Friday, February 5, 2021

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Feb. 5, 2021: Fair, increased funding for Pennsylvania schools is 2021 budget's biggest priority [editorial]

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Keystone State Education Coalition

PA Ed Policy Roundup for Feb. 5, 2021

Fair, increased funding for Pennsylvania schools is 2021 budget's biggest priority [editorial]



Congratulations to #345 @PennridgeSD for passing the charter funding reform resolution.

Thank you @TomSeidenberger, Representative Shelby Labs, @RepPolinchock, @RepStaats and @SenSantarsiero.



Commonwealth Charter Academy purchases former Macy’s space at Waterfront

Trib Live PAUL GUGGENHEIMER  | Wednesday, February 3, 2021 1:58 p.m.

A former Macy’s department store now known as the Waterfront Technology Center has been bought by one of its current tenants. Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), an online education platform, has finalized a deal to purchase the redeveloped office complex from M&J Wilkow and BIG Shopping Centers, which bought the 140,000-square-foot building from Macy’s in 2018. The building is located in The Waterfront shopping complex in Homestead. It was part of an effort to continue expanding the center’s mix of retailers and tenants. Following a reuse conversion, the building was leased at full capacity to Siemens Mobility and CCA, turning the space into an office and research and development facility. CCA currently occupies the first floor, spanning nearly 70,000 square feet. Seimens Mobility will continue to occupy the remainder of the building on the second floor. M&J Wilkow has been retained by CCA to provide property management services.


Fair, increased funding for Pennsylvania schools is 2021 budget's biggest priority [editorial]


THE ISSUE: “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,” The Associated Press reported, describing the seventh-year Democratic governor’s proposed budget. “No matter how great a parent you are, if your local school system lacks the resources it needs to provide your kids with a quality education, that’s a barrier to giving them a better life,” Wolf said in his budget address of the urgency for increasing and fairly distributing public education funding.

Wolf’s proposed path is problematic, but his end goal is absolutely necessary. The governor is correct in moving boldly to address long-term inequities in how Pennsylvania funds its public schools. The need is even more urgent than it was a year ago, as the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problems faced by school districts that simply don’t have the resources to educate children safely and satisfactorily. But we’re hesitant to fully endorse the governor’s specific proposal to raise state income taxes amid a still-ongoing health crisis. An approach that potentially stymies job growth and inhibits the eventual economic recovery doesn’t seem prudent. But the alternative is that school districts, faced with challenges imposed by the pandemic, will have to raise property taxes for homeowners. Unless Republican lawmakers have another idea.

What cannot be up for debate is the need to deal aggressively with Pennsylvania’s public education crisis this year. There can be no more delay. Leaders of both parties must collaborate and rise to this challenge. If Wolf’s plan isn’t palatable to Republicans, then the party in control of the General Assembly should offer aggressive ideas of its own that keep children from being left behind.


Pottstown Superintendent Rodriguez sees opportunity for education equity in Wolf budget

Pottstown Mercury by Evan Brandt @PottstownNews on Twitter February 5, 2021

Pottstown Schools Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez does not want to lose the momentum of the moment. Rodriguez, who is also the president of the Pennsylvania League of Urban Schools, said he was elated when Gov. Tom Wolf announced his educational budget priorities in a speech Wednesday. "I am 100 percent in support of any proposal that provides more resources for our students and our community," Rodriguez said. Widely leaked details about a major infusion of funding proposals for public education turned out to be true beyond Rodriguez's expectations. Among other things, Wolf has proposed funneling all state education funding through the five-year-old fair funding formula which would double the amount of state aid Pottstown and other under-funded schools receive — an increase of more than $13 million. Studies in recent years have used the fair-funding formula to uncover not only how Pennsylvania's education funding is skewed to favor wealthier districts, but also how it favors districts with whiter school populations. Rodriguez pointed out that "52 percent of Pennsylvania students attend an under-funded school district." He said urban school districts with the most "Black and brown students have been undermined by Pennsylvania's unfair education funding for too long."


Budget aims at cyber charter school concerns

Williamsport Sun Gazette by PAT CROSSLEY FEB 5, 2021

Revealed in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget agenda this week was a proposal to establish a statewide cyber charter school tuition rate aimed at reducing the costs to districts for students attending those schools, which has local superintendents saying it’s a start, and state cyber charter schools calling it “callously wrong.” Under Wolf’s proposal, cyber charter school tuition would be established at $9,500. Currently, cyber charter schools in the state charge between $9,170 and $22,300 per student each year. The average tuition rate Intermediate Units in the state charge districts for a comparable online education is about $5,400 per student annually. This change in how cyber charter schools are funded is estimated to save school districts an estimated $130 million annually. The governor also proposed to change the formula for determining funding for special education at cyber charter schools. Although they are happy that there is some movement in the direction of a more equitable funding for cyber charters, the district superintendents contacted agreed that it still was not enough to rectify the situation.


“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 1 hr 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. 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.



Pennsylvania charter schools face cuts in governor’s education-focused spending plan

By Christen Smith | The Center Square Feb 4, 2021 Updated 11 hrs ago

(The Center Square) – Gov. Tom Wolf’s $37.8 billion spending proposal prioritizes a $2 billion boost in public education funding to tackle crumbling school buildings, stagnating teacher salaries and dwindling achievement among disadvantaged students. But charter schools and the 170,000 students they serve across the state would see their funding cut under the governor’s plan through policies that standardize tuition rates and lessen the amount some districts pay.  “Finally, we will be able to fully and fairly fund every school, in every school district, in every part of the commonwealth,” Wolf said during his annual budget address Wednesday. “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’s $37.8 billion budget seeks to confront state’s longstanding school funding inequity

Johnstown Tribune Democrat By John Finnerty Feb 4, 2021

HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday laid out a plan to spend $37.8 billion in the 2021-22 fiscal year, an 11% increase over the state’s spending this year.  Wolf's plan calls for a dramatic boost in school funding to allow the state to confront long-standing inequities in the way the state divides education dollars between local school districts. The biggest change is his proposal to increase the personal income tax rate from 3.07% to 4.49%, a move that the administration projects would increase school funding by almost $2 billion. Wolf is calling on the General Assembly to cushion that tax increase by providing exemptions for lower-wage earners. Republicans who hold the majority in both chambers of the Legislature rebuffed the plan as particularly poorly-timed in that it would seek to hike taxes on people after so many Pennsylvanians faced economic hardship through the pandemic economic crisis.. House Appropriations Chairman Stan Saylor, R-York, said that he supports the idea of fairly funding schools, but he called the suggestion that the state increase the personal income tax at the tail-end of the pandemic’s economic crisis “absurd.” School groups say that they recognize that lawmakers are going to be resistant to Wolf’s proposal, but they said the governor is trying to tackle a problem the state needs to address.


Greater Johnstown would get $13M windfall under Wolf budget proposal

Johnstown Tribune Democrat By Joshua Byers Feb 4, 2021

Regional schools are set to receive a significant boost, according to Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed state budget, which suggests investing more than $1 billion for Pennsylvania education funding through an income tax increase. A tentative plan from the state shows Greater Johnstown, Ferndale Area and Cambria Heights school districts would benefit the most in Cambria County, while Somerset Area, Windber Area and North Star would receive the largest boost in Somerset County. “It would be amazing for us,” Greater Johnstown Superintendent Amy Arcurio said. Her district would get an additional $13 million for the next academic year, a 66% increase that would raise the basic education funding for that district from $19 million in 2020-21 to $32 million for 2021-22. That’s the largest increase in the area, and Arcurio said the first item the supplemental money would be used for is to fix the leaking roof at the elementary school. She added that there’s a “laundry list” of other undertakings the administration would handle, such as adding educational programs and hiring more behavioral specialists, guidance counselors and reading specialists.


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.”


As Pa. budget shows, the governor is from Venus, the Legislature is from Mars

No Democratic governor has had even one chamber of the Legislature in his corner since 2010.

WITF by Charles Thompson/PennLive  Jan Murphy/PennLive FEBRUARY 4, 2021 | 10:49 AM

(Harrisburg) — Gov. Tom Wolf picked the big lumber off his policy bat rack Wednesday, unveiling a $37.8 billion state budget proposal that calls for the kind of sweeping change that he started his tenure in office with six years ago. Wolf proposed a major tax reform that also — and unfortunately for the governor and his allies — can be accurately described by his Republican critics as the single-biggest income tax increase ever seen in Pennsylvania, even though it would only ask the top one-third of state wage earners to pay more, according to the administration’s numbers. He has proposed a transformative increase in funding to Pennsylvania’s public schools, boosting the main budget line for state aid that districts can use to support their basic education programs by $1.35 million, with a major shift in the formula that drives out those dollars to one that puts schools on more equitable footing. He proposed a quick-turnaround, $3 billion investment in a variety of economic development programs designed to help Pennsylvania build back better, as President Joe Biden might say, from the pandemic-fueled recession; this one funded by a new severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production. You have to admire the guy’s ability to go into the policy laboratory and come up with ambitious ideas. But you might also wonder about his ability to read the political tea leaves in Harrisburg.


Lehigh Valley school districts would get this much more money under Wolf budget plan


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.


Gov. Wolf defends proposed school funding increase, Pa. superintendents remain cautious

ABC27 by: Andrew Forgotch Posted: Feb 4, 2021 / 01:20 PM EST Updated: Feb 4, 2021 / 06:54 PM EST

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — Under Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed $1.35-billion education funding increase, schools across the state would receive more money. In Lancaster County, one of the districts that would receive one of the highest funding increases under the proposal is Eastern Lancaster County School District, which would receive a 55% funding boost. “We’re still trying to figure out where the budget is really going to come out versus what the Governor asked for,” Eastern Lancaster County Superintendent, Dr. Robert Hollister, said. Superintendents are hopeful, but cautious. Wolf is calling for education dollars to be given out according to a Fair Funding Formula. That’s something schools have wanted for years. “Growing districts in big cities and rural communities will finally get their fair share and we can ease the pressure on property taxpayers,” Wolf said on Thursday. The formula takes into account factors like enrollment, student poverty, and charter school enrollment. Wolf said it stops public school children from being short-changed.


Seeking ways to fairly fund all schools

Post-Gazette Opinion by Lenny McAllister FEB 5, 2021 12:00 AM

LENNY McALLISTER is CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools

School district officials still complain about how school choice takes their money as families increasingly enroll their children in public charter schools. It’s not their money. It’s taxpayer funding for public school children, regardless of where a student attends a public school. Starting with Black History Month, we must pivot from funding fights and back toward equality for all students — regardless of the schools they are enrolled in. Innovation for education equity is why lawmakers authorized the creation of public charter schools in 1997. They saw charters as valuable in correcting downward trends, such as the school-to-prison pipeline that wrecked many communities for generations. In contrast, Pennsylvania’s Public School Code — passed in 1949 — still uses a model of education that predates the 20th century civil rights movement. Disproportionately, Pennsylvania’s charter community consists of Black and minority, students historically over-policed, underserved, and disconnected in school districts for decades. They choose public charter schools for different reasons but with the same mindset: school choice in public education is a gateway to a better life.


Amanda Gorman’s poetry shows why spoken word belongs in school | Opinion

PA Capital Star Opinion By Kathleen M. Alley, Mukoma Wa Ngugi and Wendy R. Williams  Capital-Star Op-Ed Contributor February 5, 2021

Not long after Amanda Gorman recited one of her poems at the inauguration of President Joe Biden on Jan. 20, three of her forthcoming books skyrocketed to three of the top four spots on Amazon. She was also selected to recite an original poem at Super Bowl LV. Here, three scholars of poetry explain why the writings of the 22-year-old Gorman – who became the country’s national youth poet laureate at age 17 – and her rise to fame represent a prime opportunity for educators to use spoken word poetry as a lively way to engage students.

Wendy R. Williams, assistant professor of English at Arizona State University

During my research studying a diverse group of spoken word poets in Arizona, I learned that adolescents improved their writing skills, academic performance, confidence and social skills through writing and performing spoken word poetry. The poets used this medium to heal, advocate for change and imagine new futures. I noticed that these brave young writers often delivered stunning lines, such as, “If I sit long enough in a dark room will I develop like film?” They used poetry to talk back to those who wronged them. And they used this medium to speak out about injustice. As one adolescent poet in the study wrote, “We live in a first-world country, yet inner-city kids still go hungry.”


Black Lives Matter Movement goes to school to teach students about social justice

Inquirer by Melanie Burney, Posted: February 4, 2021- 5:53 PM

This week, the first graders in Tamar LaSure-Owens’ class have started social studies lessons the same way every day: belting out the lyrics to a Black Lives Matter song that encourages them to speak up about social injustice. LaSure-Owens used the catchy song to engage students in her virtual class at the Leeds Avenue School in Pleasantville to mark Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. Teachers across the country are sharing lessons and having frank conversations about the movement with students of all ages. “All skin colors are as good as each other. That’s why we should be treated the same. But for far too long Black people have suffered, so all around the world we are saying that must change,” the class sang. In Philadelphia, where more than 50% of students are Black, students began learning about the Black Lives Matter movement in 2017. Other cities, including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, are also teaching it. The idea was the brainchild of the Caucus of Working Educators, an activist group within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. City schools are participating for the fifth straight year, said district spokesperson Monica Lewis. Teachers are encouraging students “to see the value of respecting one another and living in a more inclusive society steeped in equity and appreciative of diversity,” she said.


‘Bored this whole school year’: Philly students reflect on 11 months online

WHYY By Miles Bryan February 5, 2021

Eleven months.

That’s how long it has been since students enrolled in the School District of Philadelphia have stepped into a classroom, chatted face-to-face with a teacher after the bell rings or gossiped with friends by the lockers. For some young children, that’s set to change soon. District officials announced a plan last week to bring some K-2 students back to class twice a week, starting in late-February. It’s the district’s third attempt to reopen schools since the pandemic hit last March. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers opposes any return to the classroom until all members that are required to be in school buildings are fully vaccinated, which city officials have said isn’t likely to occur for months. For older students, however, there isn’t a tentative timetable to leave virtual learning behind. “We want to see how [bringing younger students back] will go first,” Superintendent William Hite said in late January. For Philly high school students, that’s meant settling into a school year that may be held entirely online. Meeting up after class IRL is out. Making new friends via IG is in. WHYY spoke to students across the city about how they have come to terms with a high school experience no one could have predicted, one that nearly a year later has become all too strangely normal.


Despite teachers’ concerns, superintendent believes Philadelphia classrooms are safe

Chalkbeat Philly By Dale Mezzacappa  Feb 4, 2021, 5:49pm EST

With about 2,000 teachers set to return to buildings Monday, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has asked for a third-party evaluation of whether classrooms meet high enough safety standards for students and teachers to safely come back this month for in-person learning. PFT president Jerry Jordan said he requested the evaluation because there are a number of unresolved ventilation issues. “Due to ongoing ventilation issues amidst a global pandemic, I cannot, at this time, say schools are safe to reopen,” Jordan said in an email to his members Wednesday night.” The union is seeking the assessment under a school safety memorandum of agreement it reached with the district in the fall. Superintendent William Hite said Thursday that he welcomes the evaluation and believes the district has taken enough precautions to make schools safe. “Safety and choice are the two pillars of the [school reopening] plans we’ve created,” he said, citing not just plans to circulate fresh air in buildings, but other protocols including frequent and random testing for the virus.


Philly teachers’ union says it’s ‘not safe’ to reopen schools, city to appoint mediator. Will teachers return?

Inquirer by Kristen A. Graham and Maddie Hanna, Updated: February 4, 2021- 7:15 PM

The Philadelphia School District and its teachers’ union on Thursday moved toward a possible showdown over plans to reopen schools next week, with teachers questioning whether it’s safe to return to buildings and Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. saying he expected them to do so.

Days after criticism erupted over the district’s plan to use window fans to improve ventilation during the COVID-19 pandemic, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers president Jerry Jordan called on the city to assign a neutral third party to assess if buildings are ready for reopening Monday. Hite acknowledged that the expert’s opinion — an option open to the PFT under terms of a reopening agreement signed by the union and district last fall — could “possibly delay” students’ return for in-class instruction. It would be the third such change in reopening plans since last summer. But, the superintendent said, “it will not delay our expectations for teachers to be in classrooms” on Feb. 8.


Pa. lawmakers’ spending jumps, boosting reserves during pandemic as deficit ballooned

Trib Live by ASSOCIATED PRESS  | Thursday, February 4, 2021 3:52 p.m.

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Legislature’s spending grew by more than 8% last year, adding some $28 million to its own reserves as the state’s deficit ballooned and many residents struggled to pay bills during the pandemic. The Legislative Audit Advisory Commission on Thursday voted without debate to approve the legislative branch’s spending report for the 2019-20 year that ended in June. Total spending reached $392 million, up from $362 million the prior year and from $355 million in the 2017-18 year. Payroll costs grew by about $29 million. The largest category of legislative expenses, by far, was payroll and benefits, which cost slightly over $328 million, up from $299 million last year. Pennsylvania has among the largest legislative staffs in the country. “The audit went through all the individual accounts and did tests on all the individual accounts and did not come up with any audit findings as far as inappropriate spending,” said the commission chairman, Rep. George Dunbar, R-Westmoreland. Lawmakers boosted their own budgetary reserve from $172 million to just over $200 million. The reserve, which legislators have justified as a cushion against running out of money during a future budget impasse with the governor, was $95 million in 2016-17. It’s now approaching the record size of $215 million in 2006, the year after the ill-starred — and subsequently reversed — decision lawmakers made to boost their own base pay in amounts that ranged from 16% to 34%.


Will Bellefonte cut ties with the ‘Red Raider’ mascot in 2021? Board reopens discussion

Centre Daily Times BY MARLEY PARISH FEBRUARY 03, 2021 10:01 AM,  UPDATED FEBRUARY 03, 2021 10:28 AM

For more than 80 years, Bellefonte Area School District students have been dubbed the “Red Raiders,” but after months of debate, the district could take action on the Native American mascot and nickname that some community members find offensive. Though the district is unsure what that action looks like, board members met for a work session Tuesday to discuss addressing the mascot — a red Native American with a headdress — and a potential change or compromise. The name has a long history in the district and has not been without controversy in previous years. According to Bellefonte Area School District’s website, the Red Raiders were first introduced to the district in 1936, after a Centre Daily Times reporter referred to the team that way a year earlier. Chief Okocho, a costume depicting a Native American and worn by students at activities such as athletic events, was introduced as the district’s mascot in 1984, according to BASD. It was “reportedly removed due to its insensitive appearance and poor representation of Native Americans” in the early 1990s. In 2015, the school made its Native American symbol a secondary logo, replacing it with a red block letter “B.” The most recent debate began in June, when a group of BASD alumni began to circulate an online petition in support of replacing the mascot with something not hostile or stereotypical toward Native Americans. Nearly 6,000 community members have signed.


Miguel Cardona Pressed by Lawmakers on Tests, Reopening Schools, and Transgender Students

Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa — February 03, 2021  11 min read

Nominee for education secretary Miguel Cardona vowed at his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to help schools reopen safely and ensure educators and students have the support they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Cardona did not take a firm position on the role of standardized tests during the pandemic, and in general tried to stake out positions on controversial issues such as the rights of transgender students without seeming combative. President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Education told members of the Senate education committee that future pandemic relief funding from Congress must focus on helping students recover from COVID-19 academically and in other ways. Cardona, currently the Connecticut commissioner of education, championed the importance of public schools without criticizing charter schools or private school choice. And in response to questions from several Republican senators who questioned the fairness of transgender female students competing in girls’ athletic contests, Cardona insisted that schools had an obligation to provide transgender students the chance to participate in activities like sports.


Carrying Betsy DeVos’ Torch: More States Push Voucher Programs

School voucher programs are gaining momentum around the country.

HuffPost By Rebecca Klein February 3, 2021

In Iowa, a bill that would directly give families over $5,000 to help finance the cost of private school is quickly making its way through the legislature. In Georgia, lawmakers introduced a bill that would give families savings accounts with money to use on private school tuition. In Florida, Republicans are set to push new legislation that would expand the state’s already-vast network of publicly funded private school scholarships. In the first few weeks of 2021, state legislators have introduced a wave of new bills designed to expand or create new voucher, tax credit and education savings account programs. While these programs are often controversial ― eliciting staunch opposition from public school groups and teachers unions ― advocates say they have seen new momentum after a wave of Republican wins in statehouses and a pandemic that has forced millions of schoolchildren to learn from home. So far, new legislation related to private school choice has been introduced in over 15 states during 2021. Private school choice programs have long been a pet cause of conservatives, and expanding such initiatives was the singular goal of former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos during the Trump administration. While she failed to expand these programs on a federal level despite repeated attempts, they are experiencing a surge at the state level, just weeks after her departure.


Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Barred From Spot on the Education Committee

Education Week By Andrew Ujifusa — February 04, 2021  2 min read

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted not to allow a GOP congresswoman to join the House education committee, following a storm of controversy over her support for claims that school shootings were false flag operations or somehow staged. In a Thursday vote, the House decided to bar Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., from taking a position on two committees, Education and Labor and Budget, that House Republican leaders assigned her to last week. The vote was 230-199, with 11 Republicans joining 219 Democrats. Greene reportedly apologized to GOP colleagues at a closed-door meeting on Wednesday about her comments about school shootings, which were posted on social media before her election to Congress in November. And on the House floor Thursday, she told her colleagues, “School shootings are absolutely real. And every child that is lost, those families mourn it.” She called her prior social media posts “words of the past” that don’t represent her, but didn’t apologize directly to the families and students affected by school shootings that she commented on. Her remarks failed to prevent the vote to bar her from her committee positions. Greene’s posts on social media about the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and other school shootings, as well as her endorsement of violence against Democrats, received widespread media attention, and the backlash from Democrats was quick.


Pa. Republicans stand by QAnon congresswoman as House votes to strip committee assignments

PA Capital Star By Laura OlsonJohn L. Micek February 4, 2021

WASHINGTON — Eight out of nine of Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. House members voted against removing Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments on Thursday night. According to an official House roll call, U.S. Reps. Dan Meuser, R-9th District; Scott Perry, R-10th District;  Lloyd Smucker, R-11th District; Fred Keller, R-12th District; John Joyce, R-13th District; Guy Reschenthaler, R-14th District; Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, R-15th District, and Mike Kelly, R-16th District, voted against the motion brought by the chamber’s majority Democrats, who cited a series of violent, anti-Semitic comments and social media posts Green made before being elected to Congress in November. The eight lawmakers also variously objected to certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes and joined in litigation challenging their state’s election results. U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, was one of 11 Republicans who joined Democrats in support. The 230-199 vote came hours after the Georgia Republican walked back some of her most incendiary comments, saying she “was allowed to believe things that weren’t true.”



PA Schools Work Next Lunch & Learn Webinar: A Deep Dive on the Budget Tuesday, February 9th at Noon
Join PA Schools Work partners on Tuesday, February 9 at noon for our next Lunch & Learn webinar, where we will explain the details of the education components of Governor Wolf's budget proposal. 
You can register for the webinar here. 


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!


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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