Wednesday, September 30, 2020

PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 30, 2020: HB2696: PA House Ed Committee plans to vote tomorrow morning on voucher bill that would hand $500M in federal dollars to unaccountable private & religious schools

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PA Ed Policy Roundup for September 30, 2020

HB2696: PA House Ed Committee plans to vote tomorrow morning on voucher bill that would hand $500M in federal dollars to unaccountable private & religious schools



The Ed Policy Roundup will be offline Thursday, Friday and Monday; returning on Tuesday October 6th



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

Taxpayers in House Ed Committee Member David Hickernell’s school districts paid over $6.5 million in 2018-2019 cyber charter tuition. Statewide, PA taxpayers paid over $600 million for cyber charter tuition in 2018-2019.


Columbia Borough SD


Donegal SD


Elizabethtown Area SD


Hempfield SD


Lower Dauphin SD




Source: PDE via PSBA



HB2696: PA House Ed Committee plans to vote tomorrow morning on voucher bill that would hand $500M in federal dollars to unaccountable private & religious schools

Here’s a link to the bill:


Here’s a link to the members of the House Education Committee.


 “Across the United States, the disparities between poor and affluent districts are growing as school boards face increased costs from the pandemic - including technology for remote learning and safety measures such as cleaning - at a time of declining tax revenues. Students in urban school districts, including York, are also more likely to see in-person learning halted because of higher levels of coronavirus spread in more densely populated areas.”

Unequal education: Pandemic widens race, class gaps in U.S. schools

Reuters By Nathan Layne 10 MIN READ SEPTEMBER 29, 20207:08 AM

YORK, Pa. (Reuters) - Natalie Cruz, 12, missed math and language arts instruction one recent morning because the school’s virtual interface would not load. Carlos, her 8-year-old brother, sat beside her at the kitchen table, studying with last year’s workbooks because the district had yet to supply him with a PC, weeks after instruction started online. Across town, Zachary and Zeno Lentz, 5 and 9, were at their high-performing elementary schools, where they attend in-person on Tuesdays and Fridays. They learn remotely the other three days, assisted by their college-educated mother, a social worker who can do her job from home. The Cruz and Lentz children are separated by just a few miles in York, Pennsylvania. But they are a world apart in educational opportunities, a gap education experts say has widened amid the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic. Belen Cruz, a single mother and nurse, is most worried about Natalie, who has learning difficulties and would benefit from in-person support. The mother can’t afford a tutor and on weekdays usually leaves both children with her parents, who don’t speak English well, while she works at a nursing home. “I think she will be behind,” Cruz said, sitting in her two-bedroom row home in a working-class neighborhood. Her children’s schools are in the York City district, whose student population, about half Latino and one-third Black, scores well below average on the state’s standardized proficiency exams. The Lentz family lives in the predominantly white York Suburban district, which boasts above-average scores on the tests.


“One of major concerns Powell outlined was its lack of support for students with special needs and English language learners. The application, she said, states that additional staffing for such populations aren't necessary, "because students are hard workers." The application also projects a nearly $5 million budget deficit in five years, raising questions about the school's sources of revenue, Powell said. What's more, the application did not include any letters of support for the school from the Lancaster community.”

An 'extremely negligent application': Lancaster school board sharply criticizes sports-centered charter school proposal

Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer September 30, 2020

Inconsistent. Vague. Negligent. Those are the words School District of Lancaster administration and school board members used during a hearing Tuesday night to describe an application for a sports-infused charter school within the district's boundaries. They castigated the application for its apparent lack of detail related to its programming and curriculum, deficient support for students learning English as a second language and students requiring special education services, conflicting and unclear information regarding staffing and budgeting, as well as its apparently nonexistent community support. The proposed charter school, called the AFCLL Academy Charter School, would serve students in grades five through eight and focus on educating children through sports, particularly soccer. Its plan is to serve about 100 students starting in August 2021, with the hopes of doubling enrollment in five years. Applying for the school is a group led by AFC Lancaster Lions pro soccer club founder Brian Ombiji. To open, the charter school application must be approved by the school board. A vote is expected to occur at its Oct. 20 meeting. According to the administration's recommendation Tuesday, it doesn't appear likely that it'll be approved. "The administration cannot endorse this charter application," Carol Powell, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, told the board during a 20-minute presentation summarizing various concerns with the application.


Campaign Finance 101: How big money influences our politics, and how small money could be an answer

PA Capital Star By  Stephen Caruso September 30, 2020

Money is everywhere in American politics.

It funds the campaign ads interrupting your streaming service, the glossy brochures clogging your mailbox, as well as the incessant buzzing of text messages imploring you to vote. That money comes in all shapes and sizes, from your neighbor with a spare $10 all the way to the powerful interest groups who spend millions of dollars to fund an entire campaign. Elected officials will argue that the contributions that interest groups make to candidates, whether it’s Planned Parenthood, a police union, or a fossil fuel company, are not intended to buy support.  Instead, it’s the other way around, they argue. Interest groups, seeing a like-minded politician, will invest in an ally. But it’s hard not to see the conflict when policies that help big donors are favored by politicians, and policies that hurt those groups are ignored, impacting such issues as gambling and worker’s compensation or such industries as insurance and natural gas.

So how does this many-tentacled system work, and why should you care?


Months into the pandemic, digital divide still leaves poor kids at a disadvantage

PA Capital Star By  Ariana Figueroa September 29, 2020

Members of the U.S. Senate are pushing for $4 billion in the next coronavirus relief package to help students in rural and low-income areas gain access to high speed internet. A digital divide that emerged as a major problem when schools shut down amid the pandemic last spring has persisted into the new academic year, and advocates for funding say help is urgently needed for kids whose schools remain partly or entirely online. For many students, it’s not clear when schools will fully open again for in-person learning, with warnings of new outbreaks as flu season arrives. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten the health and safety of our children and our families, we must ensure students have the ability to learn from home,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who’s been pushing for additional funds and an expanded federal access program, said in a statement to Maryland Matters.  “But far too many children lack the equipment or the internet access they need — worsening the already present ‘homework gap’ into a full-blown ‘learning gap.’”


COVID-19 cases rising among US children as schools reopen

WHYY By Associated Press Lindsey Tanner September 29, 2020

After preying heavily on the elderly in the spring, the coronavirus is increasingly infecting American children and teens in a trend authorities say appears driven by school reopenings and the resumption of sports, playdates and other activities. Children of all ages now make up 10% of all U.S cases, up from 2% in April, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported Tuesday. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that the incidence of COVID-19 in school-age children began rising in early September as many youngsters returned to their classrooms. About two times more teens were infected than younger children, the CDC report said. Most infected children have mild cases; hospitalizations and death rates are much lower than in adults. Dr. Sally Goza, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the rising numbers are a big concern and underscore the importance of masks, hand-washing, social distancing and other precautions. “While children generally don’t get as sick with the coronavirus as adults, they are not immune and there is much to learn about how easily they can transmit it to others,’’ she said in a statement.


Guest commentary: Schools need funding boost more than ever [Opinion]

Reading Eagle Opinion By Becky Ellis, Reading School Board Sep 28, 2020

Most years, the first day of school arrives with anticipation and possibility as students, parents, teachers, and administrators look forward to the hope and promise of a new year. This year is different. The return to school has engendered uncertainty and even frustration. Each school district is struggling to balance safety and educational quality in a COVID-19 world, and to do so in a way that is best for their own communities. There are no easy answers. Remote learning may be more successful in protecting the public health, but let’s face it, for the overwhelming number of students, a virtual education is no substitute for traditional, face-to-face learning. It also puts a greater strain on parents juggling jobs while serving as “teacher’s aides” for their children. But reopening too widely and too soon can put students, teachers, and school workers at risk. School leaders face this balancing act under public pressure from all sides and with continually changing conditions and health guidance. So as our schools continue to juggle their reopening plans, whether they’re in-person, virtual or somewhere in between, it is in everyone’s best interest to take a deep breath and recognize that we all want what is best for Pennsylvania’s 1.7 million students. We all want them to stay on track educationally while keeping them, and their families, healthy and safe.


Hopewell High School student tests positive for covid-19, superintendent says

Trib Live BRIAN C. RITTMEYER   | Wednesday, September 30, 2020 5:31 a.m.

A senior at Hopewell High School has tested positive for covid-19, according to a letter from the district to parents. District administration was notified of the case Tuesday, Superintendent Michelle Miller said in the letter. The student was last in district buildings on Sept. 23. “Since receiving this information, we have begun the process of identifying individuals that may have come in contact with this individual during the time frame provided to us,” Miller wrote. Miller said that the district will focus additional attention on cleaning and sanitizing rooms in which the student was present.


Bucks schools report very few cases of COVID-19

Chris English Bucks County Courier Times September 29, 2020

It's so far, so good at three Bucks County school districts that are conducting in-person instruction, and are almost COVID-19 free. Palisades has had no positive tests among students, Pennridge reports two cases among students and one with staff, and Quakertown Community has four student cases and none among staff. Those QCSD numbers include a student from Richland Elementary School reported late last week, while Pennridge reported an additional student and the one staff member on Monday


“In every case so far it has not been in school, it’s been generally family members, parents who are working elsewhere, spouses for our staff,” Roy said in a video message, adding later: “So no case has been contracted in school, we know that. And we have not seen a spread of the virus, we know that through our contact tracing.”

Why Bethlehem hasn’t closed any schools, despite COVID-19 cases in half its buildings

Lehigh Valley Live By Kurt Bresswein | For Updated Sep 29, 2020; Posted Sep 29, 2020

With 17 total cases of COVID-19 over about a month of school, Bethlehem Area schools Superintendent Joseph Roy updated the community Tuesday on the district’s plans to keep buildings open as infections are confirmed. Since classes started Aug. 31, the district has seen cases of the coronavirus illness in 11 of 22 schools, according to Roy. Those 17 cases, plus two in eClassroom students who are learning full time from home, have come in a district of 13,000 students and a few thousand employees, he noted. “We’re talking about 15,000 people directly connected to the schools so 17 cases is about one-tenth of 1% of the population,” he said. When a case does crop up, the district works with the Bethlehem Health Bureau to determine where a student or staff member became infected and to identify anyone with whom they’ve come in close contact -- defined as within six feet for more than 15 minutes, even while masked.


Student at Greater Johnstown School District tests positive for COVID-19

WTAJ by: Kelsey Rogers Posted: Sep 29, 2020 / 04:43 PM EDT / Updated: Sep 29, 2020 / 04:43 PM EDT

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (WTAJ) — A student at Greater Johnstown School District has tested positive for COVID-19, the district announced on Tuesday. In a letter to families, Superintendent Amy Arcurio said the high school student has not been in school since Sept. 16 due to the hybrid schedule. However, the student did attend a basketball open gym on Sept. 21. The district has identified and contacted the six players and one coach that had direct contact with the student that tested positive. They will be required to quarantine for 14 days. All open gyms for the men’s basketball program have been canceled until Oct. 6, according to Arcurio. At the time, no other players or coaches are experiencing symptoms.


Lancaster County schools are bringing more students back in-person, despite fears over winter COVID-19 surge

Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer Sep 29, 2020

When educators said this would be an unprecedented school year, they weren’t lying. After spending months discussing how to safely reopen schools this fall, officials at several Lancaster County school districts are now reevaluating their initial reopening plans. At least four school districts have considered adding more in-person learning to their original plans. But with changes to instructional models come increased concerns over whether students can stay socially distanced, a practice public health experts say is vital to mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The threat posed by the virus has not eased in recent weeks. The number of positive test results in Lancaster County has grown since late last month, when most county schools resumed instruction for the fall. The 14-day rate of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in Lancaster County was at 97 on Sept. 25, up slightly from 95 on Aug. 25. For some parents, the rush to return to in-person learning is premature.


At least 3 dozen COVID-19 cases have been reported at Lancaster County schools. Here's where they are [update]

Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer  Sep 29, 2020

At least three dozen cases of COVID-19 have been reported at Lancaster County schools about a month into the 2020-21 school year. The cases come from 12 school districts, plus a brick-and-mortar charter school in Lancaster city. And that might not be all. With the Pennsylvania Department of Health not tracking COVID-19 cases in schools, it's up to each district to notify the community of a positive test from someone inside its schools.


Freedom Area suspends girls volleyball, soccer after positive COVID-19 tests

Beaver County Times by Andrew Chiappazzi September 29, 2020

The Freedom Area School District has canceled all activities for its girls volleyball and soccer teams through Monday, October 5 after receiving word of multiple positive COVID-19 tests involving those teams. Freedom superintendent Jeffrey A. Fuller posted a notice to the district community on the district website.  "We have received confirmation that a few of the athletes on our girl's volleyball and soccer teams have tested positive for COVID-19. After speaking to the Department of Health, those students and their families have been asked to self-quarantine," Fuller's statement read. "Additionally, we have canceled all activities for both the girl's volleyball and soccer teams through Monday, October 5 to stem the spread of the virus. We will continue to monitor this situation and will adjust this plan as necessary.


Bishop Shanahan football, boys soccer halted before they begin

By Peter DiGiovanni and Neil Geoghegan  papreplive September 28, 2020

Already a week behind the rest of the Ches-Mont League in getting fall sports started, the Bishop Shanahan football and boys soccer teams were reportedly shut down for 14 days due to a positive COVID-19 test on Monday, Pa. Prep Live has learned. Monday was supposed to be the first official day of fall sports practice at Bishop Shanahan, after getting a green light from the Philadelphia Archdiocese last week. The rest of the Ches-Mont League began practice last Monday or Tuesday. A Pa. Prep Live reporter, upon arriving at Bishop Shanahan on Monday to observe practice, observed football players being told to go home due to a positive test. No details were given about whether that positive case was a player on the team or another individual in proximity to the team. “We’re shut down for 14 days, and we’ll see what happens after that,” said Bishop Shanahan football coach Paul Meyers.


Idle school bus drivers in Ridley dispatched to deliver food to student families

Inquirer by Alfred Lubrano, Posted: 38 minutes ago

Yellow as a No. 2 pencil, a school bus rolls up and down Eddystone’s working-class streets one gray morning. It’s an odd sight in the time of COVID-19. Many of the kids in the Ridley School District, which includes about 10 communities, including Eddystone, are learning remotely these days. So who’s on the bus? Turns out, driver Donna Sullivan has but one passenger: Joanne Coskey, a 53-year-old district kitchen worker and bus aide whom everyone calls the “Energizer Bunny,” briskly delivering breakfasts and lunches to students' homes with unflagging vigor five days a week. “Thank you,” parents and children yell from porches and windows, but the kinetic Coskey’s already gone, bopping onto School Bus No. 39 and readying a food bundle for the next in a total of 84 stops. The bus is one of 10 delivering to 675 kids that same day. Marrying the commitment to feed students with the desire to put pandemic-sidelined school bus drivers and aides back to work, the Ridley School District hit on a plan that helps all of them at once. The meals it dispatches run the gamut of free, reduced-price, and full-pay.



PSBA continues push for permanent mandate waiver program


With a short fall legislative session scheduled for the General Assembly, PSBA is continuing efforts to advocate for the major state-level issues identified by public school leaders as being of the most concern during this pandemic.  One of the key issues is the need for broad, permanent relief from mandates that consume much of districts' budgets and stifle innovation. PSBA worked with Senator Langerholc (R-Cambria) to introduce Senate Bill 1286, which would establish a mandate waiver program similar to the highly popular and successful one which operated in Pennsylvania from 2000 to 2010. The proposal would allow public schools to apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for a waiver of many state-imposed mandates if the school can show that its instructional program will improve or the school will operate in a more effective, efficient, or economical manner. Certain laws and regulations would not be waivable, such as those relating to student safety, academic standards and assessments, special education, protected handicapped students, gifted education, student attendance, professional educator conduct standards, among others. 
Click here for a detailed summary of Senate Bill 1286. 
PSBA is asking school boards to join this advocacy effort and adopt the resolution urging the General Assembly to provide critical support and costs savings to school districts through approval of a permanent mandate waiver program. The PSBA resolution can be 
downloaded and submitted to PSBA online


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.

Learn more:


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


What to expect at this year’s School Leadership Conference


At the 2020 PASA-PSBA School Leadership Conference on October 14-15, you'll encounter the same high-quality experience you've come to expect, via new virtual platform. Hear world-class speakers and relevant educational sessions, and network with exhibitors and attendees — from the comfort of your home or office on any internet-enabled device.

The virtual conference platform is accessible via a unique link provided to each registrant about a week before conference. No additional app downloads are required. The intuitive 3D interface is easy to use and immersive — you'll feel like you're on location. Registrants will be able to explore the space a day before conference starts. Highlights include: 

  • Virtual exhibit hall 
  • Interactive lobby area and information desk 
  • Virtual auditorium 
  • Digital swag bag 
  • Scavenger hunt 

This year, conference is completely free to attend! Be among the first 125 to register, and receive a special pre-conference swag bag, sent to your home. Click here for more information about how to register.


Adopt the resolution against racial inequity!

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


Adopt the 2020 PSBA resolution for charter school funding reform

In this legislative session, PSBA has been leading the charge with the Senate, House of Representatives and the Governor’s Administration to push for positive charter reform. We’re now asking you to join the campaign: Adopt the resolution: We’re asking all school boards to adopt the 2020 resolution for charter school funding reform at your next board meeting and submit it to your legislators and to PSBA.

Resolution for charter funding reform (pdf)

Link to submit your adopted resolution to PSBA


296 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.

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


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

PSBA Charter Change Website:


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


Any comments contained herein are my comments, alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or organization that I may be affiliated with.