Thursday, February 4, 2021

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Feb. 4, 2021: Statewide Budget Coverage/Reactions; Here Comes 2021’s Voucher Bill SB1

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. 4, 2021

Statewide Budget Coverage/Reactions; Here Comes 2021’s Voucher Bill SB1


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: 


“Pennsylvania’s system for funding cyber charters defies common sense. Cyber charters receive the same tuition payments from taxpayers as brick-and-mortar charter schools—even though they have none of the brick-and- mortar expenses. No school buildings to heat or grounds to maintain. No costs for custodians and maintenance workers. No buses for students. And the list goes on.

While school districts continue to face brutal struggles with increased mandated costs and reduced local revenues as a result COVID-19, the pandemic has been a financial boon for cyber charters. An enrollment spike combined with tuition rate increases pursuant to the state’s current charter school policy means school districts are projected to pay cyber charters more than $980 million this school year —a 51% increase over last year. Cyber charters will also receive nearly $60 million from spring and winter federal COVID-19 aid for schools and millions in federal PPP grants.”

Gov. Wolf’s 2021 budget offers new opportunity to hold cyber charters accountable | Opinion

Pennsylvania’s newly elected auditor general, Timothy DeFoor, must lay out a calendar to audit every cyber charter school.

by Susan Spicka, For the Inquirer Published February 3, 2021

Susan Spicka is executive director of Education Voters PA.

A new legislative session in Harrisburg and state budget negotiations for the coming months, following Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address today, bring opportunities for elected officials to end gross overpayments to Pennsylvania’s cyber charter schools to ensure that these schools are held to the same financial accountability standards as public school districts. Recent reporting in the Scranton Times-Tribune revealed a stunning lack of state oversight over the taxpayer dollars that have been poured into cyber charters over the past two decades. Six of Pennsylvania’s 14 cyber charter schools have never been audited. Commonwealth Charter Academy, the largest cyber charter in the state with an expected $270 million budget for 2021, was last audited in 2012. Cyber charter schools are projected to receive more than $980 million in taxpayer-funded tuition payments in the 2020-2021 school year. With no state oversight, the opportunities for waste, fraud, and abuse are staggering.


“Along with developing standards to hold charter schools accountable for student achievement and requiring charter school management companies to be subject to the state’s Right to Know law and Ethics Act, Wolf wants to establish a statewide tuition rate for cyber charter schools. School districts currently pay between $9,170 and $22,300 per student who elects to go to a cyber charter school, even if it’s to the same school. The proposal would set a statewide rate of $9,500. Coupled with changes to special education tuition rates, the state estimates districts would save about $229 million a year. “What we are currently paying per student is way too high and does not accurately reflect the cost of the services the kids get when they go to those cyber charters,” said Michael Boccella, Ed.D., Valley View superintendent. “It’s egregious. Our cyber charter laws are among the most broken I’m aware of.”

Fair funding, charter reform proposed for Pennsylvania schools

Times Tribune BY SARAH HOFIUS HALL STAFF WRITER Feb 3, 2021 Updated 11 min ago

The 37 school districts in Northeast Pennsylvania would see a combined increase of $159 million in basic education funding under a budget proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday. Most of the increase would go to the districts underfunded for years, as the governor tries to fully use a funding formula meant to increase equity. The proposal also calls for a $1.15 billion adjustment, so no school district would receive less than last year, and an increase in the personal income tax rate to help provide the funding to schools. The Scranton School District — the largest and most underfunded in Lackawanna County — would see an additional $39 million in basic education funding in 2021-22, according to funding estimates provided Wednesday by the Department of Education. Pennsylvania enacted the fair funding formula six years ago, but the state currently only distributes new money — or any amount districts receive above 2014-15 funding levels — through the new formula. Beyond the proposed funding, which some Republican lawmakers immediately rejected due to the necessary tax increase, Wolf proposed comprehensive charter school reform once again.


2021 Voucher Bill - Soon to be Senate Bill 1: Cosponsorship Memo

Posted:             February 3, 2021 03:18 PM

From:                Senator Scott Martin and Sen. John DiSanto, Sen. Jake Corman

To:                    All Senate members

Subject:            Excellence in Education for All (EEA)

In the near future, we intend to introduce legislation in the form of Senate Bill 1, to be known as “The Excellence in Education for All Act."

The goal of this comprehensive legislation is to allow parents in communities all across the Commonwealth to be directly involved in helping determine the best approach for the success of their child’s education.

This legislation would provide additional resources for our most vulnerable students, while ensuring all families have equal access and maximum flexibility in schooling options. All students deserve an excellent education. No matter a child’s ZIP code, educational needs, or parental income, each child should have access to the best schools and quality teaching to afford them the potential to succeed and the opportunities they deserve.

Now more than ever, we’re seeing that in order to best prepare the next generation, we cannot take a one size fits all approach to education. There is no denying that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for increased educational opportunities.

As we look to the future and life after the pandemic, in order to best serve the education needs of all students we must provide opportunities to parents when choosing the educational options that work best for their children.  Specifically, the key components of the legislation would include:

·         Education Opportunity Accounts for PA’s most vulnerable students

·         Expansion of the existing EITC/OSTC tax credit scholarship programs

·         Charter school reforms and innovations

·         Equal access to the best public education, regardless of ZIP code

·         Protections for coronavirus learning pods

·         We ask that you consider co-sponsoring this important legislation.


PA Schools Work is a non-partisan coalition of organizations from across Pennsylvania representing teachers and other educators; urban, suburban and rural communities; and parents and community members working together to advocate for PA public schools, their students and the communities they serve. For more information on PA Schools Work, visit”


PA Schools Work Website February 3, 2021

HARRISBURG, PA (February 2, 2021) – The PA Schools Work Campaign, a coalition of more than 30 organizations from across Pennsylvania representing educators; urban, rural and suburban communities; parents and community leaders working together to increase funding for PA public schools, saluted Governor Wolf for his bold $1.5 billion public education budget proposal, which responds to the moment and sets an historic marker for investing in public education.  Coalition leaders noted that the global pandemic highlighted the critical role schools play in our communities and our future, while widening the gap between the wealthiest and poorest schools as school districts remain chronically underfunded by the state. The coalition issued the following statement on behalf of its supporters across the commonwealth who are seeking leadership during this extraordinary moment in the education of our students:

“We support a $1.5 billion public investment that is dedicated to moving Pennsylvania toward funding each school district equitably and adequately, with the resources to support it. Let’s get to work.”


PSBA’s Response to Governor Wolf’s Proposed 2021-22 State Budget


Mechanicsburg, PA (February 2, 2021) – The Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) released its response to Governor Wolf’s proposed 2021-22 state budget.

The Governor’s proposal shows that he has assessed and understands the significant and critical needs of public schools, students and communities and PSBA appreciates that many of the long- term challenges have been identified. Proposed investments dedicated to basic education, special education and the school construction reimbursement program called PlanCon, show insight from the administration into areas long-requiring additional support from the State. This year of-all-years, the needs go well beyond typical expenditure challenges with expenses rising around the impacts to schools stemming from COVID-19. “The Governor is demonstrating his commitment to public education and we are hopeful and cautiously optimistic that this focus will shine a light on the many long-standing issues that need to be addressed in public education,” said Nathan Mains, PSBA chief executive officer. With Pennsylvania’s children at the center of the issue, PSBA calls upon Gov. Wolf and a unified General Assembly to work together towards the solutions that will get us to where education can flourish in every part of the state. “School districts not only need investments in key areas but, savings in the form of mandate relief through legislation like Senate Bill 73, which reinstates a mandate waiver program. Further, we need the charter funding reform that over 300 school districts have officially called for that will put a stop to systemic overpayment for services.” Mains added. As the administration and lawmakers continue to work towards passage of a state budget PSBA looks forward to working with them to set the foundation for successful student outcomes for all student in PA.

PSBA is a nonprofit statewide association of public school boards, pledged to the highest ideals of local lay leadership for the public schools of the commonwealth. Founded in 1895, PSBA now in its 125th year was the first school boards association established in the United States.


Wolf launches a budget fraught with deficits, uncertainty

Delco Times By MARC LEVY Associated Press February 3, 2021

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf asked lawmakers Wednesday to raise income taxes on higher earners and give public schools a massive boost in aid, as state government faces a gaping deficit and uncertainty over how much more pandemic relief the federal government will send. For Wolf, a Democrat in his seventh year in office, his $4 billion income tax proposal and bid to use the money to supercharge public school funding is a return to the aggressive and ambitious budget proposals of his first two years in office. The proposal to raise Pennsylvania's flat personal income tax rate and shift the burden to higher earners revives a concept he discussed in his first campaign for governor, in 2014, but never actually sought in office, until now. Raising the income tax would allow Wolf to use $1.35 billion — a 20% boost — to help fix long-term inequities in how the state funds public schools, not to mention fill a projected multibillion-dollar deficit largely inflicted by the pandemic. While it faces immediate opposition from Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature, the flat rate under Wolf's proposal would rise to 4.49% from 3.07%, or 46%, to raise what his office estimated to be $4 billion over a full-year, or about 25% more.


What dueling press releases say about the utter predictability of the budget ballet | Thursday Morning Coffee

PA Capital Star By  John L. Micek February 4, 2021

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Wednesday’s release of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s seventh budget proposal to the General Assembly was met with the usual blizzard of press releases from lawmakers and advocates with storylines more predictable than an episode of late-period Friends. In general, Wolf’s Democratic allies in the General Assembly were praising. Republicans were, well, less so. Since re-running each of them here would result in the needless deaths of trillions of electrons, we instead decided to pick two such statements as the archetype of partisan reaction. And then, from there, try to divine what those reactions say about the state of our current debate, and the fate that might await Wolf’s $37.8 billion spending plan (any interior rhyme in the preceding sentence is entirely accidental).


By the numbers: 2021-22 Budget Breakdown (Chart)

PA Capital Star Cassie Miller - February 4, 2021


Wolf calls for income tax increase to close looming state deficit, fund education

PA Capital Star By Stephen CarusoElizabeth Hardison February 3, 2021

Gov. Tom Wolf appealed directly to Pennsylvanians — not just their lawmakers — on Wednesday to rally support for tax increases as the state faces down a multi-billion dollar budget hole this year. Speaking to House and Senate lawmakers from a virtual bully pulpit, Wolf extorted viewers who agreed with his aims — additional school funding, a $15 minimum wage, and legal recreational cannabis  — to call their state representatives and demand action on his proposal. “If you’ve had enough of being told why your government can’t solve your problems, make it crystal clear that, this time, you don’t want to hear that anymore; that you won’t accept any more excuses,” Wolf said. The $37.8 billion plan represents an 11 percent increase in state spending over last year. The new state spending will replace $3 billion in one-time federal COVID-19 aid that the state used to close last year’s budget. Given the political and economic circumstances, the plan Wolf unveiled Wednesday was one of his most ambitious budget proposals yet.


Wolf’s school funding plan would help Philly. It would give big increases to some wealthier suburban districts, too.

Inquirer by Maddie Hanna, Posted: February 3, 2021- 8:41 PM

Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to dramatically boost education funding by raising the income tax rate was cheered Wednesday by advocates who have long called for Pennsylvania to step up its investment in public schools and narrow gaps in resources between wealthy and poor communities. But Wolf’s budget proposal wouldn’t just drive dollars to poorer districts like Philadelphia. It would help wealthier districts, too. Lower Merion, for instance, would see a 60% increase in state aid. Radnor would get a 65% boost, while West Chester would net a more than 85% increase. Those percentage increases are greater than the 22.5% granted to much larger Philadelphia, which relies more heavily on state aid. But Philadelphia would get an additional $262 million, compared with $2.5 million for Lower Merion. The Democratic governor’s proposal faces opposition in the GOP-led legislature, where lawmakers have objected to his income tax plan. The Wolf administration says the plan wouldn’t affect two-thirds of Pennsylvanians, but it would nearly double the tax rate paid by higher earners. Senate Republicans on Wednesday called the proposal “dead on arrival.” The plan casts new light on the long-running debate over how Pennsylvania funds public education — among the myriad issues that will now go through months of hearings and negotiations as lawmakers seek to pass a budget by June 30.


Wolf asks for tax increase on Pa.’s top earners amid pandemic; GOP pans proposal as ‘irresponsible’

Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis of Spotlight PA &Cynthia Fernandez,: February 3, 2021- 6:21 PM

Spotlight PA is an independent, nonpartisan 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 — In one of his boldest budget proposals since taking office, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is asking the legislature to significantly boost funding for public schools, legalize recreational cannabis, and approve the first major tax increase in nearly two decades. But Wolf’s $40 billion spending plan, which he formally unveiled Wednesday, is likely to be dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled legislature, whose leaders wasted little time shredding it with criticism, calling it unrealistic and hurtful to taxpayers. “The budget he is presenting is completely unsustainable, totally irresponsible, and absolutely crippling to the state’s economy,” said Jake Corman of Centre County, the Senate’s top Republican. “Now is not the time to ask Pennsylvanians to send more of their hard-earned dollars to Harrisburg.” Still, the Democratic governor, who in recent years has avoided goading Republican leaders with aggressive spending proposals, said he believes his budget blueprint will make the state’s education system fairer and its tax structure more equitable for those reeling from the financial blows of the pandemic.


PA Republicans call Gov. Tom Wolf's budget proposal 'dead on arrival'

Bucks County Courier Times by J.D. Prose, USA TODAY Network - PA State Capitol Bureau February 3, 2021

Pennsylvania Senate Republican leaders called Gov. Tom Wolf’s nearly $38 billion budget proposal “dead on arrival” Wednesday, with Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward saying it was “absurd” to propose increasing the personal income tax in a pandemic-ravaged economy. The reaction wasn’t much better in the GOP-led House, where Speaker Bryan Cutler took issue with Wolf’s proposing an income tax hike and legalizing marijuana. Cutler, though, went a step further, insisting that the Wolf administration has mismanaged state government, ranging from COVID-19 shutdowns to an overwhelmed unemployment compensation system to a sputtering rollout of coronavirus vaccines. “I cannot, nor will our citizens, tolerate the quiet dismissal of the open mismanagement that has occurred in our executive agencies,” Cutler said. Wolf’s proposed budget calls for a 46% increase in personal income taxes while at the same time recommending a reduction in taxes for low-wage earners, or married couples with two children making less than $84,000 a year and the elimination of the tax for families of four making less than $50,000 a year. “I want to help working families get ahead by reducing their taxes. This isn’t about pitting the rich against the poor and the middle class,” Wolf said in a recorded address, skipping a live appearance before the Legislature because of pandemic protocols.


Wolf's massive education funding proposal is long overdue for some Lancaster County school leaders, worrisome for others

Lancaster Online by ALEX GELI | Staff Writer February 4, 2021

Facing intense budgetary pressure from the coronavirus pandemic and years of being severely underfunded, a handful of Lancaster County schools received a semblance of hope Wednesday as Gov. Tom Wolf proposed what some school officials say is a long-overdue shakeup of education funding in Pennsylvania. The democratic governor’s 2021-22 budget proposal, which some Republicans say is dead on arrival, builds on previous education funding increases by calling for a historic, $1.35 billion, or 21.6%, increase in basic education funding. Wolf is also asking for all basic education funding to flow through the state’s Fair Funding Formula that presently is used for new money only. That translates to a $59.5 million, or 32%, boost for Lancaster County schools. The biggest beneficiaries include Conestoga Valley School District, long regarded as one of the most inequitably funded school districts in the state. The district would see a staggering $10.6 million increase to the $4.8 million it received in 2020-21 — an increase of 221%. “For years I have been talking about how inequitably funded CV has been, and that the application of the Fair Funding Formula on only ‘new’ monies did nothing to address that inequality, especially when we are in the lowest five percent of the school districts receiving equitable funding from the state,” Conestoga Valley Superintendent Dave Zuilkoski said in an email. “As such, I would not consider this a ‘boost,’ but rather a long-overdue equitable distribution of state funding.”


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

Wilkes Barre Citizens Voice BY MICHAEL P. BUFFER STAFF WRITER Feb 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.” State Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-120, Kingston, said the Democratic governor’s proposal “would kick our small businesses while they are already down,” emphasizing the 46% increase in the tax rate. State Sen. Lisa Baker, R-20, Lehman Twp., noted the income tax hike “would be the largest jump in the last 30 years” and added legislators “cannot ignore that this past year has been tremendously challenging for so many families in our region, due to the pandemic and the financial hardships that it has caused.” Sen. John Yudichak, I-14, of Swoyersville, said he wants to work with Republicans and Democrats “to better fund our schools without putting any greater burden on property taxpayers” and is “eager to hear” Wolf’s upcoming budget address. “Fair funding, however, has always been elusive in a state budget that often shortchanges local schools like Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton,” Yudichak said.


Wolf proposes new budget with tax hike; Republicans say it's DOA

Times Tribune BY BORYS KRAWCZENIUK STAFF WRITER Feb 3, 2021 Updated 11 min ago

Gov. Tom Wolf proposed a new state budget Wednesday that dramatically raises the state’s income tax rate to boost public school education funding, but Republicans declared it “dead on arrival.” They called the Democratic governor’s proposal “unconstitutional” for broadly expanding income tax forgiveness to shield many taxpayers from the higher rate. In his budget address, Wolf portrayed a state government too often unwilling to act boldly to solve chronic problems that leave public schools inadequately funded, roads unpaved and other problems untackled. “So let’s stop with the excuses. Let’s move beyond the chronic timidity,” Wolf said in his budget address. “Let’s do something.”


Public education advocates hail Wolf’s school budget; Republicans balk at tax proposal

Trib Live by DEB ERDLEY   | Wednesday, February 3, 2021 7:42 p.m.

Public education advocates applauded the proposed 21% boost to K-12 funding in Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2021-22 budget Wednesday calling it bold and overdue, even as members of the Republican-controlled Legislature savaged it. “It is long overdue and very, very necessary,” said Ron Cowell, the former Allegheny County lawmaker and founder of the Pennsylvania Education Policy Center. “If enacted by the Legislature it wouldn’t solve all of Pennsylvania’s K-12 funding problems, but it will make significant progress in terms of increasing the state share of funding and closing the gap between the have and have not districts.” “I would think most people affiliated with public education would be pleased, certainly there is a need for a more fair and equitable funding,” said retired Norwin School District Superintendent Bill Kerr. “But realistically, there is going to be great debate between the governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature.” Education has become a hot topic across the country as governors weigh in with new budget plans. Many are wish lists or jumping off points that lawmakers will pare down or accept in the coming months.


What Allentown School District could do with an extra $109 million


Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed injection of an additional $1.5 billion in basic education funding would be a “game changer” that would help free school districts from recurring tax hikes and the need for bailouts to balance budgets, Lehigh Valley education leaders said. Under Wolf’s plan announced Wednesday, Allentown School District would see its basic education funding grow by $108.9 million to $229.7 million — a 90% increase over 2020-21 subsidies. Bethlehem Area School District would see its funding go up by $25 million to $58 million — a 74% percent hike, according to figures released by the state. Other districts in Lehigh and Northampton counties would see a range from a 1.65% increase to $7.2 million in Northern Lehigh to a 142% hike to $20.7 million in Parkland. “We live every year with a perpetual budget deficit,” Allentown Superintendent Thomas Parker said. “This would absolutely change the landscape in how we provide services.” Wolf announced his education budget Wednesday as part of his proposed $38 billion general budget for 2021-22, which also includes a proposal to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and increase the state income tax from 3.07% to 4.49% in a way that would mostly affect higher wage earners. Members of the Republican-controlled state Legislature immediately slammed the plan, particularly the income tax hike, dimming any chances of its passing.


Allentown school superintendent: Resignation is indictment of Pennsylvania’s unfair education funding


It was just last February that I wrote about Allentown schools Superintendent Thomas Parker looking for another job only halfway through his five-year contract with the district. I said then that I didn’t blame him. Leading an impoverished school district such as Allentown is like being captain of a sinking ship. You keep bailing, yet water keeps pouring in. You can only do so much. That has to be frustrating. A year later, Parker has found his lifeboat. He told the school board Monday he is leaving for a position at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint, Mich. The foundation supports nonprofits in the area, as well as in England and South Africa. In his resignation letter, Parker said his role will be to strengthen education in Flint. A young, ambitious educator such as Parker can have more of an impact in that type of setting, where he can focus on education instead of scrounging for money to keep the lights on, as he had to do every year in Allentown. I wish him well. Bon voyage. And I wish state officials will consider his departure another failure on their part to educate the students of Allentown, and cities in similar predicaments. Because there will be more Thomas Parkers if the state doesn’t get its act together and correct school funding. Education administrators with promise — Parker was moving up the ranks fast for his age — will last only so long under those circumstances.


Philadelphia schools could get $300 million more in Wolf’s proposed budget

Chalkbeat Philly By Dale Mezzacappa  Feb 3, 2021, 7:03pm EST

Gov. Tom Wolf proposed Wednesday a groundbreaking state budget that would significantly boost state education aid for public schools and redistribute the funds in a way that is more aligned to districts’ enrollment and needs. The reallocation would largely benefit urban areas like Philadelphia. If Wolf’s plan is adopted, the state’s largest district would receive more than $300 million in additional funds next year. Wolf, who is approaching the end of his second term, wants to hike the income tax rate on higher earners — over $84,000 for a family of four — to pay for the increases. This would raise $3 billion, about half of which would go to education. “Today, I’m proposing we do things differently,” he said in a 20-minute, virtual budget address. He said changing the way the state allocates aid will address longstanding and damaging inequitable and inadequate education funding in the state. “Far too many parents across the commonwealth...felt like the opportunities available to their kids would be determined less by their talent and more by their zip code,” he said. Democrats and education advocates praised the governor’s action as needed and long overdue. “We’ve been waiting for this moment,” said state Sen. Vincent Hughes, a Philadelphia Democrat whose legislative district includes some wealthy districts adjacent to the city. “This is something we have been fighting to achieve for deal with a significant level of inequity in education funding. The governor has thrown out a challenge.” Republican legislative leaders objected to the proposal, particularly the proposed tax hike.


Wolf budget gives huge boost to schools in Philly, Allentown, Reading and other cities

WHYY By Miles Bryan February 3, 2021

The budget proposal Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf unveiled this week would significantly alter how state education funding is distributed, prioritizing the neediest schools based on the most up-to-date data. That may sound intuitive, but it means largely abandoning a 30-year-old policy known as ‘hold harmless,’ which bars the state from funding school districts at levels lower than the prior year. That policy has largely benefitted districts where enrollment has dropped precipitously at the expense of urban districts where poverty rates are high. Instead, Wolf would route the majority of the state’s basic education funding through the 2016 funding formula that more closely ties dollars to student need. Currently, only 11% of Pennsylvania’s $6.8 billion basic education subsidy is distributed via that formula. “Putting all this funding through the fair funding formula means that struggling schools will finally get the resources they need without taking away from schools already being adequately funded,” Wolf said Wednesday. The governor is also calling for a $1.35 billion increase to the state’s main pot of education cash, which would prevent any districts from seeing a budget cut based on his redistribution proposal.


Republican lawmakers call Wolf's draft budget 'tone deaf'

Erin Bamer York Dispatch February 3, 2021

State Republican lawmakers widely panned Gov. Tom Wolf's draft budget Wednesday, calling the tax hikes sought by Pennsylvania's Democratic governor "tone deaf." On Wednesday, Wolf rolled out his 2021-22 budget proposal, which would hike the state's income tax rate in order to increase funding for public education by about $2 billion.  "Universal high quality education leads to healthier people and healthier communities," he said in his address.  Wolf has for years battled with GOP lawmakers who run both chambers of the General Assembly. He's repeatedly sought a new fee on oil and gas producers in order to bolster state revenue, only to see them die in the Legislature. But the $40 billion draft budget unveiled Wednesday may be among Wolf's most progressive. It includes raising personal income tax rates for the wealthy, a 25% tax cut for businesses and a plan to raise minimum wage.


Pottstown Schools use Black History Month to kick off 'cultural competency' initiative

Pottstown Mercury by Evan Brandt @PottstownNews on Twitter February 4, 2021

POTTSTOWN — Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth are all great names in Black American history, celebrated every month in February. "We look at the big names when we teach history, and it is used to objectify the narrative of African-American history, to say that they stand out as the exception, and not the rule," according to Tonya Thames Taylor. Thames Taylor is the founding director of West Chester University's African American Studies program and a member of the executive committee of the Frederick Douglass Institute there and she spoke the above words last February during a talk at Pottsgrove Manor. But as Thames Taylor emphasized, Black history is so much more than these great names and stories repeated over and over every February. Because few enslaved people could read or write, their stories were not preserved by being written down, and so much of early Black American history won't be read in your average American history book. But that's changing and thanks to a new initiative in the Pottstown School District, they will be part of the history and literature curriculum being taught.


Teachers at Mars Area School District threaten strike


The Mars Area teachers union has issued a strike notice to the school district if a new contract is not reached by Feb. 19. The Mars Area Education Association said Thursday morning that it notified Mars Area School District superintendent Mark Gross of an impending strike after a nearly three-hour bargaining session Wednesday night produced no agreement. The notice states that teachers will begin their strike on Feb. 19 if a contract isn’t reached. The current contract expired on June 30. The union said it is still open to continue negotiations. “In an effort to fairly settle the contract and avoid the strike, the Teachers are available to negotiate as often as the District is willing and available,” the union said in a statement. “The Teachers are hopeful that the District will come to the table to negotiate and reach a fair agreement that benefits all stakeholders – students, teachers, and the community.” District officials were not immediately available for comment. Union officials said preliminary negotiations began in September 2019, but both sides failed to reach an agreement. The union authorized its negotiating team to issue the strike notice at a membership meeting Nov. 9.


Spot the International Space Station

Flying over Philly Area at 6:22 this evening; Check your location here….


The Lakes of Pontchartrain - Paul Brady 1977

YouTube Runtime 5:37



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.


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


344 PA school boards have adopted charter reform resolutions

Charter school funding reform continues to be a concern as over 340 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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