Below is the current Education Update. Click here for a list of other recent updates.
March 19, 2018
Student Walkouts - Last week Wednesday an estimated 1 million students throughout Pennsylvania and the nation engaged in a variety of actions, from walk-outs to rallies, to call attention to the need for stronger school safety measures and to remember the students and staff who have been killed in school shootings since the Columbine shooting in 1999. Efforts led by students from the Parkland, Florida school community, as well as other state and national organizations, have scheduled additional activities for April 20 across the country.
PASA Executive Director Named to Governor’s Task Force on School Safety – Last week Governor Tom Wolf and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced the creation of a School Safety Task Force that brings together government officials, statewide education organizations, law enforcement, community members, school officials, teachers, parents, and students to talk to about ways to improve school safety and security.
“Ensuring the safety of Pennsylvanians, especially our children, is my top priority as Governor," said Governor Wolf. "I am creating a school safety task force to ensure we are doing everything we can to make sure that our schools are a safe place for our children to learn. By working together and listening to those on the front lines, we can find solutions that will improve school safety, security, and preparedness."
Gov. Wolf and Auditor General DePasquale will co-chair the task force, along with vice chairs Charles Ramsey, chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency; Mark DiRocco, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators; Judy Morgitan, Immediate Past President of the Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners; and Bonita Allen, President of the Pennsylvania Parent Teacher Association.
“Combining the safety review experience of my team with the knowledge of the other members on the task force will help make our schools safer,” said Auditor General DePasquale. “There is not a one-size-fits all solution to school safety. We will use our combined expertise to raise the bar for safe schools in Pennsylvania because we must provide a safe learning environment for our current students and protect future generations.”
The Wolf administration and state partners will support the work of the task force including Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, Acting Health Secretary and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine, Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak, and Lt. Colonel Robert Evanchick, Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Pennsylvania State Police.
Governor Wolf’s priorities for the task force include:
* Hearing from school officials, teachers, parents, students, law enforcement, health professionals, and community partners about their concerns with safety and potential policy changes;
* Determining additional funding needs for the Office for Safe Schools, security and safety personnel, school counselors and nurses, and additional or upgraded security equipment;
* Examining effectiveness of student support and physical and mental health programs and information sharing;
* Evaluating stronger state requirements for active shooter trainings and other security protocols, including current programs offered by the Pennsylvania State Police and other state agencies;
* Strengthening information and best practice sharing among local schools, law enforcement, health care providers, and human services programs; and
* Examining new or existing tools to ensure easy and effective anonymous reporting of suspicious activity to law enforcement;
The task force will hold regional meetings throughout Pennsylvania over the next few months to hear the perspectives and needs of different communities. As part of the governor’s effort to hear from Pennsylvanians on school safety, he is inviting the public to share their perspective and suggestions by providing feedback online at https://www.governor.pa.gov/school-safety-feedback/. The submissions will assist the task force in preparing a final report to the governor.
PASA Testimony on School Safety – PASA Executive Director Mark DiRocco was among those testifying before the House Education Committee last Thursday on issues related to school safety and the more than 26 House bills that have been introduced to address it. PASA was among those testifying in a panel consisting of representatives from education organizations, including PSEA, the PA Principals Association, PASBO and PSBA. Other panels included one consisting of several national organizations, a state panel (PDE/State Police/PEMA) and a panel consisting of a superintendent, teacher, criminology professor and school architect.
While the discussion at the hearing covered everything from more funding for school safety, mental health supports, school infrastructure needs and arming teachers, the underlying message from the panel of education associations was that state funding was required and that there was no one-size-fits-all approach to school safety; in other words, each LEA needs to have discussions and make decisions about what was best for their students, staff and community.
In his testimony, Mark emphasized the importance of addressing school safety through a collaborative effort involving a study of the many bills being recommended, along with other school safety resources, with the goal of developing omnibus legislation or a coordinated series of bills that would address all aspects of school safety. “We need to have a sustained conversation with all our policy makers, school leaders, and community stakeholders, to create a multi-layered approach to this issue and take deliberate action to prevent any more tragedies in the future,” he said.
He noted that PASA’s highest priorities for improving school safety include:
* available district-wide safety audits by the PA State Police or other qualified agencies in the immediate future
* additional financial resources needed to implement the recommendations of the district safety audits
* adequate funding to update the physical infrastructure of school facilities (including reauthorizing PlanCon)
* development of comprehensive school safety plans
* utilizing well-trained, armed school resource officers, school police officers, private security forces and retired police officers in schools
* additional resources for counseling and mental health services
* additional training for staff to address signs of student stress or violent behavior
* continued funding for bullying prevention and training
DiRocco also encouraged policymakers to be mindful of the reporting and training requirements that may be established in future legislation related to school safety. “It will be important that planning, trainings, drills and reports not be viewed as compliance matters for school districts but as critical and meaningful components of school safety efforts,” he said.
In conclusion, he urged lawmakers to allow school districts the flexibility, resources and funding necessary for the sole purpose of school security. “We do not accept the notion that existing school district or state funds can simply be reallocated to the level necessary to appropriately fund the needed safety improvements for our children and educational staff members,” he said. “Only with additional funds will our schools continue to have the resources they need to fulfill their mission of providing strong academic programs and services to prepare students for their future.”
Click here to read the complete testimony.
Congressional Proposals on School Safety – The House of Representatives voted last Wednesday to approve the STOP School Violence Act, which aims to train teachers and other school staff in violence prevention and fund other programs to help stop incidents like the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. H.R. 4909 would reauthorize the Secure Our Schools grant program and authorize $50 million in funds annually from fiscal 2019 through fiscal 2028. It also includes a ban on any of the grant funds being used to train or provide school staff with firearms. The House passed the legislation by a vote of 407-10.
The Senate has yet to consider its own bill, and there are both differences and similarities between the two bills. Read the rest of the story: “Here's How the Big School Safety Bills in Congress Differ, and Why It Matters” (from Education Week, 3/12/18).
In Budget & Finance News…
PlanCon Update – The PlanCon Advisory Committee has not met since January, and there has been no formal decision about how and when the committee will move forward to take the steps necessary to finalize their recommendations. The issue of school safety may end up giving the PlanCon issue the push it needs, as there has been significant discussion about the funding needs for school districts that want to make physical changes to their buildings to improve safety and security. Many districts will be unable to make any changes without state funding for a portion of their costs. We’ll see what happens next…
In Legislative News…
Session Schedule – The House was in session last week. They will not return to Harrisburg until April 9. This week the Senate comes back for two weeks of session before breaking until mid-April. Behind the scenes, multiple versions of state budgets are being crafted, questions are being asked and momentum is building…all of which still has the potential to catapult us to an early budget (maybe).
School safety has rightfully taken a critical place in the middle of both the policy and budget discussion, and there is serious conversation across both parties and both chambers about increasing the state funding available for school safety and security initiatives. We’re likely still a long way from any final decisions, but the fact that there is recognition that this is a priority issue AND that additional state investment is required is extremely positive.
This Week’s Senate Schedule – The following bills remain on the Senate floor schedule for possible consideration:
* Tax Collection: SB 653. The bill consolidates the collection of several Local Tax Enabling Act taxes under the Act 32 collection structure.
* Keystone Exams: Senate Resolution 248. The resolution states that that the Senate opposes the use of the Keystone Exams as a single high stakes graduation requirement, urges the PDE to drop that requirement, and also urges PDE to recommend alternative assessments that also demonstrate career or college readiness. PASA opposes the use of Keystone Exams for graduation purposes and supports flexibility in the use of assessments to determine student proficiency.
In Last Week’s House Action –
*Size of the House: HB 153; passed by the House. As introduced, the bill would have amended the Pennsylvania Constitution to reduce the size of the PA House from 203 members to 151 members. That would have matched an identical bill passed by both the House and Senate in the last session, and passage of such an identical bill in two consecutive sessions is necessary for the constitutional amendment process to go forward and, ultimately, put the measure before the voters. However, the House in early February amended the bill add language reducing the size of the Senate from 50 members to 38 members. Because it is necessary for an identical bill to pass this session in order for a proposed Constitutional amendment to go to the voters, the current version of HB 153 basically stops that process and, unless changed, will delay everything into the 2019-20 legislative session.
*Repealing Regulations: HB 209; passed by the House State Government Committee. The bill would establish the Independent Office of the Repealer to undertake an ongoing review of existing state regulations, receive and process recommendations, evaluate the merits of recommendations in accordance with decision rules and quantitative and qualitative criteria, and make recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor and Executive agencies for repeal, modification or revision.
*Tax Collection: HR 291; amended and adopted by the House unanimously. The resolution directs the Department of Community and Economic Development, in consultation with the Independent Fiscal Office, the Department of Revenue, counties, municipalities and school districts, to conduct a study to examine the efficacy of replacing local EIT collection under Act 32 with a statewide EIT collection orchestrated by the Department of Revenue.
In State News…
Changes in CSPGs – The PDE recently announced that Certification Staffing Policy Guideline (CSPG) 13 (Emergency Permits) and CSPG 101 (Paraprofessional Staff) have been reviewed and updated and are effective as of February 1, 2018. CSPG 13 was revised concerning reissuance requirements for a Type 01 Emergency Permit, and CSPG 101 includes updated language clarifying paraprofessional direction under certified personnel. (A webinar will be available within the next few months regarding the changes to CSPG 13.) See the PDE website to review the changes.
In National News…
Study: Use of SAT, ACT – States should not use the SAT or ACT to measure high school achievement because those exams don’t fully reflect states’ academic standards, and could distort what’s taught in the classroom, according to a study released last Tuesday. The paper, released by Achieve, which pushes for high-quality standards and tests, calls for a halt in an assessment trend that’s been picking up steam in recent years: states using the SAT or ACT instead of their high school tests. This school year, 13 states are using one of those college-admissions tests statewide to measure high school achievement. Read the rest of the story: “Don't Use SAT and ACT as Your High School Tests, Study Urges” (from Education Week, 3/13/18).
Differences in Pay – Women dominate the education workforce, yet they can't count on equal pay for equal work, a new study shows. Despite many school districts' use of apparently neutral uniform salary schedules, females in the education workforce are typically paid less than males for similar roles, according to an analysis of educators' salaries and pension benefits in Illinois by the nonprofit Bellwether Education Partners. The study looked at more than 130,000 full-time school employees in Illinois, including teachers and administrators. The data showed that women educators statewide earn on average $7,775 per year less than men. Read the rest of the story: “Even in Female-Dominated Education Workforce, Women Earn Less Than Men” (from Education Week, 3/13/18).
Across the Nation…
Kansas: Connection Between Funding and Student Performance – A long-awaited school funding study released Friday in Topeka was expected to endorse the long-held conservative view that there’s no correlation between student performance and the money spent on public schools. After all, conservative Republican leaders had hand-picked the consultant — Lori Taylor, a Texas A&M University professor — to take a fresh look at Kansas school spending. Democrats and moderate Republicans who back more education spending feared a low-ball recommendation just as lawmakers begin deliberations on a new funding formula. But in a stunning development, Taylor’s study sent a torpedo into bedrock conservative doctrine, concluding that a link does indeed exist between spending and a student’s educational attainment. She said lawmakers must spend another $1.7 billion over five years to reach performance targets or an additional $2 billion to deliver enhanced educational outcomes. Read the rest of the story: “Kansas School Funding Report Blows a Hole in Conservative Doctrine” (from an editorial in The Kansas City Star, 3/16/18).
Maryland: Federal Ruling in Transgender Discrimination Case – A federal district judge has ruled that federal law protects transgender students from discrimination in schools, and that a Maryland student's lawsuit may proceed against a school district that barred him from using the locker room that corresponds to his gender identity. U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III of Baltimore ruled on Monday that bias against transgender students is a form of sex-based discrimination that is barred by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 as well as by the 14th Amendment's equal-protection clause. Read the rest of the story: “Federal Judge Backs Civil Rights Protections for Transgender Students” (from Education Week, 3/14/18).
PASA and PSBA are sponsoring a half-day, no-cost data workshop, scheduled for Tuesday, April 3, from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the PSBA office in Mechanicsburg, and led by Eidex. Eidex will provide an overview of how better to use data analysis to the advantage of the district, make that data actionable, evaluate it in context, use it to simplifying reporting and save time – and make fully informed decisions.
The workshop will include two breakout sessions:
*Focusing on Financials: How do districts use financial data to realize savings? Frame your position for contract negotiations. Review statewide salary, benefits, staffing levels, enrollment trends, and funding levels. Benchmark vs. your peers – put data in meaningful context.
*Assessing Academics: Make the most of assessments by evaluating them in Context (PSSA, Keystone, NWEA and SAT Data). Identify academic performance gaps. Employ Building-Level, Grade-Level and District-Wide Data in Decision-Making. How do districts use academic data to achieve better outcomes? Discover opportunities for improved student performance.
Hear how other administrators are using data to inform their academic and financial decisions. This workshop is open to the first 75 registrants. Click here for information and to register.
On the Calendar…
March 19-20 – PASA Education Congress (State College)
March 21 – Hotel deadline for Women’s Caucus Conference (Hershey)
March 23 – PASA Webinar: PA’s ESSA Plan
March 26 – Women’s Caucus Board meeting (PASA office)
Strategic Plan Advisory Team meeting (virtual)
(pdf for printing)