Below is the current Education Update. Click here for a list of other recent updates.
April 23, 2018
Congressional Hearing on School Safety - More funding for mental health and behavioral training for teachers and school employees. Additional money to help districts recover in the aftermath of a school shooting. The creation of a central entity on the state level to oversee school safety. Hearings with experts on the best ways to secure buildings so that schools are actually safe without coming to look and feel like prisons. And efforts to allow schools and law enforcement to work together on planning for school shootings and share information on potential threats. Those were some of the suggestions school and district leaders who've experienced the trauma and devastation of school shootings had for Congress and other elected officials during a panel Tuesday on school safety hosted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. The principals and superintendents shared their experiences leading schools after shootings, what worked in their communities and the needs that still linger. Read the rest of the story: “Principals and Superintendents Who've Been Through School Shootings Tell Congress What They Need” (from Education Week, 4/17/18).
In Budget and Funding News…
Guidance on Tuition Payments to Charter Schools – Last week, PDE issued guidance to clarify the confusion that came about following their rescission of their guidelines for calculating charter school tuition rates. PDE’s guidance clarified that the rescission of the guidelines did nothing to impact the deductions that should be taken from a school district’s budgeted total expenditures—and that deductions for federal funds, a portion of Ready to Learn Block Grant funds and Pre-K funds should continue to be taken. They clarified the process for making automatic subsidy deductions and the documentation that would be required in defining the underlying tuition rate.
Links to their guidance, a PDE-363 and a list of the allowable Ready to Learn Block Grant deductions are below:
* PDE guidance 4.19.20
* PDE-363 form
* PDE Ready to Learn Block Grant deductions
PlanCon Update – After weeks of silence, the PlanCon Advisory Committee is back in business. After a workgroup meeting last week, discussions appear back on track and progress is being made on a final report. We are hopeful that continued discussions will lead to the release of a final report and recommendations from the committee early next month.
In Legislative News…
Session Schedule – With both the House and Senate in session last week, things were busy! For the next couple of weeks, the House and Senate alternate their session weeks, which means that while one chamber is hard at work, the other is planning their next steps. And, with a budget and School Code right around the corner (hopefully), legislation is being strategically positioned to be discussed as part of those mid-to-late-June policy discussions. While there will be a bit of a break in both chambers surrounding the primary election next month, when they do return, things will get even crazier as the marathon to the passage of the 2018-19 budget officially begins.
In addition to the budget, school safety, career and technical education, graduation requirements, charter school reform and many other issues continue to swirl around the halls of the Capitol, and it’s likely that most of these end up—in one form or another—as part of the discussion over the next two months.
ALERT: Voucher Bill: SB 2 – The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to consider and vote on SB 2 tomorrow – Tuesday, April 24. The committee was restructured back in December to ensure easy passage of this proposal, which provides vouchers to school districts students—taking the money directly from your state subsidy and providing it to parents, in the form of an Education Savings Account (ESAs), to use for private school tuition or other expenses. These “education savings accounts” (vouchers) could be used by students in low-achieving school for tuition in private schools and other expenses and for all students entering kindergarten or first grade, regardless of their school district. And the bill allows parents to take those vouchers with them, even if they change districts. The bottom line is that this bill would take more money from public schools! PASA OPPOSES THIS BILL. We sent to members on Friday (April 20) an Advocacy Alert concerning the bill, and are urging you to contact your Senator in advance of the committee meeting in opposition to this bill. Please see the April 20 email from PASA for details on SB 2 and what information you need to share with your Senator. They must hear from school leaders on this issue! [UPDATE, 4/23/18 at 1:30 p.m. - Action on SB 2 has been deferred to May.]
This Week’s Committee Schedule – In addition to planned action on the voucher bill, the following committee meetings are scheduled this week:
Monday, April 23 – Senate Education Committee to consider…
* Police/LEA Agreements: SB 1136. The bill amends section 778 of the Public School Code to clarify that a school district can enter into an agreement with a municipal police department to provide part-time police coverage in addition to full time police coverage.
* Clearinghouse of Online Courses: HB 679. The bill creates a clearinghouse of online courses for students in grades 6-12 developed and maintained by PDE. By 2018-19 a database of online courses that contain Keystone Exam-related content must be developed. By 2019-20, a broader database of online courses offered by other providers (which can include other school entities) will be developed. School entities can contract with providers to use the courses they developed.
* Online Private Schools: HB 857. The bill amends the Private Academic Schools Act to allow online schools to become licensed by the State Board of Private Academic Schools.
Tuesday, April 24 – Senate Education Committee to consider…
* Vouchers: SB 2. The bill proposes a new version of vouchers in which low-achieving schools have state subsidy redirected to Education Savings Accounts for students to attend private schools.
* Vo-Tech Certification: SB 1104. The bill provides for the requirements for awarding vocational instructional certificates.
* School Safety Tip Line: SB 1142. The bill creates a Safe2Say program, allowing for anonymous reporting of unsafe, dangerous or criminal activities in schools or the threat of activities in schools.
Wednesday, April 25
The House Democratic Policy Committee will hold a public hearing in Philadelphia to discuss HB 2210. The bill amends the School Code to provide for expungement of disciplinary records for nonviolent offenses.
Last Week’s House Action –
* PDE Tech Audit: House Resolution 431; adopted by the House, 192-0. The resolution urges the Auditor General to audit PDE’s Education Technology Program and the E-Fund to examine the use of the funds in the programs and to report to the House by December 31, 2018.
* Civics Education Graduation Requirement: HB 564; passed by the House, 191-4. The bill requires school entities to administer at least once to students during grades 7-12 a locally developed assessment of U.S. History, government and civics. LEAs could use the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Test for this purpose. In addition, the LEA must issue a certificate of recognition to students to pass the assessment. At the end of the 2020-21 school year, the PDE would be required to conduct a survey of LEAs concerning compliance with these requirements, and LEAs would be required to respond no later than November 30, 2021. The PDE would need to make that data public by the following January.
*Cross-Filing: HB 638; passed by the House, 114-77. The bill would remove the ability of candidates for school board to cross-file nomination petitions and make additional changes to the Election Code.
* Sunscreen Applications at School: HB 1228; passed by the House, 195-0. The bill allows students to apply a non-aerosol, topical sunscreen without a physician’s note or prescription if the student’s parent/guardian has provided documentation that the student can apply the product.
Last Week’s Senate Floor Action –
* Tax Collection: SB 653; passed by the Senate, 39-10. The bill consolidates the collection of several Local Tax Enabling Act taxes under the Act 32 collection structure.
* EIT Credits and Deductions: HB 866; passed the Senate, 44-6 and sent to the Governor. The bill amends the Local Tax Enabling Act to do several things, including expanding the provision related to credits for payments to other states, allowing any other EIT assessed or any change in EIT rates made by other state law to be credited and allowed as a deduction from EIT liabilities. This bill goes into effect in 60 days from the governor’s signature. NOTE: While the governor vetoed this bill last session, we do not anticipate that he will do so again. This will generally have an impact on those school districts that 1) have residents working out of state and 2) converted their occupation tax to an EIT under Act 24. This will change the way the EIT crediting is done. Prior to this law, crediting for income earned out of state was done only against the base EIT rate—not the Act 24 add on. This law will allow for crediting against the ENTIRE amount.
Last Week’s Committee Action –
* Property Tax Credit: HB 2040; reported from the House Finance Committee and re-referred to the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee. The bill creates a Senior Tax Reduction Incentive Volunteer Exchange Program to allow school districts to establish programs to provide property tax credits to individuals 60 years or older who volunteer in the school district.
* Vocational Instructional Certificates: HB 2155; approved by the House Education Committee. The bill reduces the credit requirements for awarding vocational instructional certificates.
* EITC Funds for C-T: HB 2156; approved by the House Education Committee. The bill creates and implements a Career and Technical Education Partnership Tax Credit Program, in which business firms can make donations to public schools, CTCs and institutions of higher education via career and technical education partnership organizations in exchange for a tax credit.
* Agriculture Education: HB 2157; approved by the House Education Committee. The bill codifies an existing pilot program to expedite the classification of instructional programs (CIPs) and requires the Commission for Agricultural Education Excellence and PDE to issues guidelines and develop a standard form.
* Career Information & Recruitment: HB 2158; approved by the House Education Committee. The bill requires school districts to consider all career presenters in the same manner and to provide at least one opportunity during the year to provide career information to all students in grades 4-12 individually or in a group setting.
* Articulation Agreements: HB 2159; approved by the House Education Committee. The bill would require all public schools — including school districts, intermediate units, area vocational-technical schools, charter schools, regional charter schools, and cyber charter schools — as well as the Rural Regional College, state-related institutions, and Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology to submit their articulation agreements to PDE to be included in the database of online articulation agreements.
* C-T Career Resources: HB 2203; approved by the House Education Committee. The bill requires PDE, Labor and Industry and Agriculture to create an online career resource center to provide information on the value and impact of CTE, career pathways, data and statistics on employment opportunities and compensation, postsecondary options and statewide and regional articulation agreements.
* Workforce Development Clearinghouse: HB 2204; approved by the House Education Committee. The bill requires the PDE and the Department of Labor & Industry to conduct a complete inventory of existing workforce development programs at both the secondary and postsecondary levels, with particular emphasis on opportunities for business-education partnerships, with the goal being to share those best practices learned with the various entities to help improve the delivery of career focused opportunities.
* CTE Advisory Committees: HB 2205; approved by the House Education Committee. The bill would allow CTE programs or a cluster of programs to establish occupational advisory committees at the Intermediate Unit level to serve multiple school districts or Career and Technical Centers.
* Workforce Development Board: HB 2206; approved by the House Education Committee. The bill would require each Workforce Development Board to include in its membership at least one administrator of a career and technical center whose attendance area is covered by the service area of the WDB.
In National News…
Court Case: Sales Tax on Internet Purchase – State and local governments, including school districts, are watching with great interest as the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday takes up a case that could result in adding billions of dollars in tax revenue to their coffers. In South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc. (Case No. 17-494), the justices will weigh whether to overrule or distinguish two precedents that bar a state from forcing out-of-state sellers to collect sales taxes on purchases from residents unless the sellers have a "nexus," or a physical presence, in that state. A decision for South Dakota, which seeks to impose its sales tax on remote sellers who reach certain thresholds for sales or the number of transactions, could add $50 million to its treasury, the state estimates. For the 45 states and the District of Columbia that have sales taxes, the estimates for revenue lost annually to the physical-presence rule ranges from $8 billion to as much as $34 billion. Read the rest of the story: “States, School Districts Eye Potential Billions in Supreme Court Sales-Tax Case” (from Education Week, 4/16/18).
Classroom Conditions Across the Country – Decades-old books with missing pages. Floors with mismatched tiles. Ceilings with patches of mold and wasps nests. Cramped portable classrooms. Libraries without books. These snapshots of disheveled classrooms can be shocking to see, yet they make up the reality of the learning and working conditions for many of today's teachers and students after years of budget cuts. And in recent weeks, the state of American classrooms and education has been at the forefront of the national conversation. The New York Times asked teachers to share the conditions of what their classrooms look like, and how much of their own money they spend on resources. The Times received an overwhelming 4,200 responses that capture the paradigm in which many teachers say they face high expectations set by states, but lack the tools necessary to meet them. Read the rest of the story: “Teachers Take to Social Media to Show Their Poor Classroom Conditions” (from Education Week, 4/16/18).
Study: Cost-Effectiveness of Universal PreK – Preschool is most likely to help low-income children if their classmates come from a range of family incomes, according to a new study. The new research contradicts the current strategy in most states of targeting public preschool only to low-income kids. That approach is based on the results of many earlier studies that have found attending preschool helps kids from disadvantaged backgrounds start kindergarten on a stronger academic footing. The benefits for higher income children are less pronounced. That is why most states and the federal government choose to spend taxpayer dollars on “targeted” preschool programs open only to low-income families. But the new study, just updated in December by Dartmouth College economist Elizabeth Cascio, finds that universal programs have a significant positive effect on the reading scores of poor kids, while targeted programs do not. The effect on math scores is also positive but not statistically significant, Cascio said. Read the rest of the story: “Universal Preschool Is Most Cost-Effective, Study Finds” (from The Hechinger Report, 4/10/18).
Vouchers and More Education Bureaucracy – It may seem counterintuitive, but conservative organizations from the Heritage Foundation, to FreedomWorks, to the Club for Growth are pushing an education bill this year that would significantly enlarge the bureaucracy at the U.S. Department of Education. That’s right, the same organizations that have decried the “bloated education bureaucracy” and that give awards to members of Congress who are “fighting daily to shrink government and the federal bureaucracy” are urging Congress to significantly increase secretarial authority over K–12 and higher education. Why are they doing this? To create a new federal education voucher program that would allow dollars to flow out of public schools and into private schools and businesses. As Congress draws to a close without a signature school voucher victory, these organizations are pounding the pavement to try and garner a big win while both chambers still remain under Republican control. The piggybank for this voucher bill is the Impact Aid program, which is the oldest K–12 federal education program and was created to support school districts impacted by a federal presence, such as military installations, Indian treaty or trust land, and other federal facilities. Read the rest of the story: “Conservatives' Education Bill Will Increase Federal Bureaucracy” (from edexcellence.net, 4/13/18).
Preparing Students for Future Jobs – As emerging technologies rapidly and thoroughly transform the workplace, some experts predict that, by 2030, 400 million to 800 million people worldwide could be displaced and need to find new jobs. The ability to adapt and quickly acquire new skills will become a necessity for survival. Critics say high schools aren’t doing enough to prepare young people for life after graduation, in-demand jobs and a pathway to the middle class. Underscoring the criticism are sobering statistics: Nationally, just 25 percent of high school seniors are able to do grade-level math and just 37 percent score proficient in reading. Those numbers are egregiously lower among African-American and Hispanic students. And while 93 percent of middle school students say they plan to attend college, only 26 percent go on to graduate from college within six years of enrolling. These indicators, coupled with the staggering cost of higher education and millions of unfilled jobs in skilled trades, are pushing policymakers to rethink America’s bachelor’s-or-bust mentality. Read the rest of the story: “Students Are Being Prepared for Jobs That No Longer Exist. Here’s How That Could Change.” (from nbcnews.com, 4/10/18).
Across the Nation…
Arizona: Teacher Strike to Begin – In a press conference late Thursday night, officials announced that teachers across the state of Arizona have voted to strike. The walkout date is set for April 26, following three days of school "walk-ins" next week. There were about 57,000 votes cast from school employees across the state, and 78 percent voted yes. The announcement was made by both Arizona Education Association officials and organizers of the teacher-led Facebook group Arizona Educators United, which has about 45,000 members. Social media has been a driving force for this wave of teacher activism in Arizona. "This is undeniably and clearly a mandate for action," said Joe Thomas, the president of the state teachers' union. He added that educators were demanding action—more school funding and a teacher pay raise—from the state legislature and the governor. Gov. Doug Ducey has said he will urge the state legislature to pass a 20 percent pay raise for teachers. But many educators have remained skeptical of the plan, questioning where the money will come from. The state's Parent Teacher Association has pulled its support from Ducey's plan, calling it financially unsustainable. (from Education Week, 4/20/18)
On the Calendar…
April 28 Test Prep Sessions (Shippensburg University)
May 6-8 Women’s Caucus Annual Conference (Hershey)
May 9 Spring Advocacy Training Workshop (I.U. 12)
May 11 Spring Advocacy Training Workshop (I.U. 8)
May 14 Spring Advocacy Training Workshop (I.U. 4)
May 15 Spring Advocacy Training Workshop (I.U. 17)
Technology Committee meeting (virtual)
May 17 Spring Advocacy Training Workshop (I.U. 14)
May 28 PASA office closed
(pdf for printing)