Thursday, February 18, 2021

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Feb. 18, 2021: The $1 billion plan to close the gap between growing and shrinking Pa. school districts

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 Feb. 18, 2021

The $1 billion plan to close the gap between growing and shrinking Pa. school districts



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:



Dover Area School District calls need for charter school law reform 'urgent'

Erin Bamer York Dispatch February 17, 2021

Dover Area School District officials are calling on state legislators to reform Pennsylvania's charter school law to reduce expenses for school districts.  The school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution requesting the reform as part of the meeting's consent agenda. The resolution argues that the current law for charter school funding is unfair to school districts and calls the need for reform "urgent." "School districts are struggling to keep up with growing charter costs and are forced to raise taxes and cut staffing, programs and services for their own students in order to pay millions of dollars to charter schools," the resolution said.  School districts pay charter schools tuition for each student enrolled in a charter within the district. Dover spokesperson Bradly Perkins said his district pays charter schools about $12,000 per regular education student and nearly $27,000 per special education student.  The resolution said existing charter school law is unfair because districts pay charter schools based on the district's tuition rate instead of what the charter needs to educate the student. The debate over charter school funding has increased over the past year as enrollment spiked for cyber charter schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Charter School Funding – Examining the 25% Myth

POSTED ON FEBRUARY 17, 2021 IN PSBA NEWS Video Runtime 1:04

Do charter schools really receive 25% less funding per student than school districts? In 2018-19, Pennsylvania school districts in total spent over $2 billion in mandated payments to charter schools. And yet, as the need for charter school funding reform builds momentum, charter school advocates maintain that the system disproportionally benefits school districts. Is this an accurate statement? To unlock the 25% myth, it is important to understand the revenue and the reasons surrounding charter school funding issues. Watch this video on the PA Charter Change website to learn more, and advocate for charter change!


Blogger note: this piece includes an embedded table: Which school districts benefit from hold harmless, and which don't

The $1 billion plan to close the gap between growing and shrinking Pa. school districts

Inquirer by Cynthia Fernandez, Posted: February 18, 2021- 5:00 AM

Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and WITF Public Media. Sign up for our free newsletters.

HARRISBURG — When Pennsylvania passed a new formula to distribute money for public schools in 2016, it was hailed as a major step toward equity and away from an arbitrary system built on decades-old enrollment data. “Prior to today, Pennsylvania was one of only three states in the nation without a fair funding formula,” Gov. Tom Wolf said at the time. “We still have a lot of work to do in order to restore funding, but we are now closer to resolving the inequity in Pennsylvania’s school funding distribution.” But nearly five years later, many of the disparities it aimed to address remain. Part of the issue: Only a fraction of state education funding actually goes through the formula, designed to help poor and underfunded districts. Most of the public school subsidy is distributed using an approach called “hold harmless,” which guarantees districts never lose state funding regardless of enrollment changes. An average shrinking district saw funding increase by $3,200 per student over the past three decades, according to a January report from Public Citizens for Children and Youth, a nonprofit led by a member of former Gov. Ed Rendell’s cabinet. Per-pupil funding in an average expanding district, meanwhile, has grown by just $1,000. More than 80% of the state’s Black, Hispanic, or Latinx students attend growing school districts, according to the report. But the hold harmless policy is not solely to blame for the inequities in the state’s system. Pennsylvania ranks 47th in the nation for the share of K-12 public education funding that comes from the state, a path that began after the state stopped reimbursing school districts for 50% of their costs in the 1980s.


Advocates Gearing Up for Fair School Funding fight

Digital Notebook by Evan Brandt Wednesday, February 17, 2021

As debate begins over Gov. Tom Wolf's budget, which includes a massive infusion of funding for public schools, advocates for fair school funding are gearing up their efforts to build support, seeing this perhaps as their best chance to gain ground on the issue. An advocacy group named PA Schools Work held an on-line tutorial Tuesday on the issue, and how it would be affected by Wolf's budget plan. First some basics:  Pennsylvania currently ranks 47th in the nation for state funding a public schools. To make that embarrassing statistic worse, the state's funding also currently favors districts with dwindling white student populations over districts with growing non-white populations. To remedy that, Harrisburg adopted a "fair-funding formula" a few years back aimed at leveling the educational playing field based on things like community poverty and the number of English-language learners in a given district. But that act of fairness is undermined annually by the fact that the formula only applies to a small portion of the state's education funding. This year, it's 11 percent.  Another arcane relic of legislative action is something called "hold harmless," which means no district, even if it is losing population, will ever get less state funding than the year before.


'A perfect storm': How quarantines, staff shortages and a shrinking substitute teacher pool have complicated in-person learning

Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer February 18, 2021

One day in early December, Ephrata High School math teacher Kris Miller took a rather peculiar approach in class. He had his students read an article from a recent edition of Scholastic News. “Could You Clone Your Pet?” the headline read. Miller then went around the room and asked students to share their pets’ names and decide whether they’d consider cloning them. After all, who doesn’t want their pet to live forever? “Charice? No,” Miller said, uncharacteristically fumbling on the student’s name. “Charis,” the student said, correcting him. “Charis. Darn it,” Miller said.

“I used to have, um, three cats, but now I only have two because one of them died,” Charis said.

“Oh, that’s sad,” Miller said. “Did you ever think about cloning your cat?” “No,” Charis said.

It’s not every day Miller has such a discussion with his students. That’s because, on this day, Miller wasn’t teaching math. He was teaching fourth-grade at Highland Elementary School.

It was part of a temporary volunteer initiative at Ephrata Area School District to recruit high school teachers to fill empty classrooms at the elementary and middle school level. The district was facing a higher amount of teacher quarantines due to holiday gatherings and out-of-state travel.

While teacher quarantines and staff shortages were of heightened concern around the holidays, it’s been a nagging issue for all Lancaster County school districts this pandemic-plagued school year as administrators think of every possible way to keep school buildings open.


Philly’s school reopening was pushed back again

Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham, Posted: February 17, 2021- 10:51 AM

The Philadelphia School District has pushed back its reopening date for a third time.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said Wednesday 9,000 prekindergarten through second grade students won’t return on Feb. 22 as planned but will instead go back March 1 amid an ongoing building safety dispute between the district and its teachers union. Students had been scheduled to return Monday. The news left him “deeply disappointed,” the superintendent said. Hite maintains that schools are safe but said he will not bring children back to classrooms that aren’t ready for them. Teachers were due back Feb. 8 but, at the direction of Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan, refused to report to school buildings and have been working from home. City school buildings have been closed since March.


Philadelphia school reopening delayed again — this time until March 1

Teachers union says district ‘made right decision’; still no word from mediator

Chalkbeat Philly By Johann Calhoun and Dale Mezzacappa  Feb 17, 2021, 10:44am EST

The Philadelphia school district has pushed back reopening of schools for a third time, with a new target date for early grades set for March 1, Superintendent William Hite announced Wednesday. The one-week delay for prekindergarten to second grade is the latest twist in the district’s third attempt to reopen school buildings, which have been closed since last March. Hite said he was “deeply disappointed” to make the decision, which was due to the ongoing mediation between the district and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. “I believe we all agree on reopening schools,” Hite said. “The dispute has been how can we do that safely and the district needs to address that.”


City Council grills Hite on reopening as return to classrooms stuck in limbo

WHYY By Emily Rizzo February 17, 2021

Members of city council pressed School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite on issues of public trust during a hearing Wednesday on school reopening plans. The Children and Youth and Education committees hosted the hearing after Hite announced earlier in the day that a return to classrooms for city children would be delayed until March 1 amid a dispute with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Testimony from Hite and other district officials lasted almost two hours, as councilmembers raised concerns about safety and transparency. Councilmember Helen Gym told Hite she’s heard “consistent articulation of a deep-seated lack of trust that the district has not made itself immediately available to ordinary families.” She said families need a “real place” for “questions to be asked and answered,” especially regarding health and safety issues.


Philly schools should not reopen until all staff can be guaranteed a COVID vaccine | Expert Opinion

Rhea Powell, For the Inquirer Posted: February 17, 2021 - 11:55 AM

Rhea Powell is an internal medicine physician in Philadelphia.

As a physician and a parent of elementary-aged children, I was eager to read the recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on strategies schools can use to lower the risk of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The CDC guidance is an important step toward reopening schools, and I applaud their attention to masking, physical distancing, and maintaining healthy facilities. The CDC recommendations describe vaccination of school staff as an important additional layer of COVID-19 prevention, yet they stop short of deeming it essential for in-person school. But here in Philadelphia, vaccination of school staff is critical for a safe and successful school reopening. Philadelphia schools face many challenges to implementing the mitigation strategies recommended by the CDC, particularly those related to maintaining healthy facilities. Our school buildings were already in urgent need of repair before the pandemic, and now we have an emergent need: to ensure that schools can support educational activities without exacerbating the toll that COVID-19 takes on our community. Unfortunately, there are no quick or easy solutions to create healthy school facilities in Philadelphia. Fixing our schools requires huge investments in infrastructure for public education.


Ciresi appointed to Special Education Funding Commission

Rep. Joseph Ciresi News Release   February 17, 2021 | 2:52 PM

HARRISBURG, Feb. 17 – State Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, was recently appointed to the Special Education Funding Commission, a position recommended by Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Phila., and approved by House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster. 

The SEFC, which was established in 2013, reviews and makes recommendations regarding special education funding in the commonwealth. Its focus over the last two years has been reviewing the formula that directs state funding to school districts in Pennsylvania that have the greatest need for additional resources based upon the cost of each special education student. 

“I am truly honored by this appointment and offer my gratitude to Leader McClinton and Speaker Cutler for entrusting me with the responsibility of serving in the best interest of our state’s special education students and teachers,” said Ciresi, who was appointed at the beginning of this 2021-22 legislative session to serve on the House Education Committee, as well. 

“Ensuring fair funding of education is one of my top priorities as a legislator, and my background as a school board member for 12 years has given me insight on education policy in general and special education in particular. I am ready to get to work to ensure those school districts with the greatest special education needs are recognized and funded fairly, since having access to fair resources is what our students deserve.”


Blogger note: Arthur Dantchick is a partner of Jeff Yass and steady contributor to candidates supporting school privatization efforts.

“Kerr, though she identified herself as a "pragmatic Democrat," did not oppose vouchers, and saw support from conservative and pro-voucher groups. She accepted a $15,000 contribution from Arthur Dantchik, a Pennsylvania-based donor who backs school choice.”

Wisconsin primary election results: Kerr and Underly advance in DPI race

Rory Linnane Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In the primary race for state superintendent of schools, former Brown Deer superintendent Deborah Kerr and Pecatonica superintendent Jill Underly declared victories Tuesday night, pitting them against each other in the general election April 6. In Milwaukee, four candidates will advance to the general election for two contested seats on the school board. With some absentee ballots yet uncounted, Aisha Carr and Dana Kelley led in District 4; and Alex Brower and Jilly Gokalgandhi led in District 5. Brower and Kelley ran on a socialist slate together backed by the teachers union.


PIAA notebook: Board passes motion requiring all participants to wear masks for state playoffs

STEVE ROTSTEIN Pittsburgh Post-Gazette FEB 17, 2021 6:48 PM

The PIAA board of directors addressed a number of topics during Wednesday’s Zoom meeting, including one pressing issue that’s been on everybody’s minds going into the postseason — mask enforcement. For the upcoming PIAA postseason tournaments for all winter sports, teams will be required to complete and submit a COVID-19 screening form and face covering certification form prior to competing. The screening form will ask participants whether they’ve experienced any recent COVID-19 related symptoms, and the certification form will allow schools to list any players who have been granted medical exemptions to play without wearing a mask. PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said the forms will not be required for playoff games at the district level, but will be available for any schools that wish to use them. “It provides communication between the schools so they know who has taken the exception, and also that they have pre-screened all their athletes,” Lombardi said.


Tentative contract agreement reached, Mars school district and teachers union say

Post Gazette by Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: Published February 17, 2021, 10:24pm

The Mars Area School Board and Mars Area Education Association have reached a tentative agreement, according to a joint statement issued by John L. Kennedy, board president, and Joe Graff, president of the teachers’ union, Wednesday night. The statement said that both parties will finalize the contract language for ratification votes within the next couple of weeks. The teachers’ union planned to strike Friday if an agreement was not reached by then. The two sides had held 18 bargaining sessions, including a 5.5-hour session Tuesday night.


Is it safe to open schools? Yes, but ...

Washington Post By Laura MecklerKarin Brulliard and Brittany Shammas Feb. 17, 2021 at 7:32 p.m. EST

For months, school districts throughout the country have struggled with whether and how to reopen buildings that, in some cases, have been shuttered for nearly a year. With bullish talk and promised support, President Biden raised expectations that reopenings would accelerate this spring. The stakes are enormous. Going back is frightening for many teachers and parents, especially with coronavirus rates remaining at high levels and new variants of the virus emerging. And yet the negative consequences of all-remote learning are significant, too. Children are forfeiting academic progress and struggling emotionally. Some parents are unable to work while their children are at home. But sorting out the science of the matter has been complicated for administrators and parents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention weighed in last week with a detailed set of guidelines that answered many questions but raised others.



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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