Monday, August 31, 2020

PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 31, 2020: Reported positive COVID tests in school districts around the state

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for August 31, 2020
Reported positive COVID tests in school districts around the state

Taxpayers in Senator Scott Martin’s school districts paid over $10.6 million in 2018-2019 cyber charter tuition. Statewide, PA taxpayers paid over $600 million for cyber charter tuition in 2018-2019.

Conestoga Valley SD
Hempfield SD
Lampeter-Strasburg SD
Manheim Township SD
Octorara Area SD
Penn Manor SD
Pequea Valley SD
Solanco SD
Lancaster SD

Data Source: PDE via PSBA

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

Why are PA taxpayers paying twice what it costs to provide a cyber education?

Blogger note: PA Schools Work, a group that advocates for traditional brick-and-mortar public schools, recently created a Check Before You Choose  online resource where families can compare public cyber-charter schools to traditional public schools.

“Lincoln Learning Solutions, a Rochester-based charter school management company, held nearly $82 million in financial reserves as of June 30, 2018” ….“Board President and CEO Robert Clements received a 50 percent increase in pay from 2015 to 2018, from $186,100 to $279,652. Then-chief financial officer James Livingstone’s salary jumped 148 percent, from $88,033 in 2015 to $218,505 three years later. The company also reported spending more than $622,000 on lobbying during the four-year review period. According to the Internal Revenue Service filing, it used that money to “influence the Legislatures to give funding and grants to digital schools.”
Lincoln Learning review reveals need for charter school reform, state says
Beaver County Times by Chrissy Suttles August 24, 2020
A local education services company is the focus of a statewide push to reform Pennsylvania’s charter school law — considered by some to be one of the nation’s worst. Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Wednesday called on the state’s General Assembly to overhaul the 22-year-old law after revealing that Lincoln Learning Solutions, a Rochester-based charter school management company, held nearly $82 million in financial reserves as of June 30, 2018, and gave sizable raises to key executives in recent years. Lincoln Learning Solutions is connected to Midland’s Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School and the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, both of which DePasquale said appear to be “almost entirely funded by public sources.” The registered nonprofit receives millions of school tax dollars every year for students, but its finances can’t be reviewed by the state because of its legal status, officials said. In 2019, DePasquale requested financial statements from Lincoln Learning to determine how it spent taxpayer money in years prior. Under current charter school law, neither the Department of the Auditor General nor the state Department of Education can perform a full review of the company’s books. The nonprofit’s tax forms showed it had received a “substantial amount of revenue” from PA Cyber in 2017, he said.
After receiving a variety of documents, DePasquale initiated a review of Lincoln Learning’s public tax filings from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2018. He found that key executives at the company received sizable pay increases in recent years.

“The full scale of the enrollment increase won’t be clear for months. School hasn’t started yet in some parts of the country, the virtual schools are still enrolling students, and parents in schools of all types may reassess their options as this year unfolds. But if the growth is substantial, it will both put increased financial strain on school districts that lose students and indicate a reversal of fortunes for the virtual charters, which have faced growing skepticism for their disappointing test scores and graduation rates.”
Virtual charter schools see spike in interest as families grapple with the pandemic’s disruption
Chalkbeat By Matt Barnum  Aug 27, 2020, 7:03pm EDT
New data suggests virtual charter schools are seeing a sharp uptick in interest and enrollment across the country. K12, the country’s largest operator of virtual schools, says enrollment has jumped from 123,000 students last year to 170,000 this year, and that number could still grow. Connections Academy, the country’s second largest virtual school network, doesn’t have national enrollment numbers yet but says applications have jumped 61%. For both companies, those figures include charter schools and virtual schools run on behalf of school districts. Those numbers are in line with spikes reported in Oklahoma, where enrollment in virtual charter schools increased from 19,000 to 33,000 students this year, as well as in Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Utah. Together, they’re the clearest evidence yet that the virtual charter school model is appealing to new families at a moment of upheaval and uncertainty for school districts across the country.

Students protest education inequity in march from Lower Merion to Philly’s Overbrook High School
Inquirer by Harold Brubaker, Posted: August 30, 2020- 6:19 PM
Less than four miles separate Lower Merion High School in Ardmore from Overbrook High School in West Philadelphia, but the two schools and their communities are worlds apart. Lower Merion’s average annual household income is more than $131,000 a year. In the neighborhood surrounding Overbrook High, that figure doesn’t quite reach $35,000, census figures show. During a recent school year, Lower Merion spent $26,422 per student — at least $12,000 more per student than the Philadelphia School District could muster. That contrast has existed for a long time, but for Kisara Freeman, and three other rising seniors at Lower Merion High this summer of protests and widespread social and economic upheaval has become the time to do something.

Pittsburgh Public Schools pushing back start date
NICK TROMBOLA Pittsburgh Post-Gazette AUG 29, 2020 10:20 PM
Pittsburgh Public Schools announced Saturday night that it has delayed the start of the school year to Sept. 8. The change postpones the start of classes for all students preK-12. Originally, all but kindergarten and pre-kindergarten were scheduled to start  Aug. 31. Kindergarten and preK were scheduled to begin Sept. 3. The delay is due to a nationwide technology supply-chain shortages, according to the school district, which has prevented it from providing laptops to all its in-need students in order for them to learn from home. The PPS board mandated in late July that students will spend at least the first nine weeks of the school year taking classes virtually. Up to 7,000 laptops are expected to arrive by the end of next week to fulfill the outstanding need, the district said, though some are not expected to be delivered until late October.

Teacher shortages affecting some Pittsburgh-area districts
ANDREW GOLDSTEIN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette AUG 31, 2020 5:29 AM
When teachers are absent and the number of substitutes are low during a normal school year, administrators have some options.  They could ask a full-time instructor to cover an extra class during an off-period, or combine different groups of students under one teacher.  But because of COVID-19, this is not a normal school year.  Usually, an administrator dealing with a teacher shortage could say, “‘All right, well, that’s an English class with a teacher who is going to be out. Who else is teaching English at the same time?’ And now that teacher is going to have twice the amount of kids,” said Carrie Rowe, superintendent of the Beaver Area School District.  “But you can’t do that during COVID,” she added. “That defeats the whole purpose of going hybrid.” While the Pennsylvania State Education Association said teacher shortages have not been a widespread problem so far, some districts have seen an increased number of full-time teachers taking leave.

Letter to the Editor: An open letter to those eager to reopen schools
Delco Times Letter by  Joseph Consiglio August 31, 2020
September is here, and I want to go back to school.  I really do. I am a high school teacher, the son of a teacher, the husband of a teacher, and the father of two teachers.  In short, I’m invested.  And I really want to go back to school.  And I would like to take you with me. I would like you to see what I see every September — the kids swarming the halls, excited to wear their first day outfits, eager to make a good impression, ready to make good on their ambitions.   I would like you to visit my classroom where you are greeted at the door with a hello, a fist bump, a hug, or a chin up nod.  I would like you to see how 32 desks crammed together feels comfortable, how we play music, sing songs, tell stories, make videos, share links, read poems, write essays, complain, argue, laugh, walk around, look out the window, and get in each other’s business.  I would like you to see how, when my room empties out, it fills up again, with kids who need an adult to talk to, a snack from the bottom drawer, or a place away from the cafeteria noise.  

Susquenita, for example, shut down its entire district this week on only the second day of school because of new cases. Derry Township is supposed to bring students back on Monday and has already had two elementary school staffers test positive. Cases have also been reported at West Shore and among student athletes from Central Dauphin and Middletown.”
COVID cases at central Pa. schools: Who has it, what they’re doing about it
Penn Live By Jenna Wise | Updated Aug 27, 2020; Posted Aug 27, 2020
Lower Dauphin is the latest in a string of central Pennsylvania school districts to announce new coronavirus cases among students or staff just as the school year is kicking off. Administrators from Lower Dauphin School District said on Thursday that one case was found in the high school, but declined to say whether it was a student or staff member. The district notified those who came into contact with them and kept the high school open Thursday, administrators said. The coronavirus has had a large impact on a number of nearby districts days into the new school year or before it’s even begun.

Elizabeth Forward virus outbreak pushes high school classes virtual for first week
NICK TROMBOLA Pittsburgh Post-Gazette AUG 28, 2020 6:29 PM
The Elizabeth Forward School District announced Friday that Elizabeth Forward High School will start classes virtually during its first week after six students and a part-time staff member recently tested positive for COVID-19. The district said the individuals who tested positive were part of several athletic programs at the school. After it learned that the individuals had tested positive the district immediately shut down practices for the affected activities, according to a press release. “We have and are continuing to work closely with the Allegheny County Health Department and are following their lead on how to manage this situation.” Elizabeth Forward Superintendent Todd Keruskin said. “We have also taken proactive steps to inform all of the families with students directly impacted by this situation.” Although the High School will start its first week remote, K-8 students will follow a hybrid model already set in place by the district.

Boyertown shuts down activities after football player tests positive for COVID
PAPREP Live by Austin Hertzog August 28, 2020
A Boyertown football player has tested positive for COVID-19 and forced the suspension of all extra-curricular activities on Friday. Voluntary sports workouts and other activities including band have been halted until Sept. 7 as a precautionary measure. The delayed start for participating Pioneer Athletic Conference schools is scheduled for Sept. 7 with a first date for interscholastic competition set for Sept. 25. “We have been in touch with the Department of Health and are waiting for further direction. In the event that anyone would need to be quarantined, the Boyertown Area School District will notify them directly,” wrote Athletic Director Nick Palladino in a letter posted on the Boyertown School District website. A student-athlete testing positive for COVID-19 in Berks County has occurred before: five Berks County schools, including Exeter, Schuylkill Valley, Muhlenberg, Reading and Wyomissing, have been forced to suspend voluntary workouts since July 1. Sources indicated the positive test was from a football player, though Palladino declined to confirm, only allowing in the statement ‘an individual associated with the Boyertown Area Senior High School Football team.’

Susquenita School District to switch to hybrid learning after positive COVID tests
ABC27 Posted: Aug 28, 2020 / 10:46 AM EDT / Updated: Aug 28, 2020 / 12:14 PM EDT
DUNCANNON, Pa. (WHTM) — Susquenita School District announced Friday that its schools will transition to a hybrid learning model starting next week after the district recently has positive COVID-19 cases. The district says it will break students into two groups based on last names. “Group A” will include students with the last names A-K, and”Group B” will include students with the last names L-Z. Wednesdays will be designated as remote learning days for all students. Heavy cleaning will to occur on Wednesdays and Friday evenings/Saturdays as needed. Teachers will work remotely on Wednesdays so as not to interfere with the cleaning. The district plans to begin its hybrid learning model on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020 and it will remain in place until the end of the first marking period on Oct. 27, 2020.

Two West Shore elementary school staff test positive for COVID-19: district
Penn Live By Becky Metrick | Updated Aug 20, 2020; Posted Aug 20, 2020
Two staff members at Washington Heights Elementary School have tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email the district sent parents on Thursday. According to the email, written by Principal Michelle Trevino, a third staff member is experiencing symptoms and has a test scheduled. While the West Shore School District will start remotely next week, the letter references that families may have come into contact with the staff members while visiting the central offices or during the distribution of materials since August 12.

Second Derry Township teacher tests positive for COVID-19: district
Penn Live By Becky Metrick | Updated Aug 26, 2020; Posted Aug 26, 2020
Derry Township School District has confirmed that the Hershey Elementary School building will be closed for the remainder of the week after a second teacher tested positive for COVID-19. Spokesman Dan Tredinnick said Wednesday that the second case was also an elementary staff member. The school district is scheduled to open for classes Monday, Tredinnick said. Multiple emails have been sent to staff members by Superintendent Joseph McFarland discussing the positive cases and expressed “disappointment” in the situation. Writing about the first case, McFarland said that “we have a number of other staff who were potentially within close contact with this individual and were neither wearing masks nor adhering to the physical distancing requirements recommended by public health officials embodied in our district Health and Safety Plan.”

Central Dauphin High School student athletes test positive for coronavirus
Penn Live By Steve Marroni | Updated Aug 10, 2020; Posted Aug 10, 2020
Several student athletes at Central Dauphin High School have tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the district to cancel team workouts and gatherings for all sports for the next week.
According to school district officials, the student athletes had been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and, as a result, have received positive tests.  Numerous athletes have been present at community events as well as conditioning and practices, district officials said Monday, and as a result, the district is implementing the Central Dauphin School District Athletic Health and Safety Plan, canceling events for the next week. 

Middletown student-athlete tests positive for COVID-19, some football players to quarantine
Penn Live By Edward Sutelan | Updated Aug 24, 2020; Posted Aug 24, 2020
Middletown has learned of a positive test for the coronavirus among one of its student-athletes, and as such, members of the football team have been told to quarantine. According to an update from the Middletown School District on Monday, “certain members of the football team who may have been in close contact with this player on Thursday, August 21″ are going to be quarantined for 14 days and thus will not be allowed to return to practice until Sept. 4. And due to the Labor Day weekend, they will not be able to return “to their regularly assigned high school cohort” until Sept. 8.

Peters Township School District confirms positive COVID-19 test at high school
School district says impacted areas of Peters Township High School have been cleaned and sanitized
WTAE Action News Updated: 3:22 PM EDT Aug 26, 2020
Someone at Peters Township High School has tested positive for COVID-19, the Peters Township School District said Wednesday. A statement issued by the district said the person will not return to school until they have completed isolation procedures. It did not say whether the patient is a student or an employee. "Initial contact tracing conducted by district and Department of Health personnel indicated no close contacts," the school district said. The "impacted areas" of the school have been cleaned and sanitized, the district said. If there is a second confirmed case before Sept. 8, the school will be closed for five to seven days per Health Department guidelines, and students will have remote learning during that time, the district said.

North Hills School District teacher, student test positive for covid-19
Trib Live by JULIA FELTON   | Saturday, August 29, 2020 4:08 p.m.
North Hills School District announced Saturday that a third-grade teacher at Highcliff Elementary School and a student at North Hills High School tested positive for covid-19. The teacher was in the school Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, before symptoms appeared Wednesday evening. She was not in the building on Thursday or Friday, officials said in a letter to school district families. The teacher was tested for covid-19 on Thursday and received positive results Saturday. Highcliff Elementary School Principal Kristy Bilderback will notify families whose students were in her classroom Tuesday or Wednesday and anyone else who was in close contact with her while in the school this week. The Allegheny County Health Department will also contact anyone else who is identified as a close contact. The school district also reported a high school student who has a presumed positive case of covid-19. That student was in the high school Thursday. The Allegheny County Health Department will handle contact tracing with that student’s close contacts. Officials will directly notify anyone who was within close contact with that student without a mask on and for more than 15 minutes. Students were in all of the district’s school buildings from Tuesday through Friday, at 25% capacity. All aspects of the district’s health and safety plan were followed, according to school officials.

2 Greater Latrobe School District employees test positive for covid-19
TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Thursday, August 27, 2020 11:10 a.m.
Two employees of Greater Latrobe School District tested positive for covid-19, according to Superintendent Georgia Teppert. Administrators were informed over the weekend that the staff members were showing symptoms. The district contacted the state Department of Health, which conducted contact tracing, according to Teppert. No students were affected. Teppert said she could not disclose any identifying information about the staff members, including in which of the district’s five schools they worked. The school year is expected to begin Monday as planned, according to Teppert. Elementary school students will attend school as normal. Students in the middle and high schools will use a hybrid model, attending school some days and learning from home on others. Greater Latrobe is the latest of several local school districts with reported cases of covid-19.

Second staff member at Crawford Central School District tests positive for COVID-19
Meadville Tribune Aug 24, 2020
A second staff member at Crawford Central School District has tested positive for COVID-19, the district announced late Monday afternoon. The school district said it was informed Monday that a professional staff member that attended a "training on August 18th tested positive for COVID-19." The district said all individuals who were identified as a close contact have been contacted. On Aug. 17, the school district also reported a professional staff member testing positive for COVID-19. The district said at that time the staff member attended a training on Aug. 12.

UPDATE Bloomsburg High, Mount Carmel students tests positive for COVID-19
Sunbury Daily Item Aug 28, 2020 Updated Aug 28, 2020
Students at two school districts — Bloomsburg and Mount Carmel — have tested positive for COVID-19, according to district officials. Mount Carmel superintendent Pete Cheddar confirmed Mount Carmel's case in a letter posted to the district's website and social media this afternoon. Bloomsburg officials posted an alert on the district's website. Both schools began school on Monday. Cheddar said the student was not in attendance at school during regular school hours but was at an after-school activity this week.  "We are not giving out more specific information and trying to keep the information confidential on the student’s behalf," Cheddar wrote. Cheddar said students that were in contact with this student will quarantine for 14 days from their most recent contact with the student, as per guidance from the state Department of Health. Students who came into contact with the student have been contacted by the school district already and will also receive a follow-up phone call from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. "If any student that was in contact should exhibit any symptoms, they should contact their health care provider immediately," Cheddar wrote. "The health and safety of our students and staff is of the highest priority to our district. We have spent countless hours working in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to create Health and Safety Plans that make every effort possible to keep our students healthy and safe." The Bloomsburg case was in a high school student, school leaders said. 

Mt. Carmel student tests positive for coronavirus
 August 28, 2020 The Shenandoah Sentinel
MOUNT CARMEL, Northumberland County – One student in the Mount Carmel Area School District has tested positive for coronavirus, the district’s superintendent announced Friday afternoon. “Today we received information about a positive COVID case related to one of our students,” Superintendent Pete Cheddar wrote in a statement. ” I can’t go into details because of HIPAA (privacy laws) but I can mention that the student was not in attendance during regular school time hours but was in attendance during an after school activity this week.” Students who were in contact with the student in question will quarantine for 14 days from the last close contact, Cheddar continued. “Students that were in contact with this student have been contacted by our school district already and will also receive a follow-up phone call from the Pennsylvania Department of Health,” Cheddar wrote. “If any student that was in contact should exhibit any symptoms – they should contact their healthcare provider immediately.”

Online curricula see major increase amid pandemic
Beaver County Times by Dani Fitzgerald August 29, 2020
Cyberlearning isn't new. But in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for virtual curricula is skyrocketing.
Lincoln Learning Solutions is feeling the brunt of that. Officials with Lincoln Learning say they're experiencing unprecedented inquiries and website traffic for their online curriculum, which is popularly used by PA Cyber and other area charter schools. Since mid-March, the Beaver County-based online curriculum has seen a 233 percent increase in website traffic compared to last year, and website-based inquiries have skyrocketed by 612 percent. "We absolutely have seen an increase in the need for online and blended learning," said Dr. Rachel Book, chief of sales and marketing at Lincoln Learning Solutions. "We've been facilitating a crazy amount of sessions, webinars, and showing brick and mortar traditional teachers how to teach in these new, uncharted territories of teaching." Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lincoln Learning has nearly doubled its partnerships, now serving over 500 educational institutions across the country. 

One year after passage, progress on Scranton School District recovery plan continues
Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL STAFF WRITER Aug 31, 2020 Updated 10 min ago
In the year since the Scranton School Board approved the recovery plan, the district eliminated 3-year-old preschool, updated curriculum and balanced a budget without using one-time revenue sources for the first time since 2012. While the coronavirus pandemic slowed some progress and continues to present great financial challenges, the chief recovery officer said she is pleased with what the district has accomplished so far. “We have made giant progress,” Candis Finan, Ed.D., said. “We’ve really attacked pretty much everything in the plan.” When Finan wrote the five-year plan last year, current leaders did not know of the costly environmental problems, including lead and asbestos, that came to light in January. Less than two months later, the state ordered all school buildings closed due to the pandemic. The projected loss in tax revenue will likely affect the district for years to come. At tonight’s work session, officials plan to present a five-year capital improvement plan to the school board. The district would need to borrow money to complete the work.

How Centre County career-technical programs plan to give students hands-on experience amid pandemic
Centre Daily Times BY BRET PALLOTTO AUGUST 29, 2020 08:00 AM
More than five months of planning and discussion culminated Tuesday when several schools in Centre County reopened for the first time since March. Some districts offered a variety of learning options, including in-person, online or a combination of the two. Other schools, like the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology, were more straightforward in their offerings. The Spring Township-based career and technical education center welcomed back all of its students, who rely on in-person instruction to gain hands-on experience. And while some families have shied away from gathering at school, enrollment in CPI’s high school programs is up about 3% when compared to 2019, according to Secondary Education Vice President MaryAnn Volders. About 464 students are enrolled in high school programs for the 2020-21 academic year, up from about 450 students last year, she said. “We want to provide as much hands-on time while we’re physically in the building as we can because we expect that we’ll be closed at some point in time in the future,” Volders said. “We’re ready to do that, but it’s so important to give them as many hours of hands-on work from the very beginning.” The approach isn’t atypical for vocational schools. State College Area School District’s Career and Technical Center plans to “front-load” its classes to give students an opportunity to grasp fundamental concepts before a potential closure, Director Ben Mordan said.

West Mifflin Area School District approves transgender guidelines
Focus is on equality, privacy, no bullying
Post Gazette by DEANA CARPENTER AUG 28, 2020 11:32 AM
The West Mifflin Area School District’s school board has approved administrative guidelines for transgender and gender-expansive students in the district. Board member Matthew Blazevich had called for the guidelines in February, saying they would “reduce the stigma of transgender and gender identity issues.” After months of work by the board’s policy committee and their solicitor, the guidelines were unanimously approved during the board’s Aug. 20 virtual meeting. The 12-page set of guidelines states: “The district shall ensure that transgender and gender expansive students are provided with an equal opportunity to achieve their maximum potential through district programs, as well as provided with equal access to all school programs and activities.” It also outlines that “harassment, bullying and discrimination on the basis of actual or preferred sex, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression shall be prohibited in the district.” The guidelines also provide for students’ rights to privacy, including keeping a student’s actual or perceived gender identity and expression private.

School districts may sue Delco over residential reassessments
At least three school districts are considering taking Delaware County to task for a perceived negative impact to homeowners stemming from reassessment allegedly increasing the burden of real estate taxes for residents. Marple Newtown, Radnor Township and Springfield school boards all took action this week to address what they see as an "unfair and inequitable shift" of the real estate tax bill to residents. Delaware County has been undergoing a countywide reassessment by court order with new values set to take hold in the 2021 tax year. Delaware County Councilwoman Christine Reuther outlined the process to this point and responded to these districts' concerns.

Garnet Valley starts virtual instruction on Sept. 1
Delco Times By Susan L. Serbin Times Correspondent August 30, 2020
CONCORD — In late August, the school board held its final meeting prior to opening the 2020-2021 school year. Garnet Valley School District is in line with most other county districts in observing the recommendation made by the Chester County Health Department. which asserted that “public and private K to 12 schools in Chester County and Delaware County should begin their academic year virtually and assess their ability to transition to a more in-person instructional model after Oct. 9, 2020.” Start date is Sept. 1, with three days of virtual attendance for students; a break of Sept. 4 and 7 for Labor Day, and back at the family’s chosen place for at-home schooling in earnest on Sept. 8. “We adamantly want kids in school,” said Superintendent Marc Bertrando, “but not until we can comply.”

Springfield (Delco) gears up for virtual school openings
Delco Times By Susan L. Serbin Times Correspondent Aug 30, 2020
SPRINGFIELD — The school board, administrators and staff have a laser focus on everything leading up to the first student day on Sept. 8. Months of preparation have been put into opening in an all-virtual mode. This follows the aggregate information  - at the national level from the Centers for Disease Control; state recommendations, and hard data collected for the district and Delaware County as a whole, working with the Chester County Health Department. Technology is an essential requirement, and the district continues to work on “managing and expanding” every aspect, said Melissa Butler, director of communications and technology. During the first week in September, computer hardware will be distributed with the goal of every student having a device, which now will include grade K-5. Butler said the main servers will be moved into the new high school building. Information on procedures will be continuously rolled out to the school community when developed and as needed.

‘End of the Line’: School Bus Industry in Crisis Because of the Coronavirus
Industry leaders say it will be the nation’s schoolchildren and parents who will suffer, as they alter their lives and figure out how to replace a mode of transportation that was once a certainty.
New York Times By Pranshu Verma Aug. 28, 2020
WASHINGTON — When Glenn Every received notice in early March that schools in the Hudson Valley of New York would close because of the coronavirus pandemic, he parked his fleet of 20 school buses thinking they would be running again in a few months. But the pandemic worsened, and schools remained shuttered. School administrators told Mr. Every that if students stayed home, they could not pay buses to remain idle. His costs remained, and any chance of making up for lost revenue with after-school or summer contracts was wiped away by the pandemic. To stay afloat, he furloughed nearly all 32 of his staff members, including his son. All told, his company has lost $750,000 because of the pandemic, a critical blow for his business, which averages $2 million a year in revenue. Now, Mr. Every worries that when schools are able to reopen fully, his company may not be there to take children to class. “We’ve been in business for over 60 years,” he said. “But this may be the end of the line for us.” Privately owned bus companies, which carry nearly 10 million children to school a year, account for roughly 40 percent of the school bus industry — and now are facing an unparalleled threat to their survival.

U.S. Coronavirus Rates Are Rising Fast Among Children
New York Times By Lauren Leatherby and Lisa Waananen Jones Aug. 31, 2020
As some schools begin in-person classes, data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics from the summer show that cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus have increased at a faster rate in children and teenagers than among the general public. The data set, which spans from May 21 to Aug. 20, varies from state to state, possibly obscuring differences in how the virus affects infants, young children and adolescents. For example, many states group infants and teenagers into the same category. One state even includes people up to age 24. But the rise remains similar across states. Young children seem to catch and transmit the virus less than adults, and children of all ages tend not to experience severe complications from it. But Dr. Sean O’Leary, vice chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases, said that substantial community spread in many parts of the United States corresponded with more infections among children. The rise in reported cases comes in part from more widespread testing, but Dr. O’Leary said there was evidence that minors were becoming infected at a higher rate now than earlier in the year because hospitalizations and deaths among children had increased as well. Although much is still unknown about how the virus affects young people, like adults, Black and Latino children who contract the virus are more likely to be hospitalized.

Second Judge Blocks DeVos' Virus Relief Rule, Calls Her Reasoning 'Jiggery-Pokery'
Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa on August 26, 2020 10:18 PM
A second federal judge has ruled against Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her department's controversial rule governing how much coronavirus aid relief public schools must set aside for private school students. Public school officials and advocates have sharply criticized her rule, saying it siphons money away from their schools at a time of immense need for many students during the pandemic.  U.S. District Judge James Donato granted a preliminary injunction blocking the U.S. Department of Education from implementing or enforcing its interim final rule in several states and school districts while he hears arguments in the case. It marks the second time in less than a week that a federal judge has ruled against DeVos on the issue. In both cases, judges issued blunt criticisms of the directive. The rule, which the department officially released on July 1, governs virus relief money in the CARES Act. It directs schools to set aside money for what's known as "equitable services" for all local private school students, if they want to use the remaining money for all their local public schools. That's a departure from how federal law typically handles those services, which are normally provided to disadvantaged and at-risk students in private schools. Read more background on equitable services here

Blogger commentary:
Parents considering cyber charters due to COVID might not be aware of their 20 year consistent track record of academic underperformance. As those parents face an expected blitz of advertising by cybers, in order for them to make a more informed decision, you might consider providing them with some of the info listed below:

A June 2 paper from the highly respected Brookings Institution stated, “We find the impact of attending a virtual charter on student achievement is uniformly and profoundly negative,” and then went on to say that “there is no evidence that virtual charter students improve in subsequent years.”

In 2016, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and the national charter lobbying group 50CAN released a report on cyber charters that found that overall, cyber students make no significant gains in math and less than half the gains in reading compared with their peers in traditional public schools.

Stanford University CREDO Study in 2015 found that cyber students on average lost 72 days a year in reading and 180 days a year in math compared with students in traditional public schools.

From 2005 through 2012 under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, most Pennsylvania cybers never made “adequate yearly progress.”

Following NCLB, for all five years (2013-2017) that Pennsylvania’s School Performance Profile system was in place, not one cyber charter ever achieved a passing score of 70.

Under Pennsylvania’s current accountability system, the Future Ready PA Index, all 15 cyber charters that operated 2018-2019 have been identified for some level of support and improvement.

PA SCHOOLS WORK WEBINAR : Public School Advocacy in the New Normal of a COVID-19 World; Tue, Sep 15, 2020 12:00 PM - 12:45 PM EDT
For the foreseeable future, COVID-19 is a part of our everyday lives. More parents and community members than ever before have engaged at the school district level as schools wrestled with their options for reopening this fall. This conversation will be about continuing our advocacy for public schools, and how the challenges districts are facing in the COVID-19 era are magnified by long-term inequities in our funding system and years of lackluster financial support for public education from state government. So, what can we do about it? Come find out

PSBA Fall Virtual Advocacy Day: OCT 8, 2020 • 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sign up now for PSBA’s Virtual Advocacy Day this fall!
All public school leaders are invited to join us for our fall Virtual Advocacy Day on Thursday, October 8, 2020, via Zoom. We need all of you to help strengthen our advocacy impact. The day will center around contacting legislators to discuss critical issues affecting public education. Registrants will receive the meeting invitation with a link to our fall Virtual Advocacy Day website that contains talking points, a link to locate contact information for your legislator and additional information to help you have a successful day.
Cost: As a membership benefit, there is no cost to register.
Registration: School directors can register online now by logging in to myPSBA. If you have questions about Virtual Advocacy Day, or need additional information, contact

Save The Date: The PSBA 2020 Equity Summit is happening virtually on October 13th.
Discover how to build a foundation for equity in practice and policy.

PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference October 14-15 Virtual
Registration is now open for the first ever virtual School Leadership Conference! Join us for all-new educational sessions, dynamic speakers, exhibitors, and more! Visit the website for registration information: #PASLC20

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.

292 PA school boards have adopted charter reform resolutions
Charter school funding reform continues to be a concern as over 290 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.