Friday, January 29, 2021

PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 29: “Hold Harmless”: Pennsylvania distributes billions of dollars of education funding based on enrollment numbers last updated in 1991

Started in November 2010, daily postings from the Keystone State Education Coalition now reach more than 4050 Pennsylvania education policymakers – school directors, administrators, legislators, legislative and congressional staffers, Governor's staff, current/former PA Secretaries of Education, superintendents, school solicitors, principals, charter school leaders, PTO/PTA officers, parent advocates, teacher leaders, business leaders, faith-based organizations, labor organizations, education professors, members of the press and a broad array of P-16 regulatory agencies, professional associations and education advocacy organizations via emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.


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Keystone State Education Coalition

PA Ed Policy Roundup for January 29, 2021

“Hold Harmless”: Pennsylvania distributes billions of dollars of education funding based on enrollment numbers last updated in 1991



PSBA Spring Virtual Advocacy Day March 22 via Zoom

@PSBA @PASA public school leaders are invited to join us for our spring Virtual Advocacy Day on Monday, March 22, 2021, via Zoom. Registration on



“While a single deficiency would be grounds for denial, the Department has identified deficiencies for every criterion”

@PADeptofEd has denied the Executive Education Cyber Charter School application that was submitted on Sept. 22, 2020

“Based on a review of the written application, questions and responses recorded at the November 12 Hearing, and public comments concerning the application, the Department denies Executive Education’s application. While a single deficiency would be grounds for denial, the Department has identified deficiencies for every criterion.”


Hold “Harmless”: A Quarter Century of Inequity at the Heart of Pennsylvania’s School System

PCCY Report January 2021


Pennsylvania distributes billions of dollars of education funding based on enrollment numbers last updated in 1991.  As a result, some wealthy school districts are getting far more dollars-per-student than others in lower-income areas.

Advocates highlight how Pa.’s outdated school funding policy causes deep inequities

WHYY By Miles Bryan January 28, 2021

Pennsylvania distributes billions of dollars of education funding based on enrollment numbers last updated in 1991. As a result, some wealthy school districts are getting far more dollars-per-student than others in lower-income areas. That’s one of the conclusions reached by a new report on inequities in how the commonwealth funds education, published Wednesday by the nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizens for Children and Youth. The report focuses on Pennsylvania’s ‘hold harmless’ policy. Enacted in 1991, it bars the state from funding school districts at levels lower than the prior year. When it was implemented, districts appreciated its guarantee of predictability, making it easier for school boards to make long-term plans. Over time, as the student enrollment plummeted in some places and surged in others, it’s added to the wide inequities that exist in Pennsylvania public schools. In 2016, the state passed a new student-based funding formula that more closely tied dollars to need, but lawmakers decided to use it only to distribute increases in aid. Five years later, nearly 90% of the state’s $6.8 billion basic education subsidy is still distributed based on hold harmless.  Advocates have been criticizing the policy for years. PCCY’s report found that the two-thirds of Pennsylvania school districts where enrollment has shrunk over the last thirty years receive far more funding per pupil from the state than the others that have grown. Pennsylvania’s Black and Latino students are the most negatively impacted: The report states more than 80% of them are located in growing school districts that would benefit tremendously by axing hold harmless and running all state funding through the 2016 formula.


Follow-up Lehigh Valley School Funding Lawsuit

Education Voters PA/Bethlehem Area Proud Parents January 28, 2021

Author : BASDproudparent Category : fair fundingFundingStay Informed

An update on the Lehigh Valley School Funding Lawsuit from Education Voters of PA

From a webinar with attorneys from the Education Law Center and Public Interest Law Center about Pennsylvania’s historic school funding lawsuit. Please find attached the slides from last night’s presentation. For more information about the school funding lawsuit, please visit  You may find both a recording of a general webinar both in English and with a Spanish translation here:

What can you do now to advocate now?


Funding sub-standard cyber schools

The Sunbury Daily Item Commentary January 28, 2021

This commentary was written by members of the Shamokin Area School Board and school administrators. Shamokin Area School Board: Brian Persing, Melissa Hovenstine, Erik Anderson, Laura Scandle, Jeff Kashner, Ed Griffiths, Charlie Shuey, Rosalie Smoogen, Bernie Sosnoskie. Superintendent: Chris Venna, Business Manager: Karen Colangelo.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there has been a huge increase in cyber charter school enrollment across the country, including in Pennsylvania where cyber charter school enrollment is up by 63% to 62,000 students as of Oct. 1, 2020. Locally in the Shamokin Area School District cyber enrollment is up 17%. This trend should have Pennsylvania parents and taxpayers, including those in the Shamokin Area, extremely concerned about the financial implications this enrollment increase will have on school districts. To put this impact into numbers, school districts can expect as much as a $350 million dollar increase in their cyber charter tuition bills this year alone, due to the pandemic-generated cyber charter school enrollment increases. It’s important to keep in mind that this massive sum is only part of the $475 million overall cyber charter school tuition increase this school year that school districts are facing in addition to navigating through a global pandemic. The $475 million increase in cyber charter school tuition this school year effectively nullifies the majority of the federal funds public schools received under the CARES Act.

This means most of those funds will not have their intended impact — to aid our public schools in a time of crisis. Moreover, the Act 1 index rate will not allow an increase in property taxes to cover the gap in increased cyber charter school payments, leaving hopelessly unbalanced budgets.

The impact on the SASD budget is immense. We received $834,272 in CARES Act money and will spend $2.1 million in cyber school tuition, $300,000 more than was budgeted due to the unknown increase in enrollment.


“In past years, there’s been a steady rise in students making the switch to charter. Usually, close to two-thirds choose cyber, the remaining, just over one-third, opt for brick-and-mortar, Celmer said. But during the past year, 100% of students who left for charter picked cyber schools. With each student goes $10,000 from the school district that they must pay to the charter school, he said. For each special education student, that number jumps to $28,000. For the 200 students the district lost this year, Celmer said they are looking at a $2 to $3 million payout.”

CARES Act funding under fire, as Harrisburg School District loses students to cyber charters

The Burg JANUARY 28, 2021 | by Maddie Conley Gittens

Inequity has been an issue for decades, according to Acting Superintendent for the Harrisburg School District, Chris Celmer. He was referring to what he sees as unfair funding for charter schools—specifically cyber charters. While he’s spoken on this numerous times, this time had a new edge to it—new meaning. Allocation amounts of second-round federal CARES Act funding recently were announced, and Celmer expressed his disappointment in what he saw. When the pandemic hit, the Harrisburg School District had to pivot quickly, like most brick and mortar schools, closing classrooms and doling out laptops. They scrambled to create options for students, knowing what would inevitably come and trying desperately to stop it. The district formed the Harrisburg Virtual Learning Academy (HVLA), a cyber-only alternative to their mainstream option in which students will eventually return to the classroom. “We understand that we need to provide options for our students and families, and we are willing to put in the time, money and effort to do so,” Celmer said. And yet, that didn’t stop over 200 students from moving to charter schools. He said, without HVLA, which has over 200 students, the number could’ve been closer to 500.


West Chester Area School District Denies Charter School Application

January 28, 2021 - by MyChesCo -

WEST CHESTER, PA — The West Chester Area School District Board of Directors this week denied the application of Skills for Life Charter School. “The administration has spent many hours reviewing this application to determine if it has met the four standards in the charter school law. We have found it doesn’t meet any of the four standards,” said Dr. Jim Scanlon, WCASD Superintendent. “The application doesn’t demonstrate sustainable support from the community or how it will support comprehensive learning experiences for students. The application also fails to provide any fiscal stability to operate, nor does it serve as a model for other public schools,” continued Scanlon. The Skills for Life Charter School application was filed on November 15, 2020, and presented to the school board via Zoom during a special hearing on December 7, 2020. “While we appreciate the applicant’s passion for bringing this to the board, the application falls short of meeting the standards for a charter school,” said Chris McCune, WCASD School Board President. The applicant has 60 days to file an appeal to the Pennsylvania Charter Appeals Board. According to the application, Skills for Life Charter School is designed to be a micro-charter school serving approximately 15 students in grades 1- 8. The proposed location for the school is 355 West Market Street in West Chester.


Most Philly kids off track on reading; school board grills Hite

By 2026, 62% of third graders should be reading on grade level; based on standardized tests administered this fall, the district is off track, with 35% of children meeting standards.

Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham Updated Jan 28, 2021

Only 33% of Philadelphia third graders read at grade level, and the school board wants to know what Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. is going to do about it. On Thursday night, the school board launched a new approach to monitoring the Philadelphia School District and its schools chief, examining in great detail how city students fare on reading assessments and what might be needed to advance sluggish progress. Late last year, the board adopted a goal of having 62% of third graders reading at grade level by 2026. Based on standardized tests administered this fall, however, the district is off track — with only 35% of children meeting reading standards. Reading at third grade is significant; research shows that children who are proficient readers by the end of that year are likely to graduate from high school.


‘We should not rush this’: Students demand a voice in Philadelphia’s reopening plans

Chalkbeat Philly By Johann Calhoun  Jan 28, 2021, 4:17pm EST

Brandon Archer, a senior at Masterman High School, has accepted the fact he may never experience a prom or walk across the stage for his graduation. But he and others his age are taking issue with the Philadelphia school district’s reopening plan, calling it “rushed.” A coalition of student leaders from a mix of schools and organizations gathered on Wednesday evening to discuss the district’s reopening plans with Chalkbeat. Their view was unanimous: The district should “slow down” the process and involve more students in the planning. Student representatives from Philadelphia Student Union, Philadelphia Black Student Alliance, UrbEd and the Bullhorn attended the roundtable discussion. “The district needs to be transparent about these processes,” said Archer, who is a member of UrbEd and the Philadelphia Black Student Alliance. “If we expect parents to make a decision if they are ready for their child to go back to school, we need to make sure that our parents are informed of what that entails — if it is just two days a week.” Superintendent William Hite announced on Wednesday a reopening plan that calls for prekindergarten through second grade students to come back two days a week, in shifts, beginning Feb. 22. Staff supporting those grades will return to school buildings on Feb. 8.


Philly school board expresses support for return to classrooms at meeting with limited public comment

WHYY By Emily Rizzo January 28, 2021

At a Philadelphia Board of Education meeting that featured unusually limited public comment, board members expressed support for Superintendent William Hite’s plan to start in-person learning for pre-registered Pre-K through grade 2 students on Feb 22.  Cohorts of students would be in classrooms two days a week. Pertinent staff are expected to report to schools on February 8.  No formal vote on the matter was taken Thursday, as the board granted the district authority over the summer to reconvene classroom learning. At the start of the meeting, Hite said virtual learning has caused learning loss and physical and mental health issues.  “A lack of in person learning unfortunately disproportionately harms our low income students,” he said. “Our most vulnerable children are falling farther behind.” Much of the public testimony about the return plan came from parents and teachers who expressed disdain for the hybrid model. Most were concerned with the risk of contracting COVID-19, especially with new strains in the U.S. and the slow roll-out of vaccines.


Philly schools announce plans for students return in February

PA Capital Star Special to the Capital-Star By Chanel Hill January 28, 2021

PHILADELPHIA — School District of Philadelphia administrators announced Wednesday plans to transition to a hybrid learning model – a mix of in-person learning and remote learning – starting Feb. 22 for pre-k to second grade students. Staff supporting pre-k to second grade students will return to school buildings Feb. 8 to prepare for students later that month. It will be the first time District students will have in-person learning since last March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. “We know that while some students can thrive in a digital learning environment, many do not,” said School District of Philadelphia superintendent William Hite. “Some of our most vulnerable students, including younger learners, are at risk of falling behind. “Escalating violence and feelings of isolation are all tragic consequences of the pandemic, further threatening the health and well-being of our young people,” he added. “Resuming in-person learning opportunities is a crucial step to help restore a much-needed sense of familiarity, community and connectedness for students and families.”


“Marten has been superintendent of San Diego Unified since 2013. But before that she had been a teacher for 17 years, as well as principal of San Diego’s Central Elementary School, a school in the diverse City Heights neighborhood where 96% of students qualify for free and reduced-priced meals.”

San Diego superintendent will bring years of teaching to U.S. deputy education secretary post 


On the campaign trail, Joe Biden promised to select a teacher to be his secretary of education. Just before Christmas, in a surprise choice, he named Connecticut Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona to the post. Cardona has been a teacher — albeit for only about five years before becoming a principal and district administrator. Biden has now doubled down on his pro-teacher stance by nominating San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten to be deputy secretary of education, the number two position in the U.S. Department of Education. With Cardona, Marten will play a pivotal role in advocating for and implementing President-elect Biden’s expansive education agenda, including getting funds to states, so they can open the majority of their elementary schools within 100 days of his taking office. With the Senate soon to be controlled by Democrats, principal elements of Biden’s agenda now have far more of a chance of actually being implemented. She will also have major responsibilities in managing the entire department, and to fill in for Cardona as acting secretary when needed.


Lawmakers Push $75 Billion for Learning Recovery Among Trio of COVID-19 Bills

Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa — January 28, 2021  6 min read

Congressional Democrats are proposing $75 billion over two years to help schools reengage with missing students, and to help them diagnose and address learning interruptions and other issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Learning Recovery Act, which is being introduced Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives, is one of three bills lawmakers are rolling out to address various K-12 education needs. Taken together, they could become part of the vehicle on Capitol Hill for President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan for K-12 education. However, they aren’t written to precisely match all parts of Biden’s blueprint and could also serve as stand-alone bills. Versions of the other two bills being rolled out this week were introduced in the last Congress by Democrats. The Save Education Jobs Act would provide up to $261 billion over 10 years, and would save up to 3.9 million K-12 jobs, according to its supporters, including 2.6 million teacher jobs as well as positions for social workers, school bus drivers, and more. And the Reopen and Rebuild the America’s Schools Act would provide $100 billion in federal aid and another $30 billion in bond authority for schools to upgrade HVAC systems, improve water quality, and otherwise upgrade their infrastructure. The Biden plan includes $130 billion for K-12 education that could be used for everything from virus mitigation measures to addressing academic needs. There’s also $350 billion in the bill to shore up state, local, and territorial budgets.



PSBA: Upcoming PA budget recap webinar Feb. 3rd


On Tuesday, February 2, Gov. Tom Wolf will present his 2021-22 state budget proposal before a joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives. Following the governor’s budget address, the Senate and House appropriations committees will convene hearings beginning March 15 on specific components of the proposal. The PSBA Government Affairs team will be providing members with complete coverage of the governor’s budget proposal, budget details and resources for school boards on February 3 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Claim your spot for the budget recap here.


Join PFPS and NPE for “Fighting Voucher Legislation in 2021: An Update on State Voucher Bills and Tools to Oppose Them” Webinar Feb. 4th 4 p.m.

Author: PFPS Posted: Jan 28, 2021

Public Funds Public Schools resumes our engaging and well attended webinar series begun in 2020 with the first installment of 2021. Join PFPS and the Network for Public Education on Thursday, February 4, at 4 p.m. EST for an important and topical webinar, “Fighting Voucher Legislation in 2021: An Update on State Voucher Bills and Tools to Oppose Them.”

Panelists will discuss the significant private school voucher bills that have already been introduced in State Legislatures around the country, additional legislative action to watch for during 2021 legislative sessions, and tools and resources made available to advocates by PFPS and others. The webinar will feature representatives from the SPLC Action Fund and Education Law Center, which support the PFPS campaign, and from the National Coalition for Public Education, as well as Carol Burris, Executive Director of the Network for Public Education.

Use this link to register for Fighting Voucher Legislation: An Update on State Voucher Bills and Tools to Oppose Them on February 4 at 4 p.m. EST.


EDUCATION CONVERSATION: An Introduction to the Philadelphia School Board’s “Goals and Guardrails” Initiative

Philadelphia Education Fund Free Virtual Event Thursday February 4, 2021 9:00 am - 10:15 am

Attend a typical school board meeting anywhere in the country, and the agenda will likely be largely made up of financial, contracting, and spending resolutions. What if, instead of school operations, a school board were to focus its attention on student achievement? Might that accelerate gains for students? Could that improve the student experience? Would that deliver educational equity?  Two years ago, the Philadelphia Board of Education began consulting with education leaders across the country to explore this question. The answer, announced just last month, is Goals and Guardrails. The initiative has been described by former board member, Lee Huang, as both “obvious and revolutionary.” And, Superintendent Bill Hite called it a “game changer.” To learn more about this approach and what it might mean for Philadelphia’s schoolchildren, register for this free event here.


  • Leticia Egea-Hinton, Vice President, Board of Education
  • Mallory Fix Lopez, Member, Board of Education
  • Angela McIver, Member, Board of Education


PSBA Spring Virtual Advocacy Day - MAR 22, 2021

PSBA Website January 2021

All public school leaders are invited to join us for our spring Virtual Advocacy Day on Monday, March 22, 2021, 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 spring 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: Complimentary for members

Registration: Registration is available under Event Registration on


Attend the NSBA 2021 Online Experience April 8-10

NSBA is pleased to announce the transformation of its in-person NSBA 2021 Annual Conference & Exposition to the NSBA 2021 Online Experience. This experience will bring world-class programming, inspirational keynotes, top education solution providers, and plentiful networking opportunities. Join us on April 8-10, 2021, for a fully transformed and memorable event!


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


342 PA school boards have adopted charter reform resolutions

Charter school funding reform continues to be a concern as over 330 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.

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