Friday, February 28, 2020

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Feb 28: Recap & Video of Senate Ed Committee Budget Hearing with Ed Secretary Pedro Rivera

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 Feb 28, 2020

A Free Educational Event Hosted at Capitol Building in Harrisburg, March 16, 2020
CONTACT Holly Lubart EMAIL PHONE 717-703-3032
A Free Sunshine Week Educational Event Hosted at Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pa.
Guest Speaker: Sarah Hofius Hall, Education Reporter, The Times-Tribune
More than 37,000 Pennsylvania students learn at home through cyber charter schools. As those taxpayer-funded schools face growing criticism from public school districts and potential policy changes from the state government, advocates stress the need for school choice. Sarah Hofius Hall, education reporter for The Times-Tribune in Scranton and a frequent requester of public documents, will discuss how newspapers can examine cyber charter school finances and achievement while promoting transparency.
Guest Speaker:  Representative Curt Sonney, Chairman, House Education Committee
Representative Sonney has introduced House Bill 1897, which would require all school districts in the Commonwealth to offer full-time cyber education programs that will be accountable to local communities. It requires school districts who contract with a third-party vendor, to post all information related to the contract on the district’s publicly available website. In addition, a public hearing must be held on a school district’s planned cyber education offerings.
Sonney will discuss how the legislature will continue to address this issue.
Guest Speaker from the Wolf Administration
Governor Tom Wolf recently unveiled a proposed state education budget that calls for charter school reform and improvements to aging school buildings. His plan would establish a statewide tuition rate of $9,500 for cyber charter school students. Despite costing $1.8 billion a year, charter schools have little public oversight and no publicly elected school board. For-profit companies that manage many charter schools are not required to have independent financial audits.
A representative from the Wolf Administration will address their plan.
To register for this event, please complete the form below.

From Senator Mensch. Via Senate GOP Website
Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned Education Secretary Pedro Rivera about a number of issue related to school funding and education, including:
    • How the governor can justify cutting funding for school safety grants from $60 million to $15 million, given their vital importance in protecting students.
    • The increased capital costs associated with providing full-day kindergarten. 
    • Ongoing efforts to expand a pilot dyslexia program statewide and fund more career technical schools in Pennsylvania.
    • The administration’s unfunded all-day kindergarten mandate and its effect on school property taxes.
    • A new program that would require CPR education in schools.
    • The statewide rollout of Act 64 providing school districts with flexible instruction days.
  • Funding allocations for remediating “toxic schools” that pose health risks to students.
  • Why it has taken so long to address asbestos and lead issues in schools.
  • The role that telemedicine can play in providing students with access to doctors and counselors.
  • A new agricultural education curriculum for students.
  • The pending approval of a community college in Erie and how that college would be funded.
  • Improving literacy and providing earlier screening for dyslexia.
  • The popularity of the Education Improvement Tax Credit Program and the need to fund it.
  • The effectiveness of mental health assessments for students and how often they should be done.
Watch Full Hearing (Part 1) Runtime 1:58:44
Watch Full Hearing (Part 2) Runtime 1:41:57

Philly School Board overwhelmingly rejects two charter school proposals
Opponents said that a proposed health-sciences charter would undermine an existing district school with the same mission.
The notebook by Bill Hangley Jr. February 27 — 11:54 pm, 2020
The Board of Education denied two charter school applications on Thursday, citing poor quality plans that would not offer city students anything new of value. “Philadelphia school children deserve high quality schools,” said board member Julia Danzy. “We must be diligent and provide our children options that provide high quality outcomes.” The two applications were denied without a single vote in favor. One, a K-8 performing arts school proposed for West Philadelphia called the Joan Myers Brown Academy, was denied by a unanimous 8-0 vote. The other, a career-oriented North Philadelphia high school called the Health Sciences Leadership Charter School (HS2L), was denied 6-0, with two abstentions. The board has nine members; Maria McColgan was absent. The board also approved a controversial new contract for Teach for America, and agreed to support the staff at McClure Elementary, who’d been asked to make up days lost to asbestos closures by working during their spring break. “Blameless people should not be punished for the mistakes of people in power,” said McClure teacher Rachel Baschen.

Wilkinsburg School Board Approves Resolution Calling for Charter School Funding Reform
Wilkinsburg School District Website February 28, 2020
At it’s Feb. 25 meeting, the Wilkinsburg School Board approved 8-0 a resolution calling for charter school funding reform. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf proposed legislation this week that would reform charter school tuition calculations. His proposal joins a four-bill package of charter legislation passed by the House last spring. Information on those bills can be found here. Currently, the charter school funding formula being used was established in 1997 and has not been updated or modified since its inception. Charter schools are one of the fastest-growing costs for all public Pennsylvania school districts, with school districts currently paying 100 percent of charter school tuition bills. The Wilkinsburg School Board approved the resolution as a show of support for reforms that include setting a flat tuition rate for charter schools, distribution special education funding through a funding formula and stopping the creation of new cyber charter schools. The complete resolution is available here.

Fraud investigator will comb through Easton charter school finances
By Rudy Miller | For Updated Feb 28, 2020; Posted Feb 27, 2020
The Easton Arts Academy Elementary Charter School board hired a fraud investigator Thursday to review the school’s finances. Board President Michelle Zattoni said Fraud Forensic Investigations LLC will perform a comprehensive review of the school’s ledgers. The review will stretch back to when the school opened in 2017 at 30 N. Fourth St. in Easton. The school lost its three top administrators over the course of the past year. The top finance administrator, Shawn Ferrara, left the school in June. CEO Joanna Hughes was fired in December and Operations Manager Jacque Zupko was fired in January. Zattoni said there have been questions raised about duties the administrators performed, although she declined to cite specifics. “We have to make sure that the finances are under control before we hire new (administrators) to come in,” she said Thursday. For now, principal William Wright is serving as interim CEO.

Your View: Why Pennsylvania needs to rein in charter school costs
Susan Spicka is executive director of Education Voters of PA, a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan public education advocacy organization based in Philadelphia.
The writers says that although charter school students represent only 8% of all public school students, in 2017-18, 37 cents of every new property tax dollar raised was sent to a charter or cybercharter school.
In the upcoming months, Pennsylvania school districts will prepare budgets for the next fiscal year and make the hard decision about whether to increase property taxes to deal with rising costs. One of the fastest growing costs for all the state’s school districts are charter schools — publicly funded, privately operated schools that offer education wholly online or at a site within a community. School districts pay 100% of charter school tuition bills, and rapidly increasing tuition payments are a top reason that property taxes continue to rise. Although charter school students represent only 8% of all public school students, in 2017-18, 37 cents of every new property tax dollar raised was sent to a charter or cybercharter school. Pennsylvania taxpayers are spending more than $1.8 billion on tuition bills for students to attend charter and online cybercharter schools. Tuition rates are set by the state, but flawed calculations in Pennsylvania’s 22-year-old charter school law mandate payments well beyond the cost to educate a child. After more than 20 years, the time has come to retool charter funding to bring payments in line with the costs, eliminate questionable and wasteful spending by charters, and bring property tax increases under control.

Opinion: Pa. needs to change the law on cyber charter schools
Pocono Record Opinion By Tomea Sippio-Smith, February 28, 2020
Tomea Sippio-Smith is education policy director, Public Citizens for Children and Youth. Originally published by The Patriot-News
Pennsylvania’s students belong to the most digitally savvy generation ever. They use Chrome books and iPads to research, connect with teachers, and complete assignments. It is not surprising then, that many students choose to attend virtual or cyber schools. However, like a destructive virus on a hard drive, Pennsylvania’s cyber charter school law is causing students to crash. Harrisburg has an easy fix – they can change the law. Pennsylvania’s students and taxpayers are calling on them to de-bug the system now. Nearly 80 percent of Pennsylvania school districts offer online learning programs. When Pennsylvania first passed the cyber charter law in 2002, it was in anticipation of a growing demand. The law hasn’t been updated since and is missing several key measures that support high quality options for students, particularly meaningful academic and fiscal accountability. Oddly, unlike in other states, our charter school law does not set academic benchmarks that schools must meet to retain their charters. Charters can be renewed even if they are chronically poor performers. Pennsylvania’s 14 cyber charter schools have historically and consistently failed to make the grade. When the Department of Education used the Student Performance Profile to compare public school performance across the state, no cyber charter school earned a passing score. In fact, they have never earned a passing score. Ever. Other states’ charter laws mandate closure for such schools – not ours.

To the editor: Misinformation about charter school costs at Pine-Richland troubling
Pinecreek Journal/Trib Live Letter by Ana Meyer Executive Director, PA Coalition of Public Charter Schools Tuesday, February 25, 2020 | 11:00 PM
Dear Editor: It was clear from your Feb. 14 article that Pine-Richland School District officials do not hold public charter schools or the charter school families, who chose to remove their children from their district, in high regard. That’s unfortunate. They don’t seem to care why these students left their district schools or why their families sent them to a charter school. They just want the money that comes along with these students. But this taxpayer money doesn’t belong to the Pine-Richland School District, it belongs to the students who have the right to use it at any public school that best meets their needs. The fact that leaders of the Pine-Richland School District (and district leaders across the Commonwealth) call their charter tuition payments a “cost” is both misleading and an insult to tax-paying families who are choosing charter schools. Why do school districts label charter tuition – which provides for the public education of 134,000+ students statewide – a “cost” or a “debilitating drain” but they advocate for additional financial “investments” in their schools from the state and local taxpayers? Regardless of what public school a child attends – school district, brick-and-mortar charter or cyber charter – they are ALL public school children and they deserve the same financial support.

West Mifflin schools moving forward with transgender policy
Post-Gazette by DEANA CARPENTER FEB 27, 2020 6:11 PM
The West Mifflin Area School Board unanimously voted to direct its solicitor to work with the board’s policy committee on developing a transgender and gender expansive student policy.
“A transgender policy would provide faculty and staff with the necessary tools, training and support processes to appropriately work with transgender and gender expansive students while reducing potential risk to the district,” said board member Matthew Blazevich, who made the motion to move forward with the policy Feb. 20 . The vote was 8-0. Board President Tony Dicenzo was absent. “The policy would provide guidelines that reduce the stigma of transgender and gender identity issues, normalize the conversation and provide a platform of understanding,” Mr. Blazevich said. He added that he and board members have been researching a policy to protect all students. In January, several teachers, parents and students advocated for a transgender and gender expansive student policy along the lines of the policy adopted by the Pittsburgh Public Schools District.

Program lets educators learn what students will need for future employment
ANDREW GOLDSTEIN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette FEB 28, 2020
In an ever-changing business landscape, educators need to be able to keep their lessons relevant so that their students will have the skills they need to be able to get jobs. One way to do that is to give teachers insight to what kind of knowledge businesses will want future employees to have.  The Educators Corporations Partnership for STEM Learning brings K-12 educators into the workplace so that they can focus their classroom lessons toward helping their students enter STEM-related college majors and careers. The Allegheny Intermediate Unit’s Math & Science Collaborative and Partner4Work on Thursday hosted a symposium where schools and businesses in the Educators Corporations Partnership could share what they learned in the program. “The goal is to allow those educators to see first-hand what’s required in those careers, in terms of the skill set, the education technical skills, soft skills,” said Michael Fierle, the director of the Math & Science Collaborative of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. “Our goal from the collaborative standpoint is to impact learning so that all students get exposed to more authentic learning experiences that are aligned to the world of work.”

Applauding Ephrata's bold move to start the school day later [opinion]
THE ISSUE: The Ephrata Area School District school board voted unanimously Monday to push back school start times beginning in the 2020-21 school year, LNP | LancasterOnline staff writer Alex Geli reported Tuesday. (One board member, Glenn Martin, was absent from Monday’s meeting.) The decision “makes Ephrata the first Lancaster County school district to significantly push back its start times, joining a national trend aligning school schedules with adolescent sleep patterns,” Geli wrote. We applaud Ephrata for being the first public school district in Lancaster County to make this move. And we hope other local districts will watch and learn from it. We believe it’s a necessary experiment, and we recognize that it’s never easy to be the first to raise your hand for something that creates a lot of extra work and might have unpopular tangential effects. Last fall, we wrote about the state General Assembly report titled “Sleep Deprivation in Adolescents: The Case for Delaying Secondary School Start Times,” which was created by a team of educators, health professionals, transportation administrators, parents and students. The report concluded that schools could address sleep deprivation by moving secondary school start times to 8:30 a.m. or later.

Leadership of Philly teachers’ union wins re-election despite growing challenge from activists
WHYY By Avi Wolfman-Arent February 26, 2020 Updated 6:11 p.m.
The incumbent powers of Philadelphia’s teachers’ union survived a challenge Wednesday from a group that advocated for a more open and aggressive approach to contract bargaining. While the election results won’t prompt a leadership shakeup at the nearly 13,000-member Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT), they suggest that more staff in Pennsylvania’s largest school district are energized by the idea of new leadership. Turnout grew by nearly 50% from the last election, with roughly 2,500 more ballots cast. That’s an important message to heed as the PFT negotiates a new contract for teachers, nurses, paraprofessionals, and other public-school employees. The current pact expires at the end of August, and the union has the ability to strike for the first time in nearly 20 years.

Philadelphia's William Hite Named Superintendent Of The Year
Hite has overseen the opening of innovative high schools, expanding successful school models, and regaining financial stability.
By Max Bennett, Patch Staff  Feb 26, 2020 4:10 pm ET
PHILADELPHIA — School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William R. Hite, Ed.D. will receive the National School Foundation Association's (NSFA) 2020 Superintendent of the Year Award when the NFSA convenes its 15th annual National Conference at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel March 2 through March 4. NSFA's Superintendent of the Year award was created by the National School Foundation Association to recognize the important role played by school superintendents in engaging the community to ensure all students have the resources they need to succeed. Dr. Hite was selected from among 14 distinguished nominees from around the country. His nomination was submitted by The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia.

Manheim Township, L-S, Hempfield top county SAT scores. How did your school do?
Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer February 28, 2020
Manheim Township, Lampeter-Strasburg and Hempfield high school students, on average, performed the best among Lancaster County students on last year's SAT, according to data released this week by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  Just over 3,200 county high school students took the test, which is meant to evaluate college readiness despite increasing colleges eliminating SAT requirements from the application process.  The SAT tests math and reading and writing. Math scores can range from 200 to 800. Reading and writing scores can range from 200 to 800. Composite scores, therefore, can range from 400 to 1,600.  The state released average composite scores and average scores per subject for all eligible districts. The typical, or median, average composite score countywide was 1,119.

First ever Pennsylvania high school esports championships to be held in Harrisburg
Penn Live By Deb Kiner | Posted Feb 27, 2020
The Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts will host the first ever Pennsylvania Interscholastic Esports Championships in Overwatch and League of Legends on March 28. The virtual matches will begin March 6. The grand finals will be March 28. The competition will include more than 50 high school teams from across Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Esports Association is a collaborative effort between the McNees, Wallace and Nurick law firm; the Hollinger family; and Estars, an esports tournament infrastructure company. “Esports is the fastest growing sport in the world,” said Ted Black, president and CEO of the Whitaker Center. “We’re supporting the leaders and all-stars of tomorrow by creating a high school championship that gives these young players the same competitive opportunities as football, basketball and soccer.”

Japan moves to close all schools over coronavirus
Post-Gazette by The New York Times MOTOKO RICH, BEN DOOLEY AND MAKIKO INOUE FEB 27, 2020 10:00 PM
TOKYO — After weeks of criticism that Japan was bungling its reaction to the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took the drastic step on Thursday of asking all the country’s schools to close for about a month. With the number of cases steadily rising and Japan suddenly confronting talk that the Tokyo Olympics may have to be canceled, Mr. Abe is eager to show that he is moving aggressively to control the virus. The move to shut schools, which would make Japan one of a few countries, including China, to suspend classes nationwide, appeared to be an abrupt reversal of the more cautious stance the administration had taken on the virus. Japan, unlike neighboring South Korea and other countries, has not experienced a sharp increase in reported infections. It has had 210 cases, including four deaths. There have also been more than 700 cases and four deaths from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which spent two weeks quarantined while docked in Yokohama.

“The COAT Act (H.R. 5984) would require private charter management organizations (PCMOs) to disclose the following to the Department of Education in order to receive federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act funds:
• The dollar amount and percentage breakdown of money being used by the PCMO on the operations of the school and on the operations of the PCMO.
• The dollar amount every executive is earning in salary from the PCMO.
• The identity of any company or organization the PCMO has financial ties to.
• Whether the PCMO is for-profit or non-profit.
In addition, school districts contracting with PCMOs would have to require the PCMOs to:
• Hold board meetings that are publicly disclosed and accessible to the public.
• Annually disclose the members of the board of directors.”
The COAT Act (H.R. 5984): Congresswoman Tlaib (MI-13) Introduces Bill Increasing Charter School Oversight and Accountability
Congresswoman Tlaib Press Release February 27, 2020 
WASHINGTON –  Today, in celebration of Public Schools Week, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) introduced the landmark Charter Oversight, Accountability, and Transparency (COAT) Act, which will strengthen the country’s public education system by promoting the same type of accountability from charter schools nationwide that the law requires of traditional public schools. There is currently a lack of oversight mechanisms for failing charter schools.
Prior to being sworn in as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos spent 20 years pushing for charter expansion in Tlaib’s home state of Michigan, which has become home to the nation’s highest number of schools operated for profit, as well as the most low-performance charter schools. The issue of charter school oversight and accountability hits the district Tlaib represents especially hard—59 percent of Michigan’s charter student body lives in Wayne County and is comprised of a majority of minority students.
 “For too long for-profit charters have operated without accountability under a for-profit loving Secretary of Education that has been all too happy to turn a blind eye to their failures,” said Congresswoman Tlaib. “Without the necessary oversight for charter schools, our children will continue to suffer while taxpayers will be caught holding the bill for charter school waste and abuse. The COAT Act will provide that oversight and ensure our students have a fighting chance at educational success, a key component of economic success.”

Education Dept. to Cut Off Federal Funding for Some Rural Schools
A bookkeeping change at the department will cut thousands of dollars in aid to some of the poorest, most isolated schools in the country.
New York Times By Erica L. Green Feb. 28, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON — A bookkeeping change at the Education Department will kick hundreds of rural school districts out of a federal program that for nearly two decades has funneled funding to some of the most geographically isolated and cash-strapped schools in the United States. More than 800 schools stand to lose thousands of dollars from the Rural and Low-Income School Program because the department has abruptly changed how districts are to report how many of their students live in poverty. The change, quietly announced in letters to state education leaders, comes after the Education Department said a review of the program revealed that districts had “erroneously” received funding because they had not met eligibility requirements outlined in the federal education law since 2002. The department said it would strictly enforce a requirement that in order to get funding, districts must use data from the Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates to determine whether 20 percent of their area’s school-age children live below the poverty line.

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 March 23rd

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 March 23rd:
Charter Reform
Cyber Charter Reform
Basic Ed Funding
Special Ed Funding

Hear relevant content from statewide experts, district practitioners and PSBA government affairs staff at PSBA’s annual membership gathering. PSBA Sectional Advisors and Advocacy Ambassadors are on-site to connect with district leaders in their region and share important information for you to take back to your district.
Locations and dates

Sectional Meetings are 6:00 p.m. -8:00 p.m. (across all locations). Light refreshments will be offered.
Cost: Complimentary for PSBA member entities.
Registration: Registration is now open. To register, please sign into myPSBA and look for Store/Registration on the left.

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

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

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

NSBA annual conference -- April 4-6, 2020 Chicago
Registration for the 2020 NSBA Annual Conference is now open. The event will be held April 4-6 in Chicago

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!

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.