Wednesday, February 17, 2021

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Feb. 17, 2021: Pennsylvania needs charter school reform [opinion]

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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PA Ed Policy Roundup for Feb. 17, 2021

Pennsylvania needs charter school reform [opinion]



Congratulations to #359 Wattsburg Area School District for passing the charter funding reform resolution. Thank you @HeatherBScott, Representative Curt Sonney, @senatorlaughlin and Senator Michele Brooks.



Pennsylvania needs charter school reform [opinion]

Lancaster Online Opinion by DAMARIS RAU and EDITH GALLAGHER | Special to LNP | Lancasteronline February 17, 2021

We appreciate LNP | LancasterOnline’s recent editorial (“Children first,” Feb. 5) calling on state lawmakers to “fairly, equitably and adequately fund education.” We have been advocating for this for many years. And, like the Editorial Board, we recognize the political challenges of finding sustainable revenue sources to meet this need. One-time boosts will not help the School District of Lancaster deal with its structural deficit. That’s why we are writing today in support of a secondary element in Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal, but one that can have a significant long-term impact — charter school reform. First, we want to reiterate what we have long said: We are not opposed to school choice. Our school district has a long partnership with a charter school in our community, La Academia, and we have considered others. We believe every child deserves an excellent education. However, Pennsylvania’s 25-year-old charter school law is failing children, parents and taxpayers. Charter schools are public schools, funded by local school districts, and the costs of these schools are skyrocketing. It is draining funding from traditional schools at a time when we can least afford it. Our district is facing a deficit of about $13 million for the 2021-2022 school year, and we project this deficit to continue to grow in the coming years. Our charter school payments are up $2.5 million this year alone, driven by a 65% increase in students attending cybercharter schools.


Scranton school directors plan to strengthen fight for fair funding from state

Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL STAFF WRITER Feb 16, 2021 Updated 1 hr ago

When it comes to fair education funding, it’s time to fight. With the Scranton School District facing a funding inequity of more than $3,200 per student and the issue now in the spotlight thanks to the governor’s budget proposal, school directors said they will increase advocacy efforts and community involvement. “Each one of us can have a voice, but it’s more powerful when we can come across as a united force,” board Vice President Catherine Fox said during a virtual funding workshop Tuesday night. Volunteers from the Pennsylvanians for Fair Funding coalition outlined why many advocates call the state’s funding system the worst in the country. Those issues include using district demographics from 1992 to distribute nearly 90% of state funding, and the over reliance on local property taxes, which leads to large disparities in funding in high-wealth and low-wealth districts. Pennsylvania created a fair funding formula six years ago to distribute money in a way that reflects a district’s needs, factoring in student enrollment, the needs of the student population and district wealth and capacity to raise local revenues. But that formula only applies to new investments the state makes in basic education funding. In his 2021-22 budget proposal this month, Gov. Tom Wolf proposed putting all funding through the formula. Since that would cause more than half of the state’s 500 districts to receive a lower allotment, Wolf seeks another $1.15 billion so no school receives less next year. The proposal is funded through an increase in the personal income tax rate.


Fair funding would level field for NEPA schools

Yahoo News by Sarah Hofius Hall And Kent Jackson, Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.Tue, February 16, 2021, 1:09 AM

Feb. 16—Fair funding in Hazleton Area School District could mean a larger career center, smaller classes, a special education program for local students who now travel beyond the district for instruction and a field house for indoor sports and the prom. Scranton School District with fair funding could update its curriculum, create a science and math academy and attract and retain a high-quality staff. In Carbondale, the district could offer more electives, provide tutoring and restore cuts made to art and family and consumer sciences. At Riverside, libraries could become innovative labs and the district could find additional ways to help students prepare for life after graduation. The way Pennsylvania funds school districts, which Gov. Tom Wolf and public education advocates call one of the most unfair systems in the country, makes it difficult for districts to achieve those goals. The 2021-22 state budget proposed by the governor this month aims to fix that. Just the proposal and the debate surrounding it highlights and exposes the inequities in a way not done before on a statewide level, experts say. Wolf's plan would provide an additional $159 million to school districts in Northeast Pennsylvania by putting all funding through a formula designed to increase equity and assist the students who need the most help.


Funding formula is the problem (letter)

Lancaster Online Letter by Lauren VonStetten, School board director, Columbia Borough School District Feb 16, 2021

Regarding the Feb. 8 LNP | LancasterOnline article “Columbia school district calls for reform after it says it could have saved $300,000 in cybercharter tuition”: The district did not wastefully spend that money. In reality, the district was required to pay an extra $300,000 because the state has neglected to change the 24-year-old charter school funding formula. Cybercharter tuitions are based on a school district’s expenses. This then creates huge discrepancies in the tuition amount paid from district to district for the exact same charter school education. Perhaps a better headline would have been “Columbia Borough School District, already shortchanged $5,330 per student in Basic Education Funding, calls for reform after being forced by the state to pay an extra $300,000 in cybercharter tuitions.”


New Philly Charter Application: Empowerment Charter School

Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools Opinion by Deborah Grill February 2021

There are 86 charter schools in Philadelphia.  Despite their claims, few if any can be described as” innovative”. The majority perform academically as well as or worse than District schools despite their ability to cherry-pick students. They boast that they provide choice for parents or students, but in reality the choice lies in the schools’ ability, through barriers to enrollment and lack of due process,  to choose who they admit and who they allow to stay.  They service fewer students with severe disabilities than the District but are compensated according to the District’s average costs to educate its larger population of needier, more expensive special-education students.  District students will never get the resources they need as long as the District is spending a large portion of its budget on charter schools.  The District cannot afford this charter school.


Pa. legislature bickers over budget plan

Sharon Herald By JOHN FINNERTY CNHI State Reporter February 16, 2021

HARRISBURG — State lawmakers kicked off budget hearings on Tuesday bickering over whether to act upon Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature budget proposal -- a revamp of the personal income tax that would generate about $3.5 billion by increasing taxes on those who earn more and cutting taxes on lower-income individuals and families. Stan Saylor, R-York County, the chairman of the House appropriations committee, dismissed the proposal as “unrealistic.” Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly and have dismissed Wolf’s plan as unworkable. Democrats countered that the proposal is needed to provide tax relief for more working people while also generating a needed infusion of state funding for schools.

State Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery County, said that the current year’s budget was balanced with one-time revenue and even if the federal government provides another round of COVID relief, lawmakers need to come up with a plan to balance the state budget without a federal bailout. Bradford is the Democratic chairman of the House appropriations committee.

Pennsylvania’s current personal income tax law provides for tax forgiveness for families of four with income up to $34,500, but those income levels were set in 2003, said state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Philadelphia.


Guest Column: Governor Tom Wolf explains his budget priorities

Delco Times By Tom Wolf Times Guest Columnist February 17, 2021

I want to lower taxes for working families in Pennsylvania. I know that in the days since my budget address you’ve probably heard a whole lot from other people about my plan – what they like, what they hate, what they wish I had said instead.  This year, because of the pandemic, I pre-recorded my budget address. Usually I give the speech live, to the members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, but this year it just wasn’t the safe or right thing to do.    And when I thought about it, I realized that recording my budget address this year gave me an opportunity to speak directly to the people of Pennsylvania, not just to legislators in Harrisburg.   This budget address is for you, and I hope you’ve seen it. But I also know that long-winded speeches about budgets and legislative agendas aren’t exactly everyone’s idea of a good time. So for those who haven’t seen my address, I want you to hear it from me: this year, I think lawmakers in Harrisburg need to lower taxes for businesses and working families in Pennsylvania.


York County schools in dark about teacher vaccinations

Erin Bamer York Dispatch February 16, 2021

Nearly a year after the COVID-19 pandemic turned public education on its ear and about two months after the first U.S. vaccine was administered, several York County school districts say they're in the dark about when their staffs will get the shots.  Officials from at least seven local school districts said they have received little or no word from state officials so far about the vaccine. Northern York County School District Superintendent Steven Kirkpatrick said a vaccination provider estimated educators wouldn't have access to the vaccine until about April 1.  York Suburban School District appears to be the only district in the county that is making any progress toward securing the vaccine. Superintendent Timothy Williams said during a board meeting this month that he is working with a local pharmacy company to get the vaccine distributed to staff members.  Williams would not mention the name of the company at the meeting, and he said he did not know when the district would receive the vaccine. A York Suburban official said Tuesday that there are no updates on the process.


Mayor says Philadelphia teachers should not be disciplined if they don’t show up

Chalkbeat Philly By Johann Calhoun  Feb 16, 2021, 4:51pm EST

Mayor Jim Kenney strongly suggested during a news conference Tuesday that teachers should not be disciplined if they do not show up to work for the proposed reopening Monday over COVID-19 safety concerns. “I don’t want to see anybody disciplined,” Kenney said during the virtual press conference, providing updates on the city’s handling of the virus. “I don’t want to do this in a punitive way. We’ve all been through a lot within the last year and everybody is scared, everybody is stressed. And you’re more likely to add to that stress by disciplining people. I don’t think that gets us anywhere and maybe forebodes a longer term problem with managing staff personnel.” Kenney’s comments Tuesday appeared to conflict with Superintendent William Hite’s statement earlier this month that “disciplinary action will be taken” against teachers who don’t return to work in school buildings. The declaration was made after Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan told teachers not to show up to work on Feb. 8 over safety concerns around the vaccine and ventilation. The details of Hite’s punishment were not made clear.


3 ways teachers can address their students’ trauma when school is virtual | Opinion

Crystal Peralta, For The Inquirer Posted: February 16, 2021 - 10:37 AM

Crystal Peralta is a sixth-grade ELA teacher in her eighth year teaching at KIPP Whittier Middle School in Camden. She attended New Jersey City University, where she completed an undergraduate teaching degree, and has a master’s degree from Liberty University.

In classrooms across the U.S. — virtual or in-person — teachers are faced with an enormous challenge: foster the academic learning process while also addressing the social-emotional needs of students during a highly traumatic period in history. With the continued pandemic and racial tensions, students are experiencing higher levels of stress than in previous years, and their emotional well-being undoubtedly influences their ability to focus and engage in their learning. As a longtime educator, I have realized that effective teaching relies on my knowledge of how to address the many forms of trauma my students experience outside of the classroom as much as within the school. In Camden, where I have the privilege of teaching, nearly 37% of residents live below the poverty level, and the pandemic has exacerbated the area’s food insecurity, leaving more than 60,000 local residents without a stable source for nourishment — more than 17,200 of those being children. How are students supposed to focus on learning when their stomachs are grumbling for a meal?


How public schools fail to recognize Black prodigies | Opinion

By Donna Ford  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor February 17, 2021

Donna Ford is a special education professor at Ohio State University. She wrote this piece for The Conversation, where it first appeared.

Amid numerous articles about how Black students lag behind others in educational achievement, occasionally you may hear about a young Black “prodigy” who got accepted into college at an early age. According to Donna Y. Ford, an education professor at Ohio State University, there could be far more Black prodigies. But it would take the right support from families, who may not be familiar with some of the characteristics of gifted students and the existence of gifted programs, and educators, who often overlook the talents of Black students. Indeed, while Black students represent 15.5 percent of the student population in the U.S., they represent only 9.9 percent of all students in gifted and talented programs. In the following interview with education editor Jamaal Abdul-Alim, Ford – who has been a consultant for Black families thinking about sending their gifted children to college early – argues that public schools are holding back Black talent rather than cultivating it. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.


Superintendent: Greater Latrobe no longer bound by strict school closure benchmarks

Trib Live by JEFF HIMLER   | Tuesday, February 16, 2021 11:51 p.m.

Greater Latrobe School District officials say they’ll have greater flexibility in assessing the need for covid-related school closures now that Westmoreland County has completed two consecutive weeks in the moderate level for community transmission of the coronavirus. According to Superintendent Georgia Teppert, the county’s return to a moderate transmission level after many weeks at substantial levels means the district no longer is bound by a state-determined minimum number of covid cases requiring closure of schools that offer some level of in-person instruction.


Pennsylvania Interscholastic Esports Association opens registration for 2021 season

Trib Live by JULIA FELTON   | Tuesday, February 16, 2021 6:10 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Esports Association (PIEA) announced registration is open for its 2021 season, which will offer high school esports teams the opportunity to compete for Pennsylvania’s first high school esports championship. The PIEA was established in 2019 as the only statewide interscholastic esports league. “The PIEA is the first organizational governing body that focuses solely on esports competitions in high schools in Pennsylvania,” said Bill Thomas, a member of PIEA’s board of directors. Thomas said it offers regulatory structure for high school esports competitions and serves as the only entity with a path to a state championship.


Biden reframes his goal on reopening of elementary schools

Delco Times By AAMER MADHANI and ALEXANDRA JAFFE Associated Press February 17, 2021

MILWAUKEE (AP) — President Joe Biden is promising a majority of elementary schools will be open five days a week by the end of his first 100 days in office, restating his goal after his administration came under fire when aides said schools would be considered open if they held in-person learning just one day a week. Biden's comments, during a CNN town hall in Milwaukee, marked his clearest statement yet on school reopenings. Biden had pledged in December to reopen “the majority of our schools” in his first 100 days but has since faced increasing questions about how he would define and achieve that goal, with school districts operating under a patchwork of different virtual and in-person learning arrangements nationwide. “I said open a majority of schools in K through eighth grade, because they’re the easiest to open, the most needed to be open in terms of the impact on children and families having to stay home," Biden said.


Disowning Past White House Remarks, Biden Says He Wants Many Schools Open Five Days a Week

Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa — February 16, 2021  3 min read

President Joe Biden made the case on a national stage Tuesday for schools to reopen their doors with appropriate safeguards against the coronavirus through smaller class sizes and proper protective equipment, and also pushed for teachers to get high priority for receiving the vaccine. In a town hall event in Milwaukee broadcast by CNN, Biden also repudiated comments from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki last week that schools holding in-person classes one day a week would count toward the Biden administration’s goal of having most K-8 schools open by April 30 (a goal that data indicate might have already been met under that standard). Calling her comments “a mistake in the communication” that did not accurately reflect his administration’s position, Biden stressed that his goal is for those schools to open five days a week after 100 days and said he thinks schools will get “close to that.” He also raised the possibility that schools might operate during the summer to help students recover from the pandemic’s effects. That’s an idea that tracks with key elements of congressional Democrats’ latest COVID-19 relief bill, although the extent to which districts end up expanding summer school or other extended learning programs will depend on several factors.



All School Directors: PSBA Monthly Zoom Exchange Feb 18 12:30 - 1:30 PM

Join other PSBA-member school directors for cross-district networking and discussion on education hot topics, legislative updates and advocacy strategies. All School Directors: Monthly Exchange will be held via Zoom at 12:30 p.m. every third Thursday of the month, January through June. Geographic-based breakout rooms will be utilized to allow for discussion among school directors in the same regions of the state. Learn more or register:


Join Education Voters for "PA School Funding and Advocacy 101" for an overview of school funding issues, an update on the school funding lawsuit and more.

Education Voters PA February 2021

Click HERE to register for one of our webinars.

Fri, Feb 19, 12:00pm–1:00pm EST

Tue, Feb 23, 7:00pm–8:00pm EST

Questions we will answer include:

  • How are schools funded in PA?
  • Who decides how much funding my local schools get?
  • What is the Basic Education Funding Formula (fair funding formula)?
  • Why does Pennsylvania have the widest funding gap between wealthy and poor school districts of any state in the country?
  • How are charter schools funded and how can the current system be reformed?
  • How can I most effectively advocate for the school funding students in my district and throughout Pennsylvania's need and deserve?

We will also provide a brief update on Pennsylvania's school funding lawsuit, which is scheduled to go to trial this year. (Visit to learn more!) And we'll have plenty of time for Q&A. I hope that you'll join us and/or share this invitation with people in your network who are interested in learning more and getting involved.


Virtual Town Hall on education fair funding co- sponsored by Avon Grove Charter School and Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools set Feb. 24

West Chester Daily Local by MediaNews Group February 6, 2021

WEST GROVE—There will be a virtual Town Hall Meeting on Fair Funding in Education on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7 pm. The public is invited. The Town Hall is being co- sponsored by Avon Grove Charter School and Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools. Topics include: problem solve fair funding solutions; learn how public schools are funded in PA.;  learn about the differences between charter & district schools funding.

All are welcome. RSVP Link -


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!


The 2021 PA Educational Leadership Summit, hosted by the PA Principals Association and the PA Association of School Administrators (PASA), is being held from August 1-3 at the Kalahari Resorts and Convention Center, Poconos

PA Principals Association Thursday, February 11, 2021 8:54 AM

PIL Hours Available! See links below to register and for further information.

Click here to register today!

Click here for the informational flyer and details.


NPE/NPE Action Conference In Philly was rescheduled to October 23/24 due to concerns w/ COVID19.

Network for Public Education

NPE will be sending information to registrants very soon!


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


358 PA school boards have adopted charter reform resolutions

Charter school funding reform continues to be a concern as over 350 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:


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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