Wednesday, February 3, 2021

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Feb. 3, 2021: Wolf Budget Addresses Fair Funding Formula, Basic Ed and Special Ed Funding, Hold Harmless, Charter Reform, EITC/OSTC

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. 3, 2021

Wolf Budget Addresses Fair Funding Formula, Basic Ed and Special Ed Funding, Hold Harmless, Charter Reform, EITC/OSTC


 Governor Wolf Delivers His Budget Address for the 2020-21 Fiscal Year at 11:30 a.m. Today

Watch Live Stream Here:


PSBA’s Budget Webinar rescheduled to February 4th,12:00-1:00 p.m. 

Due to inclement weather, Governor Tom Wolf's budget presentation has been postponed to Wednesday, February 3. Subsequently, PSBA's Budget Webinar has been rescheduled to February 4. Learn more or register: 


Blogger note: Senator Mensch serves as Majority Caucus Chair

“Hold Harmless”: Sen. Bob Mensch: Pennsylvania's antiquated school funding formula needs reform

Delco Times Opinion By Sen. Bob Mensch Guest columnist February 3, 2021

State Sen. Bob Mensch is a Republican who represents the 24th Senatorial District in portions of Montgomery, Berks and Bucks counties.

Rising property taxes seems to be the story in all too many communities across our region. And yet so many of our schools still indicate they don’t have the resources required to deliver a top-notch education. These problems are largely rooted in the “hold harmless” seed planted by the state three decades ago, before I was a member of the Legislature. The hold harmless policy states that school districts cannot receive less state funding than they did the year prior. The policy was enacted in 1992 and hasn’t been changed since. In fact, since then the state has guaranteed districts small annual increases, even when they have decreasing enrollment. In a reasonable world where public funds are spent only where there is need, a system that gives more money to educate fewer students each year would make no sense. Case in point: Across Pennsylvania, districts that have lost students since 1992 now have $3,200 more per student, while districts that are growing have just $1,000 more per student, according to a new report from Public Citizens for Children and Youth. The vast majority of school districts in southeastern Pennsylvania are growing, including in my legislative district, and the state’s funding system puts taxpayers in a bind, causing property taxes to rise year after year just so schools can stay afloat. Working families, seniors and businesses in these communities are footing the bill for the state’s irrational funding approach.


Governor Wolf Proposes Plan to Cut Taxes for Working Class Families, Invest Billions in Education and Workforce Development

Governor Wolf’s Website February 02, 2021

Historic Tax Cut Proposal Will Reduce or Eliminate Taxes for Thousands of Working Class Families; Governor Will Deliver His Annual Budget Address Via Video Wednesday

Governor Tom Wolf outlined his budget plan to remove barriers and cut taxes for working class families in Pennsylvania while investing billions of dollars into Pennsylvania schools​ and workforce development initiatives. The governor’s plan would make Pennsylvania’s tax structure more fair and equitable, cutting taxes for working class families while still making historic investments in public education through the fair funding formula. “We will defeat COVID, but we can’t yet say when it will be safe for life to return to normal – and it’s hard to know what ‘normal’ will even look like. But I refuse to tell any young family in Pennsylvania that they just happen to be starting out at the wrong time – that, with everything going on, 2021 just isn’t going to be the year we get around to lifting the barriers that stand between them and the future they hope to provide for their children,” Gov. Wolf said. “I think it’s more important than ever that we act boldly and courageously to remove those barriers once and for all. So, today, I’m proposing a budget designed to do exactly that.” The governor, who will deliver his annual budget address via video on Wednesday, is asking Pennsylvanians to join him in urging the General Assembly to focus on these priorities as the 2021-22 state budget negotiations begin.


Blogger note: I have selected some proposed ed policy items from the Governors press release:

Put all Basic Education Funding through the Fair Funding Formula

The governor is proposing a more than $1.3 billion investment in basic education funding. This investment directs all existing state-level basic education funding through the Fair Funding Formula and includes an $1.15 billion adjustment so that no school district is negatively affected.


Increase Special Education, Head Start and PreK Funding   

In addition to the increase in Basic Education Funding, there is a $200 million increase in the Special Education Funding Formula. The increase in special education funding ensures school districts have the basic resources they need to provide high-quality special education services to students with disabilities and special needs.


Comprehensive Charter School Law Reform   

Pennsylvania’s Charter School Law, passed in 1997, established public charter schools with greater flexibility to support innovation in partnership with the public education system. Since then, some charters have strayed from this original purpose and engaged in questionable operational practices and poor academic performance. Additionally, charters are a major uncontrolled cost-driver for local school districts, resulting in higher property taxes across the state. The governor’s plan proposes comprehensive Charter School Law reform that will save school districts across the commonwealth an estimated $229 million per year. These resources can be reinvested into students and educators. This package of policy and budget initiatives promotes innovation and choice in the charter sector while ensuring charter schools are providing a high-quality education, accountable for their academic performance and financial management, and meeting the same standards Pennsylvanians expect from traditional public schools.


  • Applying the Special Education Formula to All Charter Schools: Currently, school districts receive funding for special education students through a four-tiered Special Education Funding formula, with funding increasing as the student’s need for special education services increases. Special education tuition payments to charters, however, are calculated based on the outdated assumption that all school districts have a special education population of 16 percent, regardless of the level of services a student’s Individualized Education Plan outlines. The governor’s plan applies the four-tiered Special Education Funding formula to all charters to better align Special Education Funding with actual costs of providing services to special education students. This was a recommendation from the bipartisan Special Education Funding Commission and will save school districts an estimated $99 million annually.
  • Establishing a Statewide Cyber Charter Tuition Rate: Currently, cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania charge school districts between $9,170 and $22,300 per student per year. For comparison, the typical tuition rates an Intermediate Unit charges to provide a comparable online education is around $5,400 per student per year. The governor’s plan establishes a statewide cyber tuition rate of $9,500 per student per year and will better align tuition with the actual costs of providing an online education. This reform will save school districts an estimated $130 million annually.
  • Improving the Redirection Process: Currently, if a school district does not pay the tuition for the students in its district who attend a charter school or there is a dispute between a school district and a charter on tuition payments, the charter school may petition the Department of Education to reconcile the dispute through the redirection process. This plan provides clarification on the redirection process, including the basis for reported expenditures and the deductions included in the tuition rate calculation, to increase fairness, accountability, and transparency.


Introduce Accountability into the EITC and OSTC

The Education Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) are popular programs. The governor’s plan lowers the maximum administrative set-aside for scholarship organizations participating in these programs from 20 percent to 5, which will increase the amount of money available for scholarships by up to $36 million without increasing costs for taxpayers. Scholarship organizations will be required to report more information on the students and families who receive scholarships and their educational outcomes, so that scholarships can be directed to students with the greatest need and all students choosing to take advantage of these programs receive a high-quality education.


Attract and Retain the Best Teachers for Our Children

The governor is proposing to increase the minimum salary to $45,000 per year. This will better align with the current cost of living and will ensure that Pennsylvania schools are offering competitive salaries so they can attract the most qualified and talented teachers to educate our children.


Here is a survey of budget coverage from around the state:


AP sources: Wolf to seek more school funding, tax increase

AP News By MARC LEVY February 2, 2021

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf will propose a sweeping new plan to dramatically boost funding for public schools, to be supported by an increase in the state’s personal income tax rate, people briefed on the plan told The Associated Press. Wolf’s administration has not publicly released details of the plan ahead of Wednesday’s planned budget address, and three people briefed on it spoke on condition of anonymity because they said Wolf administration officials asked them not to reveal what they were told. Under the plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1, Wolf, a Democrat, will ask the Republican-controlled Legislature for what could approach $2 billion extra for public schools. The biggest part of that, $1.35 billion, would be distributed to schools to their primary operations, like teacher salaries and supplies, on top of the $6.8 billion they currently receive. It’s not yet known if any of that extra funding would go directly to pandemic-related costs. All of that money would go out through a five-year-old school funding formula designed to iron out inequities in how Pennsylvania funds the poorest public schools. Schools also would receive another $200 million for special education aid, on top of the $1.2 billion they currently receive, in addition to other sums of money, the people said. The personal income tax increase would take the rate to 4.49% from 3.07%, but increase the exemption for the lowest earners, the people said. Under that scenario, the lowest earners would pay less in income tax, while approximately the top one-third of taxpayers would pay more, the people said.


“Lawmakers haven’t increased Pennsylvania’s income tax since 2003. The commonwealth currently has one of the lowest rates in the country and is one of nine states that assesses a flat rate on all taxpayers — which means all earners have their income assessed at the same percentage.”

Wolf pitches massive attempt to fix Pa. school funding inequities with income tax hike

The proposal would increase the state’s personal income tax from 3.07% to 4.49% in the next fiscal year.

WITF by Katie Meyer/WHYY  Miles Bryan/Keystone Crossroads FEBRUARY 3, 2021 | 5:11 AM

(Harrisburg) — Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing a major overhaul of public school finance, aimed at addressing resource inequities, that would be backed by a significant increase to Pennsylvania’s personal income tax. A day before his scheduled annual budget address, Wolf’s outline of the fiscal plan is winning him plaudits from many education advocates, but few friends in the GOP-controlled legislature. The proposal would increase the state’s personal income tax from 3.07% to 4.49% in the next fiscal year. About half of the new revenue would go to schools, and the rest would help fill in big, largely pandemic-induced budget gaps. “We can have a great public school for every child in every neighborhood in Pennsylvania, good job opportunities for everyone who wants them, and an economy strong enough to provide for everyone,” Wolf said in a statement. “It is possible to pursue a legislative agenda for this commonwealth that is good for families, good for businesses, and good for the economy.”


Gov. Tom Wolf wants to raise Pa. income taxes and give $1.5 billion more to schools

The proposal was cheered by education advocates but appeared likely to face opposition in the Republican-led Legislature.

Inquirer by Maddie Hanna Published  Feb 2, 2021

As he looks to Pennsylvania’s post-pandemic future, Gov. Tom Wolf is returning to familiar ideas: more money for schools, paid for with more tax dollars. On Tuesday, Wolf’s administration unveiled highlights of the budget proposal he’s expected to deliver to legislators Wednesday. It features an extra $1.5 billion for public education — in what would be the biggest financial boost for schools since he took office in 2015 — accompanied by a roughly 50% increase in the personal income tax rate. While sweeping proposals from earlier in his tenure fell short amid stalemates with the Republican-led legislature, the Democratic governor appears to be renewing his push for broader changes to Pennsylvania’s taxation system as the pandemic continues to upend the state’s public schools. The plan — which also includes tax credits that officials said would exempt two-thirds of Pennsylvanians from the increase — was cheered by public education advocates, who said it would steer needed resources to underfunded schools and marked a step toward addressing stark funding gaps between districts.


Wolf to seek personal income tax hike to boost school funding

PA Capital Star By  Capital-Star Staff February 2, 2021

(*This story was updated at 3 p.m. on 2/2/21 with new information about the administration’s tax plan, further details on its education funding plan, and comment from education advocate Donna Cooper.)

Gov. Tom Wolf will ask state lawmakers to approve an increase to Pennsylvania’s personal income tax to pay for new funding for public schools. He is expected to unveil the plan when he makes his annual budget address to state lawmakers on Wednesday, the Associated Press was first to report. In a statement, the Democratic governor said he will ask the Republican-controlled General Assembly for as much as $2 billion in new funding, with the biggest share, $1.35 billion, used to underwrite such core costs as teacher salaries and supplies, on top of the $6.8 billion they currently receive from the state. The money would be driven out through the state’s five-year-old school funding formula, which is supposed to level the playing field between the state’s richest and poorest school districts, the administration said in its statement.


Gov. Wolf proposes Pa.’s biggest tax increase ever, but it would be a tax cut for many

Penn Live By Charles Thompson | and Jan Murphy | Updated Feb 02, 2021; Posted Feb 02, 2021

Gov. Tom Wolf's 2021-22 budget proposal includes the largest personal income tax rate increase in state history while also providing some tax forgiveness or relief to lower-income Pennsylvanians. Gov. Tom Wolf, in proposing what may be the largest increase in the state personal income tax ever, is effectively trying to reverse engineer the state’s existing flat tax rate into a graduated tax system. The governor is proposing to raise the state’s personal income tax from 3.07 percent today to 4.49 percent, starting in July, netting the state close to $3 billion annually. For some individuals, it would represent a 46.3 percent increase in the state’s personal income tax rate. But it’s all structured in a way that only the top-third of state wage-earners would actually pay more, and most would pay less or see no change in their tax rate, according to the Wolf administration. “It’s a big step forward in making our very unfair tax system a little bit more fair,” said Marc Stier, director of the liberal-leaning Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center. “Only about the top third of Pennsylvania families will see an increase.


Gov. Tom Wolf to propose tax increase to benefit public schools, give tax breaks to some families

Penn Live By Jan Murphy | and Charles Thompson | Updated Feb 02, 2021; Posted Feb 02, 2021

Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2021-22 budget proposal contains the largest increase in education spending Pennsylvania has ever seen along with a sizable increase in the state’s personal income tax rate. While the governor is proposing to raise the income tax for the first time in nearly two decades, some of the new money would be directed to provide tax relief for lower income families and some tax-shifting at the local level. According to sources, the governor will be proposing hiking the 3.07% personal income tax rate rise to 4.49%, starting July 1. That would be the first time it has increased since 2003. An increase of that size in the personal income tax would raise more than $3 billion annually. There are nine states with flat tax rates like Pennsylvania currently range from 3.07% in Pennsylvania to 5.25% in North Carolina. With this proposed increase, it would push Pennsylvania into the seventh spot out of nine with only Indiana at 3.23% and Michigan at 4.25% being lower.


Wolf wants to add $1.3B in basic-ed funding, distribute with fair formula

Wilkes Barre Citizens Voice BY MICHAEL P. BUFFER STAFF WRITER February 3, 2021

Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing to add more than $1.3 billion in basic-education funding and wants to use the state’s fair-funding formula to distribute all basic-education funds to school districts. Wolf said Tuesday his proposal would “ensure students in every community have the funding to succeed” and would be funded by a personal income tax increase to 4.49%, up from 3.07%. The administration claims expanding exemptions would allow two-thirds of income taxpayers would pay less or the same. The Republican-controlled Legislature would have to approve Wolf’s education proposal, and opposition is already mounting. Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, Butler Twp., noted the Legislature last year “kept our commitment to funding education without raising taxes” in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We plan on keeping that commitment again this year,” she said in a released statement. “There is no reason why, now, as a vaccine is being deployed, we should be looking to raise taxes on middle class Pennsylvanians and small businesses who have been crushed by the economic devastation of COVID-19.”


Gov. Tom Wolf calls for personal income tax increase, cut for PA lower wage workers. What would change

Bucks County Courier Times by  J.D. Prose Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau February 2, 2021

Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday outlined an education-focused budget proposal that also calls for investments in workforce development and infrastructure, but also includes tax cuts for low-wage households and a $3 billion increase in the personal income tax. The announcement comes in advance of Wolf's full budget proposal to be released Wednesday and sets up a fight with the Republican-controlled state Legislature over his plan. “It is possible to pursue a legislative agenda for this commonwealth that is good for families, good for businesses and good for the economy,” Wolf, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Most of all, I think your family’s future is important enough that we ought to just have this argument right now instead of putting it off until next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.”


Scranton School District could see $33M with fair funding proposal in Wolf's budget

Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL STAFF WRITER Feb 2, 2021 Updated 7 hrs ago

The Scranton School District would see an additional $33 million in state funding next year with the budget Gov. Tom Wolf will propose today. The governor wants to allocate all $6 billion in basic education funding through the state’s fair funding formula, which would distribute money in a more equitable way across the state, accounting for student enrollment and needs and the ability for a community to fund its local schools. The state would support the plan for the 2021-22 budget with an increase in the personal income tax rate. Public school advocates have pushed for better distribution of state funding for years, arguing the current process leaves districts such as Scranton severely underfunded. Putting all funding through the formula means some of the state’s neediest districts, including Scranton, Wilkes-Barre Area and Hazleton Area, could gain the most. “If this proposal survives the budget process it will go a long way towards solving the problems caused by inequitable state education funding,” Scranton Superintendent Melissa McTiernan said. “The problems include, but are not limited to, student programs, facilities and teacher contracts. Scranton is thrilled to have a governor and local legislators that support public education.”

The funding would not be a one-time cash infusion. The formula would provide greater stability and predictability for school districts, leaders said.


In other news…..

School district defends use of fans to improve ventilation in Philadelphia classrooms

Chalkbeat Philly By Dale Mezzacappa  Feb 2, 2021, 6:45pm EST

Philadelphia school officials defended the use of window fans to improve air circulation in classrooms Tuesday, but stressed the measure is just one of several being taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The fans are meant to supplement the “core preventive measures” recommended by the CDC, namely masks and social distancing, said district chief operating officer Reginald McNeil at a briefing for reporters. “We put all these things in place. We added an additional layer of protection with ventilation to help further prevent the spread of COVID,” he said. Officials’ defense of the fans comes as a growing chorus of parents and teachers questioned the district’s installation of window fans to improve air circulation ahead of staff returning to schools on Monday, Feb. 8. About 9,000 students from pre-kindergarten through second grade who have elected to attend in-person school two days a week in the hybrid learning plan are scheduled back on Feb. 22.


Philly Union president: Teachers and families deserve safe ventilation if they’re going to school during a pandemic | Opinion

Right now, there are two key areas that the district and city need to address in advance of reentry into school buildings: ventilation and vaccines.

by Jerry T. Jordan, For The Inquirer Published  Feb 2, 2021

Educators and students should be working and learning in school buildings because we know it’s where the true magic of education happens. And the health and safety of educators and students are every bit as important as the classes that take place. As things stand, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers cannot definitely say that buildings are safe to reopen. In addition to evaluating ongoing critical issues like infection rates, and availability of ventilation and PPE, we must also contend with new obstacles such as the emergence of new, more virulent strains of the virus. Since late October, Philadelphia has been far beyond “substantial,” and the risk of community transmission remains high. Before we can reopen our school buildings, we need to take every precaution to ensure that all safeguards are in place. Students in Philadelphia have historically navigated education cuts and conditions that would never be tolerated in a wealthier, whiter school district. In a school system that educates primarily children of color experiencing poverty, it should be lost on no one that once again, too-often marginalized students are facing a return to potentially hazardous schools. School buildings in Philadelphia average more than 70 years old, eclipsing the national average by decades. Our union’s work to ensure the safety of students and staff is rooted in our commitment to changing these deeply inequitable systems.


Some Philadelphia teachers may get vaccine before return to buildings Monday, health commissioner says

Chalkbeat Philly By Johann Calhoun  Feb 2, 2021, 5:33pm EST

Some prekindergarten to second grade teachers may be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine before they return to their schools next week, Philadelphia’s health commissioner said Tuesday. “We will certainly not have all of those teachers vaccinated by then, but I don’t think reopening the schools should depend on that,” the commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley, said. “We are going to see how soon we can get teachers started. So it’s quite possible we could have some to start by then.” The school district confirmed to Chalkbeat that it would advocate for early-grade teachers to get vaccine priority. Prekindergarten to second grade teachers are slated to return to school buildings on Monday. Students in those grades whose families opted for in-person learning are slated to return to school buildings as of Feb. 22.


After pressure from advocates, Comcast boosts internet speed for low-income users

WHYY By Emily Rizzo February 3, 2021

As students in Philadelphia near a full year of virtual learning, Comcast is doubling the speed of its “Internet Essentials” program, which connects low-income families to the web at a discounted rate. For households nationally that subscribe to the program, internet speed will double from 25 megabits per second (mbps) to 50. Costs will remain the same at $10 a month. Comcast said the update builds on its “longstanding commitment to advancing digital equity, closing the digital divide, and addressing both digital literacy and the homework gap.” Since the pandemic began, the Philadelphia-based company has established 33 spaces in community centers across the city where students can receive free Wi-Fi for virtual learning. It also said it has invested $40 million dollars in digital literacy programs, with new digital equity grants announced Tuesday.


Black Women For A Better Education Forms PAC To Endorse Pittsburgh School Board Candidates


A group of Pittsburgh Public Schools parents, alumni, former employees and concerned community members will endorse a slate of candidates for the five open school board seats this May. Members of Black Women For A Better Education say they want candidates who are laser-focused on ensuring Black children get the education that they need and deserve. School board President Sylvia Wilson is the first incumbent to announce she will run again to represent district 1 which covers East End neighborhoods including Homewood, East Hills and Larimer.  Districts 3, 5, 7 and 9 are currently represented by Sala Udin, Terry Kennedy, Cindy Falls and Veronica Edwards, respectively. Black Women For A Better Education announced last week that it has formed a Political Action Committee to endorse candidates for those five districts. Financial contributors will vote on endorsements.


Nazareth teachers union threatens online learning only if school board won’t bargain


The Nazareth Area teachers union is telling the school district that members will only teach via remote instruction unless the district agrees to bargain an agreement with them. In a blistering letter sent Jan. 29, Paul Blunt, an attorney hired by the Nazareth Area Education Association, alleged the district ignored state and federal safety recommendations without bargaining a decision or its impact on workplace safety. He wrote that a failure to initiate bargaining and implementing a decision constituted an unfair labor practice and entitled the Nazareth Area Education Association to declare a lockout. He wrote that members would instead only offer remote instruction in seven days unless the district bargains a change. It wasn’t clear what decision prompted the letter. Blunt declined to comment and other representatives for the teachers union could not be reached for comment. Superintendent Dennis Riker said in an email the letter was filled with numerous inaccuracies and the matter was referred to district counsel.


Blogger note: Mr. Banks has served for many years as Executive Director of the REACH Foundation, a major player in advocating for diverting millions of tax dollars to unaccountable private and religious schools via the EITC/OSTC programs.

Former City Councilman Otto Banks reenters Harrisburg politics, announces bid for mayor

Penn Live By Charles Thompson | Updated Feb 02, 2021; Posted Feb 02, 2021

The lively field for the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor of Harrisburg grew by one more candidate Tuesday, with the entry of Otto V. Banks, a 50-year-old native son of the city who presented himself as an experienced and accomplished public servant, ready and eager to lead the place that gave him his start. Banks joins a field that now includes David Schankweiler, founder and former CEO and owner of Journal Multimedia, which is perhaps best-known locally for its Central Penn Business Journal, and Lewis Butts Jr., a former state employee and community activist.


$50K Grant Has PHS Culinary Students Cooking

Digital Notebook Blog by Evan Brandt Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottstown School District.

Thanks to Pottstown High School Director Of Career Technical Education, Dave Livengood the culinary arts students have a brand new line of equipment to help them develop the skills they will need to enter the workplace. Livengood was able to partner with equipment supplier Vulcan and 4 Star Reps to secure a $50,000 grant which along with matching funds were used to replace old outdated equipment in the kitchen that serves as a working classroom. Teacher and Chef Steve Irick, a PHS graduate of the program himself, pointed out the 20-plys-year-old-year old equipment for both group instruction and multiple catering events a month had seen better days. "I am pretty sure most of this equipment was here when I was a student in the program," Livengood said. "With the help of 4 Star and Vulcan, we now have a state-of-art kitchen that will greatly improve the students' learning experience."


Six Things to Watch for at Miguel Cardona’s Confirmation Hearing for Education Secretary

Education Week By Evie Blad — February 01, 2021  7 min read

Miguel Cardona faces the Senate’s education committee Wednesday as it considers his confirmation to become U.S. secretary of education, with members sure to ask about a host of education issues front and center in the national policy debate. After President Joe Biden named Cardona, who is currently Connecticut’s education commissioner, as his pick, education organizations across the ideological spectrum praised the choice. But that doesn’t mean Cardona won’t have to confront some tough questions. The nation’s schools are in crisis as they continue to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. And arguments over issues like school choice, students’ rights, and how to teach American history continue to punctuate the larger K-12 education discussion. Here are six areas of questioning he is likely to face.


Teaching While Black: An Open Letter to School Leaders

ASCD Educational Leadership by Sharif El-Mekki December 2020/January 2021 | Volume 78 | Number 4
To better support Black educators, schools need a better understanding of their realities.

Dear administrators, principals, teachers, and others who care about equity:

If you want all children to receive the best education possible, try to understand what it means to be a Black educator in a typical urban public school district, in a pandemic, in the wake of nationwide racial uprisings. As research has confirmed the benefits of teacher diversity, many district and school leaders have increased efforts to recruit Black educators, while paying scant attention to their retainment and demonstrating outright indifference to what it takes to nurture their curiosity, mastery, and purpose. Leaders need to be mindful of what Black educators need, not just to maintain their mental health and well-being, but to become the high-caliber teacher-activists our students need them to be. Take this to heart: The best recruitment strategy is also a strong retention strategy. I'm a veteran Black educator, a former teacher and principal of two urban schools. Here's how I see the realities Black educators face.


“track record of online charter schools has been uniformly negative for every demographic subgroup of students”

Report: California ‘wasting’ millions of dollars funding online charter schools

Washington Post By Valerie Strauss Feb. 2, 2021 at 11:04 a.m. EST

A new report on California’s online charter schools says that the state is “wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year by funding these schools at a level far above their costs.” The report, published Tuesday by a California-based nonprofit research and policy organization called In the Public Interest, also says that the “track record of online charter schools has been uniformly negative for every demographic subgroup of students” despite the promise of online education. “In a time when school districts everywhere face the heartbreak of knowing they cannot provide all the services their students need and deserve, it is critical that lawmakers act as conservative stewards of the state’s tax collars by focusing funding on the schools where it can do the greatest good for the greatest number of the state’s students,” the report says. Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated. About 10 percent of public school students in California attend charter schools — both brick-and-mortar and online. According to the report, nearly 175,000 California students in 2018-19 were enrolled in online charter schools, representing 27 percent of all charter school students in the state. The charter sector in California — which has more charter schools and more charter students than any other state — has long been troubled. Though charter schools are designed to operate outside the rules of school district bureaucracies, the state allowed them to expand for years with very little oversight despite continuing controversy over financial scandals and other problems.


PA State Board of Education Student Representative Application Now Available


On May 22, 2008 the Pennsylvania State Board of Education (SBE) amended their bylaws to add one nonvoting senior student member and one nonvoting junior student member. Since September 2009 two high school students have served on the SBE. For the past year those students have been senior Anne Griffith from Radnor High School and Junior Eva Rankin from Upper St. Clair High School. These SBE positions have provided public school students with an unprecedented opportunity in Pennsylvania to interact with the 22 adult board members and have helped shape long-term education policy for the 1.8 million K-12 students in our state and the 680,000 students impacted by our state system of higher education. The Pennsylvania Association of Student Councils (PASC) was first charged with the responsibility of recommending two students to hold these positions for the 2008-2009 school year. PASC is currently accepting applications for our new junior student representative.

Current 10th grade students (Class of 2023) enrolled in public high schools in Pennsylvania are eligible to apply for this position. The introductory letter, commitment forms and application can be found here. Applications are due back on March 8th, 2021. Interviews will be conducted virtually. One student will be selected for a two-year term at that time.

More information can be found at: . Questions may be directed to the two current student representatives at and



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!


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:



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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