory Charters: Joan Myers Brown Academy
Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools February 14, 2019 Charter School Applicationsby Deborah Grill
Location:  3905 Ford Road (former Wordsworth Academy) Grades:   K-8
Neighborhood:  Wynnefield Heights
Projected enrollment:   600 in year 1 (K-5); 900 (K-8) by year 4
Management Company:  String Theory Schools
Cost to District for 5-year term:  $49, 253, 959
String Theory Charter Management Company (STS) has applied to open a new charter school, the Joan Myers Brown Academy (JMBA), a K-8 school focusing on the performing arts in the Wynnefield Heights Section of Philadelphia.  The school would be located in the former Wordsworth Academy building at 3905 Ford Road and would recruit students from the 19131, 19151 and 19139 zip codes. String Theory expects to enroll 600 students in year one in grades K-5 and 900 students by year 4 with the addition of grades 6-8.  String Theory already operates the District’s largest charter–Philadelphia Performing Arts charter, a K-12 school located on 3 different campuses in 2 separate neighborhoods, in buildings owned by DeMedici Corporation and DeMedici Corporation II, companies that are described in a 2017 financial statementas “legally separate, tax-exempt component units of the School.” The application for the  for the new charter school states  that “JMB Academy, as a K-8 String Theory Charter School, is dedicated to Growing the Next Generation of Creative Leaders. This new charter will build upon the successes of the foundational models of Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School and the Philadelphia Charter School for the Arts and Sciences at H.R. Edmunds.”  The application also says, “In order to maximize the availability of quality education options in West Philadelphia, it is our belief that it is essential to have a local enrollment preference and due to the high demand of our school model believe there will be more than enough interest to meet enrollment estimates.”
Some of the concerns presented by the Charter Schools Office Staff at the January 22 hearing include:

Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter plans a $45 million school building
Jacqueline Palochko Contact Reporter Of The Morning Call February 14, 2019
Wanting to get out of the business of paying rent, the Lehigh Valley Academy Regional Charter School is looking to build a 200,000-square-foot building at a cost of $45 million. The K-12 charter school is interviewing architectural firms this week for a new school that officials would like to open for the 2023-24 year, according to a news release from the school. LVA’s lease in Hanover Township, Northampton County, expires August 2023. Eight architectural firms have responded to LVA’s request for proposal. Interviews began Wednesday and will continue through the end of the week. Shea Ace, the charter school’s community relations coordinator, said a site has not yet been chosen. At its Jan. 16 meeting, the board approved a $10 million sales agreement that could be for land. Ace would not say. CEO Susan Mauser did not return multiple messages. Board President Martin Smith was unavailable for comment Thursday. “The LVA Board of Trustees recognizes that owning our own facility is significantly more cost effective, fiscally responsible, and sustainable in the long term,” the news release states. The charter school needs the permission of both the Bethlehem Area and Saucon Valley school boards to change locations because it is a regional charter school.

Chartiers Valley passes preliminary budget with half-mill increase
Post Gazette by DEANA CARPENTER FEB 14, 2019 11:14 AM
Taxes in the Chartiers Valley School District could go up by as much as 0.4802 mills in the 2019-20 school year as school directors on Feb.12 approved the district’s $69.6 million preliminary general fund budget. If the board approves the increase in June, the millage rate would rise to 7.551 mills from the current rate of  7.071 mills, which would mean an increase of about $48 on each $100,000 of assessed property value. The district currently has one of the lowest millage rates in the county. District officials stressed that the 2019-20 budget is in its early stages of development and is not an indication of a the final millage rate that may be levied on taxpayers.

Separate PIAA playoffs for public, private schools? State Rep. Scott Conklin unveils new bill
Centre Daily Times BY JOHN MCGONIGAL FEBRUARY 14, 2019 10:07 PM,
STATE COLLEGE  - Change could be coming to the PIAA playoff system. At least, a host of high school coaches and State Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, hope so. On Thursday, Conklin introduced legislation that would help establish separate playoffs for public and private schools in Pennsylvania. The Democrat from Centre County intends to change a 1972 law, freeing the PIAA to take action on its current postseason format. The House bill, officially titled HB-919, will be introduced for co-sponsorship early next week, per Conklin. He expects cooperation from both sides of the aisle and hopes movement on the bill will come by the summer. “This is about safety. This is about fairness. This is about giving an opportunity to every child. But what this doesn’t do is punish anybody,” Conklin said at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, surrounded by select board members of the PSFCA. “This isn’t set in stone. ... What we’ve heard from the PIAA is that, ‘We can’t change (the postseason format) because with the law in 1972, we can face litigation.’ Well, we pass this piece of legislation, you don’t have to face litigation anymore.”

See the proposal that could create private, public PIAA championships, and a timeline for it to ‘move forward’
Penn Live By Greg Pickel | Updated Feb 14, 10:52 PM; Posted Feb 14, 10:00 PM
STATE COLLEGE -- A 1972 Pennsylvania law says that “private schools shall be permitted, if otherwise qualified, to be members of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.” It also says that “Private schools shall be permitted, if qualified, to participate in post-season athletic contests WITH PUBLIC SCHOOLS.” Pennsylvania state Rep. Scott Conklin doesn’t want to change the first part of that, but he does want to amend the law to allow the PIAA to establish separate playoffs for private and public schools, otherwise referred to as boundary and non-boundary schools. Conklin introduced the necessary legislation to reach that goal on Thursday night during a news conference alongside seven officers and directors from the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association. His amendment to the 1972 law is PA House Bill 919, which will be introduced for co-sponsorship next week. Conklin, a Democrat, said he hopes to have support from both sides of the the aisle in Harrisburg.

Carnegie Mellon Launches High School Computer Science Curriculum
Free, online coursework helps teach programming skills
Carnegie Mellon University, By Byron Spice Email January 10, 2019
Carnegie Mellon University, world-renowned for computer science and artificial intelligence, has launched a free, online curriculum for high school students that helps instructors teach programming skills using engaging graphics and animations. The curriculum fills a gap between introductory computer science educational materials available for grades K-8 and the rigorous Advanced Placement courses that the most advanced students might take later in high school, said David Kosbie, an associate teaching professor and co-director of the School of Computer Science's new Computer Science Academy. "This isn't 'drag and drop' programming," Kosbie said. "We're teaching them to use Python, a text-based programming language that is the most widely taught language at the university level." Python also is one of the most popular programming languages in industry, used by such organizations as Google, Amazon and Facebook. The CS Academy was established and its CS1 curriculum developed in response to requests from secondary school teachers and principals, who face growing demands from parents for computer science education but must cope with a lack of educational standards for computer science, a paucity of trained teachers and limited teaching materials.

A High-Crime Neighborhood Makes It Harder To Show Up For School
NPR by ELISSA NADWORNY February 13, 201912:01 PM ET
Getting students to show up is one of the biggest challenges schools face: How can someone learn at school if they're not there in the first place? A new study suggests living in a high-crime area, or simply passing through one on the way to school, can impact how often students show up to class. "Some kids have a harder time getting to a school than others, not for any fault of their own, but because of the way the transportation system is set up, because of the way crime clusters in particular places," explains Julia Burdick-Will, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University and the lead author of the study. "It might not be huge, or every day, but it adds up." She and her team looked at how neighborhood crime in Baltimore affects attendance. The vast majority of students there use public transportation (like many urban school systems, Baltimore City Public Schools don't bus students). Researchers mapped the routes high school freshmen took to and from school — what streets they were walking on, when and where they picked up a bus, when they transferred, etc. Then, researchers applied crime data by location and time of day to see how those findings related to student absences for the year.

Scholar Linda Darling-Hammond Picked to Chair California's State Board
Education Week State EdWatch By Daarel Burnette II on February 13, 2019 3:02 PM
Amid teacher unrest, uproar over its charter school sector, and frustration with the way Californa measures school success, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday appointed Stanford Professor Linda Darling-Hammond, one of the nation's preeminent education scholars, to chair the state's board of education.  Darling-Hammond is the president of the Learning Policy Institute, a K-12 think tank, and has written several books and studies. She replaces Michael Kirst, who chaired the board during former Gov. Jerry Brown's first term and his last two terms.  Kirst and Darling-Hammond align on many education issues and many observers saw her appointment as a sign that Newsom will not stray far from Brown's agenda.   California serves more than six million students, about one out of every 8 of America's students. More than three-fourths of those students are students of color. The state's department of education has been under attack in recent years for the ways it has decided to hold schools accountable and for the amount of money it provides its districts, many of which are sacked with skyrocketing pension debt.  

PSBA Members - Register for Advocacy Day at the Capitol in Harrisburg Monday April 29, 2019
All PSBA-members are invited to attend Advocacy Day on Monday, April 29, 2019 at the state Capitol in Harrisburg. In addition, this year PSBA will be partnering with the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units (PAIU) and Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators (PASA) to strengthen our advocacy impact. The focus for the day will be meetings with legislators to discuss critical issues affecting public education. There is no cost to attend, and PSBA will assist in scheduling appointments with legislators once your registration is received. The day will begin with a continental breakfast and issue briefings prior to the legislator visits. Registrants will receive talking points, materials and leave-behinds to use with their meetings. PSBA staff will be stationed at a table in the main Rotunda during the day to answer questions and provide assistance. The day’s agenda and other details will be available soon. If you have questions about Advocacy Day, legislative appointments or need additional information, contact  Register for PSBA Advocacy Day now at
PSBA members 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 or call her at (717) 506-2450, ext. 3420

Board Presidents’ Panel
Learn, discuss, and practice problem solving with school leader peers facing similar or applicable challenges. Workshop-style discussions will be facilitated and guided by PSBA experts. With the enormous challenges facing schools today, effective and knowledgeable board leadership is essential to your productivity and performance as a team of ten.
Locations & Dates
Due to inclement weather, some dates have been rescheduled. The updated schedule is below.
Feb. 21, 2019 — Danville Area High School (Section 3)(Rescheduled from Jan. 31)
Feb. 28, 2019 — St. Marys Area High School (Section 2)(Rescheduled from Jan. 31)
Mar. 28, 2019 — Crawford Cty CTC (Section 1)(Rescheduled from Jan. 30)

PSBA Sectional Meetings - Ten convenient locations in February and March
School safety and security is a complex, multi-perspective topic impacting school entities in dramatic ways. This complimentary PSBA member meeting featured in ten locations will offer essential updates and information on Safe2Say reporting, suicide awareness related to student safety, school climate, and emergency preparedness planning. Representatives from the Attorney General’s office, PEMA, and a top expert in behavioral health will be presenting. Updates on legislation impacting your schools will be presented by PSBA staff. Connect with the experts, have your questions answered, and network with other members.
Locations and Dates
Section Meetings are 6-8 p.m. (across all locations).
Register online by logging in to myPSBA.

Open Board Positions for 2019 PA Principals Association Election
Thursday, January 10, 2019 9:05 AM
Margaret S. (Peg) Foster, principal, academic affairs, in the Crestwood School District, has been appointed by President Michael Allison to serve as the chairperson of the 2019 PA Principals Association Nominations Committee to oversee the 2019 election. Her committee consists of the following members: Curtis Dimmick, principal in the Northampton Area School District; Jacqueline Clark-Havrilla, principal in the Spring-Ford School District; and Joseph Hanni, vice principal in the Scranton School District.   If you are interested in running for one of the open board positions (shown below) in the 2019 election, please contact Stephanie Kinner at or (717) 732-4999 for an application. Applications must be received in the state office by Friday, February 22, 2019.

Pennsylvania schools work – for students, communities and the economy when adequate resources are available to give all students an equal opportunity to succeed.
Join A Movement that Supports our Schools & Communities
PA Schools Work website
Our students are in classrooms that are underfunded and overcrowded. Teachers are paying out of pocket and picking up the slack. And public education is suffering. Each child in Pennsylvania has a right to an excellent public education. Every child, regardless of zip code, deserves access to a full curriculum, art and music classes, technical opportunities and a safe, clean, stable environment. All children must be provided a level chance to succeed. PA Schools Work is fighting for equitable, adequate funding necessary to support educational excellence. Investing in public education excellence is the path to thriving communities, a stable economy and successful students.

Indiana Area School District Safety & Security Symposium March 15, 2019
Indiana Area School District Website
Background: It’s 2019, and school safety has catapulted as one of the top priorities for school districts around the country. With an eye toward providing educators with various resources and opportunities specific to Pennsylvania, the Indiana Area School District -- in collaboration with Indiana University of Pennsylvania, PA Representative Jim Struzzi, and as well as Indiana County Tourist Bureau-- is hosting a FREE safety and security symposium on March 15, 2019. This safety and security exchange will provide information that benefits all stakeholders in your education community: administrators, board members, and staff members alike. Presenters offer valuable resources to help prepare your organization to continue the discussion on safety and security in our schools.  Pre-registration is required, and you will be invited to choose the breakout sessions that you feel will have the most impact in your professional learning on these various topics, as well as overall impact on your District’s systems of operations. Please take time to review the various course breakout sessions and their descriptions.  Don’t miss this opportunity to connect and learn.
How to Register: Participants attending the Safety Symposium on March 15, 2019, will have the option to select a maximum of 4 breakout sessions to attend on this day.  Prior to the breakout sessions, attendees will hear opening remarks from former Secretary of Education - Dr. Gerald Zahorchak.  We want to empower the attendees to exercise their voice and choice in planning their day!  Please review the various break out session descriptions by clicking on the "Session Descriptions" on the right-hand side of this page.  On that page, you will be able to review the sessions offered that day and register for the symposium.

Annual PenSPRA Symposium set for March 28-29, 2019
Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association Website
Once again, PenSPRA will hold its annual symposium with nationally-recognized speakers on hot topics for school communicators. The symposium, held at the Conference Center at Shippensburg University, promises to provide time for collegial sharing and networking opportunities. Mark you calendars now!
We hope you can join us. Plans are underway, so check back for more information.

2019 NSBA Annual Conference Philadelphia March 30 - April 1, 2019
Pennsylvania Convention Center 1101 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19107

Registration Questions or Assistance: 1-800-950-6722
The NSBA Annual Conference & Exposition is the one national event that brings together education leaders at a time when domestic policies and global trends are combining to shape the future of the students. Join us in Philadelphia for a robust offering of over 250 educational programs, including three inspirational general sessions that will give you new ideas and tools to help drive your district forward.

Save the Date:  PARSS Annual Conference May 1-3, 2019
Wyndham Garden Hotel, Mountainview Country Club
Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools

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.